Sunday, November 24, 2019

Shi Xiang Satay : the decades old goodness

Young, the owner, 50, has taken over the stall and is running it with his mother, 75. The stall has been around for about 35 years since 1955, started by his parents and has been in this food centre for more than 2 decades, serving Hainanese style Satay. While waiting for the dishes from Claypot & Cooked Food Kitchen, we wanted to order some to share. The light of the signboard was still off then. Young was there and so I asked, "How much longer before it is ready?" He asked me to go back at about 1 pm. I went back at about 12.50 pm, the signboard was lighted up. I ordered 5 pieces of chicken satay and 5 pieces of pork satay at $0.60 each. He asked for my table number and offered to deliver later and he sent over about 8 minutes later.

It was served with wedges of red onions and chunks of cucumber accompanied by the peanut sauce in a disposable bowl. Each stick of pork satay consists of a piece of fat sandwiched between 2 chunks of meat. The meat was lightly marinated then grilled it over charcoal, charred it slightly without compromising its tenderness. It tasted different from those by Malay, mild-tasting, less sweet and the sauce is different too. The chicken satay is as good though using a leaner meat, still as flavorful with a nicely charred flavor.

There is usually a dollop of fresh pineapple puree added to the peanut dipping sauce for Hainanese satay, it added a hint of tanginess though the pineapple taste is not too distinct.

335 Smith Street #02-079 Chinatown Complex Food Centre SINGAPORE 050335
Operating Hours: 12.30 pm to 8.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Xiong Kee Roast Meat : cheap and not bad

We were supposed to go for the other stall in another coffee shop on the same block but was attracted by the long queue at this stall so we decided to try it. My dining companion joined the queue and waited for about 15 minutes to order. He ordered Char Siew & Roast Meat Rice for $4.00 and the Roast Duck & Roast Meat Rice for $4.50. He said, "It is less than $10 for all these. So cheap." I first came across Xiong Kee Roast Meat when they opened in a coffee shop at Sin Ming. It did not last for too long, closed down a little while later. A couple that sharing our table also said, "This is so cheap. The portion is a lot." They ordered a plate of Char Siew Rice and a plate of Roast Meat Rice at $3.00 each.

The Roast Meat just happened to be out of the roaster so it still retained its crispiness and it did not compromise its tenderness. My dining companion said, "It is crispy but a little bland and not salty enough." He also said, "The Roast Duck is just so so." I did not like the Char Siew, it was too lean and too tough and I actually left it unfinished. 

The texture of the rice was a little mushy. The radish soup was good though.

Tian Cheng Charcoal Roasted at the other coffee shop in the same block is supposed to be as good. It is highly recommended by a FB friend.

Block 81 Whampoa Drive SINGAPORE 320081

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Hao Hao Noodle House : old school Wanton Mee

This is supposedly a popular stall run by a husband and wife team in this food centre and it happened to be one of the few stalls that were opened on a Monday with a short queue. I decided to join in and ordered a large portion of Wanton Mee for $3.50 with braised chicken feet together with a bowl of Dumpling Soup for $4. I handed over $10 but was told, it is not enough as the total cost is $10.50. I was a little taken aback and did not quite expect the small portion of braised chicken feet to be $3.00. 

I took a mouthful and frowned. My dining companion said, "I will eat it. You can go order the Bak Chor Mee at 黄大福." He said, "I could taste the alkaline taste. The portion of noodles is quite a lot and that might be the likely reason why there is a queue. It did not have much sauce underneath that pile of noodles." He took another mouthful and said, "There is a fragrance of the lard oil."He also said, "The braised chicken feet did not have much flavor and not soft enough." The noodles were cooked well to the desired texture but those pieces of char siew were very lean and tasted a bit too dry. 

The wantons and dumplings were served together in a bowl of soup. Both tasted just fine though not particularly memorable. 

There is another stall serving Wanton Mee in the same food centre and it is supposedly better.

116 Commonwealth Crescent #02-83 Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre SINGAPORE 149644
Operating Hours: 7.00 am to 2.00 pm (Daily)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Kim's Kueh : traditional Teochew Kueh

This stall is started by Kim, a generation X hawker and there used to be another stall serving traditional Teochew kueh at Jalan Berseh Food Centre by another generation X hawker but it has already closed down. Both stalls cited the same reason for wanting to preserve the recipes handed down by their mother and grandmother for that traditional handmade kueh. Many of such stalls that started by the earlier generation have not been surviving mainly due to there is no one to take over. I usually come here for the traditional Png Kueh ($1.20) and Soon Kueh ($1.20). There are also Gu Chai Kueh ($1.20), Mixed Kueh ($1.20), Cabbage Kueh ($1.20) and Glutinous Rice ($1.50), the pan-fried ones are $0.10 extra per piece. 

While waiting for the order of Fried Hokkien Mee, I ordered one of each to share with my dining companion and bought another 4 more Png Kueh to pan-fry at home. The lady was kind enough to separate the dark sauce and chilli in a saucer when I told her that my dining companion prefers to have it plain. He tried the Png Kueh and said, "The glutinous rice is not as fragrance as I liked it. There is no taste of dried shrimp." I guess the main reason for omitting the dried shrimp is the cost. The price has to be kept affordable to survive in an aging residential estate. 

Block 18 Toa Payoh Lorong 7 #01-232 SINGAPORE 310018
Operating Hours: 7.30 am to 4.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Hokkien Man Hokkien Mee : amongst the best

Xavier Neo, 43, the owner, is a Hokkien man and he started this humble stall serving Fried Hokkien Mee in a coffee shop at Toa Payoh on 10 August 2019. He is running the stall with his wife, Alice Lai, 46. The yellow signboard printed with "Hokkien Man Hokkien Mee" and a portrait of Xavier on it is quite a catchy one. A friend told me about this stall and he urged me to try. I heard about the long waiting time and was a bit reluctant to queue. He sent me a message just a couple of days ago, telling me that the standard dropped a bit and there is no more queue. The waiting time used to be about 1.5 hours during lunch when they just started. 

Xavier was formerly a sous chef of Les Amis, a two-Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant at Shaw Centre and he left in 2007. He also worked with Billy Bombers, White Rabbit, Novus as well as Resorts World Sentosa. Alice used to be an Administration Manager at the National University of Singapore. Xavier went around eating Fried Hokkien Mee from different stalls before coming up with his own recipe. He put in special efforts to source for the ingredients, from the yellow noodles to prawns and squid. Alice acquired the recipe for the chilli from her auntie that used to run a Nasi Lemak stall at Holland Drive and she tweaked it slightly. The prawn stock is made using prawn heads and pork bone then slow-cooked for at least 3 hours. His usual day starts as early as 5 am and ended around 7 pm. 

Alice was at the counter, taking and managing the orders When I was there during lunch on Friday. I asked, "How long is the waiting time?" She replied, "About 15 minutes or so." There are 3 sizes, priced at $5, $6 and the largest portion at $8. I decided to go with the $6 portion and a  handmade wooden number tag is given after paying. The number will be displayed on the electronic number board system when it is ready for collection. Please note that the queue numbers displayed are not in the running sequence. 

I waited for slightly more than 10 minutes before seeing the number flashed to indicate it is ready. It was served on a disposable styrofoam plate with calamansi and sambal chilli at the side. My dining companion tasted the chilli before mixing it into the noodles, he said, "The chilli is quite good, not too spicy and there is a slight hint of sweetness." The well-simmered noodles were cooked in a mixture of lard oil and vegetable oil and it was less oily. 

The texture was not as gooey as compared to the Geylang Lorong 29 Charcoal Fried Hokkien Mee and not much eggy taste. The Fried Hokkien Mee was nicely braised to be slightly wetter, consisting of the yellow noodles and thick bee hoon with ingredients like sliced pork belly, prawns, egg, beansprouts, and chives. My dining companion said, "The flavor of lard oil is there but no wok fragrance though." I think the frying technique is still somehow lacking thus it did not manage to infuse the noodles with the desired smokiness. He also said, "This is definitely better than that Xiao Di Fried Prawn Noodle at Serangoon North." 

I heard that you can call in to order it in advance for taking away as well as dining in. The queue is much shorter now so there is actually no need to place an advance order. Though this is a simple plate of Fried Hokkien Mee, it is a familiar dish that most of us grew up eating. It was overall quite tasty as the prawn broth was noticeably good but it will take a little longer to actually perfect it and it is getting there. It definitely has the potential to be the best. 

Block 18 Toa Payoh Lorong 7 1913 Coffee Shop SINGAPORE 310018
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 2.30 pm (Closed on Mondays)

UPDATE: They have moved to Block 19 Toa Payoh Lorong 7 #01-264 SINGAPORE 310019 from 19 January 2019. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Kim Phung : Banh Mi at food centre

This Vietnamese sandwich stall opened on 3 June 2019, sharing the stall space with a Fried Kway Teow. The stall is manned by Nguyen Thi Kim Phung, 32 and the stall is named after her. She moved to Singapore in 2006 from Ho Chi Minh City and she used to sell Banh Mi there for a while. She is a permanent resident now.

Banh Mi is bread in Vietnamese, it is usually referring to the baguette with different ingredients that is like a sandwich. The menu consists of Banh Mi ($4.50) and Curry Chicken ($4.50), rice is available for $0.50. I ordered just the baguette and specially requested to have it cut into half with chilli at one of the halves. The handmade baguette was toasted before placing the filling in it, it still has a slight warm when it was handed to me. 

My dining companion took a bite then said, "The one that I had in Hong Kong is nicer." The texture of the bread was nicely crisp and light, not as chewy as some of those. Pork liver pate is used as a spread, it is handmade by steaming it with milk and spices for hours. The main ingredients for the filling consisting of pickled radish, pickled carrot, cucumber, and coriander as well as pork sausage and pork belly enhanced by the spiciness of the chilli. 

Though not quite as elaborate as some of the others but this is a refreshing choice nonetheless. I actually prefer the one by Que, a Vietnamese hawker stall in a coffee shop at Toa Payoh Lorong 1.

Block 14 Haig Road #01-53 Haig Road Food Centre SINGAPORE
Operating Hours: 7.30 am to 7.00 pm (Daily)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Chef Chik : Cantonese-style dishes at hawker price

Chef Chik Ka Chung, came from Hong Kong in the 90s to work as a Cantonese chef in different hotels including as an Executive Chef at Wan Hao Cantonese restaurant in Marriot Tang Plaza Hotel before starting this hawker stall with his wife in 2012. He is concentrating on Cantonese-style cooking like the double-boiled soups, claypot rice, and steamed dishes as well as some off-menu items depending on what he gets from the wet market. 

We ordered the Claypot Sausage Chicken Rice ($8), Black Fungus Steamed Chicken ($8), Salted Fish Pork Patty ($3.50) and Lotus Root Dried Oyster Pork Ribs Soup ($4.50) with a small bowl of rice. 

The Claypot Sausage Chicken Rice is done using gas instead of a charcoal fire, it was still aromatic with a nice crispy crust right below the rice. It was served with ingredients like Chinese sausage, liver sausage, cured pork belly, salted fish, chicken, and bok choy. It tasted quite similar to those that I had eaten in Hong Kong. 

The Black Fungus Steamed Chicken is a comforting dish. The chicken was tender and smooth doused in soy sauce, served together with soft black fungus and topped with chopped spring onions. I enjoyed eating this and it went well with rice. My dining companion did not like it as much though. 

Salted Fish Pork Patty tasted homely and that is the reason why I ordered a bowl of rice. The meat was finely chopped to have better textural contrast. The only taste of salted fish was from that small piece placed on top of the patty. My dining companion said, "I mashed the salted fish to mix it with the minced meat for more flavor. The choice of fattier meat has given it a softer texture."

The Lotus Root Dried Oyster Pork Ribs Soup was a pleasant surprise. My dining companion started looking for the dried oyster and there were 2 in total. It reminded me of those double-boiled soups that I had in Hong Kong. 

The dried oyster is not a common ingredient to be found in these soups offer by the hawker stalls here. It usually have a deeper, stronger and earthy flavor and not to everyone's taste but it has given it an extra flavor and not as monotonous as compared to most of the others. 

We were during lunch on Friday but the waiting time was a short one.

14 Haig Road #01-36 Haig Road Food Centre SINGAPORE 430014
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 7.30 pm (Closed on Sundays and Mondays)/

Sunday, November 3, 2019

EL Carbon Grill House : newly opened in Ang Mo Kio

This Western food stall has just opened on 7 October 2019 in Food Loft, the newly opened coffee shop at Ang Mo Kio Central, directly facing the Ang Mo Kio MRT station. There was an article by The Straits Times featuring Chef Syahir Bin Osman, 23 and the Mibrasa oven at Elfuego, an eatery by Collin's at Jewel Changi Airport dated 9 September 2019. There was also another article on the Facebook page of Elfuego on 17 October 2019, mentioning this young chef is trained in Mibrasa oven. He was there when we were there on both occasions. 

My dining companion asked, "Did you see that special oven in their kitchen?" And, that is a Mibrasa oven. It is a closed barbecue grill oven that allows the user to control the flow of air accurately through the grill changing the intensity of the embers. It can be done through the hot charcoal by shifting the ashtray and the damper. The ashes of the charcoal are contained in the tightly closed catchment and doors to retain the charcoal flavor that would infuse the process of food grilling in the oven. It is different from the normal convection oven.

We ordered the Crispy Chicken Cutlet ($7.50) and Charbroiled Chicken Chop ($7.50). I was given a buzzer for collection later. The Crispy Chicken Cutlet consists of a piece of fried chicken with a portion of mesclun salad, corn on the cob and fries together with cheese sauce and possibly Garlic Aioli though it did not have much garlic taste. The chicken was coated with herb seasoning and deep-fried to the perfect crispiness. This is the signature dish on the menu of Collin's with exactly the same presentation at a higher price. 

 My dining companion said, "The taste of the herb seasoning is quite mild as you did not taste much of it. It is still quite worth it as compared to those choices at the other hawker Western stalls." He also said, "I would rather have it with the Aglio e Olio then fries." We did manage to change the fries to pasta when we went back for a second time. 

The Charbroiled Chicken Chop was served on a pile of Aglio e Olio with corn on the cob and mesclun salad. It was slightly too charred but it managed to crisp the skin, the crispiness lasted even till the last bite, it was moist within. 

I liked it so much and ordered it again when we went back and hopefully, this will be their usual standard.

This is a cheaper alternative to Collin's by a group of young and energetic chefs. They are in the midst of getting the Halal certification. 

Block 721 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 #01-2823 Food Loft SINGAPORE 560721
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 11.00 pm (Daily)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Ah Hua Assam : homely comfort food

This stall is started by Ah Hua and her son, Bryan Wong in July 2019. The menu includes Signature Assam Chicken ($4.50), Braised Chicken ($4.50) that are served with rice and also Assam Fish Head ($15/$20), Handmade Ngor Hiang ($1.50) and Fried Bee Hoon ($1.00).

I went back for the second time within a week. This time, I decided to try the Assam Fried Bee Hoon, added a piece of ngor hiang and egg omelet for $3. Bryan asked, "Do you want sauce for your bee hoon? Curry or Assam sauce?" I replied, "What do you recommend?" He said, "I will say half of the curry sauce and half of Assam sauce." I nodded my head. When he handed the plate to me, I asked, "Ah Hua is your partner ah? The Ah Hua on the signboard is a female and so it cannot be you." He pointed to the lady that was cooking right behind and said, "That is Ah Hua and she is my mother." Ah Hua turned and smiled at me then back to her cooking. Their main ingredient is the Assam chilli paste for all their dishes. And, they have been selling the Assam Chilli Paste online for quite a while before starting this stall.

The Assam fried bee hoon was served on a traditional enamel plate and it tasted quite nice. I could actually taste the spice from the Assam chilli paste but the bee hoon was broken up into shorter strands though. It was done on purpose or caused by the quality of the bee hoon? 

I ordered the Assam Chicken, Ngor Hiang, Curry Vegetable, and Chap Chye with rice for $5.50 during my first visit. The chicken drumstick was nicely cooked in the Assam chilli paste to the desired tenderness and it did not taste as spicy as it looked. I am so used to eating Assam Fish and this was the first time trying Assam Chicken. When my dining companion tasted the handmade ngor hiang, he said, "This is quite good. I could actually taste bits of chestnut in it and quite flavorful too." The chap chye and curry vegetable were cooked well to a nice softness. These dishes tasted like what a mother will cook at home and a homecooked meal is always homely yet comforting.

335 Smith Street #02-106 Chinatown Complex Food Centre SINGAPORE 050335
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 7.00 pm