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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cheng Sim Vegetarian Restaurant - Penang

I'm very excited to be featuring Cheng Sim Vegetarian Restaurant today, as since going around Penang it has become one of my most beloved vegetarian eateries.  This eatery has been running successfully at its current location for 16 years now, and it is the son of the original owners who has now assumed many of their responsibilities - Both inside and outside of the kitchen.

Cheng Sim Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: No. 69E, Jalan Trengganu, Penang
Contact: 04-283 2615/016-452 4163
Opening Hours: Daily 7.30am-8.30pm.  Tuesday 7.30am-4.00pm

Most of the customers who visit Cheng Sim will packet economic rice and dishes.  The selection of dishes available at Cheng Sim is some of the best in Penang.  Not only in terms of the amount of dishes, but the quality is also outstanding.  In addition to rice and dishes, Cheng Sim also has regular dishes that customers can order.  In the evening more dishes are available to order.

As I just mentioned, if you're visiting Cheng Sim then it is definitely worthwhile to take your pick of the many Economic Rice and Dishes options that are available.  Malaysian vegetarian eateries really know how to do economic rice much better than Singapore.  With each shop having their own unique dishes, unlike in Singapore where every stall is more or less selling the same items, cooked the same way.  I absolutely adored the dishes cooked at Cheng Sim, so much so that I subsequently became a regular customer just for their ever-changing dishes.

Price: RM5.00.      8/10

Located above the main dishes, customers can also select some of the side dishes, such as Wanton.  Fried wanton has always forever been one of my guilty pleasure in the world of Chinese cuisine.  I adored the creamy and slightly salty filling that could be found in these wanton.  There are a total of eight pieces of small wanton on the plate, which equates to RM0.50 per piece.  Great

Price: RM4.00.     7/10

Recently I featured what was, in my opinion, the best Assam Laksa from Luk Yea Yan in Georgetown.  Well, I would say that the Cheng Sim laksa is just as impressive - If not better.  I recently talked to an ang moh travelling in Penang, who remarked that when he first sampled assam laksa it tasted like dish washing soap.  I would agree that a poor assam laksa might have that sort of flavour.  The laksa available at Cheng Sim is absolutely incredible, though.  Easily one of the top 3 dishes I've eaten so far in Penang.  A spicy, aromatic, powdery, sweet, sour concoction of beautiful unforgettable flavour.  This dish is only available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday - You must visit and try this laksa.  Insanely good value for only RM4 also.

Price: RM4.00     10/10

*Update (11/08/2016 - Famous assam laksa is now only available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and when it sells out it is gone, so go early!

Conclusion - Since spending time in Penang, Cheng Sim has become one of my regular haunts mainly due to their excellent economic rice and laksa.  Although this place is outside the city of Georgetown, and can be a little troublesome to get to, for those unfamiliar with the area - It is without question worthwhile finding this place.  Truly phenomenal vegetarian food.

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

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ji Xiang Ru Yi Vegetarian - Redhill

Just a quick review of a post that has been sitting around collecting dust waiting to be published for a while, without me having the time or inspiration to post it.  Redhill is hardly the best place in Singapore to be looking for vegetarian food.  Having said that, the Redhill Food Centre have a couple of pretty decent ones.  Today I will be featuring one of those stalls, which goes by the name Ji Xiang Ru Yi.

Ji Xiang Ru Yi Vegetarian
Location: 85 Redhill Lane, Redhill Food Centre #01-31
Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-1.30pm.

For those visiting this stall, you will find that they specialise mainly in Bee Hoon and Dishes.  I decided to try it out myself and overall it was not too bad.  Earlier this year I reviewed a stall called Ruyi Yuan, which is also at Redhill and also specialises in bee hoon.  Comparatively speaking, I found that Ruyi Yuan was definitely the superior of the two.  The aroma of the bee hoon and freshness of the ingredients was just that little bit better at Ruyi.  Nevertheless, Ji Xiang Ru Yi is also a stall worth visiting.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - I have nothing of any significant note to share in my conclusion for this stall.  If you're heading to Redhill, then I would suggest checking out Ruyi Yuan first.  If that stall does not satisfy your bee hoon craving, then give you can pay this stall a visit too.

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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chin Choo Vegetarian Shop - Penang

Visitors to Penang will seldom ever find themselves in Balik Pulau, which is around a 40 minute drive from the city centre (much longer if you take the islands incredibly incompetent bus services).  Balik Pulau is a beautiful town, with mountains in the background and a slow relaxing pace.  It is also known for its abundance of durians, during the main season.  For vegetarian food, there is only two stalls in town.  I will be reviewing Chin Choo today, which has the widest selection of items out of the two eateries.

Chin Choo Vegetarian Shop
Location: 132 Jalan Balik Pulau, MK-6, Balik Pulau, Penang
Contact: 012-577 1195/012-421 9876
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-5.00pm.  Saturday Closed.

Here is a look at the menu, which is available daily at Chin Choo.  This vegetarian shop is well-known by almost everyone living in Balik Pulau, and it has been around for over 14 years now.
Here is part two of the menu.
If you want economic rice and dishes, you can find it here as well.  Although the options are very limited.
Unlike in Singapore, Char Hor Fun is a dish that is almost entirely served wet in Penang.  Even when I suggested that we order this dish dry (without sauce/gravy), my Malaysian eating buddy looked at me with a sense of confusion. This hor fun was quite flavourful, but didn't have much aroma.  There were a reasonably diverse amount of ingredients, and the gravy was decent enough.  Nothing outstanding though.

Price: RM4.00.     6/10

I decided to persist with my idea of seeing how Malaysian Char Hor Fun is dry, and sure enough the chef was able to conjure something up.  I've always preferred the dry version of hor fun, simply because more smokey (wok hei) flavour is able to be captured when it is cooked dry.  I find that the smokey flavour is always lost (or at least significantly reduced) when it is served wet.

Price: RM4.00.     7/10
Next dish was the Nestum Fried Rice.  I must admit, nestum has not been something I've come across elsewhere, before visiting Malaysia.  Nestum is basically a dried cereal, similar to oats.  When added into this fried rice, it gave a somewhat sweet flavour to the dish, which did go quite well with the mock prawn and cubed pieces of mock char siew.

Price: RM4.00.     6/10

Another big difference Singaporeans will notice upon visiting Penang is the difference in the Hokkien Mee.  The Penang version is more soupy and intense in flavour.  The flavour of the soup is also quite different, with there being a higher level of spice, and a lack of wok aroma - When compared side-by-side with the Singapore version.  During my time in Penang, I have tried their version of hokkien mee a few times - Honestly it is not one of my favourite dishes, but worth trying if you visit Penang.

Price: RM4.00.     6/10

Conclusion - Balik Pulau is a great place to visit (if you have your own transport), as it highlights a quieter rural side of the increasingly bustling Penang island.  If you find yourself there needing to find a vegetarian solution, then this shop is the best you are going to find.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Quay Cafe - Penang

Quay Cafe is located in the center of Georgetown, and therefore makes for a convenient location for visitors to Penang, who usually flock to Georgetown.  The only thing inconvenient about this eatery is the timing - It is only open until 2.30pm and is closed on Sunday, so don't try and visit this place in the evening.  From the outside, I got the impression that this eatery would be highly expensive, but upon looking at the menu pricing, it is actually quite an affordable place to eat.

Quay Cafe
Location: 2 Church Street Ghaut, Penang
Contact: 012-403 6659
Opening Hours: Daily 11.00am-2.30pm.  Closed Sunday.

I really loved the interior design of Quay Cafe.  The red bricked walls and wooden tables gave the place a really nice industrial yet homely feel.  The restaurant is quite large, too.  Definitely a suitable place for large gatherings.
Here is a look at the menu available at Quay Cafe.
In order to help fight the never ending heat and humidity of Penang (which is seemingly even worse than Singapore), I decided to cool myself down with Nutmeg Drink.  Drinking nutmeg is one of the characteristic things of Penang, and personally it is one of my favourite drinks.  Having said that, this version was quite diluted and didn't have that subtle heaty sensation that a fresh and good quality nutmeg juice has.

Price: RM3.00.     6/10
Onto the food, and the first dish to grace our table was the Home-Made Sauce Beancurd.  This side dish was probably the best dish of the meal.  I liked the finely sliced carrot and cucumber on top of the tofu, and the sauce (which drenched the tofu) was tangy and had just the right amount of heat.  Difficult to complain about the price too.

Price: RM3.00.     7/10
One of the signature dishes (and most expensive) of Quay Cafe is their Bak-Kut Teh.  This bowl of herbal soup was stocked to the brim with a wide variety of ingredients - Such as needle mushroom, tofu, beancurd, goji berries and vegetables.  It is also accompanied by a bowl of rice.  Although the ingredients were impressive, I found this dish ultimately fell short in terms of the flavour of the soup.  It was very one dimensional and was lacking the layers of flavour and overall intensity that a great bak kut teh should have.

Price: RM10.00.     6/10

Conclusion - If you're looking for a vegetarian eatery with a great ambiance, then Quay Cafe is definitely one place you are going to want to visit.  In terms of purely food quality, I didn't find this place to be anything special.  But, overall I was pleased with the food pricing and could definitely see myself returning here again in the future.

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe - Ipoh

Secret Recipe is a brand that many of us are very familiar.  I remember back in my non-vegan days, I took particular pleasure in gorging on their many varieties of cakes.  Although most people know Secret Recipe, what you might not know is that in Malaysia they are known for something entirely different.  In addition to selling cakes, Secret Recipe also have a franchise of 13 vegetarian restaurants, all of which go by the name 'Beyond Veggie'.  From what I was told, the husband and wife owner of Secret Recipe are both Buddhist vegetarians, and therefore opened these restaurants to promote vegetarianism.  Today, I will featuring their Ipoh branch.  Their other locations can be found at KSL City Mall (JB), AEON Mall (Kulaijaya), Sunway Pyramid, 1 Utama, The Curve Shopping Mall, Oasis Square (Ara Damansara), Sunway Giza, Taipan USJ 10, Mid Valley Megamal, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Publika and Tropicana City Mall.

Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe
Location: No.18, Tingkat Taman Ipoh 6, Taman Ipoh Selatan, Perak Darul Ridzuan
Contact: 05-546 8298
Opening Hours: Daily 10.00am-10.00pm

One thing which may alarm you when gazing upon the menu is the pricing.  The prices are pretty much Singapore standard, which was an instant turn off for me.  This Original Fruit Tea is an example of the inflated prices that can expect.  Having said my piece about the pricing, I must admit this drink was pretty delicious.  It was a perfect blend of sweet and sour fruity flavours, with a smooth texture.  This 'tea' consists of three simple ingredients - Pineapple, apple and lemon.  Yes the taste is really good, but considering that this tea consists of only three ingredeints (non-organic) it did leave me confused as to why it had such a high price tag.

Price: RM16.90.     6/10
We started our meal off with a snack item called Veggie Roll.  There were a total of six well crafted pieces of vegetables wrap, and two additional dipping sauces.  The wraps are fresh and crunchy, I particularly enjoyed the shredded purple cabbage and carrots.  The two dipping sauces were quite mild overall, the grey coloured mushroom based sauce being my favourite.  No complaints on the quality of these wraps, but I wish the price could be a little more affordable.

Price: RM9.90.     7/10
After ordering the Assam Laksa, I was quite stunned when a gigantic bowl arrived to our table.  The portion size for this laksa is really too big - Even for me.  I can't help but think portion sizes like this will lead to a lot of food wastage.  Overall this was far from the best assam laksa I've had.  The gravy was too watery and lacked the depth in flavour that an excellent laksa should have.  I would recommend eating the assam laksa at Luk Yea Yan (Penang) - Much better quality, and one third the price.

Price: RM15.90.     6/10

Conclusion - The obvious downside to this restaurant is the price.  I simply didn't find the service, ambiance or food quality worthy of the prices that are listed.  Malaysia is a country where you can go around and enjoyed excellent food for little money - So it begs the question, why would I go to Beyond Veggie and pay these prices?  If you are visiting though, the original tea and veggie roll were pretty decent.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 3/10

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ru Yin Vegetarian - Penang

Upon visiting Penang, tourists will usually either flock to Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi.  I've always loved the architecture and vibe of Georgetown, while I've always found Batu Ferringhi more of a over-commercialised tourist trap.  If you're looking for good vegetarian food though, it may be worthwhile visiting off the beaten path of Penang.  Although Georgetown should always acts as your hub if you wish to ensure yourself of finding an abundance of vegetarian eateries.  Ru Yin Vegetarian is one of those eateries that can be a little troublesome to get to, so let's see if it's worth the journey...


Ru Yin Vegetarian
Location: Blk 5-G-8, Jalan Van Praagh, Desa Green, Penang
Contact: 011-19197979
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-3.00pm & 6.00pm-9.00pm.  Sunday Closed.

Here is the Ru Yin staff cooking the noodles for our dishes.
One of the signature dishes of Penang, that you will see served almost everywhere is Curry Mee.  When ordering this dish, you will note the vibrant colours from the orange gravy and fresh green mint leaves.  Looks can sometimes be deceiving though.  Penang curry mee is basically a flavourless Singapore laksa.  It is literally like removing all spices and flavouring except for chili paste and coconut milk.  An utterly bland and flat dish.  Unfortunately wherever you go in Penang, the curry mee will taste like this (the best curry mee I have tried has been in Ipoh).  As someone who prefers stronger flavours, this is not a dish I can appreciate.

Price: RM3.50.     5/10
Next dish was the Kway Teow Soup, this dish is the same price as the curry mee (both of which are tremendous value).  I was reliably informed that this eatery has been known for their high quality kway teow soup for many years.  However, recently they have undergone a change in management.  Overall, this dish followed a similar sort of theme to the curry mee.  The soup was bland and forgettable, with there being no ingredients or flavour that would allow any real enjoyment to be had from this dish.  I did like the price and freshness, but the flavour is below par for me.

Price: RM3.50.     5/10

Conclusion - Penang has a lot of vegetarian eateries, but few stand out as being outstanding.  Ru Yin Vegetarian is a great place to go if you're looking for an economical meal - But if quality is important factor to you, then you will probably want to avoid this place.

Overall Rating
Food - 5/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 8/10

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fu Tien Vegetarian Restaurant - Ipoh

Back to Ipoh for more vegetarian food adventures.  For this post, I feature Fu Tien Vegetarian, which is one of the more established vegetarian eateries in the area.  One thing that any tourist must consider when visiting Ipoh (or anywhere in Malaysia, for that matter) - If you don't have your own car, then travelling around is going to be an extremely frustrating (and expensive) experience.  Public transport in cities like Ipoh is practically non-existent, and distances between locations are too far to walk.  That means you either need a car or you're at the mercy of the remorseless money extorting taxi drivers of Malaysia - Personally, I would rather burn my money, than give it to those glorified criminals.  Okay, onto the review...

Fu Tien Vegetarian
Location: 34 Jalan Medan 1B, Medan Ipoh Bistari,Perak Darul Ridzuan
Contact: 05-549 9098
Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am-2.45pm & 6.00pm-9.45pm.  Monday Closed. 

We kicked our meal off with the Seaweed Salad.  This was a nice fresh way to start the meal - I love how this type of shredded seaweed always has such good texture, and it went well with the sesame seeds on top.  The biggest disappointment to this dish was the later of chopped lettuce on the bottom.  The lettuce was quite withered and unappealing.  I would have much rather the entire dish consist of seaweed.

Price: RM6.40.     6/10
Marmite with Lotus Root was the next dish.  At home, we have made lotus root chips (a healthier alternative to using potato) a few times, with positive results.  This dish was surprisingly sweet, with a sticky glue-like sauce binding together the pieces of fried lotus root.  I love eating fried lotus root, so overall I quite enjoyed this dish - But I think it would have been better with a more complex multi-layered sauce.

Price: RM10.00.     7/10

Lastly we decided to pick out the Fu Tien Special Fish.  Once again, this was another surprisingly sweet dish, with the slices of mock dish soaking in a sweet (and slightly tart) orange sauce.  The flavour of the sauce did go pretty well with the mock fish.  However, the mock fish itself was tough and rubbery.  With better quality mock meat, this dish could have been elevated to a much higher level.

Price: RM10.00.     7/10

Conclusion - Overall the dishes are mild and sweet, and with some minor improvements they could reach an even higher level.  Fu Tien is one of those restaurant in Ipoh which is not the best, but it is decent enough to be worthy of visiting. 

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

Shu Vegetarian - Raffles Place

If you want really cheap food, go to Raffles Place - That may sound crazy, but it's true.  Amid the high priced shopping centres and food courts of Raffles Place, Golden Shoe Food Centre stands out as being a superb place to find dirt cheap food.  This is not merely cheap by CBD standards, it is cheap compared to the whole of Singapore.  Shu Vegetarian is one of three vegetarian eateries that operate at this aforementioned eating house.  Many may remember my post on healthy living vegan stall My Vegetarian Way, which is also at the same location.  Shu Vegetarian is small and unassuming stall, just the kind that I like to visit.  Big things often come in small packages in Singapore, so lets find out how this place fares...


Shu Vegetarian
Location: #03-17, 50 Market Street, Golden Shoe Food Centre
Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Mon- Fri 6.30am-3.00pm.  Closed on weekends. 

Here is a look at the menu.  Let me warn you in advance, Golden Shoe becomes absolute anarchy during the office lunch hours (11.30-1.30pm).  Anarchy to the point where there is practically a riot taking place.  Unless you take some kind of sick enjoyment out of being assaulted by a whirlwind of utter madness, then you will want to avoid Golden Shoe during those timings.

Shu Vegetarian have an incredibly simple menu, but they excel in two aspects.  Firstly, they have a team of  hard-working and friendly staff, who always take great pride in their job.  Secondly, Shu Vegetarian serves extremely good quality economic rice dishes, which are also served at a wonderfully low price.

I went for the Economic Rice (Brown Rice) with braised tofu, crispy sweet and sour mock meat and mushroom.  The portion size is quite large and it comes accompanied with the typical clear Chinese soup.  The quality of the rice and dishes is indeed high.  I absolutely adored the crunchy sweet and sour mock meat, it vaguely reminded me of the same dish at Loke Woh Yuen (for those who can still remember that classic restaurant).  Superb value for money, and exceptional quality - I couldn't ask for anything more.

Price: $3.20.     8/10

If you're not in the mood for rice, then Shu occasionally offers Char Kway Teow as another option to have with the dishes (they also sometimes have fried rice, too).  If you're feeling like eating purely char kway teow, they staff will also oblige.  This dish is simple, without any mock meats or vegetables.  It is just simply beansprouts and kway.  It would be much more delicious eaten with the wide variety of dishes available at Shu - But by itself it is still quite alright.

Price: $1.20.     7/10

Conclusion - I still find myself occasionally dreaming about the sweet and sour mock meat from this stall.  We loved it so much that we ended up packeting another $2 worth of it back home with us.  Vegetarian stalls/restaurants often over-complicate things with too many dishes and subsequent inferior quality.  Stalls still only selling rice and dishes can still win my heart, and Shu Vegetarian is certainly one of those.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 9/10

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Aik Choong Vegetarian Restaurant - Penang

We often point our finger at certain locations in Malaysia, which are known to have outstanding vegetarian food.  Locations such as Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru etc.  But truth be told, almost all of Western Malaysia has great veggie options.  Pulau Penang is still the king of vegetarian, but mainland Penang also has countless vegetarian places, which are worth seeking out.  For today, we look at Aik Choong Vegetarian.  Let me just stress once more, this restaurant is not on Penang island - It is on the mainland.

Aik Choong Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 6549 Jalan Raja Uda, Taman Sena, Butterworth, Penang
Contact: 016-4445721
Opening Hours: Unknown (any customer please help me to confirm)

Aik Choong actually have two eateries that are right next to each other.  The older more traditional eatery has been around for countless years.  A few months ago, Aik Choong opened a brand new more upscale restaurant, right next to the original shop.  The interior design is quite fancy, but the colour and lighting can be a little too bright and glaring after being in the restaurant for a while.

Aik Choong has evolved into a mother and daughter business over the recent years.  The new glamorous restaurant is being run by the daughter (pictured, left), while the original outlet is still maintained by the mother (pictured, right).
The menu at Aik Choong is almost entirely Western, which is an entirely different concept when compared with the original outlet, which focuses more on traditional Chinese cuisine.
We started our meal off with the Tu Ping Zhen Soup.  It must be said, in a menu consisting of almost entirely Western food, this traditional Chinese herbal broth does seem a little out of place.  Nevertheless, this herbal drink was absolutely amazing.  The flavour is magnified due to it being cooked on charcoal for eight hours.  I have recently found out just what a big difference cooking with charcoal makes to the flavour of food, it is really like night and day.  This herbal soup is at its best when boiling hot, upon consuming I felt a comforting warm glowing sensation flow through my body.  Not really something that goes well with hotdogs and burgers, but still undeniably delicious.

Price: RM12.90 (pot).      8/10
Let's begin the Western bonanza with the Chicken Chop.  Unfortunately, Aik Choong is another one of those restaurant which presents a battlefield of dairy for vegan customers.  The tomato in this dish was sadly filled with cheese.  The chicken chop was decent enough, but the tomato mushroom sauce was a little too unimaginative for my liking.  The broccoli, thank god, added at least one thing nutritious onto the plate.

Price: RM8.80.     6/10

Probably the most disappointing dish of the evening was the Hotdog meal.  Presentation wise, I did like how the chef tried to add some green onto the place - Tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce could all be found.  The mock sausages I found a little tough in texture and the hotdog on a whole was not very practical to eat. I've still not managed to find a perfect vegetarian/vegan hotdog in Asia - Hotdogs should (when done right) be the ultimate street food snack, packed with a harmonious balance of sour, tart, and salty flavours.  My search will go on for that perfect hotdog...

Price: RM6.80.     5/10

The last Western dish of the evening was the Spaghetti Bolognese.  The fundamentals of this dish were done very well - The pasta was cooked well and the sauce texture was superb.  Flavour wise, the only thing I found that was missing was a lack of seasoning in the sauce. Presentation wise, it does look a little bare - Some cashew nut 'cheese' powder would make the world of difference to the look and taste.  Criticisms aside, this was a pretty decent dish, definitely the best of the Western dishes I tried.

Price: RM8.80.     7/10

Conclusion - Vegetarian Western food is something that is seldom perfected when it comes to Chinese operated restaurants.  The Western food at Aik Choong can be improved further, once a greater knowledge of Western flavours has been achieved.  The signature herbal soup was delicious, and if/when I return next, that is the item I will be ordering, rather than the Western options.

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