The Famous Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun from Macau at Serangoon Nex

Macau Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun (大利來記豬扒包)

Address: 23 Serangoon Central, NEX Shopping Mall, #B2-15

Opening hours: 10:30am – 10:30pm

Introduction

If you have never heard of Tai Lei Loi Kei, they originated from an island, Taipa, in Macau and they are very well known for their pork chop bun. They have a humble beginning when they  opened for business at Taipa in year 1960 and started by selling plain Piglet Bun. Back then, business was quite not very ideal, as the ferry is the only mode of transport from the main Macau island. In year 1970, business picked up during and after the construction of the bridge connecting the Taipa to Macau.

During this time, a local chef suggested to the lady boss then, to consider adding in a slice of pork chop into the bun and also imparted some knowledge on preparing pork chop using Portuguese-style cooking method. The lady boss also consulted various chefs on how to improve her recipe. This is the turning point of Tai Lei Loi Kei and many specially travelled from the main island to Taipa just for their pork chop bun. In Dec 2014, Tai Lei Loi Kei opened it’s first brand in Singapore at Serangoon Nex.

Tai Lei Loi Kei Menu – Click to enlarge

It’s situated at B2 of Serangoon Nex and they have adopted a fast food restaurant operating model. They serve a variety of main courses involving pork chop such as pork chop bun, noodle and rice.

Pork Chop Bun

Tai Lei Loi Kei is famous for its pork chop bun and is branded as their must-try dish. I ordered their bun ($6.90) with two add-ons at $1 each for a piece of luncheon meat and an egg. I also topped up $4.00 for a set meal that comes with an ice milk tea and a bowl of curry fish ball. All in all, the meal cost me $12.90.

The portion of the pork chop bun is quite well-sized. The pork chop is rather thick and is sandwiched between two pieces of well toasted crispy bun. I was actually quite surprise because  some reviews online mentioned that the bread is plain average but I thought the bun is pretty good.

The pork chop has an expectedly tender texture and with a light crisp on the outside. At first bite, it doesn’t taste fantastic but it gets better after each bite. The pork chop is moderately marinated and not overly salty so it’s quite enjoyable to the last bite, especially when it’s served with an add slice of luncheon meat. However, I thought the egg add-on didn’t do the pork chop bun much favour. If only they can change the sunny side up to the Chinese Pan-fried Scrambled Egg.

Curry Fish Ball

The curry fish ball actually taste quite different from those that i had in Hong Kong. The curry is definitely sweeter, although it’s not necessary bad. The texture is an in-between of Singapore’s bouncy fish ball and Hong Kong’s chewy version. Overall I think this is not fantastic, but not bad either and i manage to finish the fish ball with no difficulty.

Pork Chop Noodle

The pork chop taste exactly like the one in the pork chop bun so I am not going to write about it again. As for the noodle, it’s quite disappointing. I was expecting the noodle to be more flavourful but it’s quite bland, with only a tinge of fragrance of the spices found in the Chinese Braised Sauce. I didn’t manage to finish the noodle.

Conclusion

$6.90 for a pork chop bun (a pork chop and bun and nothing else) is not exactly affordable considering it’s a fast food dining environment. I could have a full meal in most fast food chains in Singapore. In term of taste, i think this pork chop bun is pretty not bad in term of Singapore standard and indeed it’s one of the better one around. You can pay a visit to Tai Lei Loi Kei If you don’t mind paying abit more for a branded and a rather satisfying pork chop bun.

If you compare this to the some that i had in Hong Kong, Tai Lei Loi Kei’s pork chop bun stood out for it’s size and satisfaction but loses out for it’s value for money and to a certain extend, taste. 

Lastly, I really think that Tai Lei Loi Kei should rethink about their branding because this english name is so difficult to remember (or even pronounce for non cantonese speaking people) and people probably end up calling this place the Macau Pork Chop Bun place at Nex.

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Real Food and my favorite Dumpling Soup at Clarke Quay

Real Food and my favorite Dumpling Soup

Address: The Central 6 Eu Tong Sen St The Central #B1-52/53

Opening hours: Daily 9.00am to 9.00pm

Introduction

Real Food, one of the rare vegetarian cafes in Singapore. This cafe is situated at basement one of The Central Clarke Quay. One section of the cafe is for dining, and another section offers a good section of organic / health food. The cafe interior is very spacious, relaxing, with a minimalist design.

Real Food pride themselves as a food-ethical bunch of folks that only use fresh and “recognisable” ingredients (non processed food) for their dishes and everything is prepared from scratch, including their pancake mix and salad dressing. They have a good selection of menu including salad, pasta, noodle, sandwich, burger and brunch menu etc.

Real Food menu – click to enlarge

Dumpling Soup ($9.50)

This is my must-order whenever i visit Real Food. This fat chunky dumpling is made from over ten kinds of ingredients including chopped carrot, mushroom, coriander, turnip, spring onion, celery, tofu, french bean etc.

The filling has the crunchiness of the turnip and french bean, fragrance of spring onion and coriander, chewiness of mushroom and overall it’s a mix of pure goodness.

These dumplings are soaked in a sweet and light mushroom base broth and complete with a portion of green vegetable. In term of taste, these dumplings are not pale in comparison, or in fact better than many meat/prawn dumpling found outside. There is also option to add on noodle at an additional cost of $1.80.

Sour Dough Sandwich with Soft-boiled Egg ($9.80)

For those that don’t like their meal to feel too vegetarian-ny, this is one choice as it resembles the eggy brunch that we had, but a less sinful and less luxurious version. I particularly like the thick layer of melted cheese with it’s fragrance filling the air when it’s served fresh from the oven.

However I feel that the portion definitely can be bigger. I’m quite sure that it won’t fill a meal for a grown man and some of you may be thinking, “$9.80 for one egg, two slices of bread, cheese and salad? Seriously?”. Seems like real food don’t come cheap huh.

Organic Pizza ($16.00)

After having so many years of the unhealthy version of pizza, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered their organic pizza. The portion is good and it’s freshly baked from the oven. There’s no processed food among the ingredients but only fresh ingredients like tomato, mushroom, pineapple, cucumber, olives, capsicum, cheese, and their homemade tomato paste.

The crust is thin and crispy and the homemade tomato sauce is pretty refreshing. However, I do not fancy this pizza much as i think it lacks the satisfaction that I’m looking for in a pizza. But I have to agree that this is one guilty free pizza.

Conclusion

I like this place for the ample space that they give to their diners. Take your time to grab a book from their book/magazine selection or browse through their organic food section and be amazed by their selection.

Food wise, i give it a good and bad, depending on what you order, and this is from the point of view of a meat lover. I personally love their dumpling soup the most and this is my one and only regular order whenever i visit this place. I am still trying out the other dishes to see what’s worth the money.

I really like the idea of them promising that they only whip up a meal using “real food” as it’s so unhealthy to eat out nowadays. If you are looking for something healthy, a little out of the ordinary and a nice place to chill, Real Food is probably the place for you. Healthy and clean food? Seems like it, but no promise it’s satisfying though

Fat Cow Restaurant and their top grade Wagyu Beef Steak

Fat Cow Restaurant and their top grade Wagyu Beef Steak

Address: 1 Orchard Boulevard #01-01/02,Camden Medical Centre

Opening hours: Daily 12.00pm to 3.00pm, 6.00pm to 11.00pm

Reservation hotline: +65 6735 0308

Introduction

Fat Cow is a very well-known Japanese restaurant where you can find Wagyu Steak at the top quality. It’s located at a rather interesting location – Camden Medical Centre at the Tanglin district.

When i mentioned Wagyu Beef, we are not talking about the gimmicky so-call “wagyu beef” that we find in many Japanese restaurant nowadays. The steak that Fat Cow is offering are the ones that are graded using a certain Wagyu Beef grading standard. For the non-beef eater, Fat Cow does offer choices of seafood, sashimi and sushi.

Ala Carte Menu – Click to enlarge

Set Lunch Menu – Click to enlarge

Grading of Wagyu Steak

Wagyu beef is graded on the basis of the yield grade and meat quality grade. The yield grade refers to the ratio of meat to the total weight of the cow. Yield is classified into 3 grades from A to C, with A being a grade of highest yield.

The meat quality grade is classified into five grades from 1 to 5 and they are judged on the following criteria – fat marbling, the colour and brightness of the meat, its firmness and texture, and the colour and brightness of the fat. The lowest grade among the four individual criterias will be the final grade of the meat.

Ohmi Wagyu Grade A4 Steak ($120++ for half cut 150g, $225++ for full cut 300g )

One of the top Wagyu in Japan, Ohmi beef refers to cuts of beef from Black Japanese cattle. The cattle are raised with extreme care in an environment surrounded by bountiful nature and water. At Fat Cow, the menu offers an A4 Ohmi Wagyu Beef (ribeye cut).

Fat Cow also offers Iwate Grade A5 Wagyu Beef. Most Wagyu belong to the Japanese Black class, but the Iwate Japanese Shorthorn is a rare exception that has a reddish-brown coat. This exquisite A5 wagyu beef cost you a whopping $288++ for a full cut at 300g.

A half cut of Ohmi Wagyu comes with eight slices of Beef so it’s about $17.00 per slice and my wallet says ouch. I can’t say it’s value for money but the steak is seriously good. I seldom use this word in my blog but this Japanese medium steak is perfectly done.

As expected of a Japanese steak, the surface of the medium done beef is grilled to char while retaining a succulent center. The beef is very rich in flavour and the distinct layers of melty fats within the beef slices made this steak really exciting. The soft fat breaks down effortlessly in my mouth while the fragrance of the grease fils the palate. Such a texture truly separates the quality of ordinary steak from a slab of true Wagyu Beef. No doubt, so far this is best steak that I ever had.

The Fat Cow Donburi Lunch Set $39++ (comes with salary, chawanmushi, miso soup and a scoop of ice-cream)

For those that are not that determined to splurge on a piece of meat, they also offer a Wagyu Beef Donburi lunch set (only during lunch time) that gives a little hint of how a piece of Wagyu Beef that may taste like. They did not mentioned the cut and grade so probably it’s not a steak cut. However, from instagram, this rice bowl seems to be the top favourites of Fat Cow’s patrons.

Needless to say, the beef slices are more lean, but, the beef is not tough at all. Credit goes to the method of cutting up the beef and the traces of marbled fats among the meat fiber. The rice is drizzled with their Japanese barbecue sauce that comes with a hint of truffle oil. Of course there’s a vast difference if you compare this to the steak but this rice bowl’s quality is more than enough to justify for it’s $39 price tag.

I have one complain though. I ordered a medium but I think they made me a medium well. Or I should probably order a medium rare. For people that don’t like your beef to be too well done, probably a medium rare will better a better doneness for this Donburi.

Spicy Salmon Donburi Lunch Set $26++ and Sake Sashimi $18++

If your dining partner is unable to take beef for various reasons, fret not because Fat Cow does offer seafood selection too and it’s not too bad either. Four slices of Sashimi cost $18.00 and a Spicy Sashimi Bowl cost $26.00.

The Sashimi taste very proper, not fantastic, but proper. The Donburi’s chopped Salmon taste very fresh, but is not the fatty-type Salmon. The added light Japanese mayonaise manage to add on a light greasy texture and enhanced the taste.

Conclusion

Reservation was made well in advance so we were allocated to semi-private dining area. The place is spaciously comfortable with ample table top space. Price wise, most items are priced above average and service is swift and prompt.

The semi private dining area, with floor partition separating dining area with two tables per area

Needless to say, as mentioned earlier, I am very satisfied with this meal. Although it did burn a hole in my wallet, i left the restaurant thinking when is a good date to return. The beef, in particularly, is outstanding and made the trip worthwhile, and naturally, the Salmon is pale in comparison.

Fat Cow – The Main Dining Area

It’s not that the salmon is bad. It’s just the beef is too good and the salmon became negligible. In conclusion, a trip to Fat Cow without trying their beef (even just for the beef bowl) is a wasted trip.

Fat Cow Interior – The Bar Area

Wilder Mann, the Homely German Restaurant

Wilder Mann, the Homely German Restaurant

Address (Google Map): 906 Upper Thomson Rd, 787110

Opening hour: Mon – Fri 6.00pm to 11.45pm Sat 4.00pm to 11.45pm Sun 12.00pm to 10.30pm

Introduction

When we think of German food in Singapore, we normally do not associate them to the word “affordable” or “homely” but Wilder Mann is one in a slightly different caliber. I was quite surprise when I saw their menu, where most of the dishes are like 30% cheaper than the usual German restaurant and they do not charge GST and Service Charge. Wilder Mann also sets a very relaxing mood in the restaurant especially during at night.

Wilder Mann is recommended by a friend who lives nearby and since they opened last year in 2014, it had became one of her favourite haunt. It is a small locally owned business and the boss is a half German half Singaporean who stayed in Singapore all of his life. Having worked in the F&B industries for years, he mentioned that it has always been his dream to open a restaurant serving food the he loved.

Apart from traditional German food, and after receiving some feedbacks and requests, they also offer a few Singapore-style dishes like the Karate Chicken Chop and Tom Yum Pasta. And of course, don’t forget about the selection of German beer.

Wilder Mann Menu: Click to enlarge

Pork Schnitzel with Fries ($12.50 nett)

Although this dish is not the most unique, it’s very properly done up as the thinly pounded pork cutlet is well tenderise and flavoured. It has just the right amount of crisp, less the usual greasiness. Their fries are with a good dose of curry powder and this not an adaptation of Singapore flavour, but a way to have your fries in Germany. These fries are really good and I can’t get enough of them.

Meat Loaf with Potato Salad ($12.50 nett)

Fleischkäse is a common snack food found in various part in Germany. This loaf of compact pink meat is served in slices and topped with a sunny side up, together with a portion of potato salad and greens. The texture is almost identical to the Spam Luncheon Meat and is very flavorful. The taste is more complicated than our favourite luncheon meat but the one similarity is the salt level. It’s rather salty by itself and I wish I have bread to go with it. I feel that this dish has a lot of potential considering how popular our luncheon meat fries are. Personally, I prefer this as a side dish instead.

Tom Yum Pasta ($10.80 nett)

I was quite looking forward to the Tom Yum pasta actually however it didn’t meet my expectation. The taste of the tom yum sauce is actually quite decent but it’s too watery. It didn’t manage to cling on to the pasta at all so each mouthful is a pretty bland and i got to drink the sauce like it’s really a bowl of Tom Yum soup and that is a not my definition of a good plate of pasta.

Sausage Platter for Two ($24.90 nett)

This is the most satisfying dish of the day. It comes with a huge portion of side dish of your choice (potato salad, which I forget to take photo), and six pieces of well-sized German Sausages of various flavours. I’m quite sure the portion is more than what two person can finish especially after taking into account of their side dish.

The weird thing is they decided to add in two pieces of cheese bites (one piece per person) in the platter. It’s not a matter of taste (in fact this breaded melted cheese taste really good) but like why? And only two pieces? I would pay to have more of these.

HOT Wild Wings ($8.80 nett)

For this dish, i love it initially, then not so much. At first bite, the chicken wing is pretty crispy with a zesty spicy punch. However it became soggy after the breading soaked up the chilli sauce. The chicken wings are quite well marinated though so it’s a pity as it started off quite well. I probably should had finished it quickly when it’s served.

Boiled Sausage ($8.50 nett)

Honestly, this plain looking plate of boiled sausages doesn’t look too exciting at all and I was not expecting a boiled healthy meal whenever someone mentioned “German Food”. This is actually my friend’s favourite dish and she will mostly order this whenever she visits Wilder Mann. The herb fragrance of this sausage is something different from the rest.

Conclusion

I really like the dining environment of Wilder Mann. Although there is no exaggerating interior design, it feels very homely and relaxing. It’s somewhere that I want to go if I want to avoid the noisy crowd and yet to have a good meal.

Their food are pretty good for some, but there are also a couple of misses. Their dishes are totally not gimmicky and it reminds me a meal of home cooked western food.

Given the current dining trend, i feel that Wilder Mann will lose out in term of food presentation and having the “Wow” factor. For example, they decided to present their sausage platter and side dish in separate plates. Instead, they can consider slicing some sausages so that it will not look so repetitive, and by serving them on the same plate with a big bed of curry fries which will help in making it looks a little more impressive.

Brunches Cafe, The Prettiest Cafe in Singapore

Brunches Cafe, The Prettiest Cafe in Singapore?

Address: 96 Rangoon Road

Opening hours: Weekday 10.30am to 9.00pm, Sat & Sun 9.30am to 9.00pm, Closed on Tuesday

Introduction

In Singapore, we have many cafes that can be described as old-school, rustic, industrial look, but none can pull off the theme “Vintage” as good as Brunches Cafe. It is actually a furniture store cum cafe located near the Farrer Park area. This cafe, which started their operation only in Feb 2015, is extensively decorated with old school / vintage items at all corners of the cafe. If you set your eye on any pieces in the cafe, including the dining furniture and lighting, it is almost certain that you can bring it home at a price.

Brunches Cafe Menu – Click to enlarge

The Exterior

The exterior of the cafe is framed in a black metal window frame, employed from ceiling to floor and corner to corner. These frames, that were deployed in some great factories and warehouses in the 19th century, imparted an industrial aesthetic and also offers a glimpse of what to expect upon stepping into it.

The Interior

The ambiance of the cafe is set in an old factory workshop with each and every corner of the cafe decorated with vintage furnitures and a combination of old school artifacts and an actual antique collection. The lighting are mounted on black wooden beam which is contrasted by the striking orange pipes and metal cable casing against the white-wash ceiling.

The most eye catching, as well as probably the most sort after seat of the cafe is the mini-cooper converted dining table. The car body is cut into two halves and cushioned seats are padded on both sides of the body and complete by a matching table slipped between the seats.

On the left wall of the cafe, modern vintage art pieces are presented over the once-popular Metal Grilled Sliding Gate that was widely used by provision shops in the early 1980s.

My favourite among all the lighting structures in the cafe – the Birdhouse Light Fixture. It hangs over a 10-seater color-stained reclaimed wood top table and it’s a creation by one of Brunches Cafe’s bosses. In my opinion, apart from the mini-cooper seats, this is another one of the vitalities of the cafe which brought it to life.

On the other side of the cafe, it lies a glass-top table made from an old Bullock Cart Wheel and also the once popular item for all grandmothers – the Singer Treadle Sewing Machine, which is ran by a manual foot pedal which connects to the sewing mechanism with a leather belt. The NEC black and white standalone TV is another interesting item in the cafe. Not to mention black and white TV, i’m sure some of us have never seen a non-remote TV before.

On the far right hand corner, there is a good collection of antique players like the Phonograph, Gramophone and the Turntable Record Player and other more familiar items like the Rotary Dial Phone and Vintage Radio, that are all in good working condition.

Their Food

I was like really full after having my meal at a nearby cafe, Jewel Cafe, so I only ordered their dessert and a drink. The waffle is reasonably priced at $12.50 that includes cubes of brownies, a whole banana and a scoop of Chocolate Ice Cream. I like the texture of the waffle, which is crisp and fluffy. However, I feel that it is lacking in taste in term of fragrance from egg and butter.

i have no complain for their caffe latte, which comes with a cute latte art and accompanied by this exquisite tea spoon. Also do try out the pastries in the cafe as they were personally baked and prepared by the lady boss.

Conclusion

From Brunches Cafe’s menu, it seems like they have a good food selections except for their dessert range. Do share with us if there’s any food recommendation. I can’t review much on their food but I’m pawned by the interior design. I have been to many fascinating theme cafe at overseas before and i’m proud to now have Brunches Cafe in Singapore.

No matter which part of the cafe you are seated at, i would say there is none with a boring view. Since i like the dining ambiance so much, I’m gonna be a little bias here and recommend this cafe to my readers and please be my white mice for review of their food. And lastly, pre-wedding photo shoot at this cafe anyone?

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh @ Seletar Mall, the same old good taste with a different look

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh @ Seletar Mall

Address: 33 Sengkang West Avenue  #01-39/40/41 The Seletar Mall

Opening Hours: Daily 10.30am to 9.30pm

They have other outlets at Chinatown Point , 11 New Bridge Road and UE BizHub East.

Introduction 

Song Ba Bak Kut Teh, has been selling Bak Kut Teh in Singapore since 1969 and is well known for selling one of the best Bak Kut Teh in Singapore. Apart from Song Fa, the usual names that pop up for peppery-style Bak Kut Teh will be Founder and Ya Hua. By writing this review, i think I’m kinda putting on head on the chopping board. Although there are many good reviews about Song Fa, there are also reviews saying this Bak Kut Teh is overrated, too commercialised, too touristy etc.

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh Menu: Click to enlarge

I had been supporting their Clarke Quay branch for the past years and decided to write about them after visiting their newly opened Seletar Mall branch. Even though it’s an air-conditioned environment, the price stated on their menu is net price with no additional service charge and government tax. Some of you might disagree, but personally i feel that Song Fa Bak Kut Teh is moving towards the right direction on the journey to retain our Singapore food culture and it’s worth my time writing, which i will state the reasons in my conclusion.

Pork Spare Rib / Premium Loin Rib ($7.00 / $9.50)

The pork rib comes into two variations, the ordinary spare rib and the premium loin rib. The soup is exactly the same, just that the loin rib cut is leaner and meatier and for that, you need to fork out an additional $2.50. For me, I tend to enjoy the soup more than the meat itself so the spare rib version is good enough for me. I only ordered the loin rib this time because it looks good on photo.

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh has a moderate pepper taste, not overly strong, but just the right amount for me. Like other good bowl of Bak Kut Teh, Song Fa’s broth has three layers of flavour (which some only has two or even only one). At first sip, you will taste the spicy peppery garlicky punch of the soup, followed a surge of smooth, rich and savoury flavours of the pork broth as it fills your palate and finally a sweet aromatic lingering aftertaste after the soup went down your throat that makes you go “ahhh”. This has always been my standard of judging a good bowl of Bak Kut Teh and Song Fa has been keeping up with this standard so far.

For those that are not familiar with such Bak Kut Teh eatery, their soup is refillable and feel free to drink to your heart’s content. I kinda like Song Fa’s service because there are always a few staff walking around in soup-filled kettle and an empty bowl is always quickly refilled with hot and piping soup.

Braised Bean Curd Skin ($3.50)

Apart from the Bak Kut Teh, i will always order their Braised Bean Curd Skin. Song Fa’s bean curd skin is the thinner variation that is soft and yet retains a chewy texture. Some bean curd skin tends to have an overpowering bean taste but Song Fa one is just right, with the right amount of braising flavour.

Dough Fritters (You Tiao) $3.20

Needless to say, the Dough Fritters, or You Tiao is also the must-order. The traditional way to enjoy the You Tiao is to soak them in the pork broth and pop them into your mouth. A rather generous portion (large size) cost $3.20, which is very reasonable for Bak Kut Teh standard which can be comfortably shared by two people. I never leave Song Fa Bak Kut Teh without ordering this bowl of You Tiao.

Braised Pork Belly ($7.00)

After patronising Song Fa for so many years, they finally came out with a new dish – Braised Pork Belly and it cost $7.00. This dish is pretty decent and my serving of pork belly is a rather lean cut but i was actually hoping for a more fatty slab. The braising was skillfully done. The leaner part of pork belly is very tender and the fatty part is melty soft. The braising sauce is very rich and thick which goes perfectly with a bowl of white rice.

Conclusion

Among the Bak Kut Teh big names, Song Fa is currently the first one that spent much effort on the interior design of their new branches, adopts new technology like taking order with an i-pad, ensuring their customers dine in a comfortable air-conditioned environment and yet retaining the same good taste. Not only diners want to dine in an air-con environment, it also provides the staff to work in a more comfortable environment. In fact, i can’t imagine having a bowl of piping hot peppery Bak Kut Teh in a hot and humid afternoon.

Some may say “Wah lau, one Bak Kut Teh cost $9.50? Crazy ar?”. But just imagine nowadays people are willing to pay $7.00 for a cup of coffee because “the place is nice”. It’s time we raise the status of our hawker food and to bring it up to the next level. Think of it that way. If we Singaporeans keep insisting in paying cheap price for hawker food, how will it attract sons and grandsons to inherit the skill and business of our beloved hawker stalls. Passion is one thing, but on the pratical side, the hawker business must also be profitable.

The ugly truth is, to our younger generation, being a boss of a cafe is cool but frying Char Kway Teow in a hawker stall is not as glamorous, and is tough as hell and not as profitable due to the low selling price. For me, I think it’s time to show some love to those so-call “commercialised” hawker food as i boldly say that it’s one way that our hawker food can go, by breaking away from the standard model of hawker food. As for us, paying a little more than coffee shop price is one pactical way to support our local hawker food.