Everything Else, Food Hunter

TANGS Market @ Orchard Road

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“Excuse me, are you sure you can finish two bowls?” 

That was the surprising question I got from a Caucasian man who was in the queue behind me.  One look at the food portion and I could have told him that I was able to finish both. But being polite, I told him it was for my friend and myself to have.

At $4, I was a little disappointed that my 85 Redhill Teochew Fishball Noodles was not able to fill my hungry stomach. However, the noodles had a reasonable spicy and sour taste from the chilli and vinegar sauce.  Thankfully it was just the right amount, if not it would have coated my lips in oil. The fishballs were quite springy and it came with a special mushroom / vegetable piece.

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To top off our lunch, we had Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Original Popiah ($4). Known as the “Poh Piah Maker to Singapore’s Presidnet and Prime Minister,” it was slightly longer than the usual ones. Wrapped with stewed turnip, radish, beansprouts and fresh lettuce, this healthy snack tasted good and each had the right portion and  crunch to it.  The poh piah skin was not too thick and doughy and it slightly soaked up a bit of the chilli, hoisin sauce and turnip stew in it.

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The fishball noodles and popiah were not the only thing found in the TANGS Market. Tucked within the kitchen and household section of TANGS, it also brings Peranakan, Penang and local delights under one roof. Like a noisy street market, the queues snaked around the narrow walkways and people were jostling through looking for seats in the small area.

The interior were furnished in old school items with an eclectic mix of bright colours and Peranakan patterns and prints. Some includes childhood favourites like the Khong Guan little biscuits with sweet star-shaped coating and Nyonya porcelain wares. While the price to the portion of food serving did not whet my appetite, I do think this newly renovated place is breathing life once again to the once quiet underground passageway towards the Orchard Road train station.

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Everything Else, Food Hunter

Hainanese Delicacy Chicken Rice @ Far East Plaza

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Apologies for the lack of post recently! Our tyftfwe friends have been busy lately to let you in on our food and baking adventures!

Food is one of the way to catch up with friends and instead of a cafe, the classic dish of Hainanese Chicken rice was chosen. Conveniently located in town, office people would be seen queuing for this during lunch time. 

One of the reasons is because its reasonably-priced and fuss-free. The chicken was tasty and tender. The rice was fragrant but I found it to be a bit on the oily side. The chilli sauce was not too spicy but just right. Plus it always goes well with a plate of green vegetables topped with fried shallots.

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But was this worth the wait and queue? Its a yes and no, as I have tried other better chicken rice before but this still taste above the average. However, what I found quite interesting was the atmosphere sitting within a narrow corridor, eating out of a hole-in-a-wall and having to share tables with strangers. A mix of English, Cantonese, Hainanese and Mandarin conversations gets peppered across the shop making it quite a lively space.

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Food Hunter

MEDZ @ Millenia Walk

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If you have been to Marche, MEDZ offers a similar concept with a wider range of cuisines. Not only do you get Western food, there is French, Italian, Greek, Mediterranean, Moroccan and Spanish. A dessert bar and a selection of beer and cider is also included in the menu. Among the things my friends and I had, we had the rosti, moroccan chicken with couscous, carbonara and the octopus squid ink paella.

Having travelled to Spain and Italy, I had certain expectations of squid ink and paella as separate entities. But I was being too adventurous that day and chose from their menu the squid ink paella with octopus and pork. My paella came with lots off round blops in my plate and I soon realised that it was small octopus the size of fishballs. Honestly, I freaked out a bit at the sight of the “little creatures” because you could make out the whole body with its mantle and tenticles  still intact.

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So with my game face on, I ate the octopus as a whole. The texture was rather chewy and my thoughts went into a bit of an overdrive of whether something will burst out of its mantle. They were quite generous in their servings that I had to give away some the octopus (or rather I did not want to see anymore blops). I felt that the combination of the pork belly, octopus and paella was too much for one seating especially when the squid ink also added on to the rich flavours (I had to have some salsa to neutralise the taste).

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Moving along from that octopus encounter, I had rave reviews for the other food. The carbonara tasted like any regular ones you can find elsewhere. The rosti (according to my friend) was pretty good and thicker than Marche’s. While the Moroccan chicken was quite a refreshing change from the other food that I see commonly. Served in an earthen pot, the chicken was done well and the couscous was a refreshing change from eating plain white rice. My cider loving friends also found their bottles to be rusty and ended up returning the drinks even after a new bottle was given. 

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I do think that this is a place to bring friends if you cannot decide on a single cuisine or type of food to have as a group. At least your friends have the choice of choosing what they want and saving you the hassle. The atmosphere is also pretty decent to have friends sit around, linger and just talk while eating. But if I ever return, I think I should stay clear of the octopus and squid ink paella.  

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Food Hunter

NamNam Noodle Bar @ Wheelock Place

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On days when I get a craving for something hot and soupy, I often find myself hankering after a steaming hot bowl of pho. The herbal, meaty broth and flat rice noodles are soothing, homey and not to mention, pretty healthy as well. Authentic Vietnamese food can be a little tricky to find in Singapore, and although NamNam Noodle Bar is opened by the Les Amis group, it serves up a good version of the classic Vietnamese dish.

Sam and I headed down to the Wheelock Place outlet for lunch on a weekday and were pleased to find that they were offering a set lunch consisting of a choice of Chicken or Sliced Beef Steak Pho, a side of Vietnamese Spring Rolls and a choice of a Vietnamese Iced Coffee or Iced Lotus Tea. Naturally, we both picked the beef and iced coffee.

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls | Fresh Southern rolls with sweet shrimps, egg and fresh herbs

It could be a matter of personal taste, but I felt that the spring rolls were abit too bland for my liking. The dipping sauce did help to give it a sweet-savoury flavour packed with shallots and garlic – and the sauce eventually did make this a very likable dish- but the spring rolls alone were clean tasting and seemed like it could do with abit of seasoning. Despite that, I must point out that the shrimp was fresh and the amount of fresh herbs, egg and vermicelli wrapped inside made a good combination of natural flavours and textures, making it a great dish for the health conscious.

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Pho Beef Steak Slices

The noodles were a joy to eat: smooth, slippery and light, cooked to perfection. They carried the flavour of the broth well, unlike how noodles sometimes don’t soak up the flavours of the soup they swim in. There was a good amount of noodles and a surprisingly large number of beef slices. We had thought that they might stinge on the meat but were proven otherwise. The meat was done medium well, with the centres still a rosy shade of pink. Thinly sliced and tender, we enjoyed every bit of it. The herbal, lightly salted soup was satisfying and light. For those who prefer their soup with a bit more punch, sauces such as fish sauce, hoi sin sauce, chilli sauce and soy sauce are available. Just add them straight to your noodles and slurp up every last bit.

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It was a great deal, considering the central location and the fact that the meal filled us up very nicely. When asked about her opinion of NamNam, my Vietnamese friend put it across best. ‘Authentic or not, if it’s good, it’s good. Who cares.’ Well said!

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Coffee Connoisseur

Loysel’s Toy @ Kampong Bugis

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Singapore’s weather has been terribly temperamental of late. Remember the day Sam and Chonghao got caught in a flash flood? The day one of my kids and I decided to check out Loysel’s Toy was the exact opposite. It was scorching hot and it did not help that the cafe was located right at the end of Kampong Bugis. It was a good 10minute walk from Lavender MRT station and Google Maps never gives the most convenient route. We ended up walking along a dusty, deserted street, past a worn Hindu Temple, various construction sites and industrial buildings before finally spotting the warmly lit cafe at the end of the road. For the longest time, we thought Google Maps had us on, but as with all good cafes hidden in lesser-known parts of Singapore, I knew better than to give up when roads get quiet.

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Loysel’s Toy is a riverside gem surrounded by lush trees. Quiet and peaceful on a weekday with both indoor and outdoor seating, it was the perfect place for a catchup session. Located just along the Kallang Park Connector, the cafe offers bike rentals with the option of fold-able bikes as well as ones with baby seats for the more adventurous looking to work off the teatime calories.

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Hot and thirsty from the long walk, the kid chose a Pineapple Passion Popsicle from Popaganda sold at the cafe. They carry a good range of refreshing flavoured ice popsicles that are indulgent and healthy at the same time. The Pineapple Passion one we had had a good balance of both pineapple and passion fruit flavours. Tangy and not artificially sweet, it made for a terrific thirst-quencher after the long walk.

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Pineapple Passion | Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow

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Meanwhile, my choice of a teatime snack came in the form of the Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow. Being a fan of salted caramel, and since Loysel’s Toy is known for great coffee, I expected the dessert to feature some great coffee flavours balanced with the salty-sweet caramel. However, what I had instead was abit of a let down. In the dish was a layer or salted caramel crumbs, followed by coffee marshmallow and topped with chocolate and peanuts. The crumbs were rightfully salty-sweet, but the taste of burnt sugar didn’t come through as much as I would have expected it to. Instead, it tasted more buttery and had a peanut butter flavour more than it had caramel. The coffee marshmallow did not live up to expectations as well. It felt more like a spongy layer than melt-in-you-mouth sticky marshmallow. Also, I could barely taste the coffee that presumably flavoured the marshmallow. Although not a bad dessert in itself, I felt that it did not live up to its name. My expectations could have been set a tad too high though!

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Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow | Iced Mocha (using 1000 Cups blend) | Cafe Latte (using Terra Firma blend)

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Loysel’s Toy uses Papa Palheta beans and offered a choice of 1000 Cups and Terra Firma blends when we were there. I chose the Terra Firma blend for the cafe latte, which had a description of being nutty and citrusy with a chocolatey bitter-sweet finish. The coffee had a medium body and was mildly acidic and well-rounded – quite easy on the palate and not too heavy. The milk was also well-steamed – creamy and rich at just the right temperature.

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Meanwhile the kid chose to have an iced mocha. She drinks coffee like water, I’m not even kidding. The problem is, she’s only been drinking Starbucks coffee and mostly frappes (ridiculous amounts of sugar and little else heh). So this being her first cafe hopping experience, she decided to go easy on the coffee. The 1000 Cups blend used in her coffee has taste notes of baker’s chocolate and hazelnuts with a mildly fruity acidity that cuts through every sip. But honestly, with all that chocolate in the iced mocha, I could barely discern any specific flavours. She enjoyed every bit of her drink though!

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Loysel’s Toy also offers the options of hand brew and cold brew coffees in a multitude of funky looking apparatus.

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Loysel’s is ultimately a coffee place serving up good, well brewed coffee. We might have had better luck with their other cakes and they do offer a menu of simple brunch food, but I feel that coffee is still their strong point. It is a great place for a laid back teatime with friends or a good book. Its location strikes it out of my daily java dose list since it would be way too inconvenient, but it hunting down the cafe on occasion makes for a good adventure. It helps that the popsicles on offer are ready thirst quenchers once we complete the hunt!IMG02530-20131023-2219_edited

Happy Monday everyone! Remember to spend some time with your family this week – maybe get out there for a coffee and rent a bike at Loysel’s if you find the time to!

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Food Hunter

Guan Kim Restaurant @ Tanglin Halt

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Planning for a meal that requires table space for a big group of people can be troublesome. This is especially so when certain places are unable to accommodate and it is a bummer if you have to split into smaller groups at separate tables. Moreover, it is another challenge when people are on a budget.

With 10 hungry church teens in tow, I decided on Guan Kim Restaurant. Tucked away in a corner of a shop house, this quiet coffee shop is a stone’s throw away from Commonwealth MRT and neighbouring hawker centres.

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The main draw to this place is the chicken rice. Known as “white chicken” (白鸡), the cooked chicken is dipped in ice to produce a jelly-like skin finishing – all that collagen goodness. We ordered a whole chicken and asked for two bowls of Yong Tau Foo soup (clear soup containing various items like fish balls, stuffed bean curd, and vegetables) and a plate of vegetables with oyster sauce.

There definitely has to be an art behind making chicken rice for it to be one of the national dishes of Singapore. It is a hot favourite I would recommend any of my international friends to try.

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The chicken meat was tender and not dry. The ratio of sesame oil to soy sauce in the dressing drizzled over the chicken was just right, making it fragrant and savoury, and adding a delicious ‘smoothness’ to the meat. Best of all? It did not leave an oily after taste! The skin did not look too undercooked and did not have too much of a jelly texture (which I preferred!). A plus point to this is that the chicken had been de-boned (maybe the store owners saw that there were many young people at the table), yet there were a good two plates of meat to go around; doesn’t being served a plateful of bones with a bit of meat hanging off them get to us all the time!

The rice was flavourful – delightfully aromatic with garlic, ginger and chicken fat – and just oily enough to give the mouthfeel that makes you just want another spoonful. And another. And another. Also, what would chicken rice be without that garlicky chilli sauce? The chilli packed just enough heat, was tangy with ginger juice and really hit home with the garlic flavour; it paired really well with the black sauce and their rice. One bite of the meat and a spoonful of rice with the chilli – exactly what the taste and texture of chicken rice should be. In addition, the chicken stock served alongside it was not oily nor was it overly salted. 

The overall ambience of the place left us feeling like we had been transported back in time. One of us even commented that it had the feel of being in a Malaysian coffee shop. Chatting and eating within this setting was quite different and nostalgic as compared to swanky air-conditioned style eateries that are common rendezvous points these days.

The total cost of meal was quite surprising as everyone had to pay a mere $3.60 and yet all of our hunger was nicely satiated.

To sum up it 5 phrases:

Good food, low prices of food, big group seating, casual dining space, old school interior.

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Food Hunter

Mu Parlour @ Holland Village

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Finding a lunch place on the weekend that is not crowded is pretty rare. Especially when you are at Holland Village, where the cafes are packed with people and it gets quite noisy. Don’t you just wish for a quiet somewhere you could go to for a relaxing Sunday?

All hope is not lost, as proven when my companion and I stumbled upon Mu Parlour. Interestingly, both of us had visited this place previously to study it for an urban class and remembered it to be a designer concept store. So like Alice going down into the rabbit hole, we went up the stairs lined with brick-clad walls on each side.

We were greeted immediately by the service staff and ushered into a bright and clean white space. It was filled with different furniture pieces and each had its own character.

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While I was supposed to have the No. 11 (beef burger with avocado), my words went faster than my thoughts and I subconsciously ordered Burger No. 1 ($15+) instead.

No. 1 consisted of beef, monterey jack, streaky bacon, gherkin and topped with a charcoal bun. The beef did not have an overpowering taste and was seasoned nicely with pepper and with other condiments. While the meat was thick, it was packed firmly and cooked evenly. The toasted charcoal bun was unique in colour and was a bit dense in texture, but  it tasted almost like any regular bun. One bite and you get the flavour of the juicy beef, the melted monterey jack, the crunchy texture of the bacon, lettuce and gherkin all rolled into one.

Not forgetting the fries that came along with the burger – they were seasoned with pieces of diced garlic. However, I felt that they were a little over-fried.

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If you choose not to have their burgers, there is also salad, coffee, cake and various pastries to satiate your hunger.

So would I be back? It really depends. Although the price of the food is kind of steep, the quiet ambience of this place might somehow make me consider my return.

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