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

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sam's Budget Food

July almost becomes an organic food month for me (Nutrihub during the first week, Kampung Senang on the second, plus a string of undocumented vegetarian meals at Ci Hang and Yes Natural in between) if it isn't interrupted by Sam's Budget Food. Brought to my attention by Vegetarian Society Singapore (VSS) via email while I was slogging away in my office, this was what the e-newsletter said about this eatery:

"SG is lucky to have many great veg Indian restaurants, but we do not have so many Indian veg food stalls. Fortunately, a new one recently opened near Tanjong Pagar Plaza, beside the wet market. It's called Sam's Budget Food. The address is Blk 7, Level 1, Stall #5. Contact 6222.4458, 9471.6384, ."

As I was skimming through this paragraph, I could not help but imagine reading in between those lines that Indian vegetarian food in Singapore is generally more expensive. As the name of the stall suggests, Sam's Budget Food sells its food at a lower price. Had this been a Chinese vegetarian stall, it often means resorting to cheap MSG, adding more salt and other what-nots to bring you dishes that at least taste decent. At Sam's however, they promise to cook using less oil and only natural ingredients. Shoba, the kind lady who served me on that day, added that their dishes were Indian home cooked food, something for the Indian foreign workers to feel nostalgic about. Since this stall was opened not too long ago, the boss was a little apologetic about his limited menu. He said that more dishes would be introduced as they went along. To a newbie to Indian cuisine like myself, the so-called limited menu already looked more exciting than that of the neighboring Chinese vegetarian stall.

The Food

Chappati Set, S$ 3.60

Chappati is the Indian version of unleavened flatbread. Made from whole wheat flour, it is then roasted on a preheated dry skillet. Without much taste on its own, it is meant to be a staple to go with dishes such as curry and vegetables.

As opposed to the flaky layered texture of roti prata, which non-Indian Singaporeans are more familiar with, chappati consists of a single thin layer. Chewy and doughy, it is closer to an unsweetened pancake with lower moisture level. At least this was I gathered after trying the plain chappatis at Sam's. In my opinion, it complemented well with the dhal (A curry using pulses as the main ingredient), that was part and parcel of this set. Although I would not rate the dhal here as exceptional, I would choose it over the local Chinese rendition of curry anytime. In fact I generally prefer the curry of other races (Including the Japanese) because they tend to place more emphasis on the curry powder flavor instead of being overshadowed by the spiciness of chili.

Apart from two plain chappatis and dhal, I got to choose two vegetables side dishes to complete the set. The cauliflowers, broccolis and potatoes were not overcooked hence maintaining the crunch in them. I could not say the sides I had picked were not spicy at all, but the hotness was still within my limited tolerable level. True to their words, the dishes were not too greasy.

Just like the ubiquitous economic rice in Singapore, the overall standard of this set meal was undermined by the coldness. It had probably seen better days, or rather hours, when they were just cooked. I also wondered if it was a common practice of Indians to serve very small portions of their side dishes because they vanished a little too soon, leaving me to force the remaining plain chappati down my throat.

Potato Chappati, S$ 2.00

This was a variation of chappati, with boiled mashed potatoes stuffed inside, hence it was called potato chappati. In contrast to the chapati set, this dish was served hot, a vast improvement indeed. This was what a good chappati should taste like, soft on the inside, and subtly crispy on the outside.

If you had started carving the bread from the edges like I did, you would felt a little letdown by the absence of a quality that set it apart from plain chappati. It wasn't until I hit the location where the potatoes were buried, that I began to savor the goodness of it. Flavored by the right mixture of spices, the potato chappati only got better as I proceeded towards the center.

By serving as a dip, the curd helped me to get through the less interesting seams of the chappati to where the potatoes were. Even when taken on its own, it was no less weak. It might resemble coleslaw with all that shredded carrots bathed in viscous white sauce, and almost taste like one, but the yogurt forced the similarity to end here. The additional tartness the yogurt contributed to the curd hit it off beautifully with the rest of the ingredients, making this dip an extraordinary one. Shoba revealed that chili was grated into curd as well but because the seeds were left out, the overall mixture was not spicy. Normally too much dairy made me feel a little sick, but this curd was appetizing throughout.

At the back of my mind I wondered if this was one of the traditional Indian dish or an invented recipe by Sam's Budget Food. Whichever it was, potato chappati was more than a redeeming factor for the cold chappati set. It totally left me smitten. What's more, it only cost S$2.00. Due to its time-consuming recipe, it would only be made on days when Sam's is not expecting a crowd. Anyone who is interested in this dish should call them beforehand (Contact 84499145) to check its availability.


I may be a little critical about the coldness of some of the food served at Sam's Budget Food, but because this is a common quality among other vegetarian, or should I say, any food stalls in coffee shops, I can easily forgive it. Moreover, my mind is more preoccupied with the excellent quality of the potato chappati. My trip specially to Tanjong Pagar on that day was certainly worth all the while because of it.

Address:Blk 7, Level 1, Stall #5 S(081007)
Opening Hours:Mon - Sat, Morning - 8.00 pm
Bus Service:-
MRT Station:Tanjong Pagar

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Kampung Senang Eco-Friendly Kitchen

{Note: I would like to thank living-vegan and Sunny for bringing this place to my attention in their blogs.}

Eco-friendly Kitchen is one of the projects by Kampung Senang, a registered charity in Singapore. With a humble beginning as a day-care activity centre for the elderly in 1999, Kampung Senang is the brainchild of Ms Joyce Lye. Its story can be summed up as a high flyer whom, after reaching the pinnacle of her career (Ms Lye was the General manager of HSBC, Asia), decided to contribute back to the society (Setting up an organization to promote holistic wellness and inner peace.). Most of the time, the turning point was triggered by an event (2 of our Deputy Prime Ministers were diagnosed with cancer during the 90s). Although there are several similar stories, each one is inspirational in its own right.

Kampung Senang is a place which practises what it preaches. The workshops it organizes do not just educate its participants about health related issues. During lunch breaks, the participants are provided with organic vegetarian meals prepared in-house. I believe Eco-friendly kitchen was set up to serve this purpose initially. Later on, the homely cafe is opened to the public so as to create more awareness in this area. Being a non-profit organization, the food is prepared by volunteers. "Payment" is collected in the form of donations, hence no change is given. To prevent cheapskates like myself from abusing the system, a minimum amount is set. On the day I went, it was S$6.00 per meal.

Speaking of the meals, choices are limited to whatever they cook for that day. From this fact, I infer that the menu itself is not fixed. Anyway, I was given a choice of brown rice set or noodles set. Not one to follow the default arrangement, I tried to bend the rules a little by asking for half a serving each of brown rice and noodles. They allowed it. Cool!

The Food

Over-generalization is not my intention, but my experience thus far with organic eateries is that they tend to be stingy with the portion size. Do they think that all their patrons are on a weight loss mission? Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when my plate was heaped with abundant amount of food. Just the quantity alone already made me feel I had received the value I had paid for.

The fragrance of Chinese roasted sesame oil dominated the flavor of this set meal. It also explained the aroma that greeted me when I first entered Eco-friendly Kitchen. I especially liked how the oil greatly enhanced the the taste of the blanched vegetables. Being a mediocre cook myself, I often bluff my way through with a few sprinkles of Chinese sesame oil. That's not to say the volunteers here were as amateurish as me. In the hands of a good chef, this oil can do wonders.

Another thing to note was that the salad contained no dressing at all. Since there was plenty of cooked foods around, such as the tofu, shimeji mushroom and snow peas, condiments or sauces were unnecessary in my opinion. Besides, it was nice and healthy to appreciate the natural sweetness of the raw julienned carrots and beetroots once in a while.

On the whole, this was a meal relying on basic seasonings like salt to bring out the flavor of the food, which was very much like homecooking. Apart from the noodles that was a little too oily for my liking, I was pretty much left satiated after this meal.


The payment by donation system of Eco-friendly Kitchen reminds me of 5 Sights Hall. To further amplify the deja vu feeling, I only had large notes on that day. Thankfully, they had a corner retailing organic groceries, where I could buy something to get small changes. On a more postive note, both places share similarities like serving good food from their hearts and generous portion size. It's a shame that they only operate from 12pm to 2pm. It's also a shame that my post barely scratches the surface of Kampung Senang, which has much more to offer. If you are interested, do visit their website to find out more.

Address:Blk 106 Aljunied Crescent #01-205 S(380106)
Opening Hours:Mon - Sat, 12.00 pm - 2.00 pm
Bus Service:-
MRT Station:Aljunied

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Nutrihub The Organic Vegetarian Cafe

Based on what I gather from the blogs I follow, Nutrihub is not a new kid on the block. What's new is its recently opened outlet that has moved out of Cuppage Plaza to Temple Street. The exact reason of this relocation is not clearly stated, but I do observe that compared to Cuppage Plaza, Temple Street has a more accessible location within a short walking distance from Chinatown MRT. Even the human traffic is heavier.

When Nutrihub was still in Cuppage Plaza, I had wanted to visit it. Unfortunately its was closed on Sundays and public holidays, which happens to be the time when I am free enough to venture out of Aljunied for vegetarian food. At its new site, Nutrihub is still closed on public holidays, but at least it operates for shorter hours on Sundays. Just like a hub it called itself, Nutrihub offers a range of services, namely operating a cafe, retailing various health products and conducting cooking classes.

I had wanted to try their popular brown rice set but it was only available from Mondays to Saturdays. Then again it was better off that way, because this misfortune led me to try a dish from their raw food cuisine section, which I hardly blogged about.

The Food

Asian Pizza, S$ 10.80

Ordering Asian pizza (A new item according to the menu) for lunch was a mistake. Its wafer-thin crust hardly filled my stomach. I was to learn later on that this was a unique characteristic of raw vegan pizza. In raw food diet, it is believed that important nutrients and enzymes cannot survive temperatures beyond 40 degrees Celsius, thus rendering cooked food “dead”. One of the means to make the ingredients more palatable is to dehydrate them. Due to the temperature constraint, the drying process is carried out under extremely low heat. As a result, the “cooking” time is ridiculously lengthened. Imagine trying to “bake” a thick pizza crust. According to the boss (I think) at Nutrihub, they took 19 hours just to make the crust!

Since the pizza had decided to be Asian, one would not find the usual tomato paste applied on the traditional version. Instead the chef concocted her own sauce, which was indeed special in taste. Slightly sweet with a mild alcoholic flavor, I suspected that Hua Diao Jiu (A variety of undistilled Chinese wine used in cooking) was used. In my opinion, this house blend coordinated very well with the crust, that was nothing much on its own in terms of flavor. Another Asian feature of this dish, the shredded leaves either belonged to chye sim or bok choy. Whatever it was, this had to be the first time I took Chinese vegetables uncooked. While no attempt was made to mask the raw taste, the thin sauce did help to make the bitterness more bearable.

The rest of the ingredients included Chinese black mushrooms and a slice of tomato per crust. Although the juice that oozed out of the tomatoes upon biting contributed some moisture to the pizzas, they somewhat reduced the crispiness of the crust. I personally enjoyed these raw pizzas on the whole, but I had to admit that the flavor was an acquired one.

Oat Milk Bo Bo Cha Cha With Konjac Jelly, S$ 3.50

Traditional bo bo cha cha consisted of diced sweet potatoes and taro cooked in coconut milk. Due to its high saturated fats content, the coconut milk was replaced by oat milk to imitate the thick consistency. Although coconut milk is perceived to be unhealthy (Recent research seems to to show otherwise), the oil from the same fruit does not share its notoriety. On the contrary, coconut oil possesses numerous cosmetic and therapeutic benefits, such as hair care, weight loss, proper digestion and maintaining cholesterol levels. One of the service crew at Nutrihub even claimed that her relative treated her thyroid problem by consuming coconut oil regularly. Fortunately, yours truly does not have any of the abovementioned health issues. Hence what I find most beneficial about coconut oil was how it impart that crucial coconut flavor to the bo bo cha cha dessert.

Refined sugar, another villian in the realm of health and nutrition, was substituted with organic molasses, which explained the brownish color of the dessert. Nutrihub understands that taste is subjective, hence they are willing to add more molasses for customers with sweet tooth. As for me, I was satisfied with the default recipe.

Apart from the usual ingredients, one could also find kidney beans and konjac jelly. A jelly made from konjac plant, konjac jelly, was another nutritious addition to the dessert. More commonly known as konnyaku jelly in Singapore, this jelly is high in fibre content and so it can play the role of cleaning up the waste in our bodies. Unlike what one might find outside, the jelly in this dessert neither had taste nor did it absorb the flavor of the oat milk. In fact I thought it was extraneous in this dessert. It would be better if the chef could increase the quantity of the relatively cheaper sweet potatoes and taros. Other than that, I was impressed with the ingenius modification of the dessert to make it healthy and tasty at the same time.


As with most organic eateries in Singapore, price is a sore point of Nutrihub. No matter how justifiable the cost may be, when it comes to money, the emotional side of me deters me from dining at such places on a regular basis. Still, I had a good time at Nutrihub on that day. Besides the generally delicious food, the boss and service crews were generous in sharing their health knowledge, thus providing me with valuable materials to write about in this post.

P.S.: I wonder how raw foodist filled their stomach with those kind of food.

Address:46 Temple Street
Opening Hours:-
Bus Service:-
MRT Station:Chinatown