Locally Good!

Locally Good!

Singapore's local good food!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Ho Yeah Cafe is one of the few places that I have been wanting to check out, but have held off for some reason for quite a while now. Being an establishment by the same folks behind Ho Yeah Nasi Lemak which has outlets at both Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Merah, the difference between Ho Yeah Cafe at Junction Nine in Yishun and the other Ho Yeah Nasi Lemak stalls is how Ho Yeah Cafe is operated as an independent shop on its own rather than being a coffeeshop stall, whilst also serving up a larger variety of food apart from Nasi Lemak on its menu.

Given how the brand has made a name for itself over their Nasi Lemak, its imperative to have the Nasi Lemak with Fried Wing. We weren’t expecting much considering how the staff here seemed particularly confused, and we did have our order mixed up initially with another takeaway customer — that being said, we walked away being pleasantly surprised by what they have to offer.

The rice was fairly good, especially given how they use short-grain rice instead of basmati rice here — soft, fluffy and sufficiently moist, each grain comes distinguishable from one another; the rice also carries a light whiff of coconut fragrance, though there is also a rather dominant hint of ginger here that steers it pretty close to the direction of chicken rice. We were also impressed with how the Ikan Bilis remained crisp despite us having made our visit during dinner hours on a weekday — most places that leave their Ikan Bilis around would have turned chewy and lost the crunch. The accompanying sambal was also pretty notable; liked how it was not overly sweet nor savoury, but comes with quite a good kick that should tingle the taste buds for those with moderate tolerance to spiciness, though one of the shortcomings of their Nasi Lemak here is the fried egg which we opted for — one that features a dry, fully cooked yolk that lacks the touch of the oozy, flowy egg yolk we usually prefer.

The star of the show here is the Fried Wing however — the batter so light and crisp; almost similar to that of KFC’s Original recipe with a slight floury texture, while the inside reveals juicy, tender and succulent flesh that was brilliantly brined for a slight savoury note that sets their Nasi Lemak so different against so many others. And if one may think that it’s just a pure coincidence how their chicken is so good, Ho Yeah Cafe probably knows that as a fact, considering how they do offer Fried Chicken (2 pcs/3 pcs) with French Fries and Fried Spring Chicken with French Fries as an actual offering on the menu — a testament to how good their fried chicken is to be offered as an individual item on their menu.

To be really honest here, I probably wouldn’t dine here if I were to be in a rush for time — food preparation was a tad slow for a shop that is seemingly of a fuss-free, neighbourhood-ly setup, which took an estimated time of 15 minutes from our orders to be taken to it being served. That being said, it’s probably one of the hidden gems of Nasi Lemak awaiting to be discovered — the plus point especially going so to their stellar fried chicken which I am definitely going for as an individual item with French Fries if I were to make my next visit to this Junction Nine outlet; somewhere that residents in the area should most definitely check out if one has time to wait!

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Hadn’t really visited The Rice Bowl at Sim Lim Square for quite a while — a lesser used option for lunch around the office these days somehow, but kinda disappointed how the Cereal Chicken Rice didn’t really age well after a change of ownership.

Prior to the revamp of the space into the brightly coloured establishment that it is now and when wok-fried rice dishes are served on ordinary plates than in a mini-wok atop a basket, the Cereal Chicken Rice is one of my favourite dishes to order here — generous sprinklings of crisp cereal flakes that is buttery and sweet that has been wok-fried with the chicken chunks; came with crisp wok-fried curry leaves and chili padi for a slight heat to tingle the taste buds. The Cereal Chicken Rice now comes with fried bits of egg white; not a bad addition though these are a little difficult to nail down well with their tendency to soak up grease and turn soggy after being left there for a while, not to mention the reduction of the portion of wok-fried cereal to just mere clumps of over-fried, sugary clumps of crunch that felt not only odd, but barely integrated with the entire dish. Thankfully the curry leaves and chili padi still pretty much retained the texture and flavours that it was supposed to, while the sunny side-up was a little inconsistent with another order coming with a runny yolk, though this one came with a fully-cooked yolk. That being said, it’s of a very different breed from the Cereal Chicken Rice that I was used to having here — not really something I would settle for gastronomic value.

All the talk about Tanglin Halt Food Centre seems to revolve around the two food centres of the late, but there are also other F&B establishments such as Cui Xiang Yuan Restaurant and The Milky Way that are both worth mentioning around this quaint estate that has garnered plenty of media attention lately.

With its beginnings from a neighbourhood cafe serving up waffles and ice-cream alongside specialty coffee, The Milky Way has since seen a switch of hands and is run by the same folks behind Aw’s Signature Minced Pork Noodles from Tanglin Halt Food Centre Blk 1A for quite a while now, which offers their signature minced pork noodles with a variety of other dishes such as braised pork rice and curry chicken alongside the original items which The Milky Way used to serve. With the signature dish only available with Kway Teow, Bee Hoon, Yellow Noodles or Rice for the option of carbs, we went for the Kway Teow — the portion is pretty generous at $5.80, where one will get a bowl of noodles, accompanied with a bowl of pork broth containing the minced pork, fish dumpling, prawn and egg. Unlike the usual minced pork noodles from most other stalls, the version here sees a sauce blend that is almost akin to that of Ipoh Hor Fun; exceptionally fitting for the Kway Teow we have ordered, and comes just vinegary enough to cut through the savouriness — the Kway Teow being smooth and slippery and laced with the sauce for a slurpy goodness. The minced pork provides a meaty bite, but the pork ball comes crisp on the exterior whilst meaty inside. The elements in the pork broth are fresh as well, minced pork, pork balls and shrimp were all pretty fresh; the pork items devoid of any undesirable porky stench, while the prawn is succulent and firm to the bite, carrying a distinct sweetness from its freshness. There, the fish dumpling was bouncy and chewy, providing a tactile bite while the silky egg was a crowd pleaser; the spinach providing a wholesome feel. The broth also carried a light note of meatiness, but otherwise remained pretty clean.

Aw’s Signature Minced Pork Noodles was already a spot that has its own following since their days at Tanglin Halt Food Centre, and it’s obvious why — despite serving up a rendition of minced pork noodles that may be unique to their own perhaps even not quite up to the tastebuds of most, it’s a really hearty bowl that is made with a lot of heart. Despite serving this up in a cafe setting, prices are kept pretty affordable, which also makes it a fairly appealing option especially if the food centres are crowded with folks checking out the hawker stalls there before its impending fate of being demolished due to the en-bloc status of the entire estate. Perhaps a spot to be added to the itinerary for those looking to visit this iconic estate it goes into history.

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Dropped by the relatively new Seng Coffee Bar for some post-dinner dessert, considering how I was pretty much in close vicinity of the cafe after having my dinner just a few bus stops away.

While the Chocolate Lava Cake is pretty much the go-to item here that is not just a crowd pleaser, but also rather aesthetic given how it comes in a rectangular block whilst filled with oozy, molten chocolate lava that is all for the ‘gram, I found myself going for the Cempedak Creme Brûlée instead (not about trying to make a statement here, but just my general preference for non-chocolate desserts at work here). No regrets for going for this option — the Cempedak Creme Brûlée comes with a satisfying layer of crystallised sugar that shatters with a knock from the spoon, revealing the creamy Cempedak-infused egg pudding within. While the pudding could admittedly be more well-executed given its slightly more airy and creamy texture, I liked how the Cempedak carries just a slight whiff of sweetness akin to durian, but without its pungency that perfumes lightly throughout the pudding layer. The dessert also comes with small cubes of Cempedak to further enhance those flavours — just some minor attention to detail that brings out the flavours of the dessert so ever slightly.

Seng Coffee Bar’s other offerings are pretty cafe-esque in nature, with items such as Mentaiko Mac & Cheese, Salted Egg Chicken Burger, Ribeye Steak and Smoked Salmon Egg Benedict being just a few items that have their place in the menu. That being said, I am rather intrigued by the offering of the Fried Nan Lu Chicken listed in the “Sides” section of the menu — an item that interests me for its use of the fermented soy bean curd for its marination; also something which I grew up with (mom’s cooking is always the best!) and also a side that would pair well with the various types of alcohol which they carry. Perhaps a revisit to check out the said dish is in the works soon ...

Caught wind of Sim’s Ngoh Hiang having moved to a shophouse unit of their own along Joo Chiat Road fairly recently — the establishment having grew from being an online business launched during the nation’s Circuit Breaker, to being a humble stall situated in one of the coffeeshops located in the Crawford Lane neighbourhood. It was also the Crawford Lane location that I had first tried their Ngoh Hiang — something which I found to be pretty stellar at the point of time.

Now occupying an entire shophouse unit at the ground floor, Sim’s Ngoh Hiang has also expanded its menu offerings beyond their Shrimp Fried Bee Hoon, Fried Chicken Wings and Ngoh Hiang offerings; that being said, coming to Sim’s Ngoh Hiang without ordering the Ngoh Hiang is kinda missing the point — or so, I would have thought. To be really honest here, it could have been by sheer luck that I have gotten my Ngoh Hiang come freshly-fried upon order during my first visit to their Crawford Lane location; the ones here felt less stellar considering it lacked the crunch and piping hot temperature that I had during the first impression, though it could have been partially due to the fact where I was also waiting for the Fish Ball with Noodles (Dry) to arrive before going for the first morsel. That being said, I still like how old-school the Ngoh Hiang here is — meaty, yet filled with loads of chestnuts for a crunch whilst being well-packed without the meats coming loose from within; all that while not being particularly greasy despite being a deep-fried item. The accompanying chili was also as stellar as before; zippy, tangy and carrying a good spicy kick with a hint of raw chili seeds, putting the “hiam” in “hiamjio” as they call chili in Hokkien.

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May’s Kafe is no stranger to me; it’s existence at Beauty World Centre has been well noted during my days as a student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and SIM — not really one of the spots which I would visit back then, but they do seem like a pretty popular establishment with residents in the area for its pretty homey fare and ambience. And so when I have found out about their new outlet at The Bencoolen just a short walk from the office, I was pretty intrigued to give it a try.

The Stir-Fried White Bee Hoon comes default without the Otah and the Luncheon Meat — both are add-ons with their respective charges and available separately, though hungry, greedy me decided to have both. The Stir-Fried White Bee Hoon feels closer to a stewed white bee hoon with silvers of carrots and other vegetables stir-fried within — not much of a wok-hei here, with the rice vermicelli still being sufficiently moist; rather homey flavours here with some shallots added for a slight garlicky note. The sunny side-up comes with a runny egg yolk; something which was a surprise given the sort of establishment it is where details like these often get thrown out of the window, while the Otah (hidden behind the egg) comes sufficiently spicy and soft — not surprised if this was a supplied item but I would not expect anything else either. The Luncheon Meat also was fairly decent; felt more steamed than pan-fried; not too salty, nor greasy, while the chili was almost akin to the sambal served with Nasi Lemak that provided a slight sweetness aside from a moderately spicy kick that most should be fine with.

May’s Kafe is one of those establishments that serve truly simple, comfort fare for those who are looking for a taste of home — from sandwiches and toasts to local classics such as the Laksa; it’s little wonder how they seem to be popular with folks of an older age group looking for something fuss-free. Have heard much about toasts and sandwiches which are fairly decent despite being simple offerings — guess that will be what I am trying the next time I am here to pair it with the Kopi Gu You that they have on the menu.

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Another day, another plate of Nasi Lemak — Downstairs had recently shifted from their former premises at Changi Business Park to Suntec City; still occupying a space in the basement of the mall and holding true to its name, the move is also something I am pretty glad considering I have had always wanted to try them out, but their limited operating hours and location were a little out of the way for me.

Still carrying their void deck theme, the place is decked with a familiar stone chess table and letter boxes that one usually will be able to find in HDB void decks of the past. Offering local eats such as Nasi Lemak, Wanton Mee, Chicken Chop Hor Fun and more, we went for the Har Jeong Gai Nasi Lemak — a slight twist to the local Nasi Lemak which sees three Har Jeong Gai (Prawn Paste Chicken) drumlets served with omelette, fishcake and sambal. Despite looking quite sparse and lacking Ikan Bilis and peanuts, their rendition of the Nasi Lemak was actually pretty respectable — the use of Jasmine Rice for this rendition steers away from the other Nasi Lemak that we have had recently, which comes served with basmati rice instead. That being said, the rice comes immensely fragrant — seemingly powered more by Pandan leaves with a slight whiff of ginger in its finishing notes. The Har Jeong Gai was decent as well; sufficiently crisp on the outside, yet carrying a hint of umami-ness with the juicy flesh within. The other elements such as the egg omelette felt rather pedestrian, though the fish cake does come with a crisp exterior; the sambal chili carrying a hint of sweetness whilst being mildly spicy — suitable for those who have lower tolerance of spiciness, whilst coming with Ikan Bilis for a soft crunch.

Glad that Downstairs had finally relocated to somewhere more convenient — makes for a good option for local fare with an ambience; the food was of a pretty good quality for its price with all items coming below $10 (most being in the range of $6 to $7). Given how I find myself in this area more often than not, this is likely a spot I would find myself dining at for those random days which I am not sure what to have around this part of town.

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Hadn’t really been this enthusiastic about Tenderbest group’s concepts in the past, but my recent visits to Tenderbest Makcik Kitchen at [email protected] had me fairly impressed — and that’s how I found myself heading down to Kedai Kopi when they had announced the opening of the coffeeshop concept.

With many tenants located under one roof in this Muslim-friendly concept, we ended up ordering from a few stalls such as Mee Bagus (i.e. the Muslim-friendly alter ego of Gimee Face 爱面子 that has stalls in Hougang and Ang Mo Kio), Mr Teh Tarik Express and Joy Satay. This item came from the menu of 380 Nasi Lemak — a stall that is seen as a revival of Nasi Coco which was previously situated at NeWest, and is aligned with the same Muslim-friendly theme of the coffeeshop. While the other elements were actually pretty well-executed here, the main star or the show here seemed to have fell a bit short — the XXL Crispy Chicken Leg seem to have lost most of its juiciness from being pre-fried and displayed at the counter for an extended period of time; the batter being a tad limp, though retaining much of the crunch, but the flesh being rather tough and dry. Otherwise, the other elements are pretty commendable — the basmati rice came infused with an evidently aromatic coconut-y fragrance with the grains being pretty fluffy, and the sambal being a nice mix of sweet-savoury and carrying a moderate punch of spiciness that most folks should find easy to handle. The Ikan Bilis also remained crunchy, while the sunny-side-up comes with somewhat of a runny egg yolk.

While this item from 380 Nasi Lemak does come with hits and misses and definitely has some room for improvement, Kedai Kopi is certainly a spot that remains as an appealing option to dine at if in the area for both Muslims and Non-Muslims. Of particular mention, we found the Seafood Laksa from Mee Bagus to be delicious — sufficiently “lemak” with an evident hint of flavours from the rempah spices, and coming with hum, fish cake, and prawns. Crowds seem to be a little crazy given the press coverage on this place lately though — you have been warned!

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Visited Tun Xiang 豚香南洋馆after coming across the place on social media recently; a new F&B establishment which had recently opened its doors within Bedok Mall, taking over the former premises of the now-defunct Streats outlet there. The establishment focuses on serving up roast meats with the use of Iberico Pork, whilst also serving up a variety of sides featuring the same; beverage options are very much limited to local drinks such as Nanyang Coffee/Milk Tea, Milo, Barley, Luo Han Guo, soft drinks etc.

Wanting to try the best of both worlds, my choice of main was the Signature Iberico Pork Belly Char Siew + Roasted Chestnut Pork Noodle; the same is also available being served with rice at the same price, and also available in two sized — Medium or Large, which I went for the former. Unlike the typical roast meat noodles around, the noodles here; whilst being the standard mee kia often found elsewhere, comes swimming in a dark sauce that is similar to that of Lor Mee — gloopy and dense. Not sure why they had decided to go for such a direction here, considering the noodles does become soggy given the heaviness of the sauce, whilst also not helping with the general feel of the dish considering its heavy notes of savouriness, though it does seem to mask quite a fair bit of the alkaline taste of the noodles and slightly more bearable when one mixes the sous-vide egg in. Otherwise, the meats were pretty decent; the Signature Iberico Pork Belly Char Siew and the Roast Chestnut Pork being both reasonable tender, not too dry and came void of any undesirable porky stench; the former being drenched in a sweet sauce for flavour and a good mix of fatty and lean parts to provide sufficient bite, whilst the latter came evidently savoury from the spice rub with fatty parts that carried a good bite, and a crackling layer of crispy skin over the top. Felt that the noodles could also come with some bak choy to strike a more wholesome balance, whilst also giving a textural contrast with its crunch that may make the dish slightly easier to finish.

Being an establishment which focuses on Iberico Pork, it seems that Tun Xiang 豚香南洋馆 has given the meat justice — the roast meats are actually of a rather decent quality and does seem like a fair attempt on putting a hipster touch on the typical roast meat that is usually found in coffee shops, food courts and hawker centres. That being said, there is certainly some room for improvement, and there are some things that do not seem to gel too well together here in the finer details — still a pretty decent option to go for within the mall, and somewhere that roast meat lovers should check out if they are into alternative variants of the classic dish for the experience.

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Previously located at Hong Lim Food Centre, Beng Who Cooks needs no introduction — serving up their “atas cai png” within the food centre, they are also known for starting Beng Who Cares Foundation; an initiative that provides free meals for those who are in need during the “Circuit Breaker”. They have since moved out of their premises at Hong Lim Food Centre, and is now situated at Neil Road just a few doors down from Epiphyte. Serving up different menus for lunch and dinner service, the lunch menu carries rice bowl and salad bowls being served, whilst offering a good variety of tea and alcohol for beverage options; dinner would see a degustation menu being served — a daring shift away from what they were previously known for, apart from serving the same dishes from the said menu in ala-carte format.

Was torn between posting up this item and the Bak Chor Rice — both were actually really solid items that I would really crave for and return back here in the future. That being said, the Beng’s Prawn Paste Chicken deserves the mention more solely because of how they were previously known for their grain bowls at Hong Lim, and the serving of such a side is already a departure from what they were back then. The Beng’s Prawn Paste Chicken is essentially what it is; chicken mid-joints that are marinated in prawn paste with a crispy deep-fried batter; no-nonsense here, just good fried chicken with a shattering crisp fried batter on the outside that is also surprisingly light, while the meat comes all juicy, tender and succulent with the umami flavour coming from the marination — all coming with a chili dip that is akin to that zippy Hainanese Chicken Rice chili with a hint of Chinchalok that gives those weeks an extra flavour boost that also tingles the taste buds; pretty well-suited for those who are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness.

I have not been to Beng Who Cooks while they are at Hong Lim Complex nor have known them personally, but from the stories of them on social media I would say that they certainly have came a long way; earnest folks who are making a living in the F&B industry, living through the grind with passion and the drive — all that whilst not forgetting about the society. Kudos to them and the other folks in the F&B who takes pride in feeding the community; its something we should appreciate as consumers. Wishing these folks here all the best in what is to come for them!

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Yet another establishment that should not be a stranger to most, but they had since opened their very first standalone establishment rather recently at Capitol Piazza just right beside Punggol Nasi Lemak, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Food Republic that one of their stalls used to operate from.

Was pretty tempted to grab one of their newly-introduced rice bowls offered here, but found myself still going back to the Guan’s Mee Pok instead; after all, that was what I was craving for and having something apart from the Mee Pok is probably missing the point. I have only had Guan’s Mee Pok once in the Food Junction @ NEX a couple of years back, but I found the Mee Pok here to hold up very well against what I could recall. Spring noodles that comes with a bite, tossed in an extra vinegary and spicy chili if one decides to opt for both options (I wouldn’t dare to imagine their variant without both) — sends a punch to the taste buds while the other condiments play a side role here; make no mistake though considering the variety of condiments here which includes their traditional roll, dumplings and a molten lava egg, which is already more extensive than that served at other establishments. The Flavour Roll here is essentially their rendition of the Ngoh Hiang roll; seems to carry a bit more of a fish paste with a rather smooth texture, and creates a bite somewhat close to fish cake without being quite as fishy. The same also applies for the dumpling, which came much as a surprise; wrapped with a silky smooth skin on the outside. Otherwise, the other elements such as the minced meat and lard laces together with the noodles for a meatier bite; the latter could have been a little more crispy, while the molten lava egg is set to please the crowd — not only a comforting addition that is reminiscent of the Japanese ramen, but also increases the aesthetic appeal of the dish.

Coming at $6.30 a bowl, one can argue that Guan’s Mee Pok is already a premium bowl by its own, especially considering how this is very much the most “basic” version here. Still, considering the condiments included, it’s something I would not mind having any day.

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Came across the new Hathaway at Dempsey Hill through social media fairly recently — a new casual dining concept which had opened its doors at Blk 13 Dempsey Road situated right at the corner of the building, aimed to “serve modern local and Asian cuisine influenced by Singapore’s local heritage and culture”.

Serving up two different menus for lunch and dinner service respectively, the Ah Nya’s Fish Curry is an item that appears on both their Daytime and Dinner menu. Using elements such as barramundi and fondant potatoes, it is also prepared using a heirloom recipe which is well loved by the founder’s Ah Ma — the dish being added to the menu to “preserve the deliciousness of the unique and delicate recipe”. The Ah Nya’s Fish Curry stands up well to the theme of Hathaway — a rendition of a dish that is familiar with locals and is pretty much one that is also deeply-tied with our nation’s culture and heritage. What we really enjoyed here was the curry — often at times curry tends to veer heavily on either the flavours of the spices, or towards a heavier texture which emphasises more on the creaminess from coconut milk; the version here feels like a good balance of the two which was immensely fragrant, but came with sufficient thickness as certain rendition of curries from other establishments can tend to feel watered down and lack the punchy notes of the spices. The curry itself was a great vehicle for the bread stick served on the side; a crisp toast with a somewhat chewy interior that one could use to mop up all that gravy — an absolutely joy to have considering the lack of rice for the variant served here. Otherwise, we also enjoyed how the barramundi came pretty plump, flaky and with its moisture locked in; a joy to have without being too dry nor mushy, whilst not carrying an undesirable muddy odour as well. The fondant potatoes adds a modern touch to the dish; shaped in cylinders, we loved how the potatoes came grilled slightly over the top for a nice bite, whilst being sufficiently soft and easy to eat.

Must say that Hathaway is a spot that seems to have quite a bit of potential despite the stiff competition of F&B establishments that are already in the Dempsey neighbourhood. The serene setting feels close to nature; very soothing and calming — all that with food that is close to the heart yet with a playful touch for a slight twist of modernity; somewhat of a surprise element. Hathaway is a spot that embraces heritage, yet celebrates that by polishing all of that in an approach that is both refreshing, and refined. A spot that is definitely worth giving a go for those who enjoys modern approaches to local cuisine — somewhere to consider for the occasional splurge, be it for dates, or just a simple gathering with few friends; a location which I would be most excited to revisit some day!

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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