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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cendol Melaka - Changi Village

There are a number of Cendol variations available, such as durian, red bean, corn and glutenous rice.
I absolutely adore cendol.  There is something about the relentlessly humid weather of Singapore and Malaysia that make cendol a truly perfect South-East Asian dessert.  There are a number of cendol variations that exist, and countless stalls/restaurants selling the dessert in Singapore.  However, only a handful of stalls have gained the reputation of selling truly incredible cendol in Singapore.  Today, I am going to be testing out one of those stalls.  Cendol Melaka is located at Changi Village.  Unless you live in Changi Village, this is not an easy place to get to (incidentally there are no vegetarian options currently available at Changi Village).  

Cendol Melaka
Location: 01-2046, Blk 1 Changi Village Road
Contact: 65421246
Opening Hours: Daily 10.30am-10.00pm

The perfect remedy for a hot and humid day.
There are a number of variations of cendol at this stall, but usually I always go for the original Cendol Melaka.  Cendol is a very simple dessert in many ways, yet so difficult to perfect.  A standard cendol consists only of four ingredients - Shaved ice, coconut milk, gula melaka (palm sugar) and the actual cendol, which I will simply describe as 'the green things'.  Although simple, there is wonderful contrasting flavours that shimmer throughout the bowl.  I love the combination of the slightly salty coconut milk, matched with the roasted sugary flavour of the gula melaka.  Although it is not the best gula melaka I have tasted, it still definitely does the trick.

Heaven in a bowl.
The quality of the coconut milk and the gula melaka is decent, but it is the actual cendol that really won my heart.  The wormlike cendol have a subtle glorious pandan flavour and a texture that literally melts in the mouth.  So often commercially produced cendol is tough and rubbery with very little flavour.  For Cendol Melaka you can really tell that the cendol is homemade - The shapes are odd, asymmetrical and ugly, but taste and texture wise they are the best I have ever tried. 

Price: $1.50.     9/10

Conclusion - Not only is the cendol phenomenal from this stall, but the staff and owner are very friendly as well.  Every aspect of this dessert is excellent, but I have to give particular credit to the actual cendol (green things) itself, which were the best I have ever tried.  It may be an arduous journey to get to Changi Village, but boy is it worth it to cool off and enjoy this incredible dessert.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Chutney Mary Indian Fast Food - Changi Airport (Terminal 2)

Out of the countless vegetarian outlets that have ultimately met their demise since I have been blogging in Singapore, one of the eateries I was most disappointed to see close down was the Changi Airport T2 Ananda Bhavan.  This eatery offered a lifeline to vegetarians who were traveling, whether it is tourists or locals.  I lost count the number of times Ananda Bhavan saved my stomach prior to a long haul flight out of Singapore.  

Immediately after the closure of Ananda Bhavan, a new Indian eatery opened up in the exact same spot, which goes by the name Chutney Mary Indian Fast Food.  It is important to state straight from the get go, that this eatery is NOT 100% vegetarian.  However, currently as of writing this, it is the best vegetarian option for anyone frequenting Changi Airport.  If I ever eat at a non-vegetarian eatery, then 9 times out of 10 I will always pick an Indian restaurant - Why?  Firstly, even if they are non-vegetarian, usually around 50% of their menu will be vegetarian.  Secondly, Indians understand vegetarian better than anyone on the planet, you simply have to considering almost half your population is vegetarian.  So overall, I feel a lot safer in a non-vegetarian Indian restaurant, compared with anywhere else.  That, as well as the fact I adore Indian food.

Chutney Mary Indian Fast Food
Location: 036-056, Viewing Mall South, Terminal 2, Singapore Changi Airport
Contact: 65472790
Opening Hours: Daily 24 hours a day (never closes)

Number '29' - Here I am as officially the last ever customer at Ananda Bhavan Changi Airport on the 10th October 2015.

Chutney Mary are no new face to the Singapore scene, they have an outlet at 719 East Coast Road, which has been running for a few years now.  Moving to their Terminal 2 spot, however, is a huge expansion.

There is nice large selection of vegetarian options (Jain/no onion and garlic also) that the customer can choose from.  Similarly to Ananda Bhavan, the options here are certainly more towards South Indian cuisine.  They are known most for their chaat items, which come from all over Indian.  There is pav bhaji from Mumbai, pani puri from Calcutta, papri chaat from Jaipur, and so on.  They pride themselves on bringing an Indian street food style experience - Of course, in the confines of the ultra sterile Singapore.

First dish I tried was the Vadai.  Straight off the bat, I have to say I was incredibly impressed with the excellent quality of the chutneys at this eatery.  The white coconut chutney was slightly coarse, but had a tremendous rich and flavourful character.  But it was the tomato chutney, which won my heart.  It was slightly spicy, smooth and went perfect with these vadai. In terms of the vadai, they were fresh, fluffy and had that moreish crisp outer layer.  I could literally eat 20 of these bad boys in one go. 

Price: $4.00.     8/10

Next up was the Masala Dosai.  For those who are regular readers of my blog, you will know I was quite picky when it comes to eating dosai.  In my eyes, a dosai should be neither too soft nor too brittle in texture.  Instead, it must reach a perfect balance right in-between those two textures.  The dosai at Chutney Mary comes pretty close to that ideal texture, and has that lovely slightly sour taste that dosai is known for.  I would have ideally liked to have seen the dosai cooked for a little longer, as it was a tad too pale for my liking.  Inside the dosai, the potato masala was slightly spicy, and while not at the amazing level of of Murugan Idli, it is still certainly a decent masala.  This, combined with those mouth-watering chutney's once again, made for a thoroughly satisfying experience.

Price: $5.50.     8/10

Conclusion - Ananda Bhavan may be gone, but we have got ourselves a pretty excellent replacement.  Yes, I would prefer the eatery to be 100% vegetarian, but beggars can't be choosers.  In terms of the quality of the vegetarian food at Chutney Mary, I have to say I was very impressed, and am certainly planning to frequent this restaurant whenever I am flying in and out of Singapore in the future.

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

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Best places to experience 'tze char' cuisine in Singapore

Arguably the most shining example of how phenomenal Chinese cooking is the concept of 'tze char' 煮炒 cooking.  Whether you are eating in restaurants or hawkers, tze char food is the most common form of Chinese food preparation you are likely to find in Singapore. 
The entire coffee shop filling with smoke as the Jing Yi master cooks another tze char dish.
But what is it?  'Tze char' is a very fast and simple way of preparing made to order dishes, almost entirely coming from the wok.  It is a style of food which suits any occasion, whether it is a gathering, family meal or individual consumer.

In my opinion, 'tze char' is best eaten at night, in a sweaty (air conditioning ruins the feeling), somewhat dirty, loud hawker centre or coffee shop.  

Although 'tze char' food is plentiful in Singapore, it is actually incredibly difficult to find good quality tze char.  The main reason for this is the skill needed to produce it.  Although in terms of ingredients and time, tze char is very quick and easy to make.  The issue comes with wok skill, which is incredibly difficult for even seasoned chefs to master.  To give you an idea, out of over 450 eateries I've reviewed in Singapore, I have only met three chefs that I would say have mastered the skill of cooking tze char in a wok.  The key to any good tze char is what is known as 'wok hei' 镬气, which is essentially the smokey aroma of the fire being absorbed into the food.  Do not confuse this with charring/burning the ingredients, a highly skilled wok hei master should be able to get that addictive smokey flavour without burning/charring the ingredients in the wok.  It is not easy, but it is possible.

So, if you want great tze char vegetarian style in Singapore, where do you go? Let me show you:-

1st 我的新加坡镬气王 Jing Yi Vegetarian
Amazing flavour from this Stir Fried Sweet Potato Leaves ($6.50), crisp and smokey.

My 'king' for this post is the owner of Jing Yi Vegetarian, this is one of the most popular vegetarian stalls in the West of Singapore, and it is easy to see why.  If you arriving during the peak eating period (especially on Friday and Weekends) you can expect to wait for over an hour for your food to be served.  His skills are incredible, with easy dish having that beautiful wok aroma shimmering throughout it.

This stall is known for their hor fun, but any vegetable or rice dish that goes through the wok should be a guaranteed hit.

Full Review:

Tze Char Mastery Score:

Jing Yi Vegetarian
Location: Block 359, Bukit Batok West Avenue 5
Contact: 91811413/90669185

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

2nd 我的新加坡镬气女王 Lin Lin Vegetarian
One of the signature dishes at Lin Lin is their awesome Dry Fried Hor Fun ($4.00)

It was at this humble stall in Bedok that I really started to become addicted to wok hei Chinese cooking.  The Cantonese auntie running this stall sets her wok to an unbelievably high temperature, and when the ingredients hit the wok, it is an explosion of smoke.

Unfortunately, recently the Cantonese auntie who owns the stall retired from the kitchen, and is now employ and overseeing hired cooks to do the food, while she manages the rest of the stall.  This ultimately has led to the quality of the food dropped, as the cooks just can't match the skill of the auntie.  Nevertheless, the tze char food is still awesome, and definitely worth visiting to try it out!

Full Review:

Tze Char Mastery Score:

Lin Lin Vegetarian Delights
Blk 412, Bedok North Ave 2, 01-114, Bedok
Contact: 62427010
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10.00am-10.00pm. Closed Monday.

3rd Divine Realm Vegetarian
The glorious lip-smacking Sambal Petai with Eggplant ($10.00)

In terms of overall food quality, I personally rate Divine Realm as the best vegetarian Chinese eatery in all of Singapore.  There is a reason why this eatery ranks in 2nd on my Top 10 Vegetarian Eateries in Singapore - The food is simply magnificent.

The menu is large and diverse, and whether you want breakfast, lunch or dinner they will have a dish that you will surely be secretly craving.  I used to eat at this eatery on a weekly basis, and have really almost never had a bad dish from Divine Realm.

One of my favourite dishes of all time in Singapore is the Sambai Petai with Eggplant from Divine Realm, but I also highly recommend their Olive Fried Rice and vegetarian Sweet and Sour Pork.  You won't regret visiting this eatery.

Full Review:

Tze Char Mastery Score:

Divine Realm Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 501 Hougang Avenue 8, #01-630 (take note Divine Realm's tze char is now being served at their Jalan Kayu SHU Vegetarian outlet instead, due to complaints by residents at Hougang)

Contact: 63872058
Opening Hours: Daily 7:00am-9:30pm 


4th Keat Lim Vegetarian
Thick, spicy, rich and so flavourful - Eat this Claypot Nyonya Mock Fish with a plate of white rice and you will be in heaven ($8.00)
Vegetarian options are plentiful in Ang Mo Kio, but quality wise, they range from average to rubbish.  There is one exception to that trend, however, which is Keat Lim.  This large stall specialize in tze char evening cooking, which attracts a large crowd on a nightly basis.
They have a very large menu, with dishes to suit any fancy.  The dish that stood out the most to me was the astonishing claypot fish.   For vegans, take note that milk is used to cook this curry, therefore you can ask the staff if they can replace the cows milk with coconut milk for you.
Full Review:

Tze Char Mastery Score:
 Keat Lim Vegetarian Food
Location: Blk 108 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 (new location as of June 2016
Contact: 96932138

Opening Hours: Daily 11.00am-9.45pm
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