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Friday, September 26, 2014

Yuan Vegetarian - Toa Payoh

For whatever reason, the best vegetarian food in Singapore always seems to come from coffee shops and hawkers.  It is only on rare occasions that I stumble across brilliant vegetarian food inside the more comfortable air conditioned Singapore food courts.  One of those exceptions, however, may be Yuan Vegetarian at Toa Payoh HDB Hub.  Toa Payoh has quite a healthy number of veggie eats around, but from what I've observed Yuan Vegetarian seems to attracted most attention. So let's find out why...

Yuan Vegetarian
Location: Blk 480, Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #B1-01 (HDB Hub - Gourmet Paradise)

Contact: None

Opening Hours: Daily 10.00am-10.00pm. 

CLOSED - The food at this stall can still be found at their main outlet YWQ Vegetarian Bistro.  For this stall, it has been taken over by another non-related vegetarian stall.

Back in 2013, the owner of this stall opened up a vegetarian bistro called YWQ, which I praised quite highly, mainly for their mind-blowing laksa.  Due to the long and somewhat unattractive named YWQ (which stands for Yuan Wei Quan), the owner has recently rebranded both outlets as simply 'Yuan'.
The stall has the typical economic bee hoon/rice and dishes, and a number of daily specials.  Rather frustratingly, their signature laksa is only available once a week (Wednesday).
Over the last few months, I have been quite a frequent visitor to Yuan Vegetarian, mainly for their Brown Rice & Dishes.  What I love about this stall is the brown rice they use.  It is pure brown rice (not mixed with white rice like most places) and always cooked perfectly.  The dishes tend to be pretty repetitive, but they are always cooked well.  I am especially fond of their thinly cut black bean bitterground, and their creamy eggplant.  The price on paper may seem high, but lets not forget this is a food court, not a coffee shop.  Moreover, the portion size at Yuan is typically very large.

Price: $4.00.     8/10
Many will be aware of my frequent high praises of the YWQ Bistro Laksa.  So the question must surely arrise as to whether their food court counterpart can boast the same quality.  The answer is no, the laksa here is not as good as their bistro.  As the laksa gravy is cooked in a much larger pot, the sauce inevitably gets a little more watered down, and doesn't have that richness that the bistro laksa has.  Having said that, this is still one heck of a laksa, which would match most of the 'so called' best in Singapore.  The gravy is creamy, aromatic and smooth, without being too spicy nor having too much oil used.  The ingredients all work perfectly with the gravy, and the minced laksa leaf garnish on top adds great visual appeal, as well as flavour.

Price: $4.00.     8/10

Conclusion - There is a reason why this stall attracts such a large number of Toa Payoh residents.  The rice and dishes is always fresh (although tends to sell out a little too fast) and their daily specials are also excellent.  For my money, this is definitely the best vegetarian eatery in the Toa Payoh region, definitely a place I suggest you visit - Particularly on Wednesday, then their laksa is available.

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

123 Vegetarian Food - Clementi

I got a message recently from a gentleman named Freddy, who suggested that I head to the industrial area at Pandan Loop to visit his fathers stall.  Freddy is a vegetarian since birth, and his parents have been vegetarian for over three decades.  I must admit I am always reluctant to go to industrial area vegetarian stalls, as I'm skeptical as to whether my readers will bother to go to such an ulu place for food.  But, I believe someone who has dedicated their lives to promoting vegetarian foods deserves that light to shine on them, whether people will visit or not. 

123 Vegetarian Food
Location: 99 Pandan Loop, 123 Coffee Shop

Contact: 83649148 

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 6.30am-2.00pm.  Closed on weekends

Now, be prepared for confusion - This stall is located at 99 Pandan Loop, but the block name is actually 101, but on the map it is simply known as block M.  But wait there is more.  99 Pandan Loop, which is actually block 101 (also called building M), goes by the name 123 coffee shop - Good luck.  The uncle running this stall (which has no name, other than 'vegetarian') has been at this coffee shop for eight years.  His main business is actually distributing packets of economic rice to the nearby factories - He was in the process of doing a large order when I visited.  He told me he packs 200-300 portions per day.  He is quite an evangelical character, who will happily share his Buddhist philosophy. 
The uncle running the shop had his hands full, so very limited dishes were available when I visited.  So I first selected the Economic Rice & Dishes.  For an industrial coffee shop, I must say the dishes served were fresh and of good quality.  The potato and long bean were very well cooked, and tasty.  After taking this picture, I went back to pour some curry sauce on the food - Which really brought the food to life.  My only qualm was they didn't serve brown rice, which would have served as a healthier choice, opposed to white rice.

Price: $3.00.     7/10 
Unfortunately the uncles char kway teow was unavailable, but with some persuasion I managed to convince him to give me Fried Rice.  As this is an eggless fried rice, I tend to be more lenient in my verdict.  As I have mentioned before, fried rice really feels like something fundamental is missing when egg is not present.  So considering this rice was without egg, it was pretty well done.  The ingredients were well cooked, and the rice did have a good amount of flavour.

Price: $3.00.     7/10

Conclusion - If by some freak occurrence you find yourself in the Pandan Loop industrial area, then this is definitely a place worth heading to for lunch.  I do hope some of my readers will find the time to visit this uncle, as it does seem like he has dedicated a lot of his life to serve vegetarian food.  Next time I will try his char kway teow.

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

E Veg - Serangoon

A lot of vegetarian eateries have been cropping up around the recently constructed NEX Shopping Centre.  Mainly because there is no vegetarian eatery inside NEX, therefore strict vegetarians will have no choice but to venture outside.  This stall opened about six months ago, and goes by the English name E Veg - Although it is more easily identifiable by its Chinese name 益素食.  The character '益' (yi) means 'beneficial' in English.


E Veg
Location: Blk 262 Serangoon Centre Drive, #01-85

Contact: 81010028 

Opening Hours: Daily 5.30am-10.00pm.  Closed on Monday (once every two weeks). 

The owner of E Veg clearly scouted the area well before opening this stall.  Firstly, he is the only vegetarian stall that opens in the evening (even though there are now a total of three vegetarian eateries at block 262) - So in the evenings this stall will be your only option.  Moreover, for those boring individuals who want to take economic rice and bee hoon all the time, he gives this option - Which places like Miao Shan don't.  The owner of this stall used to operate a vegetarian stall at Changi airport T1, in the staff canteen.

In addition to economic rice, this stall also features a host of daily specials.
The price may seem a little shocking for this Crispy Noodle, but to be fair the portion was quite large.  However, it was quite a bland dish overall.  The dark brown sauce was particularly one dimensional, and the ingredients inside were trite and typical.  Basically, conjure up the most stereotypical 生面 that you can think of, and this is what this dish is like.  What I like to look for is cooks/chefs that think outside the box, not do their best to be as unimaginative as possible.
Price: $4.50.     6/10

Next dish I tried was the Lor Mee.  When done badly, lor mee can be one of the most jialat dishes around.  It can give one a heavy and tired feeling after consuming.  It is only places like Onn, Miao Shan and Delicious Vegetarian that can capture the flavour of lor mee, without it weighing too heavy on the customers.  The lor mee from this stall was very average, even after I overloaded it with vinegar, I still found the taste to be really flat.  There were a nice variety of ingredients inside - Such as mushroom, tofu, beancurd - But, like all lor mee, it is the gravy that makes or breaks the dish. 

Price: $3.00.     5/10

Conclusion - The owner of this stall seems very nice and friendly, but with Miao Shan just a stones throw away, I don't think I would consider returning to E Veg again.  The food quality between E Veg and Miao Shan is really worlds apart - But when E Veg have had more time to establish themselves, then perhaps the quality will improve.  Whatever the case, it is always good to have another vegetarian option near to NEX.

Overall Rating
Food - 5/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 6/10

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Xin En Vegetarian - Clementi

There will be a lot of reviews coming on my site soon in and around the Clementi area.  Today I will be featuring Xin En Vegetarian, or in Chinese known as 心恩素食.  The character 心 means 'heart', while 恩 translates to 'grace/kindness'.  This stall has only recently opened, and sells a number of daily specials, such as bak kut teh, mee siam, dry noodle etc.  They have had the most positive feedback for their mee rebus, which is available on Fridays only.

Xin En Vegetarian
Location: Blk 710, Clementi West Street 2 (Gourmet Street Coffee Shop)

Contact: 93282007 

Opening Hours: Daily 6.00am-3.00pm.  Closed on alternate Sundays. 

Nothing much was available on the day that I visited, so I picked out Tahu Goreng, to have on the side.  Nothing special to note about this dish, I was really hoping that the thick sauce on top had more kick to it - But instead, it was quite mild, with little flavour leaping out.  This is quite dangerous, as tofu is used, which is essentially a blank canvas.  Acceptable, but not something I would order again.

Price: $1.20.     5/10
It was nice to see a coffee shop bother with the plating, with curved white plates used, instead of the horrendous yellow or red plastic plates typically used in hawkers.  The plating isn't up to the standard of Onn, but good enough.  This Dry Noodle dish was one of the daily specials, but overall it made for a pretty disappointing experience.  The major letdown in this dish was the total lack of flavour.  The 'sauce' (to call it such feels almost an insult to the word) had the consistency and taste of plain water.  I don't know what other vocabulary to use to explain the sheer lack in flavour of this dish.  The only plus was that good quality char siew was used, and that at least brought some sweet and smokey flavour to the dish - Everything else was completely void of flavour, with salt desperately needed.

Price: $2.50.     3/10

Conclusion - With Xin En being new to the vegetarian scene, perhaps it will take them a while to (for lack of a better term) get their act together - So I don't want to be too harsh in this review.  Having said that, it would be sheer negligence on my part to overlook the flaws that were present in the dishes that I sampled.  Let's hope things get better.

Overall Rating
Food - 4/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 6/10

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chang Qing Zai Vegetarian - Hougang

Whenever I am deciding which eatery to review next, I always check my list of recommendations that my readers give to me.  Recently, I was contacted by an individual urging me to head to Hougang to try this forgotten vegetarian stall.  If you're thinking of visiting, it is best to go during the day.  The founding uncles son takes over at night, and rumour has it his dishes can't reach the levels in quality that his fathers can.  The name of this stall in Chinese is 長清齋, which translates roughly to mean 'forever clear vegetarian'.  This stall has been in existence for a staggering 25+ years now.  The coffee shop is located a stones throw away from Serangoon Junior College.

Chang Qing Zai Vegetarian
Location: Blk 703 Hougang Avenue 2

Contact: 97255020 

Opening Hours: Daily 6.30am-9.00pm.  Closed on alternative Mondays and Wednesdays (call in advance) 

Here is a look at the dishes available.  This stall is particularly well-known for their char kway teow.
I heard a lot of good things about the Char Kway Teow from this stall, so it was only natural that I would order it.  What attracted to me to this dish was the rumours that this dish had high amounts of wok hei (the aroma of the wok being absorbed into the food).  It is important to differentiate between being served wok hei food and 'chao da' (burnt) food.  A good chef doesn't need to char or burn the ingredients to get wok hei.  This version of char kway teow was definitely delicious, and had lots of smokey aroma - But the ingredients were more 'chao da' opposed to cooked with wok hei.  Nevertheless, a fully satisfying meal and a huge portion, so certainly worth the price.

Price: $4.00.     7/10
I wanted to test the uncles ability to cook with wok hei one more time, so I also ordered the Fried Rice.  Frankly speaking, even as a vegan, I must concede that fried rice just isn't the same without egg.  Since turning vegan, I can't recall consuming an eggless fried rice that I felt was good.  Out of all the eggless fried rice that I've eaten, this would probably be one of the best.  I do have to mark the dish down for two reasons though.  Firstly, like I mentioned earlier, the food is chao da, not wok hei.  Secondly, there were quite a number of white rice clumps lurking inside.  Having said that, everything else about this dish I absolutely adored - Worth ordering.

Price: $4.00.     8/10

Conclusion - I'm hoping after this review, Hougang's 'secret' vegetarian stall will no longer be a secret.  Definitely this is a stall that is worth visiting.  The shy softly-spoken uncle who runs this stall has a sweet and gentle nature, and without doubt he can cook up a pretty mean fried rice.  Go down and support this stall!

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Green Room Cafe - Ang Mo Kio

I have featured The Green Room Cafe once before on my blog, many years back.  Since that time, this restaurant has undergone many different transitions.  At one point, they converted their menu to almost entirely raw vegan.  Now, as of 2014, they are no longer going with the raw 'concept', instead they offering a new all vegan menu.  One thing can't be denied, the ambience and setting (inside Bishan park) is one of the best in Singapore.  A slow peaceful (well, by Singapore standards) walk at the park is a perfect way to conclude a meal from Green Room.

The Green Room Cafe
Bishan Park II, 1382 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1
Contact: 65561533

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12.00pm-3.00pm & 6.00pm-10.30pm.  Weekends 11.00am-10.30pm.  Closed Tuesday.

CLOSED DOWN - As of 11/10/2014

Daikon Pancake was the first dish that came to my table for this meal.  For Buddhist customers, you may want to avoid this dish, as it contains onion and garlic.  I liked the added alfafa sprouts on top, but overall this pancake was a little on the bland side.  It was thick enough to be substantial, and still had a nice crisp texture on the outside, but the actual flavour could have benefitted from some enchancement, so that it could stand out more - Especially considering the price. 

Price: $8.00.     6/10

For my main course, I picked out Rendang Tahu.  This dish is an alternative take on the synonmous Minangkabau dish.  For the vegetarian version, mushroom or mock meat is typically used.  But as Green Room doesn't use any mock meat, they used tofu instead.  I must admit, mushroom stem would probably have been a better choice to go with the rendang sauce - But nevertheless, the tofu was not a complete disaster, and then rendang sauce was pretty good.  Multi-grain rice (organic red, brown and black rice) is on the side, in a cone shape.  This was definitely my prefered dish out of the two that I sampled.

Price: $13.00.     7/10

Conclusion - With a 100% vegan menu, no mock meats, no MSG, no preservatives, no flavourings and sauces made from scratch (all made with fresh ingredients) - And a perfect setting to boot, all signs would point to Green Room being one of the most successful veggie eateries in Singapore - But for some reason it is not.  I can't quite put my finger on why that is. 

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

Friday, September 5, 2014

Jian Kang Healthy Vegetarian - Toa Payoh

For today's review I find myself in Kim Keat Market & Food Centre.  This hawker centre is home to a few stalls that have achieved nationwide recognition, most noticeably Dove Dessert's and their famous chendol.  But it is the vegetarian stalls in this hawker centre that interest me, and the first of those that I will be reviewing is Healthy Vegetarian.  'Healthy' is another one of those generic names (like 'Nature') that is always used for vegetarian stalls.  The actual Chinese name is 键康素食 (jian kang su shi), which also literally translates to mean 'healthy vegetarian' in Chinese.

Jian Kang Healthy Vegetarian
Location: #01-44, Blk 22 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, Kim Keat Market & Food Centre

Contact: 90286212
Opening Hours: Daily 7.30am-2.00pm.  Closed Tuesday. 

CLOSED DOWN - As of 28/10/2015.  

Recently, I posted a review of 33 Vegetarian, a stall whose owner converted to vegetarian after selling chicken rice (the real thing) for many years.  Well, the story of Mr Tong, the stall owner of Healthy Vegetarian is very similar.  Mr Tong was selling real chicken rice back at the old Toa Payoh bus interchange for over 30 years (dating back to 1970).  After many years, his wife turned vegetarian and urged him to do the same.  Eventually, Mr Tong quit the chicken rice game, and in 2006 opened this vegetarian stall.  Mr Tong is a friendly and humble character, who perpetually has a smile on his face.

 Here is a look at the menu.
A look at more dishes that are available at this stall.  Mr Tong is most proud of his prawn noodle soup.
A reader named Zhi Cheng (who kindly brought this stall to my attention) suggested that I check out the Fried Kway Teow from this stall.  Sure enough, I did.  Overall this was an above average rendition of the dish.  Typically char kway teow is a little too far on the sweet side for my liking, so I was pleased to discover when I tasted that this was a more savoury version.  There was good charring on the ingredients, which really translated to excellent flavour.

Price: $3.00.     8/10
The next dish to appear at my table was Mee Rebus.  I found that the flavours in this dish were really well balanced overall.  It had slight undertones of sourness from vinegar, the natural sweetness of potato, zest from lime and just the right amount of spice.  Coupled with that, I really applaud the cook for using fried crouton-esque pieces, which added a perfect crunchy texture.  Improvement wise, I would like to see the hideous mock fishball jelly removed.  Replacing it with sliced tofu would be much better.

Price: $2.50.     8/10

Conclusion - I must say, some of the best vegetarian cooks in Singapore are those who have been cooking/preparing meat in their past.  It is these chefs who understand what non-vegetarian food tastes like, and what adjustments are needed when making dishes vegetarian.  Mr Tong is definitely one of those chefs, and overall I was impressed by his offerings.  This is definitely a stall that I would return to.

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