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Friday, August 30, 2013

Vegie Delight - Ang Mo Kio

For several years I have been aware that a very famous stall, specialising in mee pok exists in Ang Mo Kio.  I thought I finally ticked it off my list back in September 2012, when I reviewed a stall at Block 630 Ang Mo Kio Street 61.  Shortly after publishing that review, I was informed this mee pok stall is, in fact, an impostor!  It apparently used to be the famous mee pok stall, but after some time, the owner left - But it still continued to exist (run by the former 'helper').  Still with me?  Good.  The famous mee pok stall subsequently shifted to Block 158, where it remains now.  So fingers crossed this post finally uncovers the real famous Ang Mo Kio mee pok!

Vegie Delight
Location: Blk 158, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 6.00am-10.45pm.  Sun 6.00am-3.00pm. (updated: 22/10/2014)

Considering this stall is known to most as 'the famous mee pok stall', I am sure it would be obvious to even the dimmest of individuals that mee pok is definitely a 'must order' dish.  An important point to note, is that the name mee pok can't actually be seen on the signboard.  Instead, it goes under the name Vege Ball Noodle.  Upon ordering this dish, the worker will ask you 你要辣椒吗 (do you want chili?) - I opted for 一点点 (a little), which I recommend for those who want a little spice, but don't want it to overpower the dish.  Starting with the mock fish balls, to put it bluntly, I didn't find anything unique or outstanding about these 'fish' balls.  They were just the typical 'zai liao' style jelly mock meat, which don't appeal to me at all.  The noodles were very fresh and chewy.  The other ingredients included mushroom, vegetables and mock ham - All of which tasted excellent.  Overall, definitely I enjoyed this dish, but I wouldn't consider it anything too special.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

To the shock/disgust of those sitting around me, I was gorging on two dishes at the same time.  The second of those being the Kway Chap.  For those wanting the best vegetarian kway chap in Singapore, you need to head directly to Tian Yi, which is also in ang mo kio.  This version of kway chap was pretty decent, and I  was actually more impressed with this dish (compared with the mee pok). The kway held its shape very well, and was swimming in a delightful herbal broth, which had a current of fresh coriander flavour flowing through it.  The other plate had tofu, salted vegetables, beancurd and mock intestines all sitting in an intense thick sauce, which I couldn't stop scooping up.  Definitely a dish worth ordering.

Price: $3.00.     8/10

Conclusion - It is incredibly rare to find vegetarian eateries that are open for 24 hours (note: as of 22/10/2014 no longer 24 hours).  For that simple fact, I could definitely foresee myself returning to Vegie Delight.  The famous mee pok didn't really do much for me, but I was suitably impressed by the quality of the kway chap. 

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul - Penang

Penang is a wonderful place to find all sorts of weird and wonderful foods.  One place that is on every visitors food hitlist is definitely the famous chendol push cart, that has been selling chendol and ice kachang since 1936.  Judging from my experience, it is better to visit when they just open, as later in the day there will be a long queue formed.  This cart does sell other desserts and drinks, but no one bothers with them.  People who come to this cart are there for one thing and one thing only.

Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
Location: No. 27-29 Lebuh Keng Kwee, Penang
Contact: (+60) 4-261 8002

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-7.00pm.  Sat-Sun 10.00am-7.30pm
So here it is.  The infamous Penang Chendol.  For those not familiar with this popular Asian dessert - It is basically a mixture of gula melaka, coconut milk, chendol (the pandan infused green 'noodles'), shaved ice and red beans.  The workers at this cart make the chendol incredibly fast.  Probably within less than 10 seconds it was served. There is no doubt the quality of this chendol is indeed amazing.  I particularly loved the freshness of the coconut milk, and the distinctive salt tone that it had.  The chendol (green thing) is soft and melts in the mouth - Incredible!

Price: RM2.00.     9/10

Conclusion - There is something about eating in a dirty alley that constantly appeals to me.  The cart owner has built up an incredible reputation over the many years, and the standard of the chendol seems as strong as ever.  In the constant unbearably hot days that Penang experiences, this place is really an ideal refuge to cool off and enjoy something really magical!

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tong Li Vegetarian Food - Whampoa

It is pretty rare that I get excited about a Chinese vegetarian coffee shop/hawker centre stall.  Mainly because they often sell the same trite and typical dishes, and really it can be very difficult to differentiate the food, as it is all cooked in the same method, using the same ingredients.  This tiny little stall, called Tong Li Vegetarian Food is nothing revolutionary, but it has slowly become one of my most beloved coffee shop stalls.  I have been writing about food in Singapore for many years now, and I can safely say that grim looking, slightly dirty coffee shops that have slurry-speeched uncles yacking away in Hokkien, is where I belong.  Forget five star restaurants, forget $20 dollar dishes, forget air conditioning - This is not where the heartbeat of Singapore can be found.

Tong Li Vegetarian Food
Location: 02, Blk 82 Whampoa Drive
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Daily until 1.00pm (not confirmed)

As soon as I saw Tong Li from the outside, it just looked like one of those stalls that sell great Hor Fun.  Hor fun ranks as one of the most popular dishes in Singapore, with its most fervent fans being constantly drawn to it, mainly due to the lovely wok hei (smokey) flavour that shimmers through this dish (when cooked properly).  Unfortunately the art of cooking with wok hei has become almost extinct now in Singapore, with most stalls selling bland hor fun, which is void of any smokey aroma.  A rule of thumb should be to always order fried hor fun (gan/干), and not wet hor fun, as the former can retain the smokey flavour much better.  Pictured is the wet version.

Price: $3.00.     7/10

Finding strong wok hei hor fun can be quite frustrating, so let me save you some time and trouble - Lin Lin Vegetarian is the undisputed king of wok hei (in my humble opinion) - This should be your number one destination.  If you're living in the West, then I suggest Jing Yi, which also has decent wok hei.  The Fried Hor Fun at Tong Li was definitely an above average dish.  Admittedly, it didn't managed to capture the wok hei flavour as exquisitely as the other two stalls I just mentioned - But it was still a pretty darn delicious hor fun.

Price: $3.00.     8/10

After feeling extremely satisfied with the hor fun, I made Tong Li my breakfast destination once again, for my Saturday early morning meal.  This time I changed theme and went with the Mee Goreng.  This is a dish I often avoid ordering, as I find the biting spice is often too much for me to handle.  The mee goreng from this stall was probably one of the best I've had so far in Singapore.  Once the lime is sprinkled over the dish, it adds welcome sourness and counters the mild spicy tones ideally.  There is also a wide variety of ingredients lurking inside, such as beansprouts, carrots, sweetcorn, toufu and mock ham.  An outstanding rendition of vegetarian mee goreng.

Price: $3.00.     8/10

Conclusion - If you're looking for cheap, great tasting local dishes, then this stall is one you will definitely want to visit.  Whenever I am in the Whampoa area, I will definitely make time to visit this endearing little vegetarian stall at Block 82.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Real Food Organic Grocer & Cafe - Somerset

The Real Food brand has been around for many years in Singapore now, and I recall visiting their original Clarke Quay outlet (review HERE) and being suitably impressed by the variety of dishes they sold, and the overall quality of ingredients used.  Due to the success of their first outlet, a second outlet has opened up on the trendy Killiney Road stretch.  The restaurant/cafe has a very modern interior design, with dim relaxing lighting and a feeling of being inside a family kitchen. 

Real Food Organic Grocer & Cafe
Location: 110 Killiney Road, Tai Wah Building
Contact: 67379516

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10.00am-9.00pm, Sun 10.00am-8.00pm

For those who have visited the Clarke Quay outlet, the menu will look pretty familiar to you.  There are a variety of different snacks, soups, main dishes and drinks to choose from.  The ingredients are almost entirely organic - But a large amount of dishes are not vegan or Buddhist friendly.  I like how Real Food is seemingly such a health-conscious establishment - Having said that, if they want to really place health as a priority, then they need to get rid of the toxic dairy from the menu.

I kicked my solo meal off with a little bit of finger food, in the form of Organic Potato Wedges.  I liked the fact that the chef kept the skin of the potato (where most nutrients can be found) attached, and the quality of the potatoes used is outstanding.  Organic potatoes have a much greater sweetness, compared with its regular counterparts.  This snack is not without flaws though - I was disappointed to find the texture did not have any crunchiness at all.  It was more like eating a boiled potato - More healthy I am sure, but potato wedges will give customers a certain textural expectation.  I also found inadequate seasoning and lack of dipping sauce to be downers in this dish.

Price: $6.80.     5/10

Sometimes you just wake up in the mood for soup, especially if it is a 'cold' day.  Well, the weather outside was burning hot, but I still felt like something soupy, so I opted for the Organic Himalaya Lentils and Potato Soup.  Price wise, I find that this dish is pretty reasonable, as they are using organic ingredients.  I did have some issues with the texture and flavour of this soup, though.  Firstly, the lentils are not blended in this soup, this means that the soup is very watery, with all the lentils sinking to the bottom.  I would have preferred the soup to have been blended, so that the water and lentils conglomerate together and ultimately thicken the soup.  Along with being too watery, I also found the soup lacking in salt.  I'm not a big advocate of high salt food, but any lentil/pulse/daal dish needs a little extra salt to bring out its true flavours.

Price: $8.80.     6/10

Conclusion - Real Food do have a lot of outstanding dishes on their menu, but the two that I reviewed on this occasion don't rank very highly with me.  I remember being blown away by their pasta and burger dishes from the Clarke Quay outlet, and I am sure there are many more gems that I have yet to order.  The reason why a restaurant like Gokul is clearly the best in Singapore, is because their entire menu is flawless - You never need to say to someone 'order this, but don't order that!' - That is what separates good restaurants (like Real Food) and outstanding restaurants (like Gokul).

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

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ah Seng - Butter, Red Prawn

Ah Seng is still the king of durian in Singapore, for many reasons.  Firstly, their communcations with customers is outstanding.  Durian sellers typically belong to the older generaions, who are not familiar with using mobile phones, the internet and other social media platforms.  Ah Seng really breaks this trend by having a frequently updating facebook page, which acts like a mini durian stock market - Ah Seng's daughter actually runs the facebook page, and replies to almost every question and comment posted on there.  Also it is easy and painless to reserve durians by calling or SMSing.  Not only is this stall user friendly, it also serves terrifically good value durians.  Ah Seng always seems to sell most species of durian a couple of dollars cheaper than anywhere else.  When visiting Ah Seng, don't insult the man by asking for lower prices - His flat rates are already very low.  For those wanting to read more of Ah Seng's stall, you can check out my first review - HERE.

Ah Seng Durian
Location: Blk 20 Ghim Moh Market, #01-197
Contact: 94656160

I made a trip down to Ah Seng specifically for one durian, which simply goes by the name Butter.  A lot of people mistakenly think this durian is the same as mao shang wang - It is not!  But there is quite a distinctive textural similarity between butter and MSW.  When talking about flavour though, MSW has a much greater diversity in flavour, whereas butter flavour is much more one-dimensional.  Ah Seng's butter durian are from the Tangkak region of Malaysia.  Ah Seng was telling me that the harvest for butter durians from Tangkak has been incredibly poor this season.  A large majority of butter durians are arriving to Singapore too watery.  Ah Seng had to discard five durians because they were too watery, before he found a good one for me.  Due to this poor harvest, Ah Seng is even contemplating not bringing over butter durians at all next year.  The butter durian that Ah Seng gave me was absolutely delicious.  The name 'butter' comes from the supposed buttery aftertaste that this durian has.  Personally, I couldn't really detect a buttery flavour.  But, there is an immensely strong caramel flavour.  Even after eating, my fingers smelt like I had just dipped them in caramel sauce.  Definitely an affordable durian that I would order again, I just hope that next years harvest is better.

Price: $8.00/kg.     9/10

I have often critisized Red Prawn (also known as 'Ang Hei') durian for being too overly sweet, with big seeds and lacking in any bitterness at all.  However, it is important to emphasise that the quality of red prawn can differ drastically depending on the age of the tree and region of Malaysia.  In Penang, ang hei is one of the most sought after durians on the island, and is supposed to be nothing like (much better) the red prawn that can be found in Singapore. Even in Singapore, varieties of red prawn can be very different.  This particular red prawn was incredible value at only $6.00 per kilogram.  Some of the smaller segments of flesh have a seed about the size of a watermelon seed (very small).  The bigger segments have a more rounder large seed.  The texture is beautifully creamy (bad red prawn is often a bit too watery).  The flavour is fruity sweet.  This red prawn regained my faith in this species, and I wouldn't hesitate to select this durian again next time I visit Ah Seng.

Price: $6.00/kg.     9/10

Conclusion - As the season was coming to an end when I visited Ah Seng, I was expecting that the quality of these durians could be merely average.  To my delight, these two durians were probably some of the best I've eaten all season. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ah Chai Durian - Ang Ba Kia, Black Pearl

Since starting my reviews on reliable and honest durian sellers, I have covered most of the durian 'celebrity' sellers - Such as Combat Durian, Sembawang Durian Seng, Ghim Moh Ah Seng and Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading.  These sellers are synonymous with selling durians, and having been selling durians for 30-40 years.  For those new to the world of durians, the aforementioned sellers are a great place to start.  In the future, though, I will be shinning a light on other lesser known durian sellers in Singapore.  Today's post is focused on a seller named Ah Chai.  He runs an extremely popular stall in Bedok South, which always get hoards of customers, especially in the evening.  This is a very simple stall with no sign or anything like that. Nevertheless, it is easy to spot as it is just outside the Boston Bakery shop.  Ah Chai and his workers will not be able to communicate with you in English (I tried, failed, and switched to speaking Mandarin).

Ah Chai Durian
Location: 59 Upper Changi Road (Boston Bakery)

Ah Chai taking a big sniff of a durian.  Sniffing (as well as knocking and shaking) the durian is one of the key ways to test the quality.  Although Ah Chai may look a little rough around the edges, he is definitely a very humble and honest seller.  He will throw the durian away with contempt if he finds that it doesn't meet an appropriate standard.  It is this meticulous honesty that has led to him having devoted customers, who return to his small stall year after year.
During evenings and weekends Ah Chai's stall is extremely busy.  Once you have selected the durians that you want, they will be placed into a cart, and then will join a queue, waiting to be opened and packed - During busy periods, this can take 10-15 minutes.
Ah Chai's right hand man carefully prying the succulent flesh out of the husk.

The biggest problem with durians is there are many names for the same species.  Black Pearl, for example, can also be known as 'tai yuan' (this is what Ah Chai refers to it as).  In fact, tai yuan was the original name for this durian - It was only after many years that it adopted the more boutique name of black pearl.  Ah Chai only had a handful of black pearl on this particular occasion, but I was suitably impressed with the quality.

Price: $8.00/kg.     8/10
The technical term for the next durian I sampled is Ang Ba Kia ('little red fella').  However, this is one of those many durians that is just lumped into the category of 'red meat' durian - Even though the flesh isn't really that red.  Ang ba kia is a parent cultivator of D13 (which seems to be becoming more popular in Singapore).  As you would imagine, the flavours are quite similar to D13.  This is a predominantly sweet durian with medium sized seeds.

Price: $6.00/kg.     7/10

*Note - Thanks to Tommy (aka Prickly Sensations) for his valuable input.

Conclusion - Ah Chai definitely ranks as one of the best durian sellers in Singapore, he is honest and provides great quality durians to his customers.  He doesn't have the 'celebrity' status that other durian sellers have in Singapore...Yet.  At the moment, he has more of a cult following, especially amongst those living in the Bedok area.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hanyi Vegetarian - Tai Seng

Finding vegetarian Korean food in Singapore is a pretty tough task, which is quite a shame.  Thankfully, Hanyi Vegetarian are looking to correct this injustice, and have recently opened a stall specialising in both Korean and Italian food.  This stall can be found in the Hainan Eating House, which is inside the Sakae Building.  The stall gets a steady stream of customers during weekday, from the nearby offices (Tai Seng is a pretty industrial area).  Perhaps it will be weekends when this stall struggles the most, as I doubt many people consider Tai Seng to be the hippest place in Singapore.  Having said that, I'd rather spend my weekend in Tai Seng, opposed to Clarke Quay.

Hanyi Vegetarian
Location: #01-03, 28 Tai Seng Street (Sakae Building)
Contact: 90232725

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 7.00am-5.30pm (some days opening until 8.30pm - Call to confirm).  Sunday Closed.

MOVED - This stall has now renamed itself 'The Boneless Kitchen' and is located at 1 Irving Place, #01-31

As Korean vegetarian food is so hard to come by in Singapore, I leapt at the opportunity to sample the Bibimbap.  Customers can choose a variety of bibimbap flavours - Such as cheese, kimchi, gochujang and others.  The dish arrived in a traditional stone bowl, which allows the ingredients to further cook, even when it is at your table.  I was surprised that this bibimbap had uncooked vegetables for its ingredients.  Traditionally, the vegetables (which make up a vital aspect of any bibimbap) are stir-fried and then added to the pot.  I must say, I would have rather the ingredients been stir-fried, as it would have enhanced the flavour, and also the stone pot doesn't have sufficient heat to fully cook the vegetables.  Another vital component to any bibimbap is the use of sesame oil, but I didn't really detect enough sesame flavour in this dish.

If you're looking for a traditional (or even vaguely traditional) bibimbap in Singapore, then Hanyi probably isn't where you should be going.  Nevertheless, I did love the stone bowl that the food arrived in, and overall the flavour of the dish was not too bad.

Price: $5.00.     6/10
I was quite excited to sample the pasta dishes at Hanyi, but unfortunately they were sold out when I arrived.  Therefore, I settled with the Korean Army Stew Noodle.  Upon tasting the dish, the soup seemed to have a quite pronounced cheese flavour.  Unfortunately, when I checked with the chef, they did confirm that cheese is present in this dish.  I do hope in the future, that staff can let customers know which dishes are vegan friendly, as I can foresee many vegan customers unwittingly ordering this dish, assuming that it will be dairy-free.  If you can take dairy, then knock yourself out and order this dish.  The soup base tastes quite pleasing and overall I quite liked the few mouthfuls that I ate.

Price: $4.50.     6/10

Conclusion - I must admit, the cheese incident in the army stew did leave me feeling a little disgruntled.  If I'm ordering a pizza from Domino's, I don't expect the staff to warn me about cheese, as it is obvious to anyone that cheese will be inside.  But for a noodle stew/soup dish, I don't think anyone would have guessed that cheese would be used as an ingredient.  Therefore with that logic in mind, I think there should have been at least some notice given by the staff.  Moving onto the positives (I don't want to 'whinge' too much), I do think if the dishes at Hanyi are adjusted/improved, then there is a bright future ahead for this stall, and I look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

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

Friday, August 9, 2013

Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading - Hor Lor, Big Red, MSW, Kasap Merah, Golden Phoenix, Black Pearl, Kah-Zah

Out of all the durian stalls I have featured so far on my site, Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading is the stall that I visit most frequently.  A big factor is that geographically it is quite close to my home in Sengkang.  But also, I find the homely atmosphere and generous stall owners key factors, that always cause me to keep coming back.  I have done a previous post on the D13, XO and D88 durians from this stall, which you can read HERE.

Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading
Location: Blk 440 Pasir Ris Dr. 4, #01-03
Contact: 98517753

What I love most about visiting my beloved friends at Kong Lee Hup Kee is rummaging through their small durian basket to see which 'lesser' durians they have available on that day.  On this particular day, a quite unusual durian by the name of Big Red (I'm just translating this directly from the Chinese - 红)was available.This durian was completely new to me, so I was feverishly excited to try it out.  Appearance wise, the flesh is plump and dark orange (almost red).  This durian has a thick dense flesh.  The texture is extremely pasty, and therefore will probably not appeal to those who tend to just go for mao shang wang.  Flavour wise, I was shocked to find it is actually neither sweet or bitter - It has quite subtle flavours.  This durian is unlikely to reach any level of popularity with locals, but perhaps may have a minority cult following.

Price: $6.00/kg.     6/10

If you're looking for a great value durian, that has high quality flesh and a tiny seed - Then Kasap Merah will be the ideal durian for you.  This durian has earned the nickname 'ice cream' durian.  There is a lot of speculation as to the reason behind giving it this name.  Some believe it is because the flesh has the aftertaste of vanilla ice cream, others think it is because the flesh is so soft, that one must eat it with a spoon, just like ice cream.  If you are buying/consuming this durian you should not eat it at room temperature.  If you do, the flesh will be too watery.  This durian is at its best after 24 hours in the refrigerator.  After this time, it is no longer watery, and the flesh becomes clotted and creamy.  I think kasap merah is probably the most under-appreciated durian there is.  This is really a fantastic sweet durian, that has a lovely refreshing texture, and delicious milky vanilla taste.  It is a pity that people don't try out these different durians, as I am sure lots of people would love this one.

Price: $6.00/kg.     9/10

Hor Lor (D163) is a durian that is extremely difficult to find in Singapore, but don't underestimate the quality of this durian.  This durian won the 1987 and 1988 Penang Durian Competition (yes, such a thing exists), which cements the fact that this durian has the potential to be a huge fan favourite.  It is true, good quality hor lor can be a thing of beauty, with the very best quality hor lor still being located in Penang.  The name 'hor lor' can be translated to mean melon/gourd, which the shape of this durian supposedly resembles.  Upon opening the durian, you will find pale yellow large glowing orbs of flesh staring back at you.  This is without a doubt the stickiest durian I've ever consumed.  The flesh literally coats your entire mouth.  This is a durian on the side of bitter, but you can detect sweet notes, especially in the outer layer of skin.  Seed wise, it has a large/medium size seed, but you get a lot of delicious dense flesh in each bite.  The aftertaste of hor lor is woody, with undertones of coffee beans and cocoa.

Price: $12.00/kg.     8/10

If you're looking for an extemely rare durian, then it doesn't get much rarer than this.  Earlier in the morning, Mr Chia told me that his supplier in Malaysia presented him with two durians that go by the name Kah-Zah.  Even Mr Chia himself had never heard of this durian before.  I felt very honoured to sample this rare durian, especially as the texture of the flesh was beautifully thick and creamy.  Flavour wise, I found it quite similar to 'big red' - Very mild.

Price: $6.00/kg.     6/10

Ahoy me maties!  A few years ago, it used to be quite a difficult to task to track down the Black Pearl durian.  This season, however, the supply of black pearl has been quite abundant.  There does seem to be periods of 5-6 days when it disappears, and then suddenly it re-emerges once again.  For those who haven't tried black pearl yet, you definitely should.  It has the thickest, most dense flesh that you are ever likely to encounter in a durian.  The flavour is typically mild, depending on the durian you buy, it can range in degrees of sweetness and bitterness.  The name 'pearl' is due to the bottom of the seed resembling a pearl.  Speaking of seeds, this durian typically has very small seeds.

Price: $12.00.     8/10
Perhaps it is just me, but as each year goes by, Golden Phoenix seems to continue to rise in popularity in Singapore.  This year especially I have seen a lot of golden phoenix (also known as kim hong and jin feng 凤) hanging around part-time and full-time durian sellers stalls.  Golden phoenix is very different from mao shang wang, in almost every aspect.  Firstly, the durian is very small, only XO equals it for size.  The flesh is in smaller chunks, and it is a pale yellow colour.  The texture of the flesh is much drier and thicker, compared to MSW.  This stall consistently has great quality golden phoenix, so if you're looking for reliable high quality, then definitely buy your golden phoenix from this stall.

Price: $12.00/kg.     8/10
This year Mr & Mrs Chia really have some exceptional Mao Shan Wang, and customers have subsequently been flocking to this stall to buy it.  For this particular summer 2013 season, I've noticed that the MSW coming from Malaysia has been a bit on the watery side, I am not sure whether this is to do with a change in the weather pattern, or if these durians are being plucked from young trees.  Therefore, finding good MSW this year has been quite tricky.  This MSW is really at its peak after some time in the fridge.  I recall eating this durian after about two days refrigerated, and that is when I enjoyed it the most.  For those who have been living under a rock - Mao shan wang is basically a perfect balance of sweetness and mild bitterness, with a fruity aftertaste and delectable sticky creamy flesh.  It is these qualities that have made it Singaporean's most beloved durian.

Price: $13.00/kg.     9/10

Conclusion - The earlier half of this post has highlighted some of Mr Chia's rarer durians.  If you're going to his stall specifically for hor lor, kasap merah or big red - Then you would be wise to call ahead of time, as there is only a slim chance he will have them.  Even if they are available, chances are he will only have a few pieces.  The latter three species are available in greater quantities.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Econ Vegetarian Food - Aljunied

It is pretty common to come across Chinese vegetarian stalls selling one or two Western dishes.  But to encounter a stall selling entirely Western vegetarian food is something quite unique.  Econ Vegetarian Food is a brand new vegetarian stall, that is only a few weeks old.  It is the brainchild of Stephen Chio, who recently converted to a vegetarian diet, just six months prior to opening this stall.  The head chef is a Singaporean who had previously been working as a chef in Holland for over 30 years, cooking Western dishes.  Now that I'm done with the formalities, let's go ahead and check out the food!

Econ Vegetarian Food
Location: Food Loft, 32/34 Aljunied Road
Contact: 84995455

Opening Hours: Mon, Wed-Sun 11.00am-8.00pm.  Closed Tuesday.

CLOSED DOWN - As of 17/109/2014

As the stall has only been open for a few weeks, the menu is still in a development phrase.  Having said that, presently there are still many main dishes, side dishes and other specialities to choose from.  Vegans must be very careful, as some of the dishes do contain cheese.  So, be sure to let the staff know what your dietary requirements are, prior to making your final order.

I started things nice and simple, and ordered the Chicken Nuggets.  Appearance wise, I love the small basket they arrive in, which really gives the feeling of receiving authentic Western food.  Also it was pleasing to have the option of tomato ketchup.  The nuggets were juicy and flavourful, with a nice crunchy outer skin.  Price wise, it seems a little on the expensive side, especially as for only $1 extra you can get a full main meal.  But as this stall has only just opened, perhaps the prices for some items will be adjusted later on.

Price: $4.00.     6/10

Another side dish that I couldn't resist ordering was the Mustard Hot Dog Bun.  The taste of the mock sausage was very pleasing, with the mustard marrying perfectly with the mock meat.  Perhaps the price can be adjusted slightly, considering even Vegan Burg's hotdog is only $3.90.  Or, if the price is the stay, I would like to see more ingredients packed into it.  A hotdog is one of the most popular street food snacks in North America, and it should traditionally be packed with ingredients and several sauces.  Throwing in some gherkins, tomato ketchup, picalili and a few more vegetables and this side dish would rise to a much higher level.

Price: $4.00.     6/10  *Note - After writing of this post, price has changed to $2.50

Definitely the highlight of my trip to Eco Vegetarian was the Fish N Chips.  This a solid, high quality, affordable meal.  Beside from the trite components of the dish - Fries, cold baked beans, coleslaw (vegan friendly) and fish fillet - There were also cherry tomatoes and a wedge of lemon.  The cherry tomatoes were packed with flavour, and when sprinkling the lemon over the 'fish' it really enhanced the overall flavour.  Good quality dish.  Some improvements could be to add something a little out-of-the-box onto the plate - Perhaps a scoop of mashed potatoes.  Warm baked beans would make this a more authentic Western dish also.  I could only imagine serving cold baked beans to my mother (a staunchly traditional English lady), she would surely slap me across the face.

Price: $5.00.     7/10

Conclusion - It is always pleasing to see new stalls like this open up in Singapore.  But, I must emphasise the importance of actually going down there and supporting these stalls.  Econ Vegetarian is not perfect, and definitely there are some improvements that can be made in the future.  But considering this stall is only a few weeks old, I would say that it has a bright future ahead.

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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Combat Durian - King of King's, MSW, Red Prawn & Green Bamboo

If you ask durian experts and connoisseurs where to get the best quality mao shang wang, then more often than not they will point you in the direction of Combat Durian.  This stall has been around for over 50 years, and specializes in a durian named 'King of Kings', which is essentially a super high level mao shang wang (coming from the oldest MSW trees).  The named 'Combat' actually came about from a simple mistake in pronunciation - 'Combat' should have been 'Come back'.  But the name Combat Durian stuck, and this stall has been bundling out excellent quality durians ever since.

Combat Durian
Location: 249 Balestier Road
Contact: 92789928

The creator of the stall is Mr Ang, who has been selling durians in the Balestier area since 1957.  He has since divided the running of the stall with his daughter, Linda.
Here is a picture of Linda posing next to their famous 'king of king's' durian.
Whenever you are eating different types of durians, there should be an order you eat them in - Almost like a starter, main course and dessert.  The durians with lesser complexity in flavour should always go first, while the superstar durians should go last.  Myself and a couple of other durian lovers kicked our little durian buffet off with Red Prawn.  Personally, red prawn has never been one of my favourite durians.  This durian is insanely sweet, the sweet to bitter ratio would be something like 99:1 I am sure.  The other reason I don't particular like red prawn is the large seeds that are inside.  There isn't that much flesh, therefore I'm always left feeling a little unsatisfied.  Not a bad durian to warm-up with though.

Price: $10.00/kg.     6/10

After red prawn, it was time to take things up another notch, and bring out the Green Bamboo.  This durian (also known as 'tek kah') is distinctive by its large size and deep orange 'core/stem', that can be seen when the durian is opened.  The flesh is perfect at room temperature, with it being delectably creamy, and having a mellow aftertaste.  It is a durian that is flirting more on the sweet side, but does have an undertone of noticeable bitterness.  Famed for being incredibly difficult to open, this is not a durian that you want to be taking home and attempting to open yourself.

Price: $15.00/kg.     7/10

Next level up, and we get to the durian that the whole of Singapore knows.  If you say the word 'durian' to any Singaporean, probably three words will soon follow it - Mao Shang Wang.  I was eagerly awaiting this treat, as it was my first mao shang wang of the 2013 season (I was waiting for the price to drop).  So why does everyone seek after mao shang wang?  Is there really something so utterly amazing about it?  The answer is yes and no.  Does mao shang wang have a one-of-a-kind taste and texture that beats every other durians on the planet hands down - No.  There are many other durians just as nice as Mr. Cat Mountain.  But, mao shang wang does have that generic appeal, because it has just the right amount of bitterness, sweetness, creamy flavour, and fruity aftertaste, that will appeal to anyone and everyone.  It is like the Elvis Presley of durians.  This was a delicious MSW, but perhaps a tad to watery.  It would be at its absolute best after about 24-48 hours in the fridge.  After which, the flesh would have clotted up, to make one of the most unbelievable desserts one could imagine.

Price: $20-12.00/kg.     8/10

Now we get to the main event.  Bow down to the King of King's.  Visually, mao shang wang and king of king's are practically identical.  There is no way of telling the difference between the two.  It is only when you put the flesh in your mouth, then you will know the difference.  Simply put, king of king's is like mao shang wang on steroids.  Taste wise it is slightly more complex than MSW, with a more distinctive bitter flavour.  Texture wise, there is a significant difference between the two.  The texture of king of king's is sticky like peanut butter, creamy, sweet and gooey - Which felt like absolute heaven for me.  The price may seem a little high, but believe me, this durian is something special.  So far this season, nothing has come close to this durian.  A sensational gift from nature, that sent me into a euphoric state of bliss.

Price: $25-20.00/kg.     10/10

Conclusion - This stalls has been around for over 50 years, and I would bet that in another 50 years it will still be around.  Linda and her father provide excellent quality durians, with their main attraction being the king of king's.  For me, this notorious durian definitely didn't disappoint.  I will be back again soon to pay homage to the king once more.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thousand Vegie - Chinatown

It's back!  Deli-Vege (now known as Thousand Vegie) was probably one of the most well known vegetarian restaurants in Singapore a few years ago.  Sadly it closed down, and was seemingly gone for good.  Thankfully, it has now been resurrected in the form of a hawker centre stall, offering all the signature dishes that the restaurant was famed for.  So lets find out how this newly reincarnated Deli-Vege is doing...

Thousand Vegie
Location: 335 Smith Street, #02-122, Chinatown Complex
Contact: 82876056
Opening Hours:
Daily 11.30am - 9.30pm

CLOSED DOWN - As of 28/12/2013

For those who are familiar with the old Deli-Vege/Thousand Vegie menu, then you will be able to pick out and remember all your favourite dishes.  The menu is more or less the same, which is fantastic news, as I was worried they might have 'dumbed down' their menu and become a more conventional vegetarian hawker centre stall.  Old favourites like DFC, Shi-Lin Fried 'Chi-ken', Claypot Rice, and Hainanese 'Chi-ken' Rice are all back.  This menu is also incredibly vegan-friendly, with only two dishes on the entire menu containing dairy (French Fries with Cheese and Baked Rice with Mushroom).

Without a doubt, the dish I remember most fondly from the Deli-Vege days was the DFC.  This is a vegetarian version of a typical meal one might expect at KFC.  I was pleased to find out that the dish I enjoyed so much from the past, has not changed that much.  The components for the dish are all more of less the same.  With the two delectable pieces of mock meat still being as crispy, light and juicy as ever.  This dish used to cost $10.90 back in the restaurant days, but of course that price would not be accepted in a hawker centre environment, so it is good to see the price has been adjusted.  If you're looking for an awesome vegetarian Western dish, then this may be one of the best you can find in Singapore.

Price: $6.00.     9/10

The stall owner recommend that their Original Claypot Rice is a particular favourite with regular customers, so without hesitation I order that next.  My biggest gripe with claypot dishes is that many eateries don't cook the food in the claypot.  So I was delighted to find that the Thousand Vegie version has really been cooked inside.  This makes such a big difference, as the entire texture and aroma of the dishes alters when it is cooked inside the claypot.  The most significant advantage of cooking in the claypot is the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot.  Don't eat too much of it, as it is hardly good for the health.  But this burnt rice is a particular guilty pleasure of mine, which I had not indulged in for a long time.  Fantastic aroma and flavour, and brilliant value for money.

Price: $4.50.     9/10

The last dish that came to our table was the Thai Style Green Curry.  This dish was the most expensive one that we ordered, and unfortunately was the least impressive.  Starting with the positives, the ingredients inside (eggplant, mock meat, ladyfingers) were fried separately before being added to the curry, which gave the ingredients good texture and flavour.  The negative to this dish is the curry base.  The curry was significantly lacking in seasoning and flavour - Especially salt.  I also found that the curry was a little too diluted and thin.  Thus, not having the rich texture that a good green curry typically has.  A bit of a downer to end the meal, but the other two dishes were excellent.

Price: $7.00.     5/10

Conclusion - In the past, I have been somewhat critical of Deli-Vege/Thousand Vegie, but I was genuinely excited and delighted when I discovered they were back in business.  I was highly impressed with the DFC and claypot, which were two of the most excellent dishes I've had in a while.  I actually like this new hawker centre setting, but I just wonder if having a restaurant style menu (and pricing) may lead people to choose other more boring 'conventional' stalls in the vicinity.  For myself, I'll definitely be returning here regularly for my beloved DFC.

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