Saturday, October 25, 2014

Food for Life - Bishan

Back in early 2014 I posted a review of My Vegetarian Way, which was one of the few vegetarian hawkers that sells healthy vegetarian/vegan food.  Well, little did I know that another vegetarian stall located at Bishan bus interchange hawker centre also recently opened, again selling healthy conscious food.  An argument that non-vegetarians usually make to defend their diet is 'ya, but vegetarian food outside oso not health what' - I have to agree that there is some truth in this.  Vegetarian hawker food typically contains lots of poor quality oil and salt, and not forgetting MSG too.  Places like Food for Life (which are becoming increasingly popular) can prove that this argument/excuse is false.  Don't bother visiting this stall early in the day, they only open at 11.30am, and often that time is dragged until 12pm if stocks arrive late.




Food for Life
Location: Blk 514, Bishan Street 13, Bishan Bus Interchange
Contact: 98798478
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11.30am-7.30pm.  Closed Sunday.

The owners of Food for Life are two friends (not pictured here) - One being an engineer and the other being a nutritionist.  However, due to their busy lives, the stall is managed most of the time by Shirley Quek (pictured left).  Shirley is an extremely friendly and helpful staff, who has worked at Food for Life since it first opened, back in late 2013.  Shirley spoke very highly of the healing benefits of eating this type of healthy organic food on a regular basis, she even mentioned many customers coming from the Singapore Cancer Society - Individual whom have remarked about improvement in their overall health due to a change in diet.
In addition to the vegetarian stall at Bishan, cooking classes and tingkat services are also available.  Price wise, the food at Food for Life is very reasonable, especially considering most of the ingredients are organic.
Listed on the wall is all the reasons why Food for Life is healthy.  None of the dishes contain milk, but for those who consume egg, be careful - The odd few dishes do contain egg.  I would rather they get rid of the egg totally, so that this place can be officially classified as vegan.
















To start things I selected one of the two soup items available, the Potato Soup.  There is also pumpkin soup available.  This soup is blended fresh only when a customer orders, so one can be assured that soup doesn't get any fresher than this.  White pepper powder and black sesame seeds are sprinkled on top.  Being someone who is used to stronger tasting food, this soup was quite mild for me, and practically begging for salt.  The soup was also a little overly starchy for my liking.

Price: $2.50.     6/10









Next up I went for the Mixed Rice, which is essentially a healthier version of economic rice and dishes.  Food for Life use sprouted brown rice, which is supposedly 10 times healthier than regular run of the mill brown rice.  The cost for their economic rice is $3.80 for three dishes and $4.50 for four dishes.  The rice and dishes were quite enjoyable overall - I especially loved the cabbage, which had tremendous natural sweetness, some vegetables can really have a totally different taste if organic.  Those used to regular hawker food will be missing sauce and chilli from this meal though.

Price: $3.80.     6/10


Lastly, I selected the ultimate healthy Chinese dish - Lei Cha.  Once again, all the ingredients used in this dish are organic.  I really enjoyed the finely chopped long beans, which finally had sufficient salt to satisfying my tastebuds.  The carrots were also sweet and delicious.  The herb soup was a little watery, but did contain good flavour.  To add a disclaimer to this dish (and all the food here) of sorts, this is not something that those with strong tastebuds will be able to appreciate.  Due to the lack of oil, salt and spices, this dish will inevitably come across as bland to many - But if you want a super clean diet, then some sacrifices in taste are essential.

Price: $5.50.     7/10
Conclusion - If your goal is to achieve a clean and healthy diet, or if you just want to take a break from the typical hawker junk food - Then I would highly recommend visiting Food for Life.  The service is excellent, and the food is tolerable, but probably not something I could handle eating on a regular basis.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 8/10

Friday, October 24, 2014

iVege - Macpherson

I mentioned just a few days ago that I consider Xuan Miao Vegan and Victor's to be the two most successful vegetarian stalls at the infamous 79A Circuit Road Food Centre - Maybe I was wrong.  iVege is extremely popular vegetarian stall located right next to Xuan Miao Vegan.  Prior to opening there is already a line of hungry devotees excited to try their food.  I have stated below that their closing time is 9pm, but be warned, on busy days (weekends/public holidays etc) their food has been known to sell out by 8pm - The earlier you go, the safer your chances will be of filling your stomach.  So what is so special about iVege that it attracts so many customers, let's find out...





 

iVege
Location: #01-79, Blk 79A Circuit Road Food Centre
Contact: 81338744
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 5.00pm-9.00pm.  Closed Monday.  


iVege likes to keep things simple, each day they serve just one special dish.  I have heard very good things about their chicken rice and nasi lemak - But it is their monkeyhead mushroom rice which seems to attract most praise.  This dish is available only on Wednesday, so I specifically went down on that day for this dish.  I must say, the attitude of the husband and wife duo that run this stall is quite poor.  They were nothing but cold to me, when I was trying to extract basic information from them (when I asked for the stalls contact number, he reacted as if I was asking for his wife's bra size) so that I could write this review.  I felt an almost arrogant air about them, which was coming across to me as 'we don't want or need your help'.  Humility and common decency seems to have been lost amidst their success.  Vegetarian hawkers are generally some of the most friendly and giving people you can meet in Singapore (yes, even mafia aunties), and I love to talk to them and find out their story, so that I can share it with the rest of Singapore in my reviews - But I took no pleasure being in the company of this pair.


Ok rant over, let's see the food.  Like I mentioned iVege like to keep things really simple.  Apart from their one special dish, the only other item available to order was their Ngo Hiang.  The name 'ngo hiang' is a general term used for a range of assorted meat preparations stemming from Eastern China (in China it goes by the name 虾卷).  The particular dish on offer at iVege should be more accurately titled ngo hiang hun, which refers to the specific method of preparation, which is rolling the meat (in this case mock meat) inside beancurd skin and deep frying.  I believe this ngo hiang hun was made from scratch by the owners, and went very well with the fresh coriander.  Their chili could have been better though.

Price: $2.50.     6/10


Now to the main reason I visited iVege, their Hsiang Choon Monkey-Head Mushroom + Soup + Rice.  The term hsiang choon is a poor attempt at spelling the Chinese characters 香椿, which is a strong tasting leaf (Toona sinensis), used in many Chinese dishes.  I couldn't really taste 'hsiang choon' in their sauce, but I loved the combination of monkeyhead mushroom (surely the greatest ingredient one can use in vegetarian cooking) and the sauce.  Moreover, the taste was really brought to another level thanks to the generous topping of fresh coriander.  The rice used was flavoured chicken rice, and was cooked well.  The soup was the only let down, it really tasted just like plain water, with a hint of kelp flavour.  This is not a complicated dish, it is very simple and easy to make, nevertheless I enjoyed it.

Price: $5.00.     7/10



Conclusion - Let me first start by giving my honest assessment of the food - It was good.  I really enjoyed the monkeyhead mushroom rice.  Having said that, the snobbish attitude of this husband and wife duo really left a sour taste in my mouth.  Seeing a vegetarian stall become successful is fantastic, but if the owners aloof attitude is a by-product of this success, then I truly feel 心寒.

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 2/10
Value - 7/10

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Xuan Miao Vegan - MacPherson

A lot of people ask me why I don't feature the famous vegetarian mecca that is known as Circuit Rd more on my blog.  I have blogged quite extensively on this area, but I've always felt quite underwhelmed by the food I have tried.  I have always thought that Circuit Rd is a great place due to its abundance of vegetarian food, but not for the quality.  Well, over 2014 Circuit Road has undergone a face lift of sorts, and a number of new vegetarian stalls have popped up, which I will review in due course.  But for today, I will focus on Xuan Miao Vegan, or 炫妙 (dazzling and wonderful).









Xuan Miao Vegan
Location: #01-78, Blk 79A Circuit Road Food Centre
Contact: 92385088
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 5.00pm-12.00am.  Closed Monday.


Considering Circuit Rd has a myriad of mostly disappointing vegetarian stalls, I was quite pleased to hear a large amount of positive feedback from those visiting Xuan Miao.  This stall is famous for their soup noodles, and specifically their ban mian 板麵.  The name ban mian translates to mean board/block noodle, the reason for the word 'board' stems back to the Hakka's method of cutting the noodle into straight strands using a wooden block as ruler.


Xuan Miao was originally in business at Jalan Besar, but subsequently moved to 79A Circuit Road in 2011.  The stall is owned by Mr Ng, who has attracted a considerable amount of recognition for his mee hoon kuey.  Mr Ng originally learnt to cook from a Malaysian chef whom he used to patronise in his younger years for his awesome mee hoon kuey.  No MSG is used in any of the food. The stall goes by the saying 'saving one animal’s life, one bowl of vegetarian food at a time'.
If you're going on public holidays or weekends then this stall can become quite packed, and customers have been known to wait up to 30-40 minutes for their order to be completed.  Aside from Victor's Vegetarian, I am sure Xuan Miao would rank as the highest vegetarian achiever at 79A.
Xuan Miao has a total number of nine dishes available, but I decided to kick things off with the classic Hand Made Mee Hoon Kuey.  This is a dish that is ideal for a rainy and cool day, the soup is comforting and mild.  The thing that always scares me about Chinese soup noodles is the ridiculous amount of MSG and/or salt that is often used inside.  At Xuan Miao I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't the case.  The kuey could have been thinner and more delicate, but overall this was a pretty satisfying dish.  The soup may be a little on the bland side, especially if, like myself, you are more accustomed to stronger tasting food.

Price: $3.50.     7/10
Next dish was named Ban Mian Dry.  I have to say, the portion size for this item was incredibly generous.  For $4 one can expect a large soup of soup and a large bowl of noodles.  In terms of the soup, it was identical to the mee hoon kuey dish - But it was the dry ban mian bowl that really won my heart.  The flavours were very well balanced, and I especially loved the hint of sourness from vinegar inside.  The mock ikan bilis on top added a great textural crunch, too.

Price: $4.00.     8/10










Conclusion - Nestled amongst stall after stall of criminally unhealthy (and mostly rubbish) vegetarian food, Xuan Miao does offer hope to 79A Circuit Road - The food is definitely the healthiest you can find in the area, and I was simultaneously surprised and impressed with the quality.  I'm not really a soup noodles person, but even I could see myself returning to Xuan Miao.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 8/10

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mummy Yummy - Kranji

First question you're probably going to ask yourself when you see the address of Mummy Yummy, is what on earth is a vegetarian eatery doing in the Kranji industrial district?  The concept of Mummy Yummy was conjured up back in 2013, but their cafe only launched in July 2014.  Rather than selling vegetarian food for personal profit, Mummy Yummy raises funds to help the needy, which I will explain more about later.  If you're visiting on weekends, you can take a free shuttle bus from Yew Tee MRT - Between 11am-7.30pm (half hour intervals).



Mummy Yummy
Location: #03-01, 62 Sungei Kadut Loop, International Furniture Centre
Contact: 63660180/97250118
Opening Hours: Daily 11.00am-6.00pm


Rather unbelievably everything at this eatery is on sale for just $1 - No there is no catch, the food items will literally cost you $1.  It was put at this price to allow the construction workers in the Kranji area an affordable place to eat, with the focus always being about providing food to those who need it the most.
The name Mummy Yummy is meant to symbolize a mothers love and the joy of home-cooked food.  This cafe was launched by Jeanna (right) and Shanna (left), whose main concept is to give free food to the needy in Singapore.  Shanna explained to me that being that Singapore is a mostly affluent country, one often forgets that desperate and unfortunate individuals still exist in Singapore, so the aim of Mummy Yummy is to provide help (in the form of meals) to those individuals who society can't/won't help.


Mummy Yummy is unquestionably an organization with helping and aiding purely humans in mind - So you might ask yourself the question (like I did), why vegetarian food?  The answer is, Shanna is a born vegetarian and couldn't imagine serving non-vegetarian food to the public.  With that being said, egg is still served here.
On another wall there is the entire list of households that are currently being fed for free by Mummy Yummy (via a delivery style service).  According to Shanna, on weekends up to 5,000 packets of food can be distributed to these households - A quite staggering number.
The menu at Mummy Yummy changes on a daily basis, with each day having two daily specials, all costing just $1.  Chrysanthemum or herbal tea is also served (cost is 50c).  One criticism I must give is that piping hot tea is being poured into styrofoam cups and served - Heating styrofoam at that temperature is going to release a lot of the chemicals from the styrofoam into the liquid, which will subsequently be ingested by the customers (I could literally taste the chemicals as an aftertaste in the tea) - The plates and bowls are also made from styrofoam, which is also quite damaging environmentally.


In addition to the two main dishes, snacks and economic rice is also available.  The Curry Puff from Mummy Yummy was much better than I expected.  A flavourful potato masala in the center, and an expertly fried crust.

Price: $1.00/pc.     7/10
I visited Mummy Yummy on a Friday, and thus Olive Fried Rice was one of their special dishes.  I was pleased to see that no egg was added inside the the rice.  The fried rice isn't going to win any awards, but good enough to fill the stomach.

Price: $1.00.     6/10
Lastly, I got the Char Siew Rice.  This portion was quite small, and was literally just mock char siew and rice.  I selected a couple of pieces of tofu on the side as well, for an additional $0.50.  Once again this is a very simple meal, so there is not much I can say about it.  But the char siew quality was very nice, not the horrid doughy kind that many hawkers use.

Price: $1.50 (additional 50c for tofu).     6/10












Conclusion - I could talk in greater detailed about the quality of the food at Mummy Yummy, but that is not what's important here.  Mummy Yummy isn't pretending or trying to serve restaurant quality food, they are simply trying to help people who need the help, and as long as the food is vegetarian, I will be giving Mummy Yummy my full support.  What Singapore also needs is a non-human version of Mummy Yummy, for the countless stray/wild animals in Singapore, who are not only struggling to find food, but are being brutally murdered by AVA a certain governing authority who I won't directly name - This is a cause I could find myself getting more passionately behind.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 10/10

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant - Chiang Mai, Thailand

I was considering posting a detailed analysis of all the vegetarian/vegan options in Chiang Mai, Thailand after my recent visit to the city.  However, truth be told, after visiting all the 'so called' best vegetarian eateries in the city, there was only one that stood out as being completely spectacular.  The rest were either average or slightly above.  Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, though, would easily rank in my Top 3 list of best vegetarian eateries on the planet - It is that good.  Be warned, if you're a Buddhist vegetarian, then you will have a tough time at Pun Pun (and all vegetarian eateries in Thailand), as they don't follow avoiding onion and garlic.  So make sure to specifically ask for no pungent spices when ordering.  Some items also have egg, although most don't.






Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: Suthep Road (opposite Chiang Mai University)
Contact: 086-1816051
Opening Hours: Daily 10.00am-9.00pm 


If you don't have your own transport, then travelling to Pun Pun is a bit of a journey, that can't be achieved on foot (from the main tourist stretch).  There are actually two Pun Pun restaurants along this same road.  One located at the back of Wat Suan Dok temple and one at Suthep Road (at the Base of Doi Suthep).  The latter is the original masters restaurant, while the former is managed by his apprentice.


The setting of Pun Pun is a quiet, peaceful garden setting.  If you're visiting in the evening then mosquitoes can be an issue.  The staff will even give you mosquito repellent.  During the day this is not an issue though.  All the ingredients at Pun Pun come from their own farm, which is located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai.  They encourage and subscribe to the philosophy of sustainably locally grown produce.
The menu at Pun Pun is so vast and amazing I decided to take a picture of every single page.  Check it out...








We first decided to pick out an appetizer, which was the Deep Fried Herbal Spring Roll with Tamarind Sauce.  The spring rolls were nice and crispy, but I couldn't really detect what herbal flavour they had - They more closely resembled the generic style of spring roll.  The advantage that Pun Pun has, however, is their ability to use fresh and vibrant produce, which was used inside the roll.  The tamarind sauce was quite flat and forgettable though.

Price: 60B.      6/10
Easily the most visually spectacular dish I ordered from Pun Pun was the Salad Dok mai.  Long time readers of my site will know that craving salad (or anything green) seldom goes through my mind - Therefore, for a dish like this to 'wow' me, means that it is very special. 
The dish is a beautiful, colourful mix of deep fried edible flowers, raw flowers, chick peas, onion, pomelo, lettuce, carrot and various nuts.  I loved how this felt healthy, yet slightly sinful.  The fried flowers were not too heavyand went perfectly with the fresh leaves. 

Price: 70B.     10/10
Pun Pun also have a limited number of items that are Western, this is the Homemade Tofu Steak with Coconut Milk & Black Pepper Sauce.  Once again the presentation of this dish was faultless, with four triangular tofu slabs literally drowned in a mild coconut based sauce.  For some the sauce could probably have done with an extra kick.  But there is no doubting the quality of the tofu, which was perfectly charred prior to being plated.

Price: 80B.     7/10
The next dish falls under the 'special dishes' category and is called Homemade Fermented Mushroom Sausage.  This is a dish that I think will divide people down the middle, you are either going to love this or hate it.  If you're not used to (or don't like) strong tasting pungent items, then you will detest this dish.  If you are someone like myself, who loves items like petai, Japanese natto, 臭豆腐 etc then you should enjoy this.  The shredded fermented mushroom has a really overwhelming taste, which almost resembles raw garlic.  When matched with the lime, cashew nuts, ginger and raw red onion and green chilli it really becomes something quite delicious though.  This is an acquired taste, that can very quickly become addictive.  I loved it, but order with caution.

Price: 60B.     8/10


One Thai curry that I recently discovered and quickly fell in love with is Musaman Curry.  This curry, also spelt massaman, was original introduced into Thailand by Muslim immigrants - This curry is thick and rich, with distinctive peanut flavour.  Like any good Thai curry, this dish manages to effortlessly balance the essential components to any curry - Sweetness, sourness, saltiness, spice and umami.  There was a lovely array of ingredients inside, and I was ultimately rendered to licking the bowl dry like some starved canine.  Definitely a dish you must order when visiting Pun Pun, one of the best curries I have ever eaten.

Price: 60B.     10/10






Conclusion - Pun Pun wisely utilizes the one key advantage Thailand has over other countries - Fresh ingredients.  The dishes are presented in a quite stunning fashion, and taste just as good as they look.  Truly one of the best vegetarian eateries I have ever had the privilege of frequenting.  If you're in Chiang Mai (or Thailand for that matter) you would be insane not to visit Pun Pun.

Overall Rating
Food - 9/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 9/10
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