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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vegetarian Era - Hougang

Since my first review of Vegetarian Era (Hougang), there has been massive changes.  Now the stall has ready made dishes available, along with a host of brand new made to order dishes.  For those that adored the previous dishes, fear not, dishes such as pumpkin mee java and lor mee are still available.  I can't hide my disappointment that my beloved Hainanese beef noodle is gone, but I refuse linger onto that misery for long - Let us move onwards and upwards, and see how good the newly renovated menu is...

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

Along with having a glorious new menu, Vegetarian Era is also venturing more deeply into the world of social media.  The official Vegetarian Era facebook page is here, those wanting more regular updates on the status of Vegetarian Era should 'like' the page.  Pictured to the left is a brief look at the ready made dishes on offer.  Henry Wang is especially skilled in vegan sauce making, hence many of the ready dishes are cooked in a sauce.  All the food on offer at Vegetarian Era is egg, dairy, meat, onion and garlic free.  Thus, completely 100% vegan.

For this review, I will be focusing chiefly on the new inclusions to the Hougang menu, starting with the Ipoh Curry Mee.  Upon sampling this dish, it would be easy to mistakenly relate it to laksa.  However, the nuances in this iphoh curry are quite different from laksa.  Firstly, the flavour undertone is distinctly nutty, which is extremely delicious.  Secondly, this dish is lacking the sharp spicy bite that laksa typically has.  Considering I am not a big chilli fanatic, I certainly prefer this dish.  The ingredients inside include beansprouts, tau kwa, tau pok and tau ke.  A rich dish, which is not too overwhelming, nor too spicy.

Price: $3.00.    9/10

Since the menu overhaul happened, this Fuzhou Mee Pok has been incredibly popular with customers.  Some customers may bemoan about the lack of vinegar inside, however, it is vital to acknowledge that traditional Fuzhou style mee pok does not include vinegar.  The mock fish balls are exceptionally unique, with there being a minced meat stuffing inside each ball.  The texture of the noodles was perfect, with them being very firm and bouncy. This dish is also served with a kelp based soup.  Kelp is an ingredient (due to its cost) that will seldom be used in a side dish, so make sure to take the soup with this dish.  This mee pok is one my personal favourites, that I've gobbled up countless times already.

Price: $3.00.     9/10

The next dish is the Hainanese Traditional Curry Rice.  This dish was concocted as a hybrid of Western and Peranakan cuisine here in Singapore, and it is wonderful to see a vegetarian version now available.  The highlight of this dish is the pork chop, which is not too greasy or salty.  It is light and packed with flavour, with a moreish crunchy crust. As Chef Henry is a sauce expert, I had high expectations of the curry sauce, and luckily it didn't disappoint.  It is quite a mild curry, that has the richness that almost resembles a Japanese style curry.  The other ingredients on the plate were all cooked well, and worked in harmony with each other.

Price: $3.00.     9/10

Without a doubt, the star attraction from the menu change is this Hainanese Traditional Herbal Soup.  This dish review marks one of the rare occasions where I am struggling for words to describe the flavour of this soup.  The sensation one gets when consuming this soup is a very refreshing and cleansing one.  The herbal flavour is definitely present, but neither too subtle nor overwhelming.  The ingredients swimming majestically inside are sliced ginger, tau ke (dried beancurd sheets), coriander, tau pok, black fungus and mushroom stem mock mutton.  The flavour of this soup really left me speechless.  Instead of attempting to explain, I suggest it would be better for you to haul yourself down to Hougang and taste it yourself - You won't regret making the journey.

Price: $5.50.     10/10

Conclusion - My biggest gripe with Singapore vegetarian food is almost all vegetarian stalls in Singapore are selling virtually the same thing.  The same dishes, cooked in the same way, with little imagination or creativity.  The reason why I am so excited and impressed with Vegetarian Era is because these dishes bring a completely new and refreshing approaching to vegan food in Singapore.  I especially recommend the herbal soup, but all dishes were exceptional in their own right.  If you don't visit Vegetarian Era, then you are really missing out on some of the best vegan dishes that Singapore has to offer.

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

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Changi City Point Vegetarian - Expo

A few years ago I had the great displeasure of working in Changi Business Park, in probably the most unpleasant job I've had in my life.  Therefore, after all this time, heading back to Expo did give me somewhat haunting memories of the past.  Expo has changed incredibly in that time, with it now attracting the casual public to the area, mainly due to the new Changi City Point Mall.  Expo is probably my most under-reviewed location in Singapore, because I know there are a lot of vegetarian eateries hidden in this area (due to the high amount of Indian workers).  I will do my best to review those also in the future.

Changi City Point Vegetarian
Location: #02-01/02 Koufu, Changi City Point, 5 Changi Business Park Central 1
Contact: Unknown
Operning: Unknown 

CLOSED DOWN - As of 01/01/2016

The ready dishes on offer at this stall were quite diverse during the lunch period.  Also be warned, this food court turns into a mad house during the conventional 12pm-1pm timing.  There are also other dishes that can be ordered upon request.  However, the prices were unjustifiably high, so I stayed away from them.
After much deliberation, I decided to merely go with the conventional Brown Rice and Dishes.  Overall, I was actually quite impressed with the flavour of the dishes.  The long beans had a nice crunchy texture, and a suitable aroma.  The potatoes were neither too spicy or salty, and cooked well. The sweet and sour mock meat tasted fine, but I found the mock meat itself was a little too tough.  The meal also comes with a herbal soup, which matched the food nicely.  The brown rice texture was fine, but a lot of white rice was mixed into it.  Personally, if I order brown rice, I always get a little irritated when it consists of 70% white rice.

Price: $3.50.     7/10

Conclusion - Those that are in the Expo area and are looking for a quick vegetarian fix, then this stall will definitely do the job.  However, Expo offers a diversity of other excellent vegetarian options (especially for those who can take dairy), in the future I will do my best to explore the other vegetarian options in this area.

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jing Yi Vegetarian - Bukit Gombak

As far as reputation goes, Jing Yi is probably one of the most well known vegetarian stalls in the West of Singapore.  I have been inundated with countless requests to review this stall.  The main reason for the feverish excitement, is that it is known for having tremendous wok hei (smoke flavour) in the dishes.  Admittedly, Chinese food is not the cuisine I enjoy the most.  Nevertheless, I have an obsession with wok hei cooking, and the delicious aroma that it gives the food.  This stall is located at Meng Soon Huat coffee shop 錦憶素食, at block 359, just a 3-5 minute walk from Bukit Gombak MRT.  Appartantly in the evenings (especially on weekends) there are huge queues, where customers can wait up to one hour for their food.  I myself arrived at the odd timing of around 3pm on a weekday - I was the only customer.

Jing Yi Vegetarian
Location: Block 359, Bukit Batok West Avenue 5
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 2pm-9pm.  Closed Monday.

Drum roll please, here it is, their nobel peace prize winning Fried Hor Fun.  Before I get into the wok hei taste, let me just say this - The texture of the kway teow was absolutely perfect.  Firm, bouncy and a delight to consume.  In terms of wok hei, however, I found there was a good amount...But honestly not as high as I was expecting.  Moreover, the kway teow were quite pale and anemic looking.  Let me tread very carefully here, as I know Jing Yi has a dedicated fanbase.  Clearly this is a high quality hor fun, with considerable wok hei - But, I do still find Lin Lin is much higher.  Definitely you could see the noticeable char marks on the kway teow, but wok hei is not about 'burning' or 'charring' the ingredients.  Wok hei is the art of knowing exactly when and when not to toss the ingredients in the wok, which requires incredible knowledge that many experienced chefs still fail to master.

Price: $3.50.     8/10

Conclusion - Everyone knows that the stall I idolize the most (in terms of wok hei) is Lin Lin Vegetarian, and I must say, in my opinion Lin Lin is still the place to go, if you want extremely strong wok hei flavour.  Certainly Jing Yi has a good amount of wok hei, and the texture of the kway teow was superb, and I can see why it has become so popular in the West of Singapore.  If I lived in the West, no doubt I would frequent this stall on a regular basis.

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fo Xin Vegetarian Food - Boon Keng

We are back at this wonderful hawker centre, that is filled to the brim with a number of vegetarian outlets.  Fo Xin is one of those, that is not only meat-free, but also egg-free.  Therefore essentially vegan, as I don't believe any dishes have dairy products in either.  I certainly recommend that people should visit this area of Boon Keng - But not on Mondays.  Seemingly all the vegetarian stalls in the vicinity are closed on that day.  Fo Xin has a limited, yet satisfying menu, with all dishes selling at either $2.50 or $3.00.  So, let us begin...

Fo Xin Vegetarian Food
Location: #01-75, Blk 31 Bendemeer Road
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-7pm

Apologies that these photographs were not taken on a plate, unfortunately I had no other choice but to da bao on this particular day.  Starting with the Hor Fun, this dish (as always) can be opted for in a dry or wet version.  If you don't specify when ordering, then by default you will get the wet version.  Those wanting to order dry, simply state 'gan he' (乾河).  The key to a good hor fun is inevitably the wok hei (smokey flavour), with this dish having a suitable amount of it.  It doesn't quite rival the hor fun at Lin Lin (one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten), but it is satisfying nonetheless.  The vegetables inside were cooked well, and the tofu strips made for an apt replacement to the traditional egg.

Price: $3.00.     7/10

Next dish sampled was the Fried Rice.  So often fried rice from hawker stalls can be guilty of having too much salt inside, thankfully Fo Xin's version was low on salt.  Even more impressively, it was abundant in its diversity of ingredients - With there being mock meats, vegetables and tofu all lurking inside.  The only downside to this dish was, I found it to be lacking the aroma and flavour that the hor fun had.  Therefore, without that smokey flavour, the dish fell a little flat.  Nevertheless, there are a number of laudable traits to this, that make it worth the purchase.

Price: $3.00.     7/10

Conclusion  - Fo Xin probably ranks as the most impressive stall I have eaten from in this huge hawker centre.  Both dishes were satisfying and reasonably priced.  It is difficult to separate the two, but if I had to pick, I would go for the hor fun again.  Definitely a stall you should consider visiting.

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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Shan Yuan Vegetarian - Boon Keng

Shan Yuan is another stall that is nestled in an extremely vegetarian friendly hawker centre, just outside exit B of Boon Keng MRT.  There are over five vegetarian stalls all a stones throw away from each other.  There are two downsides, however.  Firstly, the opening times of all the stalls are extremely unreliable (I have faced a situation where at 6pm all the stalls where inexplicably closed).  Secondly, they all more or less sell the same conventional stereotypical Chinese vegetarian food.  Sigh, how I long for something with a little more unique, sometimes.

Shan Yuan Vegetarian
Location: #01-41, Blk 31 Bendemeer Road
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Closed on Tuesdays

CLOSED DOWN - As of 04/12/2014

The first dish to greet my assessment table of doom was the Kway Chap.  There are a few laudable aspects to this dish - Namely, the flavourful (yet subtle) soup, and the nicely marinated tofu.  What I took less kindly too was the kway.  The texture was almost right, but required a little more firmness.  Ultimately the kway was too brittle, and disintegrated when picked up.

Price: $2.50.     6/10
The next dish I packeted was the Fried Rice.  For vegans, do make sure to highlight that you don't want eggs in the rice.  The rice itself did have pretty good flavour, although there were one too many beansprouts inside for my liking.  Beansprouts I associate more with noodle dishes, rather than rice.  To make up for the egg, that I asked to be excluded, they added in tofu, which added a perfect substitute for the egg.  Those hideous mock seafood jelly 'meats' unfortunately found there way into the packet - All vegetarian stalls really need to stop using that garbage, not only is it unhealthy, it also gives vegetarian food a bad image, in my opinion.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - Although I found the food from this stall to be acceptable, I simply found both dishes quite forgettable - Thus, even finding anything interesting to summarise this review is a challenge.  To put it simply, I have had much worse food in Singapore, but I have also experienced much better.

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Miao Cheng Vegetarian - Braddell

Miao Cheng is a Chinese vegetarian stall that has gained a steady following amongst the local vegetarian residents of Braddell.  Offering a heady array of dishes, customers may take some time deliberating, before eventually settling on a decision.  One side note, before I begin - On the left hand side of this picture, there is a coffee stall that sells the best ice lemon tea that I've had so far in Singapore.  While waiting for your food, scream ''uncle! gei wo yi bei ning meng cha bing!'' and this cold cup of cooling tea will be coming your way.

Miao Cheng Vegetarian
Location: Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #02-07

Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Daily Breakfast and Lunch 
I was already stuffed from a different food escapade earlier that day, but my stomach could just about manage a bowl of delicious Kway Chap.  Although I was no longer in any mood to eat, I still found this dish tasty and satisfying.  The red chili was sour and not too spicy, the kway had a firm yet fragile thin texture (perfect).  The soup was rich, yet not too over-powering.  Also lurking within the opaque soup was beancurd and mock intestines.  Overall, one of the more impressive versions of kway chap that I have sampled in Singapore.

Price: $2.50.     8/10

Conclusion - There are many more dishes on offer at this small little stall, with regret, I simply couldn't fit anything else into my stomach.  So, to my beloved readers, help me to sample more different dishes from Miao Cheng and let me know what you think.  I have no question that the kway chap was excellent, certainly a dish I would order again, if I returned.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 8/10
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