Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ya Te Vegetarian Confectionery

This was an accidental discovery. I happened to be at Joo Seng Food Place after work for dinner (Sad, Mum ain't cooking that day). Being a relatively large eating place, I had expected to find vegetarian food. To my disappointment, there weren't any. As a flexitarian, I could have chosen something from the non-vegetarian stalls, but I wasn't in the mood for meat. Though hungry, I did not intend to compromise. Instead I explored that area a little and my efforts paid off in the form of 2 vegetarian shops, namely He Xi Vegetarian Restaurant and Ya Te Vegetarian Confectionery.

That is quite some time back, before this blog comes into existence. After I start this blog, He Xi and Ya Te are naturally on my list of places to review. On Saturday, when I was quite free, I decided to visit these places. Since Mum was free enough to cook, I decided on Ya Te to pick up something for tea break instead. Despite its location at Aljunied Lane, Ya Te is nowhere near Aljunied MRT station. However, one can take 100 from the station to reach Ya Te. The other two bus service numbers to take are 135 and 155.

Ya Te is more than just a confectionery. Apart from eggless cakes, breads and pastries, it also sells frozen vegetarian food products, vegetarian sauces and soft drinks. Due to the large array of products available, the shop has a packed feeling. Like many Chinese vegetarian food sellers, the owner of Ya Te is probably a Buddhist as well. I deduced that from the Buddhist posters pasted outside the confectionery. On entering, I could hear a Buddhist hymn playing in the background. Well, not exactly my type of music, but it certainly beat hearing Justin Bieber's songs.

The food

Pandan Kaya Cake, S$ 3.00

On the staff's recommendation, which happened to match what I had in mind already, I decided on the pandan kaya cake. According to her, they did not make this everyday, so I was lucky. At S$ 3.00, the portion size was enough for two people, unless you had a huge appetite, so the price was reasonable. Furthermore, the kaya layer, especially the slab in the middle, was quite thick relative to the sponge cake, making it even more value for money. Texture wise, despite the omission of eggs, the cake in general felt soft and smooth, and carried the right amount of moisture. I was ambivalent about the taste though. The very first thing I noticed was the cake wasn't very sweet, hence I won't feel sick of eating it. What made it a letdown was the lack of pandan flavor, a very important characteristics of this cake. I wasn't sure if it had anything to do with the the lack of sweetness.


If I have lived far away from Ya Te, I probably would not return again, since its location is a little inaccessible, and the cake I have tried isn't worth making the journey. However, this isn't the case, and I don't think it is fair to mark down the entire confectionery because of one of its items. Moreover there is a good variety of products available, so I am willing to give it another chance, though not anytime soon.

Address:Blk 4 Upper Aljunied Lane #01-06 Singapore 360004
Opening Hours:Mon - Fri, 9.00 am - 8.00 pm
Sat & Sun, 9.00 am - 5.00 pm
Closed on public holidays
Bus Service:100, 135, 155
MRT Station:Aljunied

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Five Sights Hall - Dining Hall

As promised in my previous post, I would review the food found in the vegetarian eatery of Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. To be exact, the eatery has a name, Wu Guan Tang Cha Can Ting. In English, “Wu Guan” means 5 Sights and “Tang” means hall. Please visit their website if you are interested in the significance of this name, because yours truly would rather focus on the food.

Before we get there, allow me to share some information about this eatery. First of all, getting there isn't difficult, since it is within walking distances from Chinatown MRT station. If you do not want to walk so much, then take 80 or 145. Like I mention before, there's no way you can miss the red majestic building. Secondly, 5 Sights is not opened for profit purposes, and all proceeds goes to charity. Hence do bring the exact amount (Or the amount you wish to donate if you are generous) as they do not give small changes. And finally, the most important component of the menu, the food that is, is fully in Chinese. Translation isn't my forte, but I shall try my best here.

(Left to right): char siew pastry, sesame ball, carrot cake, crystal dumpling, char siew rice, mushroom shredded chicken noodles (hor fun), char siew noodle (hor fun), mixed vegetable yi mian, mixed vegetable hor fun, wanton noodle (hor fun).

* char siew - roasted pork, hor fun - flat rice noodle, yi mian - flat egg and wheat noodle *

As I entered the dining hall, I noticed a stark contrast between its contemporary style interior design and the traditional looking exterior of the temple. I especially liked the neatly arranged paintings, which went really well with the simple lines of the brightly colored walls. As if to remind us that it had not totally forgotten its Chinese roots, decorations of oriental nature could be found at appropriate spots of the dining hall.

According to the friendly staff serving me at the ordering area, they also had white rice set apart from the items on the menu. In the end, I decided to order mushroom shredded chicken hor fun, because most of the ingredients inside were either boiled or blanched. More importantly, it was less commonly available at other vegetarian food stalls, compared to the other dishes on the menu. It was at the point of paying that I found out about their “no change policy”. After digging out all my coins, I still fell short of 10 cents. Seeing how helpless I was, the staff told me to insert whatever I had in the donation box and that I could return the rest when I come back the next time. Though embarrassed, I was grateful to be let off.

The Food

Mushroom Shredded Chicken Hor Fun, S$ 3.00

First of all, the portion size of the main dish was large relative to its cost. Furthermore, it came with pickled vegetables, which was rare for a dish that cost only $3.00. As for the soup, I'm not sure if it came with this dish by default or that I requested for it.

I started with the soup. It was clear and a little tasteless. However, one would be grateful for its blandness later on, as it helped to quench the inevitable thirst that occur when eating dry dishes. That's the beauty of Chinese food. A thoughtful cook would pair food of opposing qualities to create harmony in the dish, hence the consumer could experience a sense of balance and health at the same time.

Next up, I tried the pickles. It tasted sweet in a nice way, and I had expected it to be salty. Nonetheless, it had successfully achieved its role of an appetizer.

Now on to the main dish itself. It would be a good idea to stir the hor fun with the gravy thoroughly before eating. Usually, the cook did not do this for you for presentation purposes. During the mixing process, I thought the hor fun felt a tad too dry. On entering my mouth, however, it actually felt smooth and slippery, while simultaneously being enhanced by the gravy that was flavorful enough without being too salty. Another highlight of the dish, for me at least, was the green veges. If I wasn't mistaken, they used Shanghai green, which happened to be my favorite. Shanghai green resembles bok choy, except that it is larger and costs more in the market. Fortunately the cook did not ruin this ingredient for me. He or she managed to get the right tenderness without turning them mushy. The mushrooms were fleshy and because the gravy tasted good enough, they naturally got infected, in a positive way of course. A little flaw to an otherwise well-done dish was the mock chicken. Those shreds of gluten totally lacked the “chicken” element, whether in terms of taste or texture. All they had were the typical gluten taste that was average and forgettable. It's a good thing I asked for less “chicken” in exchange for more vegetables. Speaking of the veges, I wished they had given more of that. Perhaps next time I should asked them to eliminate the mock meat for me. In my opinion, this dish could do without it. Other than that, I still found the dish enjoyable on the whole. Purist of Ipoh hor fun might want to give this dish a miss, since chicken, being an integral part of the original dish, was not very well done.


My personal experience with this eatery is pleasant enough for me to consider visiting again in future. I'm not sure if it is coincidental, but I notice that vegetarian food sellers seem to be more polite and willing to go the extra mile to serve their customers. The staff at 5 Sights is no different. Good customer service does exist in Singapore, you just need to know where to find it.

Address:288, South Bridge Road, Singapore 058840
Opening Hours:Mon - Sun
9.00 am - 3.00 pm
Bus Service:80, 145
MRT Station:Chinatown

Monday, 21 March 2011

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food

After a couple of pleasant experiences with temple vegetarian food, I am inclined to hunt for more of such food in Singapore. With the help of Google, I manage to find out that Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple does have a vegetarian eating place.

On Sunday, I set off to Chinatown, where Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was located. Since I was in Chinatown, I thought of paying a visit to Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food, which I read about in Sunny's blog ( ). According to what I had read, their menu was random and this fact alone piqued my interest. Besides Ci Yan and Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple were quite near each other, so I decided to check out what's on the menu of Ci Yan first.

The special items on that day were as follows: 1) tomatoes carrot soup noodles 2) cold almond tofu 3) organic adzuki beans dessert. I happened to be in the mood for something moist and soupy, hence the soup noodles instantly caught my eyes. Moreover, tomatoes and carrots all fell in my list of favorite food. However, I did not want to deviate from my original plan of visiting Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, hence I moved on. The temple was found along South Bridge Road, sandwiched between Sago Street and Sago Lane. Being a huge red building, it was hard to miss. My destination was at the basement of the temple, but the poster advertisement and menu of the dining hall were pasted outside the temple on the first level, so I had the benefit of checking what's available without making all the way down. What I saw put me in a dilemma. I would like to stay on course to try out the food in the dining hall of the temple, but the items all seemed to be cooked the dry style, which was the complete opposite of my craving that day. Sunny's blog also mentioned that the special dish of Ci Yan was so random that if you missed it, you won't know when it would be cooked again. In the end, I returned to Ci Yan. Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple would be saved for future reviews.

Just a little information about Ci Yan. It declares itself to be a 100% vegetarian eatery. Apart from cooked food, it also sells organic vegetables and fruit juices. Although local nasi lemak is written on the green sign board, I'm not sure if it was a regular dish, like the organic brown rice set. I was too hungry from all that walking that I forgot to ask. Upon entering the eatery, I ordered what I had in mind straight away. While waiting for the food to arrive, I took the opportunity to soak in the ambiance of the eatery a bit. Statues of Buddha and other deities lined the wall, along with shelves of religious text, reflected the owner's devotion to Buddhism. The soft lighting and general quietness further amplified the Buddhism factor. Come to think about it, even the name of the eatery had some Buddhist connection as well. "Ci" means benevolence and "Yan" (I thought the pronunciation is yuan, oh well) means affinity.

The Food

Tomatoes Carrot Soup Noodles, S$ 5.00

Fortunately for famished me, the food arrived rather quickly. My first impression of the dish was, hey I had seen something similar in Sunny's blog before, except that it was called corn & carrot soup noodles. Back then, when I was reading Sunny's blog, I thought I would like to try that dish. Guess I was extremely lucky, to be able to get what I desired on my very first visit to Ci Yan. Since the names were not the same, I believed there were slight differences in the ingredients added. Firstly, mine contained tomatoes (two slices to be exact), which gave the soup a slight tangy flavor. I assumed the chef did not add more to avoid making the soup too sour. Secondly, I only had one piece of sweet corn. Corn did not not appear in the name of the dish, so I should be happy that it was even there. Thirdly, there were some Chinese lettuce, that was cooked just right and managed to absorb the flavor of the soup. Like what Sunny had, the chef used an abundant amount of carrots and radishes, which gave the soup that additional and crucial sweet taste. The soup was clear and light, yet very appetizing, thanks to the tomatoes. I found nothing special about the white jade noodles though. It was neither awful nor fantastic. Fit enough for human consumption was probably the most apt way to describe it. Did you see ONE tiny mushroom and ONE mock pork rib swimming in the dish? I emphasized on the "one", because seriously, that's all I found. Personally I did not mind the lack of mock meat, but a few more mushrooms would be nice. Overall the dish had a clean and healthy feel to it, yet it wasn't bland at all. My digestive system felt really comfortable after finishing the entire bowl.


Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food is certainly a place worth returning to, even if it is to check what's the special item on that day (For some odd reason, I find that fun).

Address:8 Smith Street, Chinatown
Opening Hours:Mon - Sun
12.00 pm - 10.00 pm
Bus Service:80, 145
MRT Station:Chinatown

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (KMSPKS), or more commonly known as Kong Meng San among the Chinese community, never fails to bring back childhood memories for me. When I was a child, this was one of the favorite hangouts for family outing. My parents' main purpose was of course to pray, whereas my sister and I had other agendas. Being young and ignorant back then, we loved to run around the temple. Needless to say, we disturbed the peace and tranquility of the premise, which I come to appreciate as I grow older these days. I remembered there was a pond, which according to my parents, was where people liberate aquatic animals (usually tortoise). My sister and I always commented on why our pet tortoise could never grow to the size of the tortoises residing at KMSPKS. Before we left, we would grabbed some free sweets from the altar.

On Sunday, I revisited the temple. The sky was overcast and it was drizzling, but I found it welcoming as it had been rather warm for the past few days. Nonetheless, that bit of rain hardly destroyed the scenic view of the small lake beside the temple that greeted me at the entrance. On the contrary, it added a misty hue to that area, like a Chinese painting. If my stomach wasn't rumbling, I would have stayed behind a little while more to enjoy the scenery. Heeding the call of my hunger, I headed straight towards the "zhai tang" or something like that. Sorry, I had returned my Chinese knowledge to my teachers, but I believed the words roughly meant vegetarian canteen. Compared to Singapore Buddhist Lodge, this canteen was very much neater and cleaner. There was aircon some more. I was to learn later on that the price to pay for all these comfort was restriction and a few rules to follow. Since it was my first time there, I committed some embarrassing faux pas. Although I was no stranger to KMSPKS, my parents never brought me to this canteen.

The Food

In terms of variety, there's hardly any. In case you think I'm complaining, don't get the wrong idea. I merely describe what I saw. For some reason the holy environment made me submissive, hence I did not even have the guts to complain. Anyway, the only food available were as follows: 1) a small bowl of Bee Hoon Soup 2) a plate of orange colored Fa Gao (Chinese steamed cake). Since I was famished, I chose Bee Hoon Soup. After I helped myself to the chopsticks, I noticed that the spoon was nowhere to be found. Upon searching high and low, I noticed that they placed the spoon underneath the table. Without thinking much, I bent down to grabbed one spoon only to be stopped by the volunteers. They said that if I needed the spoon, I had to ask for it. That was why the spoons were not placed in a more obvious place. I did not understand the rationale behind this, nonetheless I quickly apologized for my ignorance. Next I went through the "proper" process of asking for the spoon but they told me I had taken the chopsticks. They explained that they lacked volunteers to wash up, hence they wanted to minimize the use of cutlery. At this point, I felt really bad for the whole thing. All these while I was only concerned about satisfying my hunger, while conveniently forgetting the hard work going on behind the preparation of the meal. I made a mental reminder to appreciate the Bee Hoon Soup later, whether it suited my taste bud or not.

First of all, the Bee Hoon Soup was still warm, very appropriate for the rainy day. Apart from Bee Hoon I noticed there were a few strands of noodles as well, which I considered a bonus addition to the entire dish. Another feature that I liked was the generous amount of vegetables added, mainly the leafy greens and cabbages. If I had bought something similar outside, I would get more mock meat meat instead. The vegetables may be considered overcooked to some people, but since I preferred my veges (especially the cabbages) to be a little softer, lets just say I like it. Lovers of mock meats would be disappointed by the small amount of such items found in the dish, but for me, all the better. Despite not liking mock meats, I swallowed the two pieces found in my bowl, whatever they represented. I did not want to waste food. They did not taste awful, just that they were not my cup of tea. Thankfully I picked the spoon over the chopsticks just now. I could enjoy the soup which was full of simple home cooked goodness, unlike the cheating msg laden version found outside. I may be a Chinese, but that doesn't mean I love msg.

After I finished my food, I asked the volunteers what to do with the cutlery. Yup, no more assumptions to avoid creating more embarrassing episodes. Their instruction was to deposit the bowls at a nearby collection point. I did as instructed and left the canteen with some cash donations. I don't see myself as someone who qualifies for welfare aid, so I have no intention of eating the food for free, despite it being so. Besides, the temple food actually tasted quite good (Hey I mean it!), and I would be doing injustice by not "paying". Outside the canteen I saw a drinks stand and out of curiosity, I went to check it out. Much to my delight, the volunteers were laying out bowls of soybean curd dessert and cups of soybean milk. Again I asked if it was all right for me to take some. This group of volunteers were more friendly and they replied happily that everything there was meant for us. I took a bowl of soybean curd and was glad that it was the warm version. Although the soybean curd was FOC, the quality did not suffer. It was done the way it should, smooth and silky. The sugar syrup had the right amount of sweetness, thus complementing well with the curds. It may not be the best I had eaten, but it was decent enough. Chilling at one corner of the temple, I savored the dessert and watched the day slowly passed by.


This is the second temple food I sample, and like Singapore Buddhist Lodge, KMSPKS is sincere about providing free vegetarian meals to people. They ensure that the food is cooked properly and in my opinion, the taste is way above average. I am impressed at how they can create something simple and delectable at the same time. And here, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers involved (Even if you have made things a lil' difficult for me), for creating such an amazing meal experience.

Address:88 Bright Hill Road. Singapore 574117
Opening Hours:Mon - Sun
9.00 am - 1.00 pm
Bus Service:52, 162, 162M, 410W
MRT Station:Bishan

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Singapore Buddhist Lodge

The eatery that receives the honor of being featured in my maiden post goes to... drum roll ... Singapore Buddhist Lodge (SBL). I found out about this place through Chic Vegetarian's blog ( ) Thanks Chic Vegetarian, for your very informative and well-written post about SBL. Well, I had to admit that back then I was enticed by the words "free temple food". Actually it could be any kind of edible food, since FREE was the  main attraction here. As if this isn't good enough,  the food at SBL is served in buffet style. Yes you hear it right, FREE BUFFET FOOD, who cares if it's vegetarian or vegan or if they serve prawns to make the buffet worth the money. At least I don't (Ok I know I am cheapo).

Enough of the introduction. Now on to my personal experiences with SBL.

Kim Yam Road, where SBL was, sounded alien to me. Google Map sure made my life easier. Based on the map it was near River Valley Road, which wasn't within walking distances from any MRT station. The buses that reached there were 32, 54, 139, 195 and 195A. Being "directionally challenged", I was a little apprehensive about exploring somewhere new, even in a small country like Singapore. On the day itself, I noticed a few old folks alighting at the same stop as me. Instinct told me to follow them, and sure enough, they led me to the right place. I may not have much sense of direction, but I do have a healthy dose of common sense. Or it could be Buddha's way of welcoming me to the lodge.

The Food

For a FOC buffet, the variety was reasonable enough. Whether you are someone with light taste, like me for example, or you prefer a slightly richer tasting food, there's something for everybody. On that day, I saw three sections of food. One of the sections consisted of staples like white rice, fried noodles, fried bee hoon, etc... basically the carbohydrate dishes meant to fill you up. The vegetable curry was in this section too, since it was typically drizzled onto the white rice.

Nearby one could find the next section which comprised the accompanying dishes. Most of these dishes were stir fried vegetables such as celery, bitter gourds and cabbages, the usual fare you find at our local vegetarian economic rice stalls.

The exceptions were as follows:

  • Mock meat braised in dark colored sauce which I suspected was dark soy sauce.
  • Dried bean curd stick in a sweet reddish sauce
  • Green apple salad, which one Caucasian volunteer claimed to be very delicious.

Being someone with light taste, these were not exactly my kind of food but out of curiosity, I sampled a small portion of the stir-fried bitter gourd and dried bean curd stick (That's why I knew the sauce was sweet.). Both dishes were a little cold, just like the paid versions. However the taste was all right, and surprisingly not very oily despite the way these dishes looked. Yeah, we were taught not to judge a book by its cover.

Here comes the last section, also my favorite section, where I came here for after reading about them in Chic Vegetarian's blog. This section was made up of the congee and other soupy dishes. I saw both the plain and vegetable congee mentioned in Chic Vegetarian's blog. I tried the vegetable congee first, and thankfully it was still luke warm. For me, there was just enough taste to prevent it from being described as tasteless, but not too strong or salty that made me thirsty. I like it so much that I went for a second helping.

Next up was the soup noodles. The noodle used was the flat yellow type. What gravitate me towards this dish was the generous amount of carrots and choy sum used, and I had to admit it looked really colorful. Apart from the veges, there were a few pieces of yam inside, which I mistook for mock meat before consuming them. As far as I'm concerned, this was better off as I preferred whole food to mock meat. Although the noodles were cold already, I could tell it tasted delicious when it was just cooked.

I skipped the laksa (or maybe it's curry noodles) beside the soup noodles since I did not like spicy food. Since there were a lot of people crowding around that dish I assumed it's quite good.

And the last dish, two actually, and in my opinion, the best, were the herbal soups. They were different from the ones mentioned in Chic Vegetarian's blog, so I guessed SBL serve different types of soup everyday. That's very thoughful of them. The soups of the day were watercress soup and apple soup, both of which were common Chinese soups. Come to think of it, I should have taken the soup first, but I was a little too excited about this place that I got the order all jumbled up. Anyway the watercress soup tasted heavenly. The good taste was achieved by the use of appropriate types and quantity of herbs, unlike its msg-salt-and-whatnot-laden paid counterpart. Common herbal ingredients such as Chinese date and wolf berries were used so it tasted what the Chinese (Particularly the Cantonese) called "sweet". The apple soup tasted sweet rather than savory, no wonder I saw people using plastic cups instead of bowls to contain the soup. Nonetheless I wasn't disappointed. The apple soup tasted more like apple tongsui (Sweet warm soup), which was very thirst-quenching. What an excellent way to end my meal!

After I discarded my utensils, I saw the volunteers carrying out a just-cooked steamed tofu. Did you know that tofu was my favorite food? Well now you do. In addition I loved steamed food, as opposed to fried food. Hence this was the dish made for me. However I felt bad taking another paper plate just to try this dish. Pardon me for not being environmentally friendly, as I thought they would provide utensils that required washing after use, but it turned out that you had to bring your own. I would take note of that in future, and yes, I would return to this place again.


Before I left, I made a small donation as I did not carry much cash with me that day. However I felt they deserved way more than what I had given. Overall. I was impressed with the dishes. Despite being free, the standard was far from compromised. Like I mentioned earlier, some of the dishes were superior to the ones I actually had to pay for when I ate elsewhere. In addition there was a healthy feel to the dishes in general.

Sometimes the best things in the world are free.

Address:17-19 Kim Yam Road Singapore 239329
Opening Hours:Mon - Sun
7.00 am - 7.00 pm (I think)
Bus Service:32, 54, 139, 195, 195A
MRT Station:Clarke Quay