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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pure Mind Vegetarian - Raffles Place

If you're working in the CBD you will be pleased to know that the number of vegetarian options has really increased over the last six months.  Pure Mind is located inside The Arcade, an area which can get very busy during the lunch rush hour.  There is quite limited seating (only about four or five tables), so I can imagine that it may be difficult to find a seat when things get busy.  Pure Mind opened in April 2014, and are hoping to open more outlets in Singapore in the future.

Pure Mind Vegetarian
Location: #01-34, 11 Collyer Quay, The Arcade

Contact: 62228022
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 7.00am-4.00pm.  Closed weekends.

CLOSED DOWN - As of 23/12/2014

The owner of Pure Mind is Linda Tan - She opened this eatery as her husband is a vegetarian, and wanted a place for other vegetarians to eat in the city.  She named the place 'Pure Mind' as she feels CBD workers are under a lot of stress in their working lives, therefore wanted there to be an eatery where customers can slow down and clear their mind from stress.

The menu at Pure Mind is a mixture of Asian and Western delights.  There are a number of dishes that are by default non-vegan.  But the chef auntie confidently assured me that almost all dishes can be made vegan.  She even bragged that items like mushroom soup can be served vegan.  Great to deal with staff that are educated on what being vegan entails.

First dish I picked out was the Veg Mutton Rendang.  I usually have quite high expectations from rendang, as it is one of my most beloved dishes.  I must say that this rendang was one of the better renditions that I have tried in Singapore.  The only qualm I have is that the spice level may be a little too much for some.  The aroma and flavour of the dish can't be beaten though.  Customers can choose between white or brown rice (brown is $1 extra).  The poppadom and broccoli acted as good accompaniments to the excellent curry.  Definitely a dish that I would order again.

Price: $7.90.     8/10

The next dish was my personal favourite, and ranks as one of the best paste dishes I have tried in Singapore.  This is the Spaghetti Bolognese.  The default version of this dish comes with cheese, which I asked to be omitted.  The clear hero in this dish is the tomato sauce.  The flavour captured was simply phenomenal.  It has a strong aromatic beefy flavour, which matched excellently with the rich and tart tomato.  Put this sauce in a cup and allow me to drink it please chef.  The spaghetti was slightly low quality (although well cooked), but the sauce more than made up for this minor flaw.  Delicious dish.

Price: $6.90.     9/10

Conclusion - The only issue Pure Mind has is spreading the word about their eatery, and hopefully this post has allowed that problem to be solved.  Although this place closes early (and is also closed on the weekend), you will definitely want to find time to visit Pure Mind, if you don't leave with a pure mind, you will definitely leave with a satisfied stomach!

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Miao Yi Vegetarian Restaurant - Chinatown

Vegetarian dim sum!  Singapore has a great abundance and diversity when it comes to vegetarian food.  But one aspect of Chinese cooking that is noticeably lacking is dim sum.  Yes, I am aware that places like Ling Zhi are offering dim sum, but frankly I found the quality to be nothing short of awful.  So it is easy to see that Singapore is desperately crying out for a good vegetarian dim sum place - Xin Man Yuan may be the answer to those cries.  This traditional style vegetarian eatery opened its doors recently in Chinatown.  Don't be confused, this place is located at People's Park Centre, not People's Park Complex.

Miao Yi Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: #03-32, 101 Upper Cross St, People's Park Centre

Contact: 64380048
Opening Hours: Daily 11.00am-10.00pm 

Update - Take note that Xin Man Yuan and Miao Yi are/were under the same owner.  Subsequently, Miao Yi shifted from their old location and merged together with Xin Man Yuan at the above location.  This eatery now goes by the name Miao Yi.

There are two options at Xin Man Yuan, you can either opt for the buffet spread, which costs $18.80++.  Or you can order from the a la carte menu.  Here is a look at the buffet spread.
If you're ordering the buffet spread, you can order dim sum, but only a limited amount.  Pictured left are the types you can order. 
The interior of Xin Man Yuan is nothing unusual.  If you've visited traditional Chinese eateries like Miao Yi and Lotus, then the vibe of this place will be very familiar.
Here is a look at the full dim sum menu.  There is an incredibly impressive array of selections, most priced at $4.50. 
The a la carte menu is quite extensive, but has the typical array of Chinese dishes.  Many of the dishes are quite mock meat heavy.
I won't deny that the main reason for my excitement to visit Xin Man Yuan was to try the dim sum.  My first selection was the Delicious Chestnuts Siew Mai.  Immediately upon sampling this dim sum, it was clear to me that it was miles ahead of any other dim sum I have tried in Singapore.  I have also had the pleasure of trying the supposed best vegetarian dim sum in Hong Kong (Three Virtues), and I would say this is even better.  The skin was soft and delicate, and the mixed mushroom filling was splendid.  Yes, I am sure for non-vegetarians this dish will be missing the taste of smell of pork, but for vegetarian siew mai, this is as good as you will find.

Price: $4.50.     8/10

The next dim sum I picked out was Steamed Veg. Shrimp Dumplings.  This can also otherwise be known as 'har gow' or more accurately put in Chinese 'xia jiao' 虾饺.  This is another synonymous dim sum in Hong Kong, which is a prerequisite 'must order' item.  This dish is basically a steamed Chinese dumpling with a prawn filling.  I loved the fresh taste and distinguishable prawn flavour of this dim sum, and I really had to restrain myself from ordering another 10 portions.

Price: $4.50.     9/10

In my aim to give a professional review of this place, I thought it would only be right if I ordered some items from the a la carte menu.  Overall the dishes I ordered from the menu were really underwhelming when compared with the dim sum.  Starting with the Special Indonesian Curry - 'Special' is certainly one word I wouldn't use to describe this dish.  To the contrary, the flavour of this curry was incredibly bland and flat.  It was almost as if the chef added oil, chilli, turmeric and coconut milk, and then forget to add anything else.  I also found the mock meat used in this curry to be particularly unpleasant.

Price: $10.00.     5/10

Another dish from the menu which fell a little flat with me was the Jin Du Special Ribs.  I've order many mock rib dishes in the past - When I saw this item of the menu it reminded me of the good old days when I would visit Loke Woh Yuen for their amazing mock ribs.  This dish was a far cry from those glory days.  The sweet and sour sauce was really forgettable.  The chef really needs to take lessons in making Cantonese style sauces to really improve this dish.  The mock meat used for the 'ribs' was quite interesting.  It comprised of tube-shaped beancurd.  Interesting choice, but didn't resemble ribs in the slightest.

Price: $10.00.     5/10

Conclusion - If you're looking for good vegetarian dim sum, then Xin Man Yuan is a place I would highly recommend.  Their dim sum is really exceptional, there is no doubting that.  In terms of the rest of the menu, I do think significant improvements need to be made.  But I would definitely return again just for the dim sum.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Southern Palace Vegetarian Restaurant - Paya Lebar

Just when I think that I have discovered almost everything (vegetarian wise) in Singapore, out pops an eatery that has seemingly existed for years without my detection.  I'm not sure how many years exactly Southern Palace has been around for, but judging from the worn down menu and interior of the place, it has been there for a long time.  This Chinese shop house is quite large, with ample seating.

Southern Palace Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 654 Geylang Road (off Lorong 40)

Contact: 68461773/68461772
Opening Hours: Daily 9.00am-9.00pm.

Update 22/08/2016 - CLOSED DOWN
Southern Palace had a list of six daily specials that were available.  These dishes change regularly.
If you don't feel like ordering their special made to order dishes, then economic rice/bee hoon and dishes are also available.
Before starting my main meal, I opted to pick out a sinful looking Curry Puff.  Priced only at $1, this larger than usual puff is definitely value for money.  Unfortunately I was quite disappointed by the quality of the pastry shell, it didn't have that crisp yet chewy texture.  Instead it was powdery and broke apart easily.  The potato stuffing was well spiced and cooked well, just not enough to make up for the poor pastry.

Price: $1.00.     5/10

For this review, I decided to focus more on the Southern Palace daily specials, therefore I selected their Sliced Fish Bee Hoon for consumption first.  By default this soup will come with milk added, so it is important for vegans to request for the milk to be omitted when cooking.  It was a cool (by Singapore standards) and rainy afternoon, so this dish went perfectly with the weather.  The mock fish and other ingredients were well done, and I particularly loved the additional seaweed on top, which was fried prior to adding into the soup.  Even without the milk, this was an excellent version of this dish.

Price: $4.00.     8/10
Lastly, we decided to order the Nasi Lemak.  Presentation wise, I liked how it arrived on the green banana leaf replica plate, visually it looked great.  The dish itself was a bit hit and miss.  The red chilli was quite unusual, the texture was almost like jam.  I also didn't understand why there were two separate mock meats, which were both almost exactly the same.  I enjoyed the peanuts and pickle, and the rice was acceptable, but lacking that delicious coconut aroma.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - Mixed feelings about the food from Southern Palace.  I would certainly recommend that this restaurant is worth visiting, especially for the fish bee hoon - The rest of the items that I sampled were quite forgettable though. 

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ren Xiang Vegetarian Food - Tampines

I'm constantly captivated by finding famous vegetarian hawkers in Singapore, and for today's post I will share with you arguably the most famous veggie stall in Tampines.  If you're visiting Ren Xiang during peak timings, then expect there to be a long queue of customers waiting for their many offerings.  The aunties running this stall are very warm and friendly, not the mafia thug aunties that run most stalls.  So, without further delay, let's find out if the food at this stall is worth joining the queue for...

Ren Xiang Vegetarian Food
Location: #01-80, Blk 419 Tampines St 41

Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 6.00am-4.00pm.  Closed Tuesday 

Ren Xiang have a variety of different dishes available.  I asked the auntie owner which of her dishes does she consider the best, she replied 'all of them are good' - I love that confidence.
I heard a lot of good things about the Ren Xiang Nasi Lemak, so that was the first dish I decided to order.  This dish is vastly different to how we think of a traditional nasi lemak.  There are no mock ikan bilis, no peanuts, no hash brown, no cucumbers - This is essentially not a nasi lemak.  It more closely resembles economic rice and dishes.  The rice is infused with coconut and pandan, and the traditional red chilli paste is present though.  Although this dish may be stray away from convention, it is still an impressive mound of delicious food, which I fully enjoyed wolfing down.

Price: $2.50.     7/10

One of my all time favourite local dishes is certainly Lor Mee.  I love the thick strong tasting gravy (especially when huge amounts of vinegar is added).  The lor mee from Ren Xiang was definitely above average.  There was a wide variety of different beancurd, mock meat, tofu items all inside the bowl.  The gravy was thick and full of flavour, but I wish the auntie added more vinegar inside.  Yellow noodles are not a favourite of mine, but the awesome gravy more than made up for it.  Definitely a dish that I would order again.

Price: $2.50.     8/10

Conclusion - There is no doubt that Ren Xiang is a fantastic stall, and my only regret was not getting the chance to check out more of their dishes.  I was a little surprised about their version of nasi lemak, but it was delicious nontheless.  Certainly worth making the trip to Tampines to eat - Enjoy!

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tanaka Vegetarian Food - Marsiling

If you look at vegetarian hawker/coffee shops in Singapore on a whole, I can't help be resign to the fact that most are selling the same dishes, cooked the same way - Boring.  There is however, once in a while, a vegetarian stall that really stands out as being special.  In 2013, Tanaka Vegetarian Food (Fajar) clearly stood out to me as being the best vegetarian hawker experience I have ever had.  Mr Goh, has recently been expanding the Tanaka name, with another outlet opening near to Marsiling MRT (this one opened by Mr Poh, a close friend of Mr Goh).  Woodlands and Marsiling are particularly pitiful places to be a vegetarian, with so few options around - So it is great that Tanaka can provide an option for those living in that area, especially as it opens in the evenings as well.

Tanaka Vegetarian Food
Location: Blk 306A Woodland Street 31

Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 6.00am-9.00pm 

For those who have visited the Fajar outlet, the dishes on this menu will be familiar.  There are a variety of dishes available, but their mee rebus is particularly lauded for its quality.  For those who don't cosume egg, please make sure to specify when ordering, as Tanaka does have eggs in some of their dishes.
Here is a look at some of the dishes available.
Nasi Lemak, on appearance, would seem like one of the most simple dishes to make.  Chilli, rice, cucumber and then a number of mock meats usually make up the contents of the plate.  Simple it may seem, the key to any good nasi lemak lies in the chilli and coconut rice.  If those two aspects are sub par, then the entire dish is ruined.  Both those two aforementioned aspects were outstanding from Tanaka, and really brought the dish to life.  The red chilli paste is fragrant and smooth, and the rice was full of coconut flavour, without there being a compromise in the texture.  Really top notch nasi lemak.

Price: $2.50.      8/10

When visiting the original Tanaka, I was highly impressed with their Chicken Rice.  I loved how fragrant and full of flavour the rice was, without the usage of any animal products.  The chicken is made from beancurd sheets, and when combined with the red chilli and dark sauce, it really makes it superb.  Tanaka knows how to flavour rice perfectly, and the highlight of this dish is definitely the rice - It is beautifully infused, and I could happily eat it by itself.

Price: $3.00.     8/10

Conclusion - I really hope that Tanaka expand even more in Singapore, so that more people can enjoy the sensational dishes that Mr Goh concocts.  The dishes are what you would expect from a stall, but they are all made exceptionally well.  I can only think of Miao Shan, who might give Tanaka a run for their money in terms of best vegetarian stall in Singapore.  Definitely a must visit stall.

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

The R.E.A.L Hut - Aljunied

The first half of 2014 has really seen a lot of new and exciting vegetarian eateries open up in Singapore.  The R.E.A.L Hut is one of those which have opened recently in 2014.  This restaurant abides by the motto 'relax, eat and love', which makes up the name of the restaurant - REAL.

The R.E.A.L Hut
Location: #01-197, Blk 46 Sims Place
Contact: 68469976
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 11.00am-5.00pm.  Closed Monday.

Here is a look at the menu.  Many of the dishes are Taiwanese influenced, but all sorts of cuisines can be found here.
I was feeling a little under the weather this particular evening, so I decided to pick the Immune Boost as our choice of beverage.  Inside this pot is a concoction of fennel seeds, cloves and orange peel. 

Price: $5.50.     6/10
We decided to commence our meal with a side dish named Vegetable Sushi Roll.  The concept of wrapping vegetables in nori roll is not revolutionary, but I've always liked this healthier way to eat sushi.  Unfortunately for this version, I found the combination of vegetables and nori to be way too dry.  It was really crying out for a zesty sauce, like the one at New Green Pasture (Fortune Centre).  Definitely a healthy choice, and the mayonnaise (which is vegan) does bring it to life somewhat.  But it really needs a textural moisture, which a good dressing would ultimately bring.

Price: $5.00.     6/10

R.E.A.L Hut have a number of dishes all from different culinary influences - A Korean style dish they have on their menu is the Kimchi Noodle.  Kimchi is a fermented vegetable preparation, usually consisting of radish, cabbage or even cucumber.  Shrimp paste is used in traditional kimchi, but is obviously omitted here.  This soup based noodle dish was quite flat taste wise.  Unless you literally bite onto the kimchi cabbage, it is really difficult to get that wonderful sweet and sour kimchi flavour onto one's palette.  The kimchi flavour was totally lost in the soup, which caused me to feel quite disappointed.  I like the use of seaweed and thin rectangular pieces of tofu inside, but the flavour of the dish really needs to be turned up.

Price: $8.90.     6/10
To finish the meal off, we selected a piece of Carrot Cake.  The desserts at R.E.A.L Hut can be seen at the point of sale area of the shop, and there can be found a limited range of vegan and non-vegan desserts to choose from.  The carrot cake is totally vegan.  This cake didn't have enough moisture, and could have done with another layer of 'cream' in the middle.  Also, the cake didn't have the right balance of spices (cinnamon, cardamon, ginger) inside.  I did like the orange rind that was sprinkled on top, but improvements in all other aspects need to be made.  Having said all that, vegan cakes are not easy to master, so we shouldn't be too hard on them.

Price: $5.50.     6/10

Conclusion - For the positives, I really enjoyed the polite and friendly attitude of the staff running R.E.A.L Hut.  The restaurant had a nice and peaceful atmosphere.  Unfortunately the disappointment came in the form of the food, which I all found to be totally forgettable.  On a brighter note, I am sure with a few tweaks here and there, the quality of the dishes can improve significantly.

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bao Bao Vegetarian Food - Bedok

There are a handful of vegetarian stalls in Singapore that have become extremely well-known for selling only bee hoon.  In fact, if you ask any non-vegetarian what is the first thing he/she usually thinks of when they think of vegetarian food, probably it will be bee hoon and dishes.  Vegetarian food is so much more than that.  But for this review I will focus on the aforementioned stereotypical vegetarian meal.  Bao Bao could arguably be the most famous vegetarian bee hoon stall in all of Singapore, with there being ridiculously long queues for breakfast and lunch time.  Their bee hoon usually sells out totally by midday, so I would recommend you visit as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Bao Bao Vegetarian Food
Location: #01-148, New Upper Changi Road Hawker Centre, Blk 58 New Upper Changi Road
Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-1.00pm.  Closed Monday & Thursday

It is worth visiting this stall purely to watch the amazing speed in which the auntie produces a plate of Bee Hoon and Dishes.  She can assemble a plate of bee hoon literally within 5 seconds, it is quite a sight to behold.  This famous bee hoon is the white variety, which is my personal favourite. It is hard to argue with the quality of this classic dish.  The fried beancurd sheets are crispy, the bee hoon well flavoured, the mock char siew is sweet and chewy - It is a perfect breakfast meal. 

Price: $2.50.     8/10

Conclusion - If you're looking for one of the best vegetarian bee hoon in Singapore, then there is no doubt you should be paying a visit to Bao Bao.  This simple stall undoubtedly produces fine tasty bee hoon, which fits perfectly as a breakfast meal.  The queue is often frighteningly long, so it is a good thing the auntie works at the speed she does.

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

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ah Seng - Ai Ching Guo, Batu, Black Thorn, Kim Zhu

The 2014 main durian season has arrived, and of course I am very happy.  In 2013 I succeeded in featuring many species of durian (especially the more common species), that can be found in Singapore.  For 2014, I will most likely be focusing my attention on durians that come and go very fast, but are certainly worth tracking down.  For my first durian post of 2014, I return back to Ah Seng (the undisputed king of durian sellers) to see what rare offerings he had throughout June-July 2014.

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

I've spent years looking for it, and finally I managed to get my hands on Ai Ching Guo durian.  Last year, ai ching guo was a durian that I was determined to find, but this little durian can be quite elusive.  The crop for ai ching guo is very low - Only a few durian stalls stock it, and if they do, its only a few pieces which don't tend to last more than a few days.  The shape of this durian is petite, with an abnormal lumpy outer shell.
The name Ai Ching Guo 爱情果 literally means 'love fruit', and one can see that when chopped the shape of the husk does somewhat resemble a heart shape.  This durian is big seeded and has a smooth, yet slightly powdery flesh texture.  The overall taste is milky and mild, and might be a suitable 'introductory' durian, for those who are not ready for more intense durian flavours.  Not a durian that I would eat again though.

Price: $7.00/kg.     6/10
Another rare species that Ah Seng was gleefully stocking when I visited was a durian named Batu.  This durian was coming from Batu Pahat, in Johor and is available for only a few weeks.  The durian itself is unusually long, almost like a rugby ball.
Out of all the durians I consumed from Ah Seng during the beginning of the main season, Batu was certainly my favourite.  This is an intensely bitter durian.  I can only think of tawa durian as a possible contender, who might be able to usurp batu as the king of bitter durians.  Batu, unlike tawa, is a large seeded durian, and has a pale yellow colour.  I absolutely loved the bitter alcoholic buzzing aftertaste, which this durian has in abundance.  Not only did it have great bitterness, but it also had other layers of flavour, unlike XO, which is a bitter durian with quite one dimensional layers of flavour.  Overall batu is a top notch durian, which definitely should be sought after when in season - You will only have a few weeks!

Price: $7.00/kg.     8/10

Kim Zhu is another durian I have previously never heard of before this season.  This durian has a long season, and can be around for 4-6 weeks, starting in late-June usually.  This durian is one of the smallest you are likely to find.  The biggest kim zhu will still only weigh around 700 grams.  Although it is small, the inside is packed with flesh, making it probably one of the best value for money durians around.  Kim zhu has a delicate flavour, which supposedly has an aftertaste of pomelo (I couldn't detect it myself though).

Price: $7.00/kg.     6/10
Black Thorn in Singapore?  For those who know Malaysian durians very well, you will know that the black thorn (otherwise known as 'orh chi') is one of the most synonymous durians from Penang.  So how did black thorn get to Singapore?  Well, apparently many years ago Pahang, Johor plantations took black thorn seeds from Penang and started planting them in Johor (similarly to how Muar plantations started growing red prawn from Penang seeds).  The black thorn flesh is more orange, and the seeds are quite large.  The flavour is an intense mixture of bitter and sweet, with a slightly fruity finish. 

Price: $10.00/kg.     7/10 

Conclusion - It has been an interesting beginning season so far, but I must say the quality of the durians has not been good so far.  I am hoping that things will pick up towards August and September, when the season will be ending.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

San Yuan Vegetarian - Clementi

My ears always prick up when someone tells me you can find the very 'best' ... dish at a certain stall.  For this particular review, I have to thank Peggy for suggesting that I pay San Yuan Vegetarian a visit to try their 'unbeliavably good' kway chap.  This stall is located directly opposite from West Coast Plaza (the plaza itself has a Real Food and Roti Alka's Kitchen inside).  This stall is quite famous, and one can often find a long queue of people eagerly waiting for the dishes available at San Yuan. 

San Yuan Vegetarian
Location: #01-149, Blk 726 Clementi West Market & Food Centre, Clementi West Street 2
Contact: 67759083
Opening Hours: Daily 5.30am-3.00pm

If you're looking for the typical bee hoon and dishes, then you can find it at San Yuan.  I recommend that you go for their made to order dishes instead though.
Before we get to the kwap chap, I decided to get the Nasi Lemak.  This simple dish has one clear superstar on the plate, and that is the red chilli.  This chilli paste (which is made from scratch by the stall) is without doubt the best chilli paste I have eaten in Singapore - It is amazing!  The chilli is not spicy at all, and has multi-layers of flavour and a gritty texture.  Not only is the chilli to die for, but the coconut rice is also exeptional - Aromatic, full of flavour and perfect slightly firm texture.  I did find that the other ingredients, such as cucumber and mock meats were somewhat unimaginative - But this dish is a must order just for the rice and chilli.

Price: $3.00.     8/10
So here is the famous Kwap Chap.  This dish wasn't quite as amazing as I was hoping it would be.  Firstly, I must emphasise that my preference when it comes to kway chap is for it to come with two plates.  The kway soup and the dry ingredients (such as beancurd, tofu and mock intestines) to be on a separate plate swimming in a more intense dark sauce - This is how a good kway chap should look.  I simply can't appreciate kway chap when all the ingredients are dumped into one bowl.  This is definitely a decent version of the dish, and I really enjoyed the flavour of the broth, and the texture of the kway (which is so often cooked poorly) was perfect.  But if compared with Tian Yi, I still don't find this kway chap to be in the same league.

Price: $3.00.     7/10

Conclusion - I've recently been making an effort to seek out great vegetarian stalls in the West of Singapore, and San Yuan is one of those stalls that definitely impressed me.  The nasi lemak is a must order, but I am sure that there are many more great tasting dishes at San Yuan that you can explore.

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tian Yi Vegetarian - Teck Whye

I received a comment recently from a lady named Sarah, who urged me to go and visit a humble little vegetarian stall at ITE College West.  When I arrived there I suddenly realised it was the school holidays and the stall would probably be closed.  I went into the food court expecting it to be closed, but thankfully it was open, and my trip was not wasted.  The ITE canteen is open to the public, but unless you drive, it can be quite a troublesome place to get to.  From the outside it just looks like a typical trite vegetarian stall, but sometimes special gifts come in plain wrapping paper.

Tian Yi Vegetarian
Location: Blk 3 Matrix Caferteria, 1 Choa Chu Kang Grove, ITE College West
Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-3.00pm.  Closed Sunday.

The name of the stall is just 'vegetarian' on the outside, but the Chinese characters on the menu read 'Tian Yi'.  Here is a look at some of their more popular items.
At the side of the stall, there is also a more elaborate menu.  The prices at ITE canteens (and all Singapore school canteens for that matter) are really cheap.  So if you want an affordable meal, Singapore schools are where you should be going.
After speaking with the delightful husband and wife owners, I was surprised to find they had a well-known vegetarian stall formerly at block 526 Jurong West (also called Tian Yi).  This stall was so notorious, it was even featured in Shin Min newspaper - Particularly focusing on the stall owners ability to make roti prata at an alarmingly fast speed.  The wife explained to me that many of their loyal Jurong customers don't know that they moved to the Choa Chu Kang ITE (they moved to the ITE in January 2014).  I am hoping this post will reach some of their former customers, who wondered what happened to the stall. 
This duo have actually been selling vegetarian food at various stalls in the West for 16 years now.  The husband owner is always very keen for customers to try his roti prata, which he makes the dough from scratch.  This dough is unfortunately not vegan friendly, however, as the margarine he is using has mild solids inside.  Like I mentioned, this couple are really humble and friendly, and have an infectious generosity.
I heard from my reader that the Wanton Noodle from this stall is especially nice, so I couldn't resist trying it.  Overall, I must agree that this is a pretty splendid version of wanton mee.  What is really brilliant about this dish is the 'zai er' (crispy beancurd skin), which is made from scratch by the lady boss.  It is a lot thicker and puffed up than the regular kind of zai er, and is sinfully greasy.  The noodle is perfectly cooked, and the wanton has a tasty filling.  The only things I would like to see improved about this dish is fresher wantons (the skin had a texture a little too tough/stale for my liking), and a more intense tasting sauce.  All in all an excellent dish, though.

Price: $2.60.     8/10
Next dish we tried was the Bak Chor Mee.  This dish wasn't quite as impressive as the wanton mee.  The downfall of this dish was the inadequent sauce, both in terms of abundance and taste.  I also wanted to see more mushroom pieces, there was sadly no mushroom in the dish at all.  Replace the horrid mock fish ball with some mushrooms, and I would be a happier ang moh.  The saving grace of the dish is the splendid beancurd skin and fresh crunchy vegetables.  The noodles were once again of good quality also.

Price: $2.60.      6/10

Conclusion - It is difficult not to fall in love with the owners of this stall.  I do hope I can connect them with the customers they lost when moving.  Having said that, the difficult location and early closing time will inevitably make it tricky for customers (aside from staff and students) to visit this stall.  If you are able to visit though, it is well worth it.

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