Friday, 29 April 2011

Lovingwell Vegetarian

Good news for the vegetarians who live, study, work or simply hang out near Aljunied MRT station. The renovation works at Choice Coffee Shop is finally completed and guess what, one of the new tenants is a vegetarian stall. For the past few weeks, I had been tracking its progress whenever I passed by that area. According to my analysis, if an eatery with multiple stalls (hawker center, food court, etc) undergoes renovation or upgrading works, there is a chance of finding new occupants, and one of them may sell vegetarian food. Although the probability of that outcome is not high, there’s no harm hoping.



From afar, Lovingwell Vegetarian looked like a typical economic rice stall. If I had not bothered to step inside the coffee shop to explore further on Thursday, I would have missed this one because its sign board was blocked by a protruding beam hanging down the ceiling. On close-up examination of the menu, I could see that Lovingwell had much more to offer beyond the standard fare such as hor fun, fried rice, ... you get the idea. I made a mental note to bring my camera the next day.

On the day itself, I saw a the word “Su” displayed in a more prominent position of the stall. Guess they realized the problem too. Initially I planned to order bittergourd steamed rice. Unfortunately, bitter gourd was not available, so the stall assistant politely suggested that I could choose another side to go with steam rice. After much contemplation, I finally settled for braised bean curd.

The Food

Braised Beancurd With Steamed Rice, S$ 3.50

One could see that the cook made an effort to present the dish nicely. He drizzled the entire content of braised tofu around the mound of steamed rice in the middle, painting a picturesque image of a garden surrounding a small hill.

I particularly liked the way the cook handled the bean curd, whereby the surface was pan-fried lightly for the fragrance while maintaining the softness and moisture inside, thus creating a very light and smooth texture. This was certainly not an easy feat, considering that silken tofu was used. Timing and the control of fire was crucial too.

Apart from the bean curd, the steamed rice deserved some mention too. It felt softer than the usual version boiled using rice-cooker. Being a lover of soft food, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The rice was very appetizing when eaten with the umami “oyster” sauce, which also endowed the rest of the ingredients with its savoriness.

Another commendable factor of this dish, to me at least, was the use of an assortment of mushrooms instead of mock meats. Chewing the succulent mushrooms was a delightful experience as I felt the oyster sauce juice oozing out with each grind from my molars.

In terms of taste and texture, I could not find any fault with this dish. I only found it a shame that they gave so little of the fresh and crisp broccoli.

Conclusion

Lovingwell Vegetarian is certainly off to a promising start, and I sincerely hope it is here to stay. After all I have yet to try my bittergourd steamed rice.

Address:56 Geylang Lorong 25A 388248
Opening Hours:-
Bus Service:2, 13, 21, 26, 40, 51
MRT Station:Aljunied
Website:-

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Xing Hua Vegetarian Restaurant

One of the questions that often pop up among us Chinese is “What is your dialect group?”. The most common answer is Hokkien, followed by a tie between Teochew and Cantonese. Just when I thought Hainanese, my dialect, was rare enough, an ex-school mate of mine changed my mind by revealing that she was a “Xing Hua Ren”. To make things easier for us, she said that we could think them as a subset of the Hokkiens, since their original homeland at Putian, is located on the eastern coastline of Fujian (Chinese translation of Hokkien) province, China.

In recent years, the rise of Putien Restaurant in Singapore has raised the profile of the Xing Hua dialect group, particularly its cuisine. Xing Hua cuisine is characterized by its simple and unadulterated flavor through major use of fresh produce. Due to the coastal location of Putian, seafood is highly utilized in their cooking, either as an ala carte dish or as ingredients in one-dish meals. Speaking of one-dish meals, we have to make a special mention of Xing Hua Bee Hoon (Rice Noodle), a specialty of Putian. It is famous for being extra fine and white, when compared to the local version.



Since Putien Restaurant serves meat, vegetarians are left out of this trend. Fortunately, Xing Hua Vegetarian Restaurant is set up so that vegetarians get to sample the craze behind Xing Hua cuisine. Located inside Fortune Center, Bugis, it is owned by Lin Mei, a China-born immigrant, and her family. To ensure authenticity in their cooking, the establishment hires mainly PRC people. The use of processed mock meat, especially konjac jelly “seafood”, is inevitable. However the restaurant tries to minimize its usage by introducing mushrooms, soy and nuts for proteins, so as to stay true to the virtue of using fresh produce in Xing Hua cooking. Apart from Xing Hua dishes, they also offer local fares, such as fried mee goreng and standard economic rice.

The Food

Xing Hua Soya Bean Fried Bee Hoon, S$ 3.50

Initially, I was quite hesitant to order this dish because I generally did not like the greasiness of fried food. On the other hand this was the signature dish of Xing Hua cuisine, and if I did not feature it, this review would feel like it’s missing something. The relatively light and homely nature of Xing Hua cooking further reassured me to give this dish a shot. Since I preferred dishes with a little twist, I chose the Xing Hua soya bean fried bee hoon over Xing Hua fried bee hoon.

Just as promised by the PRC stall assistant, Xing Hua bee hoon was different from the local ones. I was so intrigued by the fineness of each thread that I devoured a soup spoonful of bee hoon alone, without the rest of the ingredients. The bee hoon was as soft as it looked. Being a fried dish, there was definitely some oiliness but the heavy feeling was thankfully absent. Instead all I tasted was that simple home cooking flavor.

Another plus point of this dish was the wide variety of accompanying ingredients added. Just the greens alone, I could spot about three distinct types, namely bok choy, choy sum and Chinese cabbage. Although I normally preferred softer vegetable, I actually appreciated the crunchiness of the veges in this case. Each crunch of the vegetable stalk provided some moisture that nicely balanced out the dryness of the bee hoon, when eaten together. There were even more types of protein ingredients, ranging from whole food like mushrooms and peanuts, to the processed mock meats and seafood. All of them, including the mock items, were very lightly seasoned so as to maintain their natural flavor. Occasionally, I could detect that refreshing ginger aroma. This was definitely true blue Xing Hua cooking.

I would have considered this dish perfect if I wasn’t distracted by the thought of what value had the soy milk added to it. It felt as if the stall assistant had mistook my order for the normal Xing Hua fried bee hoon. After I finished my food, I verified with him again and he confirmed that this was indeed Xing Hua soya bean fried bee hoon. He even added that the soy milk was made in house, fresh and preservative free. Nonetheless, my thumb went up for this one. I highly recommend this dish to those with a light palate like me.

Yong Tau Fu Soup (7 items), S$ 3.50

When I saw the yong tau fu section, the first thing that crossed my mind was if there’s a Xing Hua version of this dish. I examined the selection of items, hoping to find a clue. First of all, I noticed that there were very few stuffed items, and if there were any at all, they were stuffed with fish paste. The signboard above also featured this dish as “yong tau fu”, not “Xing Hua yong tau fu”. Hence I deduced that this was just one of the local dishes they included in their menu.

Despite the lack of stuffed items, the ingredients available was quite diverse. I was pleased to see a good variety of mushrooms, including the less common ones like oyster mushroom and straw mushroom. They also offered more types of greens, apart from the usual bok choy, water spinach and Chinese cabbage. The unfortunate victims that would end up in my stomach later were Chinese spinach, oyster mushroom, shiitake mushroom, baby sweetcorn, eggplant with stuffing and silken tofu. I requested for shredded carrots as my seventh item, and the chef was cool enough to allow that.

The soup was clear with a mild herbal taste that tended towards savory instead of medicinal. It was good that I had chosen a couple of fresh mushrooms as they went very well with this type of soup. The sweetness of the baby sweetcorn provided something different for my taste bud to relish. I deliberately ate the tofu last so as to gave it an opportunity to soak up the flavor of the soup and lets just say it worked really well. As with most things in life, perfection seldom exists. The fish paste stuffing was so tasteless that it had to borrow some from the pre-fried eggplant, that was thankfully delicious. If I had known that the carrots would be served served raw, I would have asked the chef to cook it along with the rest of the ingredients (Okay I admit this was more of my fault).

Although the yong tau fu at Xing Hua was decent enough, I personally still leaned towards the one by Luo Han Group. However, if I was in a mood for fresh mushrooms, I might opt for Xing Hua Vegetarian instead.

Brown Rice Porridge (Ordered with Yong Tau Fu), S$ 0.50

This was the first time I saw brown rice porridge being served plain. Normally, it was sold as flavored congee. Anyway the brown rice porridge, a healthier substitute for white rice porridge, was meant to be eaten with the side dishes from the economic rice section. Being someone who loved to play around with different combinations of order, and getting weird looks from the stall assistant in return, I ordered it as an accompaniment to the yong tau fu soup.

Unlike plain white rice porridge, the whole grain version tasted less plain. Its reddish brown color told me that Thai red cargo rice was used, which explained its nutty and subtly sweet taste. The broth was thick and creamy. I certainly did not mind eating this on its own.

Most places usually charged more for ordering brown rice. However I paid the same price of 50 cents regardless of what I chose to go with my yong tau fu soup. Another reason for me to like this side order.

Conclusion

Chinese vegetarian food has a notorious reputation for being unhealthy, due to its excess use of oil, MSG and seasonings. Xing Hua Vegetarian Restaurant has just proved that it is possible to whip up delicious vegetarian dishes without going overboard on the seasonings. Then again it is impossible to please everyone. For those who prefer rich flavor, well, you have plenty of local vegetarian eateries to choose from.

Address:190 Middle Rd, Fortune Centre #01-11
Opening Hours:Mon - Sun, 7.00 am - 10.00 pm
Bus Service:56, 64, 65, 131, 131A, 139, 147, 147A, 166
MRT Station:Bugis
Website:-

Monday, 18 April 2011

Trust Organic Health

Before I begin, I have to first thank http://ilovemyveg.blogspot.com for sharing this cafe in the forum of VSS. Otherwise this post would not be possible. With that I shall begin my post proper.

So do I trust organic health (Pun shamelessly intended)? This cafe is certainly creative in coming up with a name, and thanks to that, I can write a more interesting opening line. I am not a nutritionist, therefore I am not in a position to comment about the nutritional value of organic foods. While there are numerous studies done out there, I have better things to do than to read research papers written in a cure-for-insomnia language just to find the answer. However the fact that organic foods are cultivated without the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other what-nots, has already rendered them superior to their non-organic peers. After all, how can one be healthy if he/she ingests these poisons on a regular basis? My common sense tells me that organic foods are healthier, not because of what they may have more of, but rather, what they do not contain.



To a vegan, finding Trust in a food paradise like Joo Chiat Road, is analogous to finding water in a desert. Although the shop houses are lined with eateries, majority of them do not offer foods that are qualified for vegans’ gastronomical needs. In addition to operating a cafe, Trust also sells organic groceries. Not only does this move diversify its business, it also serves as a one-stop shop for the vegans and other health-conscious customers. A win-win situation indeed.

On entering the eatery, I was greeted warmly by a pretty looking waitress. If I consumed organic food regularly, would I be as pretty as her? Sorry I digressed. Anyway I was surprised but glad that the actual menu featured way more items than what I saw on their website. Since I came all the way here from Potong Pasir, and I was about to pay more than what I did at hawker centres, I would want to pick something more extraordinary. After scrutinizing the menu, I decided on “Organic Eight Treasure Millet” and “Fruit Enzyme Drink Without Sugar (Berries)”.

The Food

Organic Eight Treasure Millet, S$ 7.90

Whenever a dish has "Eight Treasures" in its name, I have a habit of counting the number of ingredients inside. To the non-Chinese out there, the name is not to be taken literally, nevertheless I have fun doing so. Here's what I had excavated from this one: 1) millet 2) mushrooms 3) chickpeas 4) firm tofu 5) tomatoes 6) carrots 7) lettuce. Hmmm... what's the eighth treasure? Gravy?

Being new to millet grains, it was the first "treasure" I dug into. Just like what I had read, its texture was light, fluffy and creamy. Due to the gravy used to cook the other ingredients, the grains were imparted with a subtle taste of mushroom braised with dark soy sauce. I might be wrong about the cooking method, but that’s the closest flavor I was reminded of. Yours truly was instantly hooked to millet.

The rest of the ingredients were generally well-done. I liked how the chickpeas and carrots added a kind of soft crunchiness to the dish. Apart from providing a nice balance to the relatively stronger flavor of the mushrooms, the crisp raw lettuce also enhanced the overall presentation with its bright green color.

I would have liked the dish more if the sourness of the tomatoes was a little more outstanding. Increasing the portion size of the millet would be great too. Still, I was pleased with this above average dish. Despite the omission of MSG and preservatives, its taste was definitely not compromised too much. I was left with a healthy feeling.

Fruit Enzyme Drink Without Sugar (Berries), S$ 2.90

As expected of a drink made by fermentation, the very first taste I detected was that of alcohol. Well at least I knew this was real enzyme drink, not Ribena trying to imitate one. Even though I hardly took wine, I found this drink rather addictive. People who like alcoholic drinks might like this one. At least this was healthier, and may I add, really accelerated digestion as promised in the menu.

Conclusion

This is one those eateries that I would love to return to as their actual menu looks pretty interesting. I wish the price of the items aren't that steep. Then again I have to remember the painstaking effort to cultvate the crops successfully without the use harmful chemicals. Afterall health is priceless.

Address:328 Joo Chiat Rd #01-03 Singapore 427585
Opening Hours:Mon – Sun, 9.00 am to 9.00 pm
(Close on first and third week of Wednesday)
Bus Service:16
MRT Station:Dakota
Website:http://www.trustorganichealth.com

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Luo Han Group Vegetarian Health Food

My very first impression of yong tau fu was tofu or tau pok stuffed with fishball-like thing. As a child whose vocabulary was still under construction, I did not know those stuffings had a proper name called fish paste. Anyway that is the most common form of yong tau fu found in Singapore. For almost three decades, I thought that was what yong tau fu was all about. Somewhere during my growing up years, my Hakka mother suddenly suggested making yong tau fu for dinner. Instead of fish paste, she stuffed the tofu and tau poks with minced pork. Then she pan-fried the yong tau fu quickly before steaming them. The end-product was surprisingly good, so I did not question the difference. I called it "Mum's Yong Tau Fu".

Recently, I came across a dish called "Thunder Tea Rice" at the food court. Out of curiosity, I googled it and landed on a page about Hakka cuisines. On the same page, I was hit with two revelations. One, yong tau fu is a Hakka dish. Two, the original version is stuffed with pork fillings. It is believed that the fish paste variety was invented by the Malaysians to cater to the predominantly Muslim market, since pork is not halal. Moreover, fish paste is relatively easier to handle than minced pork. In my not so humble opinion, the latter is more applicable to Singapore, where convenience is preferred. Under the hands of commercialization, the items used to contain the stuffings go beyond tofu and tau pok, which include chilli, okra and bitter gourd. In addition, there are myriad of ways to enjoy these stuffed goodies. One can have them boiled with clear soup or rich broth (Laksa is one common example). Alternatively, they can be blanched and then drenched with sweet sauce, aka dry yong tau fu. Then add a carbohydrate item like noodles, bee hoon, or simply white rice, and a complete meal is created. I have yet to see a local dish that flexible, that's why I love it to death.



Since vegetarians have a more restricted diet than the Muslims, they can't even enjoy the fish paste yong tau fu. Vendors of vegetarian cuisines have to bring the modification of this dish to another level by using "mock meat / fish paste" as stuffings. To emulate the stuffings, textured vegetable protein and konnyaku (Needs confirmation) can be used for minced pork and fish paste respectively. Preparation of the stuffed items is a laborious task. Even if the vendor decides to buy the yong tau fu directly from suppliers, substantial space is required to display them. I speculate that these are the reasons why only larger vegetarian eateries, for example Luo Han Group Vegetarian Health Food, are more likely to offer this dish on their menu. Situated stragically beside the back door of Fortune Centre, one can see Luo Han immediately if he/she alights at the bus-stop along Bencoolen Street, which happenes to be a busy one. With the presence of the very famous Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple to fuel its business, Luo Han manages to coexist with the numerous vegetarian eateries found in the same building. Yours truly would like to find out if its brisk business has got more to do with being at the right place at the right time and meeting the right crowd. Since it sells yong tau fu, that is naturally my choice of food for a start.

The Food

I am not a yong tau fu connossiuer, hence I cannot verify the authenticity of this dish. However I do have my personal set of criteria to judge it. First of all, I prefer eateries where I get to choose my ingredients. Most eateries meet this criteria but once in a while, I encounter a random stall or two that don't. The next thing that I look out for would be the variety of ingredients to choose from, basically the more the better. Since I don't really like deep fried food, I shun places which offered too much of ready fried items versus fresh items. A couple of novelty ingredients would score more points with me. Luo Han more or less met the more important criteria for me to even consider ordering its yong tau fu. What attracted me most were the red and yellow bell peppers. Most yong tau fu eateries only offer the green variety, while the red one is seen occcasionally and the yellow is almost unheard of, therefore I consider them the more "novelty" items. Although Luo Han did not specifically state if they were selling Hakka yong tau fu or the normal ones, the appearance of the stuffings on the bell peppers, which resembled minced pork, indicated to me that they were the original Hakka version.

Yong Tau Fu (7 Items + Plain Porridge), S$ 3.90

Apart from the red and yellow bell peppers, the other ingredients that eventually landed in my bowl were water spinach, okra, cauliflower and two black Chinese mushrooms. One of my health beliefs is one should try to consume food from a diversity of colors, so as to get the various types of phytonutrients. Besides, the array of colors would make my photo prettier. During the ordering process, I requested not to fry the the ingredients, which was typical of Hakka yong tau fu. So if you are counting your calories or you simply have a bizarre aversion to fried food like me, do remind the vendors before they start cooking. I also noticed that plain porridge was available in their economic rice section, so I asked if I could serve my yong tau fu with that. They allowed it, but at a higher cost. Anyway, their willingness to take on unorthodox orders still deserved some commendations. Afterall, conventional yong tau stalls hardly offered plain porridge as a choice of carb item.

The food did not take long to arrive. As always I started with the soup. In the case of yong tau fu soup, the broth played an important role of influencing the taste of the ingredients. Like most vegetarian yong tau fu, the soup here had a clear and almost oil free taste. This was the reason why I hardly patronized non-vegetarian yong tau fu stalls these days, whom in general failed to achieve this feat. In addition, the soup was infused with the flavor of the ingredients, and that set it apart from its competitors. I also appreciated the fact that the amount of pepper added was appropriate such that it enhanced the taste of the soup, not overpowered it. With an above average soup base, I was assured that this dish would most probably turned out well. And boy I was mostly right. The vegetables were well cooked in general, soft but not mushy. As expected of the two bell peppers, they were sweeter than their green cousin. I especially like the black mushrooms, which were particularly tender and chewy. Although most of the stuffings had fallen off, I wasn't complaining since the items that contained them tasted good enough on their own. Speaking of the stuffings, I would like to think that it was made in house using soy protein, with carrots and flavored seaweed added. At least that was what I gathered based on my sense of sight and taste. I enjoyed the taste, which had a slight hint of sweetness. Unfortunately the meat was soggy and not whole the way my mother made in her meat version. However I won't fault them in this case as I was the one who requested not to fry the items. Besides the way the mock minced pork distintegrated and melted in my mouth actually grew on me.

After a thorough assessment of the protagonist, lets moved on to the supporting guy, the plain porridge. It was a little cold, not surprising since it was left out there in the open. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the melt-in-your-mouth sensation created by the broken rice grains.

I was pleased with the dish in general and until I found something more superior, I considered this the best vegetarian yong tau fu I had tasted. And if you ordered the normal way, the price was actually quite cheap, considering that you dined in an air-conditioned environment.

Conclusion

My colleague once remarked that to know if the food from so-and-so stall was delicious, just looked at the queue. How right he was. I was glad I went early that day to do my review because after I finished my food, the crowd started pouring in.

In fact, Luo Han has been reviewed by other vegetarian bloggers and received excellent feedbacks in general. I totally agree with them. If you are a vegetarian who like yong tau fu, do give theirs a try.

Address:190 Middle Rd, Fortune Centre #01-13/14
Opening Hours:-
Bus Service:56, 64, 65, 131, 131A, 139, 147, 147A, 166
MRT Station:Bugis
Website:-

Friday, 8 April 2011

Loving Heart Cafe

See Newest Update

While vegetarian economic rice is quite common, serving plain porridge as an alternative to rice isn't the case, unlike its non-vegetarian counterpart. Therefore to find plain porridge with sweet potatoes added to it becomes even more challenging. Speaking of sweet potato porridge, there are mainly two types in Singapore, namely Teochew porridge and Taiwanese porridge. The difference between them lies in the type of rice used. Taiwanese sweet potato porridge uses short grain rice, which is the staple of the Taiwanese, hence the name. Short grain rice has a high amylopectin content, so it becomes quite adhesive after cooking. In short, the rice in Taiwanese sweet potato porridge is stickier than the Teochew one.



Loving Heart Cafe is one such eatery that serves this rare dish, at least the vegetarian version is. Actually there isn't much differences in the porridge itself, since rice and sweet potatoes are vegan in nature. Basically vegetarian sweet potato porridge is eaten with vegetarian side dishes (Ok I know the description is a bit "duh"). The eatery itself is conveniently located along the main road of Sims Ave. With Kwan Imm See Temple just across the road, Loving Heart is assured a steady stream of vegetarian customers, although it may have to share this customer base with the neighboring and seemingly more established Kwan Inn Zhai. Due to the proximity in location between the two, I can't help but draw some comparisons between the two. In terms of size, variety of food and even cost, Kwan Inn Zhai clearly wins hands down. However Loving Heart does offer dishes that Kwan Inn Zhai does not have, such as Taiwanese sweet potato porridge and roti prata. Apart from savory dishes, Loving Heart also sells traditional Chinese desserts, namely red bean and mung bean soup. Even though there are overlapping dishes, Kwan Inn Zhai does not offer some of these dishes everyday, so one can have them at Loving Heart instead.

The Food

Taiwanese Sweet Potato Porridge, S$ 3.00

To be honest, I had never eaten the real Taiwanese sweet potato porridge before, so I did not have a precedence to compare to. Based on my theoretical knowledge of this dish, the porridge served by Loving Heart was fairly close in terms of texture. There was some degree of stickiness. On closer examination of the rice grains, I spotted some long ones, which led me to suspect that the cook was not using the short grain rice, at least not 100%. Another flaw in the dish was they added too little sweet potatoes, therefore I could hardly detect the fragrance of this lovely root vegetable. Despite the lack of authenticity, I was not totally disappointed because the porridge was cooked the way I liked, whereby the grains were broken and soft, giving it a melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

When it comes to the side dishes, I tend to pick the ones cooked using light methods (Boiling, blanching, steaming, sauteed, lightly stir fried with clear broth instead of thick sauces). Among the three items I had selected, my favorite was the wakame (sea plant) stems. It was the least oily, yet most delicious of the three. I liked its chewy texture and the slight hint of sweet vinegary taste (Not as strong as the one you found in the Japanese sea plant salad, chuka wakame) added a zest to the dish, making it a good appetizer. The stir fried yin choi (The leafy greens that resembled spinach) was not too bad either. The cook added just enough seasoning without overpowering the natural taste of the vegetable. In addition, it was cooked just right, not too mushy or hard. Compared to the other two, the cauliflower and broccoli was rather average. In fact the broccoli was overcooked, but since I was given more cauliflowers (Thank goodness), I did not mind overlooking this weakness.

Despite a little imperfections here and there, I still enjoyed my lunch on the whole. The wakame dish and the porridge simply did it for me, that I could ignore the rest of the faults.

Conclusion

I envy the vegetarians living around this area as they have not one but two 100% vegetarian coffee shops to choose from. Based on what I have read in the blogs under the "Blogs I Follow" section, there is another such eatery at nearby BLK 129, so that comes up to three. Moreover the price range is quite affordable. As for me, I do see myself frequenting this area often since the office I work in is rather near here.

Address:Blk 134 Geylang East Ave 1 #01-219 Singapore 380134
Opening Hours:-
Bus Service:2, 13, 21, 26, 40, 51
MRT Station:Aljunied
Website:-

Monday, 4 April 2011

He Xi Restaurant

This is not the first time I visited He Xi Restaurant. The last time I did I was looking for vegetarian food near Upper Aljunied Lane ( Click here to read ), and was lucky to spot He Xi. Unfortunately this blog had yet to exist then, hence the only medium to record down my experience was my biological C drive, aka my brain. Lets just say my first impression of their food was pleasant enough for me to want to do a proper review, now that I have this blog.

He Xi isn't near any MRT station, so it is better to go there by bus (Services 100, 135 or 155). Despite calling itself a restaurant, He Xi has a coffee shop setting. It might be a mistranslation because the Chinese name sounds less misleading. Whatever it is, do not expect a posh dining place with this one. As far as I am concerned, the quality of the food is the most crucial factor and as long as this aspect is well taken care of, I can forgive other imperfections (With the exception of poor hygiene of course).



During my first visit to He Xi, I ordered yong tau fu. In fact, that was the first time I tried the vegetarian version of this dish. Since then I hardly touch the original version. Well I can't say He Xi serves the best vegetarian yong tau fu in Singapore, because I discover better alternatives elsewhere later on, but I would pick it over any of its meat counterpart any time. Being one of my favorite local dishes, I am intending to feature it in my future posts. Hence the rest of the the "yong tau fu talk" will remain in the KIV section of my mind for the time being. Besides, yong tau fu was not available on the day of my visit. Thankfully He Xi has a good variety of dishes to choose from. It happened to be a scorching hot day, so once again I preferred soupy dishes. Among the few dishes of such nature available, I picked mushroom mee soup, because it was less commonly available in other vegetarian eateries. Hopefully this criteria will make my blog more interesting. Moreover, the image on the the signboard looked really appealing.

The Food

Mushroom Mee Soup, S$ 3.00

While waiting for the food to arrive, I made a mental plan of my photo taking session later on, so I was not paying attention to the food ordering area. By the time I did so, I caught a glimpse of the staff adding something from the economic rice section into my bowl of mee soup. Anyway I went to collect my lunch (It's self-service) and found out that they had taken the fried Chinese black mushroom from the trays of dishes meant for the rice. Not quite what I had expected from this dish. I had hoped for every ingredients to be boiled with the soup. Nonetheless I decided to taste it before making further judgments.

As always, I started with the soup, a habit I acquired after learning the etiquette of eating western food. It was a little too salty, and the lye water taste was a little too strong for my liking. Next up I tried the Chinese black mushroom and found it a little too hard. Although the dish was named mushroom mee soup, I could hardly find any mushrooms among the ingredients, which included:
  • So-so tasting choy sum.
  • Raw carrot which could be improved if cut into julienne.
  • Mushy shredded cabbage. The slightly yellowish coloration made me suspect it was also picked up from the economic rice section, which explained its mushiness.
  • Tasteless mock prawns
  • Shredded mock chicken, the least of the many evils. At least the "chicken" texture was there.
In my opinion, the cook had ruined a dish that had a lot of potential. Mushroom is one of the few ingredients out there that has its own umami flavor, making it a suitable ingredient for brewing soups, especially vegetarian ones. Instead of utilizing the mushrooms to the fullest, the cook chose to take the easy way out by flavoring the soup with lots of MSG. To make things worse, the cook conveniently added some ingredients from the economic rice section instead of boiling them fresh from scratch, which could have added extra flavor to the soup. This dish was definitely not worth S$ 3.00.

Conclusion

I find it a shame that when I want to do a proper review of He Xi, I end up choosing a disappointing dish. However since my very first impression of this vegetarian coffee shop actually ended with a more positive note, I decided that it deserved at least a second chance. Besides there were plenty of other dishes to try out.

Address:Blk 4 Upper Aljunied Lane #01-22 Singapore 360004
Opening Hours:Mon - Fri, 7.00 am - 3.30 pm, 5.30 pm to 8.00pm
Sat, 7.00 am - 3.00 pm
Closed on Sunday, except on 1st and 15th of lunar month
Bus Service:100, 135, 155
MRT Station:Aljunied
Website:-

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food 2

Actually I had no intention of revisiting Ci Yan so soon, especially when I had done a review on it not too long ago ( Click here to read. ). This took place on the same day I visited 5 Sights Hall Dining Hall at Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. I needed some small change to pay back what I had owed to that eatery, while I was still in Chinatown. It's not that I would never return to Chinatown or that eatery again, but I might forget about the whole incident the next time I do so.

The easiest way to get small change was to buy something. It was then I remembered my promise to buy the curry puff from Ci Yan for my sister to try. The curry puffs from Ci Yan seemed to be popular among the Caucasians. Hungry Ang Mo ( http://www.hungryangmo.com ) rated it 9/10. While I was at Ci Yan for my review, several Caucasians ordered the curry puffs for takeaway after their lunch. I remembered one of them ordered quite a lot at one go, after singing praises for the brown rice set. At S$ 1.10, I should be able to get quite a nice amount of small changes to repay my debts.

Hence the review below is my sister's opinion.

The Food

Curry Puff, S$ 1.10

" The filling, which consists of potato and curry, is not spicy. There is nothing spectacular about the filling. What I like more is the skin actually. The pastry layer is thicker than what you find in normal curry puffs, but I am not complaining. It has a very delicious salty taste, and reminds me of something which I fail to recall. Despite being deep fried, it does not have a very oily feeling. Overall this isn't too bad, but I still prefer the non-vegetarian version. "

Conclusion

It is weird that the skin of the curry puff actually gets the attention. Oh well, not exactly a positive review. I guess non-vegetarians simply cannot live without their meat.

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