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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant - Bugis

When I encountered the news that Gokul was opening a second outlet, this time in the Fortune Centre - I reacted with both delight and pessimism. I was pessimistic due to the fact that, although Fortune Centre is a vegetarian mecca, it is not an Indian vegetarian mecca. The flow of individuals going through this shopping centre will be mostly Chinese, and Chinese are typically quite conservative in regards to trying different food. This pessimism seems to be justified as Gokul looked like ghost town on the evening I chose to visit. Hopefully business picks up, but I don't foresee any radical change. Please note, I asked the staff about the opening times, they claim they are open every day, however I have visited a couple of times and they were randomly closed. I advise calling ahead. I would also like to stress, no onions, garlic or egg are used in any of the dishes at Gokul.

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: Fortune Centre, 190 Middle Road, #01-07
Contact: 63374811

Opening Hours: Daily 9am - 8.30pm

Seemingly this Gokul outlet has a tandoor in a constant coma, as they never seem to have naan or tandoori roti available. Therefore, I settled with Chapati. This did disgruntle me slightly, as chapati never really scratches my itch for Indian bread like naan does. With that being said, this chapati was light and provided an apt accompaniment to the rest of the dishes that were ordered. Although price wise, I find this new Gokul outlet very reasonable, I do find a sore spot is the breads, which are still a little too pricy for my liking. All the breads could benefit from a 50 cent reduction in price.

Price: $1.50 (pc). 7/10

Although Gokul is categorized as an 'Indian restaurant' - Sometimes I feel this is a misrepresentation of this establishment. On the menu are Western, Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes. An example of Malay cuisine is this Chicken Curry With Bread. Gokul stays true to the traditional style of this Malaysian curry, with the curry texture being less thick, and packed with a strong lemongrass flavour. Inside the curry was mock chicken and potato. The only low-light of this dish was the lack of potato (there was only one piece inside). The bread was toasted well, and was superbly fresh (even late at night, when I visited). As Malay food is traditionally very meat heavy, this meat-free version of this classic curry dish may offer a unique niche, for those curious to try the dish.

Price: $5.00. 7/10

Regular readers of my website will know I have creamy North Indian curries practically running through my veins now. Needless to say, we are now approaching my favourite part of the meal. This is the Moghlai Chicken. The mughlai category of Indian cooking is probably my most cherished, due to its style of subtle spices with slightly sweet and creamy curry. The high points to this dish was the lack of oil, which Indian food is usually notorious for being recklessly heavy with. Additionally, the mock chicken used is terribly authentic, and compliments the smooth texture of the curry ideally.

Price: $6.00. 8/10

I was slightly fearful of how much cream would be used in this Paneer Makhni, but there was a little devil on my shoulder screaming 'Order it!' and eventually I flicked the angel off my other shoulder and relented to purchase it. Daal makhni, a dish similar to this, is famed for practically a bucket load of cream being heaved into the pot. Thankfully, this paneer makhni was not too cream heavy, but it still may be too rich for those not calibrated to appreciate Indian cuisine. The curry was smooth and spiced perfectly, but be careful for whole cardamom pods and cloves inside the curry. A curry that tasted great, and looked beautiful upon arrival. A real winner!

Price: $6.00. 9/10

Conclusion - One of the really remarkable qualities about Gokul (both this outlet and their Little India outlet) is the quick service time. They prepare these beautiful looking dishes in a matter of mere minutes, which is praise worthy. Moreover, not only are they produced quickly, but the quality is almost always top notch. I can't even recall being served a dish at Gokul that was below-par. I am hoping that non-Indian individuals will give Gokul a try, and help keep this restaurant running successfully in the Fortune Centre. You have no risk of consuming onions and garlic, and there is a wealth of dishes from various cultures (not just Indian). So, I will finish this review with a question - What is stopping you?

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 9/10
Value - 9/10

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Taiwan Vegetarian Food Guide

Taiwan is a country which almost every Singaporean has laid claim to visiting. And it is a country that has a reputation of being very vegetarian friendly. Therefore, during my recent visit to the so-called sweet potato shaped country, I was eagerly anticipating sampling all the many vegetarian delights, along with the infamous street food from night markets. Below is a brief guide to some of the food you might want to look out for.

Firstly, those who are not confident in speaking and reading Chinese will have an extremely difficult time in Taiwan. The locals ability to understand English is probably the lowest I have seen in any country I have visited so far (even behind lesser developed countries, such as Cambodia and Vietnam). This language barrier is also coupled by perplexing street and road signs, which make finding even the most simple things virtually impossible. One of the best ways to locate vegetarian food, however, is to look out for the Buddhist 'swastika' symbol, as this always indicates that the establishment is 100% vegetarian. Alternatively, just note down/remember the Chinese character for vegetarian ().

Every vegetarian establishment will be selling Minced Meat Rice. It is a simple dish of white rice, with mock minced meat, which is usually derived from mushroom stems. Although simple, it is also dish that can have errors. The best kind should have the rice slightly moistened by the sauce, but not drowned in the sauce. Additionally, the granules of mock meat should be firm and bouncy, and not mushy like a tried in a few establishments. It is an ideal dish that can accompany main dishes, or could simply be eaten alone.

Price: NTD25-35 (approximately). 7/10

A journey to Taiwan is simply not complete with trying the infamous Smelly Tofu (臭豆). Prior to this trip, I had tried this style of tofu in Singapore on a few occasions, and slowly grew to like it. The Taiwan version is really much more superior to Singapore's though, and my enjoyment evolved from liking the dish, to loving it. In Taipei, the most famous smelly tofu stall can be found within the hectic Shilin Night Market. I went on a Monday and it was closed, therefore I am unclear whether it is open only on weekends, or there are other days during the week it opens. But Monday is definitely closed.

On weekends, this stall has an extremely long queue, so be prepared to wait a while. So is this smelly tofu really far superior to the rest? In short, it is considerably better. The highlight may not even be the tofu itself, but rather the dark brown garlic sauce which is covered over it. The sauce is very strong of garlic, and just delicious. The tofu also cannot go without praise. The skin is crispy, and this stall uniquely chops the tofu into smaller pieces, which works to its advantage. Definitely somethings you must experience.

Price: NTD45 (S) NTD60 (L). 9/10

As Taiwan has developed as a country, it is natural that their cuisine has branched out to accept many different cultures. So Free Wood Fired Pizza & Cheese is mainly patronized by locals curious to try out authentic wood fire pizza for the first time. Within walking distance is also Shida Night Market. To follow with the frustrating theme of Taiwan, this restaurant is located down hopelessly winding side streets, and ultimately took me hours to find. There is little real seating areas for people to eat, so it might be advisable to take away and eat it in the nearby park area.

Here is a picture of the Smoked Cheese Pizza. All pizzas come in one size only (eight inches) and there are a number of unique and exciting styles to choose from. A generous amount of cheese was used on the toppings, and as the cheese was smoked, it gave beautifully strong flavour. The pizza base/crust was exceptional, with it being chewy and crunchy. The dessert style pizzas (such as Apple & Cinnamon) are not really my thing, but I fully recommend the savory varieties.

Price: NTD135. 8/10

So Free Wood Fired Pizza & Cheese
Address: No. 28, Lane 283, Roosevelt Rd., Sec. 3
Contact: (02) 2364-3351
Opening Hours: Daily 11:30 AM - 9 PM

Needless to say, another classic culinary hallmark of Taiwan is the Shaved Ice. It is important to mark the difference between Taiwan shaved ice, and the ice kachang, which we have available in Singapore. In Taiwan, the texture of the ice is much finer, to the point where it practically dissolves in your mouth when eating. The texture most closely resembles cotton or a fabric of such ilk (not that I regularly consume cotton). Added to the shaved ice is the typical fruits and milk. Other stalls may sell flavoured shaved ice, coming in flavours such as berry and green tea.

Price: NTD80. 8/10

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nutrihub Organic Vegetarian Cafe - Chinatown

At the beginning of the year I visited Nutrihub for the first time, back when they were at the Cuppage Plaza location. As many will be aware, a few months ago this popular organic eatery shifted to Temple Street in Chinatown. This location is really a much more logical place to be, as it is more easily accessible, and will attracted both locals and foreign tourists. The head chef and owner of this establishment is Vinitha Ang, and she is readily open to share with you her wealthy of knowledge on organic and healthy living. In addition to the cafe, there is a number of shelves stacked with various grains, powders and health food products.

Nutrihub Organic Vegetarian Cafe
Location: 46 Temple Street

Opening Hours: Mon - Sat: 11am to 8pm, Sun: Closed


We will get to the fixed menu shortly, but first I thought it would be useful to share with you the daily specials that are on offer at Nutrihub - All sounding mouth-watering. Another interesting component to Vinitha's work at Nutrihub is her cooking classes, which offer individuals a valuable insight in how to cook healthy and fresh foods at home. It is certainly something that is worth while experiencing. More information on Vinitha's cooking classes and Nutrihub cafe in general can be found on their website - Here. As well as their regular menu and these daily specials, there may occasionally be ad-hoc dishes available. On this particular day they were selling mock otah (made from mashed tofu), it was a probably the best vegetarian otah I have tried so far in Singapore (selling for $3.00/pc).

As well as their daily specials, there is a comprehensive menu, which is available everyday. Do take note that some of the more intricate dishes could take 15-20 minutes to complete, but usually the wait is worth it. The menu has not changed greatly from the one they were using at their old location, however Vinitha is working on new dishes, which will be introduced to the public shortly.

It seems almost compulsory that health and organic restaurants will be selling sushi. Although somewhat trite, this Spicy Almond Sushi (With Organic Almond & Apple Chilli) was scrumptious to consume. What is so rewarding about eating this dish is the flavour balance, but more importantly, the freshness of the ingredients. The filling of the sushi consists of carrots, turnip, beetroot, sprouts and lettuce - All these ingredients are crunchy and sweet (especially the carrots). The subtle spice, coupled with the sweetness of the apple provides a harmonious flavour balance. Additionally, shards of almond can be found in the sauce, which adds another textural element to the dish.

Price: $7.80. 7/10

Next to the table was the Chilli Miso Tofu Ramen. Miso is something I have learned to increasingly adore over time, therefore the soup base in this dish was delectable for me. The only criticism this dish may be vulnerable to is lacking flavour. However, I found that the ample flavour in the shitake mushrooms prevent this from being the case. The one thing that blew me away in this dish was the scrambled tofu on top. The texture strongly resembled scrambled eggs, and complimented the vegetables and noodles perfectly. Portion wise, it arrived it a large bowl, and overall I found it value for money.

Price: $7.00. 7/10

Probably the dish I was most intrigued by was the Asian Pizza Delight & Nut Cheese. The concept of making a raw vegan 'pizza' certainly fascinated me, but did it deliver? First, lets dissect what this dish actually is. The base of the 'pizza' is more like a thin cracker, which comprises of dehydrated flax seeds and vegetables. The toppings consist of tomato and kai lan (yes, raw kai lan). Finally sprinkled on top is nut 'cheese', which is derived from cashew nuts. The nut cheese does have the salty taste of real cheese, and the kai lan (marinated in plum dressing) tasted great. The real triumph of the dish was the dehydrated crackers though, I could have eaten them by themselves. They have superb flavour, and a welcome chewy texture. While this dish was a success in my eyes, I do question whether people who are not educated about raw and healthy cuisine, might just see this as crackers with vegetables on top, though.

Price: $10.80. 8/10

Something special for my readers now, a world exclusive! This Wholemeal Sandwich has not been released onto their menus yet, but it was offered it me to sample for feedback. A unique element of the cooking at Nutrihub is everything is fresh and made on the premises. This is the case with the bread from this sandwich. Fresh bread is always a delightful thing, but taste wise it was a little plain - Added rosemary or oregano in the bread would have introduced a welcome flavour enhancement. The patty (made from juice pulp) was spiced perfectly, and tasted outstanding. Also the tofu chips (dehydrated) were tasty, especially with the chilli apple sauce on the side.

Price: $7.80. 7/10

Finally dessert, colour wise this Dragon Fruit With Konyac Jelly & Chia Seeds certainly looks striking. The dish comprises of three main components. The white fleshed dragon fruit at the bottom, the red fermented dragon fruit on top, and pandan infused jelly around the edges. Usually for my Western palate, pandan is something that is too flavourless for my liking. The jelly in this dish, however, was packed with pandan flavour. Fermentation of fruits may be something that is new to a lot of people. A simple definition is that it is fruit left for a number of days to ferment, and subsequently at the end, it has a completely changed flavour. In the case of this dish, the dragon fruit enzyme develops a mild sweet red wine flavour.

Price: $5.00. 7/10

Conclusion - The foundation of Vinitha's cooking philosophy is simple, fresh and organic foods. It is important for visitors to adjust their way of thinking to these principles. I will concede that the dishes may not be as packed with flavour as typical hawker centre vegetarians food. However, this food is substantially more healthy, and not riddled with MSG, salt, oil and pesticides, and still tastes great. The popularity of organic and raw foods is something that will increase rapidly over the next decade, as people become more educated on the significance diet plays in dictating ones health. In Singapore, Nutrihub is one of the innovators in this movement, but they won't be alone for long!

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 7/10

Friday, September 2, 2011

Vegan Banana Ice Cream

On the infrequent occasions that I post food recipes on Hungry Ang Mo, self-admittedly they are usually quite perplexing and challenging Indian recipes. Therefore, for this post, I wanted to change my habits and give you the most basic (yet delicious) recipe that I know.

Veganism, for me, is my next evolution step to live a more ethical and healthy life. Although I have not reached that goal yet, dairy is something I am consciously reducing - With the view of eliminating it entirely from my diet in the future.

Vegan Banana Ice Cream

How can ice cream be vegan I hear you gasp? No egg yolk? No milk? Indeed this recipe is completely vegan. It also has no sugar. In fact, it only really contains one ingredient - Bananas. Although if you want to spruce up this dessert - Adding cinnamon would work a treat, or you could easily turn it into milo banana ice cream or coffee banana ice cream. Can you use any other fruit? I have never tried with others, and I doubt it would work. It is the natural unique texture of banana, which makes it possible to be 'transformed' into ice cream. So how is this laughably simplistic dessert achieved, lets find out...

The first process is to freeze a bunch of bananas (peeled) over night. I have opted to choose the baby sized bananas. The only conceivable way this dessert could fail is by choosing lousy bananas. If they are too raw or have a starchy taste, then it will consequently make the ice cream unsatisfactory. So ripe (preferably organic) baby bananas is the ideal. Once frozen, place the bananas in a blender and add around four tablespoons of water. Continue to blend and watch simple bananas transform into this delicious dessert!

Voila! After making this dessert, I hope you will be astounded by the texture of the ice cream. In my eyes, it resembles real ice cream by about 95%. Additionally, it is surprising how sweet the ice cream is, even without any sugar added. No one has any excuse not to try this at home, it is so simple, yet so delicious!
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