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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vegetarian Era - Hougang

Just a few weeks ago I published a review on a new and exciting vegan eatery in ang mo kio called Vegetarian Era.  As I eluded to in this review, a new outlet in Hougang was planned, and sure enough, here it is!  The banner looks identical to the ang mo kio outlet, however, what has changed is there are eight brand spanking new dishes to choose from.  What is so superb is these eight dishes are unique, and not what one would typically expect from a vegetarian stall - Focusing mainly on Penang and Hainan specialties.

Vegetarian Era
Location: Blk 805, Yong Soon Coffee Shop

Contact: 96109123
Opening Hours: Daily 10.00am - 9.00pm

CLOSED DOWN - As of 15/04/2013

When I heard about the eight new dishes, certainly the one that got me most excited was the Hainanese Noodle.  As chef Henry is a Hainanese himself, I had high expectations from this dish, and overall it delivered.  In all honesty, it is difficult to find a flaw with this dish - The radish was beautifully stewed and bursting with flavour, the noodles had ideal texture, the mock meat (both monkey head and mushroom stem) matched with the soup, the raw coriander added superb freshness and aroma - All in all, delicious!

Price: $3.50.     9/10

Pumpkin Mee Java is a dish introduced to Malaysia by South Indian migrant workers many decades ago, it also goes by the name mee masak.  This version has a perfect pumpkin sauce, it is not too rich and has a lovely natural sweetness from the pumpkin.  The yellow noodles were cooked well. Another unique dish, which was pleasing on the taste buds.

Price: $3.00.     8/10
The next unique dish is Famous Assam Laksa, which is the first vegan assam (Penang) laksa that exists in Singapore.  Having tried the original Penang version of the dish, I do notice the flavours in this version have been tweaked slightly.  It is less sour, and has a stronger ginger flower (bungah kantan) aroma.  The mock fish is soaked in the soup and has a somewhat powdery texture, which personally I enjoyed.  The traditionalist may prefer more sourness, but I reckon most will appreciate and enjoy this dish just how it is.

Price: $3.50.     9/10

The only rice dish available at the Hougang outlet is the Iron Rice Bowl, which is also incidentally the most expensive dish available.  The praise worthy aspects of this dish are the salted fish pieces, which had authentic fish flavour.  Additionally, the vegetables and mushrooms were all cooked well.  Being someone who prefers harder rice, I found that the rice was a little soft and mushy.  Nevertheless, a satisfying dish overall.

Price: $4.00.     7/10

Conclusion - Henrys (the owner of Vegetarian Era) vision of transforming the vegetarian scene in Singapore is truly inspirational to me.  Readers should be happy to know that his vision does not end with just two outlets.  There is a third outlet now open in Eunos area, selling 19 nonya/peranakan style dishes - Review here!

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

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Indian Cuisine - Baingan Bartha

Today's recipe is another vegan Indian dish, which is one of my personal favourites.  Baingan Bartha (similar dish known as kathrikai thayir kothsu in South India) is a dry eggplant curry, that is heavy on smokey flavour and garlic.  Typically curd (yoghurt) is added to the dish at the end, as I am vegan, this is being excluded from the preparation.  Feel free to add fresh grounded coconut to the dish, if you want to make it more of a Maharashtrian vangyachi barith style dish.

Eggplant (4 large)
Cumin Seeds (1 Tsp)
Oil (4 Tsp)
Curry Leaves (handful)
Diced Onions (1 large)
Spring Onion
Diced Garlic (half a head)
Diced Green Chilli (1 piece)
Turmeric (pinch)
Hing (pinch)
Garam Masala (2 Tsp)
Red Chilli Powder (1 tsp)
Peanut Powder (2 Tsp)
Coriander Leaves (bunch)
Salt (to taste)

1.  Firstly, the eggplants must be smoked/cooked.  The ideal way to be this is smoking them over an open flame.  If this is too messy for you, then you can cook them in the oven on a high heat.  After they are well cooked, remove the skin from them completely.
2.  Heat oil in a pan and add the tempering of cumin seeds, curry leaves.
3.  After a few second, add the diced onion, spring onion and salt.
4.  Once onions become transparent, add green chilli and garlic.
5.  Then add the spices of turmeric, hing, garam masala and chilli powder. (at this point also add curd if you desire).
6.  After the raw flavour of the spices is gone, then add your soft and gooey eggplant.  Cook for 3-4 more minutes and sprinkle fresh chopped coriander to finish.

Bhojan ka anand!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

De Sheng Vegetarian Food - Ang Mo Kio

I always get a little giddy whenever I go into some deserted industrial area and stumbled upon a vegetarian stall in their small coffee shops.  This coffee shop is especially small, dark and depressing, with it being virtually empty most of the day.  However, nestled amongst this gloomy setting is a pretty outstanding vegetarian stall, that will be the focus of todays review.  Prior warning, Chinese characters are used for most dishes and Chinese language is used by the staff.  If you can't speak or read Chinese you're going to encounter problems here.

De Sheng Vegetarian Food
Location: Block 4011, Techplace 1, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Unknown

The Economic Rice options are surprisingly vast for such a small stall, with there being a wide selection to choose from.  Although, as is the problem with most Chinese vegetarian stalls, there is just too much mock meat dishes.  Give me more ladyfingers, give me more eggplant, give me more vegetables!  With that being said, the dishes did taste good.  One other criticism I had was the dishes were very cold, which made me wonder how long they were festering there.  Considering business is dreadfully slow in this JTC, I am fearful that it is longer than the regulated two hour limit.  Satisfying food overall.

Price: $2.50.     6/10

Already stuffed from the previously dish, ordering this Duck Rice was probably a mistake in retrospect.  The portion sizes of all dishes from this stall are huge, therefore really good value.  I was a little disappointed that this dish had only plain white rice.  That being said, all other aspects of this dish were spot on.  The mock 'duck' meat is derived from mushroom stems, which had a nice chewy texture, and packed with moreish juices.  Fresh coriander is sprinkled liberally on top, which compliments the mushrooms ideally.  For a coffee shop in an industrial area, this is really an exceptionally satisfying dish.

Price: $2.50.     8/10

Conclusion - As I was eating alone, I left this small coffee shop extremely full and equally as satisfied.  As far as JTC coffee shop stalls are concerned, this is probably the best I have eaten at, and one I would certainly encourage you to make the visit for - Especially for the duck rice.  I also ordered their chicken rice on a separate visit, which was equally as delicious.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 5/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 9/10

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mee Pok Vegetarian - Yio Chu Kang

In Singapore, we know of many places famous for one dish in particular - Li Wei and its chicken rice, Tian Yi with its kway chap, Lin Lin with its hor fun - The list can go on and on.  Now to add to that list of specialty eateries is this humble stall, recommended to me by a reader named Rachel.  This stall has gained popularity specifically for its mee pok, although other dishes are also sold.

Mee Pok Vegetarian
Location: Block 630 Ang Mo Kio St 61
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Daily 24 hours (sometimes prone to randomly closing)

Of course, it is an inevitability that I will be reviewing the mee pok.  But before we get to that, let us have a quick gander at another dish they sell.  This is the Kway Chap.  The sizing for this dish comes in two types - Small and large.  The small size costs $2.50, while the larger one is $3.00 (this is also the same for the mee pok).  Overall, while this kway chap is nothing to jump up and down about, I did find it to be a satisfying rendition of the dish.  The kway noodles were firmer than usual, which I didn't mind.  The soup base and the sauce which accompanies the other ingredients were both tasty.  What was lacking though was the red chilli, which is essential in traditional kway chap.

Price: $2.50.     7/10
As in my mind, I was expecting this to be an outstanding dish, I must admit that the Mee Pok did eventually come as a disappointment.  The problem with this dish was the most common mistake in all Singaporean cooking - Too much spice.  It is important to know the balance between including spice and the spice being unbearable - This is especially important in a dish such as mee pok, which should traditionally have a punch of vinegar.  On the brighter side, I found the noodles fresh and bouncy.  I'm left with little to say about fish balls, as personally I can't stand those rubbery textured jelly monstrosities.

Price: $2.50.     5/10

Conclusion - Funnily enough I found myself opting for the kway chap far more than the mee pok.  If someone didn't tell me prior that this was a famous dish, then frankly I wouldn't have noticed.  While the mee pok was not a disaster, I just found the flavours to be too rudimentary.  Worth a visit, but don't set your expectations too high.

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

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vegetarian Era - Ang Mo Kio

A sincere thanks to Karlyne (Soy Bien) for bringing this new place to my attention.  Vegetarian Era opened its door late-July 2012, and upon arriving, it still looks fresh and clean in appearance.  The stall prides itself on selling eight dishes only, but take great care in making sure these dishes are as flawless and unique as possible.  The stall is 100% vegan - No eggs, no milk, no meat and no onions and garlic.  This stall is a venture by well-known vegetarian author Henry Wang.  A second Vegetarian Era outlet has recently been opened in Hougang (review here), with a third outlet in Eunos now also open (review here).

Vegetarian Era
Location: Blk 122 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3

Contact: 96109123
Opening Hours: Daily 7.30am - 2.30pm.  Closed Wednesday.

CLOSED DOWN - As of 15/10/2013 (owner has plans to open up again elsewhere)

Henry Wang's most well known book is 'D.I.Y Vegan Sauce', which is a bilingual (Chinese and English) book based on sharing the most delicious sauces he knows, this book can be found in Popular and other book stores.  Having had a lengthy conversation with Henry during my visit, it was great to hear about his fresh vision of offering dishes in Singapore that are unique and special - Instead of the typical trite vegetarian dishes that have now become common place in Singapore.

Presentation wise, this Hong Kong Style Vege Char Siew Rice arrived beautifully. Vegetarian char siew can so often have that undesirable doughy texture, and little flavour - Therefore it was pleasing to see that high quality mock char siew was used in this dish, it had a great texture, and had top notch sweet flavour.  Although the char siew tasted great the highlight of the dish was the rice - It was not merely white rice - Instead, it was a succulent ginger rice, which was oozing with flavour.  Probably the best rice I have eaten in Singapore.

Price: $3.00.     9/10

I followed the previous dish up with yet another rice dish, this time it was the Hainanese Fragrant Rice, which can more easily be conveyed as - Chicken rice.  The chilli sauce in both this dish, and the char siew dish was exceptional - I am not someone who likes overly spicy chilli sauce, therefore I was pleased this sauce had little spice - Yet had wonderful sweet and tangy flavours, which complimented the beancurd sheet chicken and rice sublimely.  Another outstanding dish.

Price: $3.00.     8/10

Conclusion - What a breath of fresh air the Vegetarian Era chain of eateries could bestow on Singapore.  I will eagerly await the opening of their Hougang outlet, to see what are the eight new fantastic dishes offered, but until then, I urge everyone in Singapore to give this place a try.  As someone who has reviewed literally hundreds of stalls and restaurants, I must admit I get tired of seeing the same dishes, that are cooked the same way, over and over again.  Therefore when I find somewhere like Vegetarian Era, it ignites that curiosity/interest I once had for exploring different vegetarian cuisine.  Definitely a place you must visit.

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