Sunday, 20 April 2014

Woo Rice Singapore @ Raffles Link (OFC)

In a place otherwise tucked away, this place would have been previously out of sight. It is in the basement walkway of the Ocean Financial Centre, next to Raffles Place MRT. 

But once you get to the walkway, you won't be able to miss this place. The long snaking queues by 11:30am on work days are the tell tale. 

Woo Ricebox, is one of Taiwan’s most popular chains for rice boxes 悟饕池上饭包 with more than 70 years of history. And this is its first outlet in South-East Asia.

We braved it one day, made it a point to arrive slightly earlier than the usual crowd. 

At one glance on the board, without hesitation, I ordered the "Soy Braised Pork Belly, Egg And Beancurd with Rice". Just look how perfect everything falls and fits together in this paper rice box. 

But everyone seem to be ordering the huge fried chicken thigh... I pointed to one these and said "one of those please." This is the Spicy Drumstick ($5), which costs almost as much as my rice box! But it was well worth it! Crispy with a light batter, succulent and full of asian flavour inside... 

Woo RiceBox
Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay #B1-03/04/05,
+65 6636 8101

Opening Hours
Mon - Fri: 11:00 - 20:30
Sat: 11:00 - 13:00

Chew Kee Wars -Soya Chicken Noodles

On a day when we had a craving for ol' skool braised chicken noodles, we thought of the old shophouse along South Bridge road. The famous Chew Kee Soya Chicken Noodles "Yao Kai Min". 

As we made our way down from CBD, we arrived at our "first" destination... 
Queues as usual... They even rented the stall next door to accommodate to more customers and provides some air-conditioning. 

We quickly sat down, ordered our usual with some Oyster sauce Cai Xin. And it was as good as i remembered it to be... Springy noodles, firm chicken, and a salty sauce.

So we had a quick wolf down. Noodles can't expect to be too filling... But the sun was out, we decided to walk down towards the Downtown line. And to my astonishment... lies just a few shops down - ANOTHER Chew Kee noodles!!!

They too served, seemingly the same Soya Chicken Noodles, and had an equal queue. 

(Story goes that, it is a tassle between brother and sister.)

We had space, and whilst the previous taste was still fresh in our minds... We ventured to try this Doppelganger! 

It took awhile before the stuck up boss would even bat an eyelid at us... She would even allow us to sit down first, neither would she take our order. That did it for me. Fail. 

Finally when the noodles arrived, you can tell that the Chicken was of a different colour and even texture than the other one. This was drier, but with a tad more pepper to the flavour. The noodles, though springier, lack the enjoyment in each bite... The vegetables that came with the dish were pathetic and overcooked. 

My verdict... The one at the original location and stall has the edge. Try both if you have the stomach and let me know your feedback!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Bincho @ Hua Bee

We were told to walk in through the back door. Because from the front, this is actually a noodle shop by day! Hua Bee is a 70 year old traditional local coffeeshop that is well known amongst residents for its "MeePok" flat yellow noodles. In fact, I heard that it was this shop that inspired Eric Khoo to create the movie "MeePok Man"! 

What a great attempt in fusion and conservation of local cultures meeting foreign flavours by Mr Loh Lik Peng, owner of famous Boutique hotels such as the iconic New Majestic and so on... 

So for dinner, there are 3 set menus you can choose from - Sakura Seven ($60), Fuji set ($80), and the Bincho ($120). 

For this dinner, we went for an assortment between the Fuji and the Bincho sets.

For appetizers, we were served a platter of Foie Gras and Chicken Liver patte, with a Uni-topped Tomago, and chilled Chicken Feet deboned.  

This is soon followed by the next course of "Assorted Sashimi" - Salmon, Tuna and Uni. 

Here, within the Bincho set, you can have a choice of Lamb, Fish or Beef - we took the latter. What was interesting about this dish was in fact not the beef, but the condiments! Three different kinds of salts to complement your meat. 

This handmade tofu, looked to me, the shape of a silky terrier (no pun intended). It turned out to be the map of Hokkaido! 

An assortment of vegetables were to follow. From Tempuras to Grilled, these vegetables weren't those you would normally find in your wet markets. 

The dish with the "hair of corn" was unique... A young part of the external of a corn, was served on the side. The baby corn stripped, laid there. The ingredients were sourced from the fields of Japan, and left much on its own for us to savour the natural flavours of growth. 

Chef Asai Masashi’s roots come from the Hyōgo Prefecture, under the schooling of Abeno Tsuji Culinary Institute. Afterwhich he had spent the next thirteen years between Hyōgo, Osaka and Kyoto. Following that he relocated to Singapore in 2002 to spend the next twelve years overseeing, leading and launching various Japanese restaurant concepts locally.

Through our conversations with him, his methods and culinary approaches were always very sensitive and light touched. Carefully experimenting and threading on the fence of the ever-evolving local palate. 

The Yakitori Platter being prepared... All the various parts of the Chicken being used here. 

My all time favourite... the Chicken HEART! (front right) But the way the chicken Liver was also prepared had me smitten (front left). 

Above we have the softbone, the thigh and the Chicken ass.

This is a Chef's special. Soon to be on the menu, he was experimenting with the flavours of how to grill this Quail. It was juicy, tender and well-marinated. Because of its size, it can be easy to overcook this small bird. 

Next, they served us a tomato... (Yes. The Japs take their Tomatos very seriously) They even named it! Momtaro Tomato. 

This dish was said to be the highlight of the diners that came before us... The "Tsukune with Egg Yolk" is actual what the Japanese term as a meatball. The mastery here lies with the mix of the minced up meat, that will create a plethora of textures within. 

The finale that we were all looking forward to was this, the Chicken Soup! It was simply such a respite after sitting through a long course, though I felt the Konoha Don could have been placed/served earlier. 

It was a long session no doubt, but with friends chatting and catching up on old times and the future, we whizzed past all those courses! 

Sakura Seven ($60)
Fuji set ($80)
Bincho ($120)
Miyabi Hotpot(Min. 2 pax, $65 each)

Donburi sets from $20 - $25
(includes appetizers, salad, pickles, karage, soup and dessert)

Bincho @ Hua Bee

+65 6438 4567

OPENING HOURS (Closed Mondays)

Tuesday – Sundays: 12pm – 3.00pm
Last order at 2.30pm

Tuesdays – Sundays: 6pm till late

Friday, 11 April 2014

Bak Chor Mee Wars - Minced Pork Noodles

What is the secret to a perfect Minced Pork Noodles @ Bak Chor Mee? First and foremost, there are two variants out there, with or without Vinegar. Traditionally, most prefer the one with the vinegar. I believe that the most essential factors are: the Noodles, the Minced Pork, the Lean Pork and Liver, and the Sauce. 

Updated May 2017

Ah Kow's Minced Pork Noodles
Bukit Batok St 31

He was my favourite second to Tai Hwa since his days in Hong Lim Food Centre. With the same consistency and texture in their noodles. Not the translucent thin noodles, but the thick full bite al dente kind. So far only a handful of them does it. Tai Hwa uses a more premium fried Flatfish but the outcome is fairly similar too - to produce a slight bitterness to complement the braised Mushrooms. Ah Kow's dumplings are OLD SCHOOL. If you know that taste, it is finely minced steamed pork with a hint of salted fish. Nostalgic. He now operates it with his wife at a coffeeshop opposite Bukit Gombak MRT. You do not need to queue at a Michelin Star stall for quality noodles. 

Noodles: Thick & Full Bite
Ingredients: Lots of Minced Pork & Mushrooms. Good Dumplings. 
Sauce: Lightly Vinegared, Balanced 
Go For: Noodles and Dumplings

Tai Hwa Hill Street
Crawford Lane

The most accredited, as the best of all BCMs. The One Star Michelin. This is the heavily vinegared one and acquired taste. The flavour of the taste is enhanced by dried Flatfish instead of the usual Pork Lard. Their noodles, or Mee Pok is firmer and slightly thicker than average, giving it more bite.

Noodles: Thick & Full Bite
Ingredients: Medium Pork Liver. Lean Pork.  
Sauce: Heavily Vinegared, Chilli paste with dash of Soup. 
Go For: Michelin experience.

Da Lian Traditional Noodles

Syed Alwi Road

What I really like about Da Lian is its unique choice to use Chilli Oil in its sauce (Visible from the picture). Makes the noodles so fragrant with each bite. Minced pork and Mushrooms are average, but with the fishballs, meatballs and fish dumpling - generous. Noodles still factory made though. 

Noodles: Translucent but Al dente. 
Ingredients: Fishball and Fishcakes. 
Sauce: Fragrant and Flavourful.  

Go For: Chilli Oil base. 24 Hours. 

Seng Huat Minced Pork Noodles 

North Bridge Road

Opened till late, this one is opposite Bugis Junction. A favourite haunt for those who party around the area of Middle Road and Golden Mile.  They offer the non-Vinegar version. The meatballs are firm and tasty, with a proper balance between the meat condiments. They ensure that it is not too wet, with a good serving of their sambal paste.

Noodles: Medium Thickness and Bite. 
Ingredients: Pork Liver and Meatballs. 
Sauce: Flavourful with Chilli Paste.  
Go For: Chilli paste. Opens late. 

Kim's Bak Chor Mee (Replacement)

558 Balestier Road

I had came all the way down to try Mr Ng's noodles but he had since retire. The stall is still running with the same name. Perhaps the coffeeshop owner hired a replacement. But it is actually not that bad. I really like this stall. Plenty of flavours in each bite, sauces from the Mushrooms and Fried Shallots and Garlic. The Pork is juicy and the Livers are medium rare. The noodles are thicker than the ones at Noi's, but can't be compared to Tai Hwa's. 

Noodles: Thick & Full Bite
Ingredients: Balanced Mix. 
Sauce: Flavourful from Braised Mushroom sauce.  
Go For: Noodles.

Puay Heng Bak Chor Mee

Bugis Junction Food Fare

And in the Food Court of Bugis Junction itself, you find a franchise of the famous Puay Heng noodles that used to be in China Square, originating from the former Capitol building. You have a generous mix of ingredients, ranging from Scallop, fried Wanton, Minced Pork and chunky Mushrooms. They serve it with a tinge of vinegar.

Noodles: Medium Thickness & Bite
Ingredients: Dried Scallop and Fried Dumpling. 
Sauce: Medium Vinegared, Dash of Soup.  
Go For: Viengared base and Noodles. 

Ming Fa Noodles

246 Upp Thomson Rd

Still a favourite of many, I feel that since they've renovated, the standard has dropped slightly. The sambal tossed in its factory made noodles is not bad, but keeps them out of the top contention of quality noodles. 

Noodles: Average. 
Ingredients: Pork Liver and Meatball. Springy Minced Pork. 
Sauce: Lightly Vinegared, Balanced 
Go For: Chilli base. 

Teochew Fishball Noodles
Golden Shoe Food Market 

Has to be one of the most simple yet savoury noodles I have had. I would liken this to a "mini wok" without the pot. I'd call this the all-in-one: Dry Mee Pok, Soup Bak Chor. Fishballs, Wantons and Mushrooms. It is no wonder that they sell out by 1pm at lunch time!

On the noodles, they are done al dente and firm, with a smooth tinge of black vinegar, the rich bitterness from the dried flatfish, sweetness from the braised black mushrooms and sambal chilli.

The soup, you can tell there's no MSG that sharpness in taste. Its sweetness comes from boiling its pork bones over a long time, blended well with the residual seafood sweetness from the fish in the fishballs and fishcakes and the dash of minced pork they strain over and over again.

Sen Ji Bak Chor Mee

May Hua Food Court (Golden Shoe)

Two brothers run this corner stall in May Hua Coffeeshop below Golden Shoe Carpark. Extremely humbled and seasoned by life, they aim to continually better than BCM offering. I heard they are shifting elsewhere soon, with the rent hike. If you do get a chance to try this, do it for the perfectly balanced sauce, the tender and springy pork, and fragrant mushrooms. Add a $2 fishcake while you're at it.

Noodles: Medium Thickness & Bite
Ingredients: Lots of Minced Pork & Mushrooms. Meatballs. 
Sauce: Flavourful 
Go For: Chilli base and Meatballs. 

Noi's Minced Pork Noodles

588 Balestier Road

I had read of the 558 vs 588 Balestier battle and decided to judge for myself. Unfortunately, I found that Noi's is nowhere close to the standards of Kim's at 558 Balestier. 

Noodles: Average.
Ingredients: Prawns... 
Sauce: Average. 
Go For: Average.

Jalan Tua Kong Noodles
Good Good Coffeeshop - Sixth Ave

Many flock here for their BCM fix, but I was ghastly disappointed. Firstly their rude and indifferent service. The noodles used are almost translucent - lifeless. And their ingredients, seems confused. With Fishballs, Fishcakes, Minced Pork, and a Prawn...

Noodles: Thin and lacked Bite.
Ingredients: Prawn. 
Sauce: Average. 
Go For: Average.

Prawn Mee Wars - Updated (Feb 2017)

Katong (Jaco) Teochew Mee Pok
84 Marine Parade Central

Tian Ci Prawn Mee
Golden Shoe Food Centre

Prawns: Halved and Thin.
Broth: Prawn and Porky Flavour, a hint of Sweet.
Noodles: Each bowl is Tossed and a Dash of Broth.
Go For: Dry Noodles!

Khoon Kee Prawn Mee
Redhill Market

Prawns: Firm Sea Prawns
Broth: Rich and Savoury Prawn Flavour. (Deep Fried and Grounded Prawn Shells)
Noodles: Tossed with fragrant Sambal mix of Garlic and Shallots
Go For: Soup

Old Hokkien Street Prawn Mee
Hong Lim Food Centre

Prawns: Fresh and Firm. Halved.
Broth: Rich Prawn Flavour, a hint of Sweet. (Deep Fried and Grounded Prawn Shells)
Noodles: Light Broth and Chilli Paste.
Go For: Soup.

Wah Kee Prawn Noodles
Pek Kio Food Centre

Prawns: Extra Large and Fresh.
Broth: Rich Prawn Flavour, a hint of Sweet.
Noodles: Slightly watery, Generous Pork Lard.
Go For: Large Prawns

Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodles
Balestier Food Centre (Formerly from Longhouse)

Prawns: Large (Halved) and Sweet.
Broth: Savoury with a strong Garlic Flavour.
Noodles: Firm and Dry.
Go For: Broth and Prawns.

Albert Street Big Prawn Noodles
Old Airport Road Food Centre

Prawns: Large (Halved) and Sweet.
Broth: Sweet with a Rich Prawn Flavour.
Noodles: Tossed Well, Fragrant with Fried Shallots.
Go For: Broth/Soup.

Noo Cheng Prawn Noodles
Adam Road Food Centre / Zion Road Food Centre

Prawns: Juicy and Springy.
Broth: Rich Prawn Flavour.
Noodles: Fragrant, Good with Chilli Powder.
Go For: Noodles and Soup.

River South @ Hoe Nam Prawn Noodles

31 Tai Thong Crescent

Prawns: Average.
Broth: Extremely Rich Prawn Flavour, by Deep Frying Prawn Shells.
Noodles: Slightly watery, but Flavourful from Broth added.
Go For: Soup. Opened till Late.

Blanco Court Prawn Mee

243 Beach Road (Before Arab St.)

Prawns: Small and Slightly Overcooked.
Broth: Rich Prawn Flavour, a hint of Sweet.
Noodles: Well Balanced.
Go For: Noodles and Pig Skin

Da Dong Prawn Mee
Joo Chiat

Prawns: Firm and Juicy
Broth: Medium to Strong Prawn Flavour.
Noodles: Dry, Fried Shallots.

Go For: Soup.

Jalan Sultan Prawn Mee
2 Jalan Ayer (Near Kallang MRT)

Prawns: Sweet and with Roe.
Broth: Sweet with Medium Prawn Flavour.
Noodles: Dry, Fried Shallots.
Go For: NA.

Whitley Prawn Noodles

Circular Road/Old Airport Road

Prawns: Big Prawns are Average sized.
Broth: Rich Prawn Flavour, slightly Salty.
Noodles: Noodles abit overcooked but with sufficient Flavours.
Go For: CBD Convenience.

545 Prawn Mee

Tekka Market, Little India

Prawns: Tiny and Overcooked.
Broth: Herbal, without Prawn Flavour.
Noodles: Dry, Well Flavoured with Chillis.
Go For: To support next Gen Hawkers.