December, 2006

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An even better plate of chicken rice

Chicken rice @ Koufu (Sengkang East Avenue)

dining-123.JPGOK, so maybe chicken rice is almost ubiquitous in Singapore, but I still never stop taking a peek at the chicken rice stall at foodcourts we visit in the hopes of finding even better fare at better prices. We hit the Sengkang East Avenue Koufu foodcourt – about 6 minutes drive from The Rivervale – for an early dinner Friday last week, and was pleasantly surprised to find a chicken rice set meal that went for an astonishing low of $2.50! This has been the cheapest foodcourt boneless chicken rice I’ve found anywhere so far.

What was even the more surprising was that the serving had a small portion of “a char”, which I think are sweet and sour vegetables which Ling likes a lot. She remarked during dinner as well that the “a char” side is actually a necessary component if the fare is to be considered “true” Hainanese chicken rice. The serving of meat itself wasn’t more generous than other places, but for $2.50, it’s a terrific steal. Patrons to the stall though should note that the oyster sauce vegetables are not part of the set. They can be bought as an additional side for $2, $3 and $4; and while the vegetables were tasty, is less value for money.

I also have to mention the excellent service offered even when compared to a normal sit-down restaurant. The cashier and shop hand was so polite I almost felt awkward.:)

  • Food: 8 / 10
  • Value: 4.5 / 5
  • Overall: 4.2 / 5. If a side of vegetables had been included and the set meal $3, this would have rated a value 5 / 5.

Foodcourt Green Curry

Green curry set @ Scotts Shopping Centre Foodcourt

dining-122.jpgGreen curry is a staple for many Thai restaurants here in Singapore, and among all of such places we’ve sampled here so far, Jai Thai cafe’s green curry has still been the standard for other places to beat.

That said, one really doesn’t find green curry sold often at foodcourts here in Singapore. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to find one corner stall at the basement foodcourt of Scotts Shopping Centre selling such fare.For $6, you get quite a complete meal: a small-sized drink, tom yam soup, green curry, a baby kailan side, and rice.

In terms of variety, this set takes the cake, even if the ingredient portions themselves weren’t too generous. Ling felt that the tom yam soup was more sour than hot, and the green curry while pleasant with liberal use of lemon grass and basil, didn’t quite reach the same magnificent richness as Jai Thai’s offering. The chicken pieces tasted excellently fresh.

It’s rare to find a complete set meal – with drinks included – for $6 at foodcourts, much less a green curry set. I don’t think this is a must try, since for a bit more you can get better green curry at least elsewhere. However, this really is a great way to sample three Thai dishes at very low cost.

  • Food: 7 / 10
  • Value: 4.5 / 5
  • Overall: 3.8 / 5. There’re other versions of the $6ish set meal sold at the stall too. Worth a try again soon.

Tampines Ave 10

What once used to be a quiet road is now a heavily used, almost-highway for many motorists travelling in the eastern part of Singapore. For me, it has been almost a daily affair to use this road to drive darling dearest to and from work during the holiday season.The current monsoon season here is changing the landscape of this avenue – at least to the fascinated pair of eyes here. Mushrooms ballooning out of the ever-green, green grass lining the roads like there’s going to be a great gathering of the fungal kind. It is awesome. To the pseudo-biologist here, she has a lot of problems keeping her eyes on the traffic in front of her steering wheel. Glancing sideways and heart melting away by those alluring little ones, she decided that she must park the car by a side lane and grab darling dearest’s latest compact digital camera to explore the long stretch of cuties before their glory days are over and done with.

blog-tampines-avenue10.JPGBracing fast-moving vehicles zooming to and fro the avenue, I stared, squatted and snapped numerous shots of various mushrooms sprouting along the road divider. Motorists who spotted me must have thought me as some crazy woman who has nothing better to do on a monday morning peak hour. To me, it was great fun, an adventure amidst the hustle-bustle of an otherwise mundane morning. The icing came, thrice in fact, when I noticed a tweeny weeny brown delicate mushroom, a fist-sized bread-like mushroom and a small cousin of the well-known passionfruit climber on a fence. You can check them out at our photo gallery.

You know, these sights are not common in other parts of Singapore. The occurrence of big mushrooms along Tampines Avenue 10 was too high to be ignored. I started to wonder why. You can certainly expect to find fungi in soil almost everywhere, but their reproductive stage (what we called mushroom) only shows up when conditions (e.g. sufficient moisture and suitable temperature) are favourable. Given a tropical climate in a highly populated and urbanised Singapore, mushroom sightings along a heavily used road are a visual treat indeed. If you have noticed those tree trunks in my photos, they are thickly coated with black, black soot. And there, you have the mushrooms co-existing with us in a man-made and polluted environment. I amazed.

The next question which popped up was whether these white and brown mushrooms were edible and delectable too! Hee hee. Yeah. I’m a mushroom lover. Loves to look at them and also eat them.

I’m sure I’ve missed a whole lot more of living creatures along this busy road. Well, if the stirring comes by next time, I’ll be exploring further. Wait and see. :)

A selection of pictures can be found at our photo album right here.


Super Supreme / Hut’s Couple @ Pizza Hut

Ling knows that every now and then – say about once a month – I’ll have an insatiable craving for pizza. The need can be quite whimsical actually; we could be at any ordinary shopping mall heading towards the foodcourt for dinner, when without warning, I’ll blurt out my pizza craving, and I’ll get cranky real quick if I don’t get it soon.

dining-121.jpgI’m not alone in my fascination with pizzas, at least here in Singapore. On more than a few occasions, there’s been articles in the Sunday Times presenting comparative reviews of the major pizza chains in Singapore. Heck; even Sakae Sushi is coming up with their own Japanese-styled pizzas, or so I remembered from a flyer put into our mailbox the other day.

I used to be a big fan of Pizza Hut actually; not so much because of the quality of its pizzas. Rather, some years ago the restaurant offered a pizza buffet deal at very low and attractive cost; eat all you can for around $12 at lunch. I stuffed myself with that deal more times than I can remember during those few years the package ran, and I wonder if the buffet thing was killed several years ago because too many people like me were gobbling more pizzas down than the $12 price was worth.

In any case, we hadn’t tried Pizza Hut since my leaving and return from Perth almost 4 years ago now; so we checked it out the Hut’s Couple set for two at Compass Point on a Thursday evening last week. For $25, excluding GST and other charges, we got a 9 inch Super Supreme, two servings of the soup of the day, and drinks. Ling had just tried making our own Cream of Mushroom soup the night before, and the restaurant’s version tasted rather poor compared to Ling’s very magnificent effort just before. The pizza was as I remembered it; pretty serviceable and edible. However, the real disappointment was in its size. The menu stated the pizza was enough for 2-3 persons. Well, personally, I could had finished that pizza all on my own. It really wasn’t very big. I imagine two light eaters could get by with it, but two hungry males on that 9 inch would be fighting over its portions soon enough. The final bill came to just over $30 including charges, and also as we changed the Pepsi drinks to other choices.

  • Food: 7 / 10
  • Value: 1.5 / 5
  • Overall: 2.8 / 5. The food really is OK, but given the size of the servings just isn’t very good value for money to me. We’d go with Pastamania next time.

Hotplate at Tampines Mall

Hotplate set @ Kopitiam (Tampines Mall)dining-120.jpg

Surprisingly, even after having spent nearly 7 weeks working at my new work place, the both of us still haven’t spent that much time at Tampines Mall. A lot of it I think has to do with the massive crowds that hit the mall every evening; parking is a problem, and traffic pretty congested on the roads that lead to and away from the mall.

Still, Ling wanted to catch Charlotte’s Web before we left on our honeymoon, and a Tuesday evening was the best time for us to catch it. Ling loved the movie while I thought it was rather just average. Dinner was at the Kopitiam on level 4, and at 8:45 p.m. the foodcourt was still filled with crowds.

The plate on the right is a Hotplate set, sold at the Carona Chicken stall. For $6 – less if you have the Kopitiam discount card – you get the rice that seems to be identical to that served on the other commonly seen chicken-based fare, a small vegetable side, soup (that was almost tasteless), an egg, and a meat portion that you select from a variety. In my case, I went with Teriyaki beef, and it turned out to be pretty yummy. The hotplate was set on a heavy wooden tray too, and visually it looked pretty appealing and, depending on your leverage, could just improve your dining experience. The entire set was slightly expensive though, so as delicious as this stuff was, it’s not something many would want to eat on a frequent basis.

  • Food = 7 / 10
  • Value = 2.5 / 5
  • Overall: 3.2 / 5. Soup was mediocre, rice and veg were average, but meat was fabulous. If the price was around $4.50, I’d eat this every time I hit Tampines Mall.

Honey-Mooning Around

The both of us will be heading off for our much-deserved Honeymoon tomorrow evening, and we decided on South Korea and Jeju Island. The blog entries on foodcourt dining in Singapore will continue; I’ve written enough of them to last for the 8 days we’ll be out of town. When we return just on the new year, we’ll be posting up pictures and accounts of our trip.:)

Pig spinning in his grave

Char siew and roast pork rice @ Kopitiam (Compass Point)

dining-119.jpgAnd that would be what the poor pig would be doing if he knew his flesh had been sacrificed for what really was average fare on the dinner table. After failing to find very many foodcourts offering my perfect plate of fried rice – with the exceptions of the United Square foodcourt – I’ve decided to try my luck at char siew / roast pork rice instead. The benchmark I’ll be using is the extremely yummy plate of roast pork and duck rice at A*A*Star at Ang Mo Kio Central which I’ve reviewed here before, and a plate of gravy-ly magnificence I could finish two plates of without caring less for my rising blood pressure.

Basically, what you get for $3 to $4 at most places is a plate of rice, char siew and roast pork slices, some cucumber, and a bowl of soup. In this case, the offering at Kopitiam cost $4.50; quite a bit higher, though there’s the usual 10% discount with the Kopitiam privilege card. That said, the rice felt soggy, the meat bland, the gravy plain, and the soup too salty. Rather disappointing, especially since we’d just finished the same fare at A*A*Star again the day before. Still, there were quite a few people lining up to buy from this stall. So, maybe the preparation just wasn’t agreeable with my very personal taste-buds.

  • Food: 6 / 10
  • Value: 2.5 / 5
  • Overall: 2.8 / 5. It’s edible fare, just a tad too expensive with very average taste.

Very. Unhealthy. Food.

Indian rojak @ Koufu (Sengkang East Avenue)

dining-118.JPG… and unfortunately, as these things go, they also are amongst the most delicious foods around. One such example is Indian rojak. Indian rojak is pretty different from the other popular kind, Fruit rojak: the former comprises an assortment of sliced cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, onions, fish cake, potatos, green chili, and prawns deep fried in batter. The rojak is then served with a sort of sweet, spicy and very slightly hot chili sauce.

The vegetable end of the stuff in the dish is still reasonably healthy, but if you’ve seen how the prawn batters get cooked and are a health nut, you’d faint. And the prawns are deep fried until they’re nearly burnt into crispy portions; yummy in other words, but practically devoid of any sort of nutritional value.

One doesn’t find Indian rojak as commonly as say fruit rojak, and a plate of this stuff tends to be much more expensive too. The above plate cost $5.50 at a Koufu foodcourt we visited along Sengkang East Avenue last Wednesday evening for dinner, compared to around $2 to $3 for a bowl of fruit rojak.

  • Food: 8 / 10
  • Value: 3 / 5
  • Overall: 3.7 / 5. This is not something you’d want to eat on a daily basis for sure. And even when you do – on the rare occasion – take this, and you’d want to follow it up with an hour on the treadmill.

Viet Foodie

Vietnamese food @ Orange Lantern

dining-114.JPGThe second level of Hougang Mall was renovated several months ago, and now is the spanky home to a series of mid-price restaurants of many times: Japanese (Ichiban), Vietnamese (Orange Lantern), Chinese (Soup restaurant) and others. We checked out the Orange Lantern restaurant on Saturday evening for a simple birthday dinner. There was a special menu set for two person: for $28, we both got to choose an appetizer, main courses, and drinks.

Ling chose a beef meatball and brisket set which is about the best beef meatball soup I’ve tasted around, and for myself stir-fried seafood fried rice. We had an appetizer plate which included two really excellent poh piahs. The seafood fried rice in itself contained an impressive array of garnishing and fresh prawns, but by itself didn’t taste that much better from the many other mediocre fried rice sold at foodcourts. Taken with the small plate of sambal chili however, the taste improved significantly. The items arrived briskly, and staff were very polite. A great dinner at prices that were pretty affordable.

  • Food: 8 / 10
  • Value: 3.5 / 5
  • Overall: 3.8 / 5. There’s a large number of other cuisine items; we’re gonna have to come back to this restaurant again sometime.

Yummy dianxin

Dianxin @ Kopitiam (Compass Point)

dining-113.JPGThe Kopitiam at Compass Point is pretty crowded at the times we have weekday dinners these days. That really has to do a lot with that the both of us are having dinners at the same time as everyone else – i.e after work at 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Hence, the only times when we don’t have to scout around for free tables is when we eat at odd hours during during weekends.

We had brunch on Saturday late morning; Ling stuck to her usual Grilled Mackerel. On my end, and for a change, it was a little Dianxin set meal that’s sold at the corner restaurant near the entrance of the foodcourt. For $5 – and discounts apply if the patron is a Kopitiam blue privilege card holder – I got an especially yummy three layered pork bun (or “kong bak pao”), glutinous rice, a side that tasted like yam, and prawn-based chee cheong fun. Each order of the latter is made on the spot, and it was the first time I’ve seen this dianxin item get prepared. The pork filling for the bun was thickly coated with gravy. Sold singly it costs quite a bit ($1.30), but it’s much tastier than the ones sold at coffee shops. Value wise you don’t get too much food for $5, but it’s food wise this one’s really not bad.

  • Food: 8 / 10
  • Value: 2.5 / 5
  • Overall: 3.5 / 5. I’m gonna have to try the other chee cheong fun types soon.