Saturday, 23 July 2011

Vege Sense

MacDonalds and its clones have given burgers a bad name. If we analyse a generic burger based on basic nutritional knowledge, it is actually a reasonably balanced food containing carbohydrates (The buns), protein (Typically a meat patty) vitamins, minerals and fibre (raw vegetables). A deeper cross-examination of the burger reveals its uglier side. First of all the buns are usually made of refined flour that has been stripped of nutrients, leaving only the calories behind. Then, the condiments that dresses up the raw vegetables contribute superfluous additives to our body. Finally, the way the meat patties are cooked, deep-frying or grilling, rendered the protein less digestable and in some cases, carcinogenic. And we have not even entered into the animal-based versus plant-based protein argument.

Sandwiches have a relatively more wholesome image than burgers though. In reality, depending on what goes between the two pieces of bread, it can either make a genuinely healthy meal or junk food in health food's clothing. For someone like me who has grown conscious of health these days, it is heartening to see fast food joints like Vege Sense offering healiter versions of burgers and sandwiches. What makes it even better is that Vege Sense is a 100% vegetarian eatery, which helps to trim my list of ommision request of certain ingredients.

Housed inside Fortune Centre of Bugis, Vege Sense specialises in vegetarian breads, particularly its deriavatives such as burgers, sandwiches and toasts. While contributing diversity to the vegetarian food scene of Bugis, which is already flooded with Chinese cuisine, Vege Sense is aware of the older demographic of its location. Thus it offers some Oriental food of Chinese origins like porridges and rice vermicilli soup. At one corner of the eatery, it also retails vegetarian bakery products from Yes Natural. Among the burgers and sandwiches, flavors range from the classic (tuna sandwich, chicken patty burger, etc) to the unusual (burdock patty burger, corn patty burger, mashed sweet potato sandwich, etc).

The Food

My English certainly had room for improvement. When I saw the word "corn patty", I interpreted it as a disc-shaped cake of compacted corn kernels. What I was served eventually was a far cry from my speculation. The patty was made of the less imaginative textured soy protein, with a sparse distribution of corn kernels and peas inside. Cooked with intense dry heat, it bear a morbid resemblance (From a vegetarian's POV) to deep fried meat minus all the greasiness. Still I had to laud the creativeness of this method of "frying" the patty. Besides the patty tasted quite good if one ignored the store bought processed food feeling that came with it.

Compared to the patty, the buns were the relatively more wholesome wholemeal bread. I was assured by the service crew that all the breads used at Veg Sense were "Su" (Vegetarian in Chinese). Since the Chinese language does not have an equivalent for vegan, I'm not sure if dairy is used in baking the burger buns here. Then again such information, though useful for blogging, had little relevance to my diet preference which allowed eggs and dairy. Anyway the buns were pleasantly soft. Due to the presence of the raw greens, tomato and vegetarian mayonnaise, the dryness of the bread hardly mattered.

Despite its imperfection, the corn patty burger at Vege Sense was decent enough, and I was referring to the version without the kechup and chili sauce (I requested for them to be left out). More raw vegetables, ala Subway, would be great for me but that boiled down to personal preference. Since I have not eaten burgers for at least a year, I have lost touch with its market price these days. However I do not consider paying S$3.50 for a meal that didn't quite fill me up as cheap.

Mashed potato is easily available in Singapore. On the other hand, mashed sweet potato is much less common. Hence, even when the service crew persuaded me to try their popular vegetarian tuna sandwich, I remained unbent on my decision to opt for this one.

With a texture almost akin to kaya (egg jam), just slightly less creamy, the sweet potato paste was thankfully not as cloying. With the inclusion of raisins to the sweet potatoes, both being naturally sweet, sugar was unnecessary (I would like to think that's really the case). The hint of nutty flavor attributed to the presence
of black sesame seeds imparted more dimensions to the overall taste, making me feel more grateful about trusting my own gut instinct instead of adhering to the recommendation by the service crew.

It also came to my surprise that flavor wise, the sweet potato paste hardly clashed with the raw cucumbers and lettuce beneath it, separated only by a slice of
wholemeal bread. If the sandwiches were made on the spot, like the burgers did, I would have requested for the omission of mayonnaise. Not that it had ruined the sandwich in any way. In fact, all the ingredients were in harmony. It was just that I preferred the natural taste of food as opposed to that derived from sauces.

At a price of S$2.50 per sandwich, one was apparently paying for the effort that went into making the mashed sweet potato sandwich rather than the portion size. It certainly made a good breakfast or teabreak, but to fulfil your hunger for lunch or dinner, forget about it.

Actually I had a higher expectation for the pumpkin sandwich after listening to the service crew's description of it. According to her, the dressing used on the raw carrots and beetroots was a special blend of in-house made almond sauce. My hopes immediately sank upon tasting it. As if failing to be "special" wasn't bad enough, it tasted just like mayonnaise which I had enough of for the day. Luckily, the steamed pumpkins above managed to salvage the situation. Like the sweet potatoes, pumpkins were blessed with a natural sweetness that was easily brought out by any light cooking methods. Furthermore, steamed pumpkins were hard to find when one dined outside, therefore I would rather focus on relishing the soft chunky bits of it instead of finding fault with the dressing, that was not exactly awful afterall.


To consider the food at Vege Sense to be at the "die-die-must-eat" level of excellence is a little over-rated. Still it is good enough for me to like it. What prevents me from dining there more often is the small portion size. Bugis is approximately a half an hour trip from where I stay, so by the time I reach there, a light meal can hardly satisfy my hunger.

Address:190 Middle Road, Fortune Centre, Level 1
Opening Hours:-
Bus Service:-
MRT Station:Bugis

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