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.

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Ngee Fou Ampang Yong Tau Foo, the Hidden Gem at Upper Thomson Roada

Ngee Fou Ampang Yong Tau Foo

Address: 928 Upper Thomson Road

Opening hours: 10.00 am to 8.00 pm daily

Introduction

This Yong Tau Foo was recommended by a friend staying nearby and i had been a fan since then. Ngee Fou Ampang Yong Tau Foo has been around in Singapore for about 45 years old. It was said that the first generation owner is a relative of the originator of Ampang Yong Tau Foo in Malaysia. The knowledge on how to prepare a bowl of good and authentic Ampang Yong Tau Foo was then imparted to this family. The recipe is tweaked over the years to what it is today.

Ngee Fou is situated at the far northern part of Upper Thomson at the Springleaf area and it spans over two shops. Apart from Yong Tau Foo, they also sell drinks, chicken and duck rice. Although it’s location is rather ulu, there is still a pretty decent crowd at meal time.

Ampang Yong Tau Foo

Ngee Fou charges their Yong Tau Foo at an affordable $4 per person and you place your order by stating the number of pax and the auntie will take care of the rest. A portion of their Yong Tau Foo comes with fried bean stick, fried wanton, fried quail egg, fish ball, tau kwa, tau pok, tofu, brinjal, lady’s finger, bitter gourd and tonnes of kangkong, drenched in their secret gravy.

The star of the show is undoubtedly the Ampang Sauce. The secret to their recipe is very well kept and the boss is unwilling to disclose them on various media interviews. It was mentioned that this gravy is made with more than 10 kinds of ingredients and spices.

Despite trying hard to analyse what ingredients are used in the sauce, I only manage to figure out garlic and probably flat fish. Their thick sauce is not heavy on the stomach, comes with a slight tinge of sweetness and a decent amount of garlic fragrance, and goes exceptionally well with all the Yong Tau Foo items.

My two favourite items are the fried bean stick and the kangkong. Unlike some bean stick that you find at vegetarian stall which is typically thin and flimsy, this one is well-fried, thick and crunchy. It’s exceptionally good when it’s half soaked with gravy and half crispy. Normally I will sacrifice the bitter gourd and brinjl to exchange for more of these.

As for the kangkong, they are really generous with the portion, considering it’s only for two person. Usually I am not a fan of non-sambal kangkong but this is one exception. Again, credit goes to the gravy for this lovely combination. The gravy coated vegetable is well boiled, soft enough and yet crunchy and gives a good balance over the fried stuff.

Normally it’s a SOP to order the Dumpling Soup together with their Yong Tau Foo. It’s cost $2.00 for five pieces of dumplings. To be honest, the soup has nothing much to shout about and I’m ordering this for their dumplings as an add on to the Yong Tau Foo ingredient. It’s more of a good to have than a must-order.

Conclusion

Ngee Fou Ampang Yong Tau Foo is my choice for one of the unique and best Yong Tau Foo in Singapore. Apart from the great taste, it also comes at a great price. At $4 for ten items plus a big bunch of veggie, i consider this as very affordable. Most food court would have charge much more for a mediocre bowl of Yong Tau Foo. I also like the spacious dining environment despite being a coffee shop. The table is well space from each other without the feeling of being cramp up.

However, due to it’s location, it’s not a place that I will visit frequently, especially for people who don’t own their own transport. But who knows, the story may change when the Springleaf MRT station is completed in the near future.

Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice at Katong Shopping Centre

Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice at Katong Shopping Centre

Address (Google Map): 865 Mountbatten Road #B1-85/87, Katong Shopping Centre

Opening hours: 10.30 am to 8.00 pm (closed on Monday)

Introduction

Introducing this chicken rice that i had been visiting since my schooling days – Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice at Katong Shopping Centre. There are many things to do at Katong Shopping Centre then – LAN gaming, Billiard and Pool, Bowling and Karaoke and this chicken rice is my must-eat whenever i visit this place.

Price wise, it’s actually a little more pricey than the usual. Be prepare to spend about $6 to $10 per person, depending on what you order. For this meal, it costs me $54 (enough for six pax) and it comes with half roasted chicken, half steamed chicken, braised pork belly (seasonal), bean sprout with sliced abalone and two big bowl of (refillable) soup that are filled with meat and vegetables. Did I mention that it also comes with free flow achar?

Roast / Steamed Chicken Rice

The chicken is well roasted, with the skin slightly crisp, and drenched in a good serving of their unique blend of base sauce that is made from soy sauce and sesame oil. It’s completed by sprinkling fried garlic bit on the chicken, which added a tinge of garlicky fragrance to the chicken. Some may find the sauce a little too salty but i thought it complements the chicken perfectly and made every chunk of chicken enjoyable, including the usually drier breast part.

Their steamed chicken does not stand pale in comparison than it’s roasted counterpart. They manage to retain the natural sweetness of the chicken while ensuring the meat is succulent and juicy. Apart from the chicken, the thick-cut crunchy cucumber slices that are soaked in this sauce is definitely the next best thing that can happen to this plate of chicken.

If there is one thing to improve on, I guess that it’s their rice. Although I don’t find any major problem with their rice and i actually still like it, I have to highlight that their rice is a little to the dryer side, and comparing to some, it’s not as aromatic and fluffy. This may also means that it’s less oily.

Cabbage and Lotus Root Soup

The next unique thing about this chicken rice is gotta be their free flow achar and the (refillable) soup that comes with it. Typically for a portion for four people, it comes with two big bowl of soup – peppery cabbage and pork rib lotus roots. And they are not just soup, but full of vegetables and meat. The cabbage soup is cooked in chicken bones and flavoured with pepper. The cabbage is so soft, that it almost just melt in my mouth.

For the lotus roots soup, it comes with a generous amount of thick crunchy lotus roots, peanut, and even comes with chunks of pork rib in it. I’m quite sure these are one of the best “complimentary” (although i think the cost is already factored into the overall price) chicken rice soup.

Other dishes

They also serve side dishes like Oyster Sauce Vegetable and Bean Sprout with Sliced Abalone. Yeap. Real sliced abalone. I mentioned earlier that the price of the chicken rice can be a little more pricey and this is why.

On this visit, the staff recommended us to try their seasonal dish – braised pork belly a.k.a Dong Po Meat (东坡肉) when we wanted to order their roast meat. I though this dish is not bad. I like the fatty portion (the top part of the pork belly). They manage to break down the fat and made it melty soft instead of a rubbery texture but i thought the fatty part is a little too little as most parts are meaty and it is not soft enough and I sort of struggled trying to dissect it. It’s well braised and flavoured, but probably i still prefer my roast meat to go with my chicken rice.

Conclusion

It’s always a feast whenever i visit Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice at Katong Shopping Centre and having a meal there has always been satisfying. I like this chicken rice for it’s overall package, and not exactly on the individual dish. The meal time crowd has been increasing over the years and sometimes it may require a 45 minutes of waiting time, which i personally think that this one factor made the chicken rice not as attractive as before. For some people, the location of this chicken rice may also be a turn-off as it’s not exactly easily accessible.

Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice has endured the test of time despite for operating in such an inconspicuous location, and maintained their standard throughout the years while maintaining a still-reasonable price. Until it goes the other direction, i will still come back and visit this place whenever i can.

Tiong Bahru Wanton Noodle @ Golden Shoe Hawker

鹏 (Peng) Tiong Bahru Wanton Noodle

Address: 50 Market Street, #02-32, Golden Shoe Complex

Opening hours: Mon to Fri approximately from 8.00am to 4.00pm (or till sold out)

Introduction

When asked for the best hawker stall at the Golden Shoe Complex, this stall 鹏 (peng) Tiong Bahru Wanton Noodle will always come to people’s mind. It’s situated at Level 2 of the Golden Shoe Complex and stands out for the long long queue during lunch time. It comes at $3 and $4 bowl and for a better effect for my photo, I ordered the luxurious $4 version. At $4, I consider this as one of the most sumptuous Wanton Mee in Singapore.

The Wanton Noodle

The four dollars version comes with a generous serving of noodle (guarantee to fill your tummy), a good amount of home-roasted char siew, fried wanton, soup wanton, fried fish paste dumpling and a generous portion of vegetable and a fried fish ball.

鹏 Tiong Bahru Wanton Noodle is one of the few that roast their own Char Siew. The char siew is well caramelized and those who love charred Char Siew will definitely like their version. They offer mostly lean Char Siew so it tends to be a little dry, but not tough, and I thought it taste a little like Bak Kwa. For fatty Char Siew lover, you can ask for the fat portion (if it’s available) upon ordering. You won’t regret it.

Apart from the main attraction which is their Char Siew, i am pleasantly surprise that their noodle is also pretty decent. The noodle is a little thinner than usual. It does not lump together easily and it’s a little bouncy in texture. It’s lightly flavoured with pork lard and added stir-fried chilli. The skin of the soup wanton is a little too thin and it breaks rather easily, although it does not exactly affects the taste directly.

Conclusion

Peng Tiong Bahru Wanton Noodle may not be the best of the best in Singapore, it’s definitely one of the most satisfying one. At $3.00, it may be the cheapest Wanton Noodle in the CBD area that is worth your calorie. If you are looking for something cheap and good, you may want to consider dropping by this hawker centre within the CBD area. However, note that the average waiting time during lunch is about 15 minutes though.

Fu Lin Yong Tau Foo, the Yong Tau Foo that packs a punch

Fu Lin Yong Tau Foo at Telok Ayer (福林豆腐园)

Address (Google Map): 127 Telok Ayer Street

Opening hours: Mon to Fri 9.00am to 6.00pm, Sat 9.00am to 3.00pm

East Coast Main Branch: 721 East Coast Road

Opening hours: Daily 10.00am to 9.00pm

Introduction

Fu Lin Yong Tau Foo, was established in year 1994 and has since enjoyed great popularity among Singaporeans. People normally associate Yong Tau Foo with the word “healthy” and “plain”, but Fu Lin’s version is not quite the norm. It’s a different kind of Yong Tau Foo where it’s served with a bowl of thick bee hoon, topped with a serving of thick minced chicken gravy.

They have a few outlets in Singapore and their main branch is situated along East Coast Road, The branch at Telok Ayer is always full house during lunch time and this briefly gives an idea on their popularity.

Yong Tau Foo with Minced Meat Sauce

I like Fu Lin for two reasons – the sinfully unique style of Yong Tau Foo, and the freshness of their ingredient. It’s a little surprising to know that there is no pork in any of Fu Lin’s ingredients and therefore this also sets them apart from the Ampang Hakka Style Yong Tau Foo, which uses pork and fish as main ingredients.

Each piece of Yong Tau Foo is freshly fried and served with a good drench of their home made gravy, which is made from key ingredients like minced chicken, mushroom, garlic and sesame oil. The gravy is not overly cloying, which is an important factor when pairing with mostly fried items. Some may find the gravy a little starchy but I can deal with it.

Most bean stick items are popular because of the ability to absorb the meat gravy that makes them really delectable. My personal favourite is their Cheese Chicken Frank and Dough Fritters. Most people accompany their Yong Tau Foo with a bowl of smooth thick bee hoon or rice that’s drenched in their special braised sauce.

Pricing

Apart from being more unhealthy than a usual meal of Yong Tau Foo, the pricing of Fu Lin Yong Tau Foo also made it slightly less appealing. it cost $5.30 for a bowl of bee hoon with 6 pieces of Yong Tau Foo and it’s $0.70 for each additional piece. However, the boss once mentioned that he ensures that only the freshest and best ingredients are used in his Yong Tau Foo and therefore the premium price. Worth it or not? You be your own judge. Apparently judging by the bustling lunch crowd, many are still willing to fork out the premium price.

Conclusion

Personally, I think Fu Lin Yong Tau Foo is worth the visit for occasion sinful indulgence. Taste wise, some items are very similar to what I had outside, like their vegetables, carrot and radish. It’s the fried stuff and the meat sauce that made the difference. It’s a pity that it’s a little pricey if you compare it to a hawker price, but it’s still OK if we compare it to a high end food court. For me, I think it’s still reasonable to pay a little more for a unique meal of Yong Tau Foo. If I am around Telok Ayer area during lunch time, Fu Lin will definitely be at the back of my head.

Hollywood Braised Duck Rice (Lian Kee) at Sims Place

Hollywood Braised Duck Rice (formally known as Lian Kee Braised Duck)

Address: 49 Sims Place, Sims Vista Market and Food Centre, #01-73

Operating hours: 9.30am to 3.30pm daily

Introduction

Hin Hollywood Canteen, a very old school coffee shop situated off Tanjong Katong Road, was once a favourite lunch place for “old-timer” city harvest church goers. It was closed down in August 2011 and many coffee shop stalls were missed dearly and one of them is Lian Kee Braised Duck Rice. As per iEatiShootiPost post, Lian Kee had reopened at Sims Vista Market and Food Centre, and had changed their name to Hollywood Duck Rice on 19 September 2014.

A friend brought me to this braised duck rice stall a few years ago. Although i only vaguely remember the taste, it was quite a pleasant experience then so I specially made the trip down to it’s new location.

Braised Duck Rice

I ordered a braised duck for two with added Tau Pok, Tau Kwa and Eggs with two rice. I was rather surprise that it only cost me about $12 for this quality and portion. The dark brown rice is cooked in braising sauce that gives out a subtle herby fragrance that is delectable by itself. Topping it with the thick and flavourful braised sauce only makes the soft fluffy rice even better.

Braised Duck

The duck meat is tender and succulent as I remembered it (even for the breast meat), while the flavour infused duck skin adds a slight bouncy texture. This duck has zero unpleasant “duck smell” and is enjoyable to the last bit of meat. Not to mention that the braised sauce has just the right level of saltiness and the thick flavourful gravy is something worth visiting for.

Others

Their braised egg, tau pok and tau kwa are all cooked in the same braised sauce. When the gravy is this good, nothing much can go wrong. The sweet herbal duck soup also works well for me.

Conclusion

This is a well worth visit. Although it’s at a very ulu location, it’s within a short walking distance from Aljunied MRT. Apart from the taste, i thought it’s very reasonably priced. A plate of braised duck rice cost only $3.30, considering the effort behind for braising the duck and rice. Apart from rice, they also sell duck porridge, noodle and kway chap.