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Ma La Fanatic

Ma La Fanatic

Featuring Fat Bird (Bugis), The Workbench Bistro, Upin Hot Pot (Clarke Quay Central), Green on Earth, The Frontier (NUS Science Canteen), Jin Jin Eating House, Xiao Jun Gan Chuan Chuan Xiang (Beach Road), Food Junction (HarbourFront Centre), Wang Xing Mala Kitchen, Ah Xin Malatang
Melissa Chee
Melissa Chee

It’s been quite a while since I’ve visited Jin Jin for their MLXG but it looks like their popularity with the supper crowd hasn’t changed. They’ve changed their serving bowls, that’s for sure, but the ingredients offered are pretty much the same. Thankfully the ingredients are weighed separately so you don’t lose out too much if you spam vegetables. This bowl for two with one bowl of rice cost us $18.20 which wasn’t too bad.

I ordered medium spiciness and less oil, and somehow it didn’t quite hit the spot as it did before. The Ma la wasn’t very spicy, and not numbing at all. Still, since it has a good range of ingredients - especially vegetables and mushrooms, I’ll be back again from time to time but I’ll probably get the extra spicy instead.

In line with the ma la craze, The Workbench Bistro serves up 麻辣 pasta in their innovative menu and honestly it satisfies ma la cravings even better than most ma la stalls. They don’t shy away from using Szechuan peppercorns here, so be ready to feel your tongue go numb. It’s not uncomfortable at all, the feeling is actually super addictive! The linguine is done al dente, and is coated with a nice amount of chilli oil so it’s not too dry nor too slick. There’s tons of garlic, peppercorns and some chillies inside, which makes the pasta very fragrant. I felt that medium spicy wasn’t spicy at all, but that varies from person to person. If you do eat spicy food regularly, just go straight for the 大辣. The fried chicken cutlet was also pretty good. The batter is very crispy, and the meat is quite tender. For the ma la pasta, the chicken was coated with some chilli powder and it went very well with the linguine.

With such awesome ma la pasta, I’m definitely coming back to The Workbench Bistro!

From Piao Xing Ma La stall:

Visited on a Sunday night and it was slightly easier to find seating at Food Republic. However, I was quite disappointed to find out that the fried mushrooms I’d read about in the reviews of this stall were unavailable, so we settled for a basic MLXG instead. The plus here is that the pricing for all the ingredients are labelled clearly above the items. There’s quite a good selection of ingredients too. These do tend to fall on the pricey side though, and I ended up with a meatless bowl (with tofu) that cost $17.70. Medium spicy was not very spicy, but it was yummy and the noodles soaked up the fragrant sauce well. There wasn’t even a hint of numbingness. Quite disappointed in this stall which was touted as the stall that brought ma la to Singapore way back then. Maybe it’s just because it’s a Sunday - guess I’ll be visiting the ION outlet instead in hopes of getting my hands on the crispy mushroom and fish slices.

For a quick fix while on campus, the MLXG stall in Frontier canteen is decent. Selection of ingredients is not too bad, there’s quite a lot of vegetables and enough meat choices. What I love the most is that there’s cheese tofu available as I don’t see it offered in many stalls. We ordered this bowl for two which came up to $17.70, and decided to go for medium spicy this time. They work via a buzzer system so you can just come back and collect when it’s ready.

I personally felt the medium spicy here wasn’t actually spicy. More of a 小小辣, but perhaps that’s to prevent the students or staff from having gastrointestinal issues. There’s not much numbingness either, which corroborates with the lack of peppercorns in the bowl. My dining partner enjoyed the bamboo shoots in particular, and I did find that they were fresh and crunchy.

An extra point to note is that the staff are friendly - the cashier asked if I wanted two bowls of green bean soup for free and I said yes for sure. I felt that the soup tasted quite bland, but the texture was on point as it had been boiled for a long time and the beans were soft. Kudos for free stuff though - great way to end off a MLXG meal with some cooling dessert.

The Chicken Pots come in three sizes - small, medium & large. The small one costs $20 and is valid for Burpple Beyond redemption - yay!

Just a look at the Numbing & Fiery pot and you can tell it’s gonna be numbing with those generous stalks of peppercorns. We opted for the 小辣 as we weren’t sure how hot it would be, and didn’t want to unknowingly torture our stomachs at 10pm. Turns out we needn’t have worried about the spiciness, because the numbing taste was what we should’ve looked out for.

The portion in the small pot was pretty good for one person and it was very cheap with the 1 for 1 redemption. There’s only chicken in the pot, but it’s tender and super flavourful. You can add on ingredients to cook (you can DIY or ask the staff to put it in directly when serving), which soaks up the amazing flavours. Would recommend putting in some beancurd skin especially if you love ma la cos it soaks up the taste pretty well! It’s worth noting that the service here is great - friendly, super attentive and helpful, they even switched to English when conversing when we had confused faces on. Would totally go back to Fat Bird not just for their hotpots, but for their Main Dishes too!

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On a quest to try all things ma la and I stumbled upon this OCK Jewel Changi exclusive flavour after my flight back. Was that a sign? I think so!

This puff really packs quite a punch. When I was buying the puff, the staff actually told me it was spicy and asked to confirm if I really wanted it. I wasn’t quite convinced that the filling would actually be spicy, but my first bite into the bright red puff proved me wrong. There’s actually some heat in the filling with a detectable ma la aroma! Not numbing, but good enough for a quick ma la fix in an portable easy-to-eat puff. The pastry is just as crisp as their regular curry puffs, although I think the puff to filling ratio is a little skewed and could do with more filling.

Sadly I didn’t manage to get my hands on the other Jewel exclusive flavour of Kaya butter so better luck next time :(

I love how this stall doesn’t bundle their vegetables together, so you can actually take as little leafy veg as you want. I also really love green and red chillies stuffed with minced meat! Although that’s common in ytf stalls, I haven’t seen that in any other MLXG or ma la tang stalls so I had to grab some to try. They have quite a wide variety of ingredients, so you’re pretty much spoiled for choice here.

The pricing system is more straightforward here as everything is $1.80/100g, makes more sense to get meat over vegetables but I really enjoy vegetables nowadays so my loss hahaha. This bowl came up to $11.80, not too bad!

There’s also a few different types of broth - for today I went for the signature bone broth. I thought this would be non-spicy as they had another ma la broth, but apparently you have a choice of spice level for this broth too! I went for medium spicy.

They take quite a while to prepare the bowl as everything seems to be prepared individually in small batches and cooked in small pots, maybe it’s better overall for the taste? Either way, I predict it would be quite a long wait if there was a queue.

The bone broth is super flavourful and yummy. We could still detect the sweetness from the bone despite the spiciness. Medium spicy was really shiok too! We were sweating after a while. While but each spoonful was so addictive we couldn’t stop. Thankfully there wasn’t much numbing sensation as I don’t enjoy that in ma la tang since I do intend to drink the soup. Overall, I really enjoyed this bowl of ma la tang and would patronise it again!

Tucked in a corner of the coffee shop at 5 Tanjong Pagar Plaza (next to Ali Nachia Briyani which was unfortunately sold out when we arrived at 1.30!), is this small but modern MLXG stall. By modern, I mean that they offer FavePay and GrabPay payment options.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the ingredient selection here, maybe because we had arrived quite late after the lunch crowd. Nonetheless, I managed to pick out my standard MLXG ingredients - lotus root, broccoli, ladies fingers, tau kwa, bok choy, luncheon meat, black fungus, enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and mung bean vermicelli. One special ingredient here is cheese tofu, which I love but rarely see in MLXG stalls. I should’ve checked the pricing before I ordered, but the total bowl came up to $10.20 - that’s when I realised that they charge a single price per 100g. So it’s actually more worth it to buy meats than veggies - however the meat pickings are quite slim. Apart from luncheon meat, fish and chicken slices, there weren’t any other meats left. Interestingly enough for the carbs choices, aside from the usual rice and instant noodles, you have the option of fried mantous! I’ve never tried that with MLXG and I can only imagine how perfect those buns would be for dipping and soaking up all that ma la goodness. I was so tempted but... probably another day!

This stall works with a buzzer system and since there was no queue, our buzzer rang within 5 minutes. I’d ordered medium spiciness, and I felt that was a good level of spiciness. You could feel some heat, but it was not enough to induce sweating. Unfortunately, this MLXG didn’t have any numbing sensation. There were some peppercorns hidden inside, but not enough to cause any tingling on the tongue. The sauce here was also saltier than other stalls I’ve visited, so many the saltiness was to compensate for the lack of numbness 😂

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I’ve eaten at this MLXG stall in the food court quite a few times and it has always been satisfying in terms of spiciness. There’s a decent selection of ingredients with the usual suspects - lotus roots, thick vermicelli, black fungus etc. What’s noteworthy here is the bean curd skin ring roll that’s available! I love having the ring roll in hotpots and it always makes me excited to see it when I can choose my own ingredients. They do charge per piece for the ring roll though.

I usually order medium spicy and it’s enough to impart some chilli taste to the food, without making you sweat, pant or reach for water. Unfortunately, don’t expect any ma (numbness) from this stall. I hardly see any peppercorns in the bowl (maybe there’s none inside at all) and I don’t feel any sense of numbness even after multiple bites. While I still enjoy the food from this stall overall, it sort of defeats the purpose of being called MLXG. Can’t say I really mind though, as I do enjoy the spiciness and don’t mind forgoing the numbness when I just want a quick and convenient MLXG fix.

I ordered the broccoli, ladies fingers, enoki mushroom, shimeji mushroom, tau kwa, fish cake and 2 meatballs and the bill came up to ~$19. The great thing about this stall is that you get 10% off with PAssion card so remember to use it. The final price was $17.30 for a bowl shared between 2 pax. Overall it was still pricey, but not unheard of for MLXG. Wish they could improve the labelling and be more transparent on the pricing of each ingredient as I honestly don’t know which ingredient falls into which category (what’s vegetable A, B or C?!).

Visited Xiao Jun Gan for a late dinner/supper at 10pm and it was pretty crowded on a Friday night! There are issues parking around the Beach Road eateries as it’s quite hard to find a parking lot so we ended up parking at Shaw Tower and walking across the street.

Xiao Jun Gan offers hotpot buffets for $25.90++, and $27.90++ on Friday, and weekends. We went for the yuan yang double broth - and the server recommended their signature ma la broth with the clear soup. This was a great recommendation. I loved the fiery heat and tingling numbness of the ma la broth which was just right. Not as numbing as HDL’s but this one was actually possible to drink (somewhat)! I especially enjoyed dipping the you tiao lok lok and fried mini mantous into this broth as they soaked up the ma la goodness! The clear soup was a good complement to the ma la broth as it was light, but the flavours started to get more pronounced as it boiled longer and we had a super flavourful broth by the middle of our meal. The selection of ingredients is good too - from a variety of veggies, fishcakes and marinated meats on skewers, to the MLXG/YTF-esque style ingredients where you ‘kiap’ your own veg, meat, seafood, tofu and more. They have fish roe filled tofu and fishcake available- yay! What impressed me was the seafood selection of scallops, crabs, prawns, and they even had octopus too!!!!

While you’re waiting for your ingredients to cook (which admittedly doesn’t take long), there’s appetisers that you can opt for. There’s sour and spicy chilled silken tofu and dou Gan which tasted great! There’s also fried mini mantous and watermelon and pineapples. This section doesn’t get refilled so often unlike the hotpot ingredients though.

The seasoning section is not bad, not as comprehensive as HDL but I’m happy as long as there’s chilli, sesame paste and peanuts. There’s also apparently a can of special oil that they leave at your table which you can mix in with the condiments at an extra cost but we didn’t go for that this round.

Note that the pot is quite shallow so sometimes the ingredients on skewers don’t get fully submerged, especially when the soup has evaporated. But the staff are quite attentive and come refill the soups often.

An extra plus is that the boss is super friendly and attentive. He’s on the ground helping out the rest of the staff to clear plates, refill soup broths, checking if the diners need anything, etc. He also told us that the ma la broth is customisable so we can make it more or less spicy/numbing. They also have an ala carte MLXG available - which we might just come and try next time!

This is definitely a place I would return to, and it’s a great supper place that opens till 7am! Whoop!

Always biding my time to my next meal. Everything in between just serves to kill time.

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