Best Eats in Katong Shopping Centre Basement

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This week, our foodie friend Lyn Lee of Awfully Chocolate & Sinpopo Brand is fresh from her visit to an East-side haunt of hers, a place that’s been around for decades and was once the “hippest mall” in Katong. Eastsiders are no doubt familiar with Katong Shopping Centre, once full of tailor and dress-making shops, now filled with maid agencies and tuition centres, along with even a Ghostbuster shop! But this historical mall is probably best known for its culinary delights, found especially in the basement food court. Many swear by the chicken rice found there, literally called Delicious Chicken Rice, but there are many other yummy dishes to try, which Lyn recommends. The day she was there recently, the chicken rice stall was shut so she managed to snag a hard-to-find table in the always-busy food court, the better to enjoy her favorite dish from there – LAKSA YONG TAU FOO!

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Located in the corner, Katong Yong Tau Foo sells a variety of dishes, but Lyn’s go-to is choose-your-own yong tau foo in laksa gravy, with your choice of noodles. She always goes for the instant mee, which are cooked to al dente, QQ perfection.

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A basic bowl of Laksa Yong Tau Foo costs $5.60, including noodles and six other ingredients (your choice, see the selection in the photos above).

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According to Lyn, what she loves is that that the Laksa gravy is tasty yet not too overwhelming that you forget you’re actually eating yong tau foo.

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Indeed, when I stopped by to give it a try myself, the gravy was mellow and creamy from coconut milk, but not cloying or overly rich. Mildly spicy, you can ask for more sambal chilli if you prefer more kick. A sprinkle of finely-chopped laksa leaves add that quintessential fragrance and flavour to the dish.

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My portion cost $9.80 because, greedy me, I chose 11 ingredients, including fishpaste-stuffed tau pok, beancurd skin, brinjal, chilli, capsicum, mushrooms and vegetables.

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This made for a very hearty, belly-warming meal that was full of umami and spice you like from laksa, combined with the freshly-made goodness of yong tau foo.

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Lyn also found a stall in the food court she reckons hasn’t been there for very long. Specialising in Malaysian-style Chinese delicacies, Ipoh Tuck Kee Son’s Dai Loke Mee was a marvelous discovery that she highly recommends.

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For just $5, she got a fresh-from-the-wok serving of fried noodles in a dark brown sauce that looks very similar to the famous KL-style Hokkien Mee. The noodles were thick, tender, yet with a pleasing chewiness, stir-fried in a silky dark soy-based sauce.

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Juicy whole prawns, fresh cai xin, pork slices and (most unusual but welcome) sections of small powder intestine made up the ingredients of the Dai Loke Mee.

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The distinct metallic offal taste of the small intestines delighted, along with the crunchy slivers of fatty pork slices.

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And dotted here and there, were crispy little gems of pork lard, adding texture and flavour to an already tasty dish. The saucy, garlicky noodles had that coveted wok-hei and you could really taste the char from a well-seasoned pan.

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For even more flavour, don’t forget to add their house chilli sauce and pickled green chill slices!

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photo courtesy of Lyn Lee

We’ll soon be hurrying back to sample more of the dishes from their extensive menu, especially since this seems to be a well-oiled set-up, with the kitchen equipment of a zichar restaurant and signature noodle dishes that look very enticing.

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One last honourable mention from Lyn is the fried carrot cake, which sadly, was sold out when I visited (it must be that good!).

IMG_4375Lyn says that this is an excellent carrot cake – generously fried with egg and particularly impressive because of the extra topping of chye poh (preserved radish). Look at those giant shavings of the salty-sweet pickle on top of the black version!

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photo courtesy of Lyn Lee

And there you have it, besides the famous Delicious Chicken Rice in the basement of Katong Shopping Centre, there are quite a few more wonderful stalls to check out in the same food court. So whether its Laksa Yong Tau Foo with Maggi Mee, or Malaysian-style fried noodles, or Chye Tow Kueh, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

TASTE:
Katong Shopping Centre Basement Food Court
#B1-85/87, 865 Mountbatten Road, S(437844)

  1. Katong Yong Tau Foo, open 9.30am – 8pm (closed Thursdays)
  2. Ipoh Tuck Kee Son (怡保德记仔), open daily 11am – 3pm; 5 – 9.30pm
  3. Wah Soon Kei Carrot Cake, open 10.15am – 7pm (weekdays), 9.15am – 7pm (weekends & public holidays), closed Tuesdays.

Double Prawn Power – Hae Mee & Fried Hokkien Mee

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Hi Makan Kakis, this week our foodie friend, Fly Entertainment CEO and owner of Bar NKD, Fry Bistro & Soi Candy Thai Noodle and Seafood Bar, Irene Ang returns with another solid makan place for us to check out. Last time she was with us, she recommended her favourite old school laksa lemak, which often sees long queues. But if youdon’t fancy the wait, you must try another stall in the same Mayflower Food Centre – 3 Sisters Prawn Noodle. Irene says their specialties are also very good!

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Their Prawn Noodles (soup & dry), as well as Fried Hokkien Mee boast old-school flavours too. And in case there was any doubt, the stall is really run by 3 sisters! According to Irene, there you’ll see the eldest sister in charge, taking orders, a 2nd sister cooking prawn noodles and a 3rd sister frying the Hokkien Mee.

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You have to admit, it’s a brilliant idea to sell both types. The same fragrant prawn stock from the prawn noodles is used in the making of their hokkien mee, which brings a lovely synergy to both dishes, whether you enjoy your noodles soup, dry or drenched in gravy!

Continue reading “Double Prawn Power – Hae Mee & Fried Hokkien Mee”

Home-style Korean Comfort Food (& Running Chocolate Taps!)

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Hey hey Foodie Friends! If you, like our Makan Kaki Lyn Lee (of Awfully Chocolate & Sinpopo Brand), are a massive K-Drama fan, then you know what it’s like to be enticed by all the food dripping off the scenes. How can you not crave for a Korean feast? When the hunger pangs hit, do try a place Lyn swears by. It’s the only Korean restaurant she and her family regularly visit and here’s why…

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As a F&B owner who’s also had to struggle through the last 2 years of Covid-19-hit business, Lyn’s on a mission to support other small business owners, like Mrs Kim and her family-run restaurant on Killiney Road. It’s no fancy BBQ place, but at the cosy Korea House, you’ll get heart-warming, belly-busting, home-style favourites, like these.

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Secret, Silky & Spicy Off-Menu Dry Mee Koon Kueh

It’s not often I’m up early, nor is it often I’m in the East side of the island, but if I am, it’s usually for just one thing: breakfast after a workout at East Coast Park. One of the go-to places for my all-time favourite noodle dish is Ah Lim (Jalan Tua Kong) Mee Pok Kway Teow Soup in Joo Chiat Place, where I’ve breakfasted on mee pok tah on many a sweaty occasion.

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I believed I was familiar with all the stall had to offer, until some foodie friends from Ice Ke Lim Asian Specialty Gelato (they used to occupy the same coffee shop, along with the previously mentioned Lim Bo Fresh Fruits Rojak) whispered three little words to me – OFF-MENU ITEM.

Dry mee hoon kueh, to be exact. A secret dish of hand-torn noodles in a sauce, not soup, served only at dinnertime. To clarify, mee hoon kueh is on the menu, but only the soup version. The dry version is off-menu.

If the name of the stall rings some bells, it’s because they have six outlets in various locations across Singapore, including Bugis, Tampines, Simpang Bedok and the one that started it all over twenty years ago in Siglap, on the corner of East Coast Road & Jalan Tua Kong. According to Mr Bronson Lim, the noodle business is all in the family – his uncle runs the stall in Siglap and his father, Mr Lim Teck Seng, operates the one at Joo Chiat Place. I considered it quite the culinary coup when the younger Mr Lim informed me that of all the six outlets, the dry mee hoon kueh could only be found at their Joo Chiat branch.

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“Only regulars know we make it after 5.30pm. At first my dad didn’t want to do it because it’s very troublesome. There are extra steps because of the sauce,” Mr Lim explained, gesturing to the layout of the stall. The sauces are mixed in a different area from where the mee hoon kueh is cooked, which tends to slow down the entire process during peak periods, especially earlier in the day and on weekends.

Continue reading “Secret, Silky & Spicy Off-Menu Dry Mee Koon Kueh”

Mutton Meets Medicine in this Mild, Herbal Soup

I’ve always enjoyed a bowl of mutton soup, so when my Makan Kaki, Chef Shen Tan of Newton nasi lemak stall OG Lemak recommended I try one in my neighbourhood, I was more than keen. Until I realized it wasn’t the spicy sup kambing I had assumed. She was suggesting a mutton soup of the Chinese herbal variety, which brought flashbacks of unpleasant previous encounters with bitter TCM concoctions. However, Chef Shen proclaimed it hearty, heart-warming and not overtly herbal, so in the name of adventurous eating, I agreed to pay Hong Wen Mutton Soup a visit.

img_8466Fans might be more familiar with the stall at Beauty World Food Centre, but when I stopped by, they recommended I check out their branch instead, with the promise that both stalls were run by the same family, using the same recipe. I traipsed diagonally across the road to meet Mr Tan Voon Kui, 61, who told me they expanded the family business to Bukit Timah Food Centre around 8 years ago in 2013.

A large sign at the front of his stall was emblazoned with the words “Old Beauty World”, in a nod to Hong Wen Mutton Soup’s heritage and his father’s beginnings as a street hawker in the area more than fifty years ago. His younger brother still operates the Beauty World stall, where they’ve been since the mid-eighties.

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Sambal-smothered Fried Chicken Inspired by Film Legend P. Ramlee!

What do legendary actor P. Ramlee & fried chicken have in common? They are the passions of one man – Mr Haswandi Hashim – converging deliciously at his stall in Jalan Besar. After my Makan Kaki Chef Bjorn Shen, judge of MasterChef Singapore and Middle-Eastern restaurant Artichoke proclaimed it “the most amazing ayam goreng in Singapore” earlier in February this year, I hurried down to confirm this and was not disappointed. A few things have changed since February and on my last visit, I finally met the man behind Chef Bjorn’s favourite fried chicken. Turns out, this ayam goreng comes with rice and sambals as colourful as the story behind it.

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Mr Haswandi and his wife Nur Hafizah Ahmad launched La Porpo just two years ago with little fanfare, but have quickly gained a still-growing fan base. As a massive fan of film legend P. Ramlee, Mr Haswandi decided to name his stall after a catchphrase from his idol’s 1972 movie Laksamana Do Re Mi.

“It was a hilarious comedy and there’s one part where P. Ramlee was sitting on a flying carpet when he said ‘la porpo’, which sounded Spanish to me,” he explained. “La porpo is a phrase used often between me and my childhood friends. We all watched the same movie, so that’s our connection and appreciation of P. Ramlee. To us, it means something friendly, warm, creative.”

Like a secret password or magic code within his social circle, it brings together their shared love for movies and makan that Mr Haswandi hopes will extend to his customers. “I want them to come and get crazy about our flavours,” he said with a smile.

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That’s why he even named his F&B company Rasa Loca (an amalgamation of Malay and Spanish words that means crazy taste) and one of his spicy chilli pastes Sambal Loca. Mr Haswandi is also pleased he has his son’s seal of approval for a greeting he often uses (almost like the stall’s tagline) and can be seen in signage on the storefront, “Yo… What’s good?”

So what is good at La Porpo? Hands down, their ayam goreng or fried chicken, of course. Mr Haswandi’s recipe, “legendary in the family since my grandparents’ time”, has been passed down orally through generations. Combined with Nur Hafizah’s own family recipe, husband and wife have created the ultimate fried chicken, after much trial and error. Theirs is a fundamental fried chicken recipe versatile enough to use in many dishes like their best-selling Kelantan-style nasi kerabu, ayam penyet and ayam geprek. All started off with the same fried chicken foundation, but the difference is in the sambals.

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Prawn Mee That’s Big in Name, Size & Flavour!

Fresh off his win in cooking competition Masterchef Singapore Season 2 earlier this year in April, Derek Cheong revealed that he was a huge fan of a stall called Loyang Way Big Prawn Noodles. Known for his “mad scientist” culinary prowess and mastery over Asian flavours, I immediately sat up and paid attention. If it was good enough for a Masterchef, it was certainly worth the meandering forty minute drive from West to East to locate this far-flung stall.

Everything one needs to know about the stall is in its name. Found deep in a Loyang industrial estate, they specialize in dry and soup noodles, featuring prawns of a certain size. After getting slightly lost, I finally arrived at a nondescript canteen, sitting solo amongst factories and offices. Hardly an auspicious start to my foodie adventure, but one look at the prawn noodle stall confirmed my taste buds were about to get lucky.

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Even at 8am, Loyang Way Big Prawn Noodles’ menu board was brightly lit, tempting customers with its variety: Big Prawn Noodles ($5, $7, $9), Pork Ribs Prawn Noodles ($5, $7, $9), Abalone Prawn Noodles ($8, $10) and XL Big Prawn Noodles ($13.80). Add-on ingredients were also available, everything from to prawn ($2 each), to abalone ($3), to pork ribs and other piggy parts like skin and intestines ($1 to $3) and the intriguing sha dan (literally sand egg in Mandarin, but described as a runny-centred egg, so-named for dim sum restaurant molten saled egg bun, liu sha bao, $1).

If I had had my way, I would have blown the budget and my belly by including them all in my order. But I was a woman on a mission to recreate a big prawn noodle experience worthy of a Masterchef. Derek had recommended that I go for the biggest portion of unadulterated dry prawn noodles with soup on the side, promising flavours both intense and umami.

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Ole Ole Bumbu – Lontong Worth Cheering About!

Early one Wednesday morning, I found myself at Marine Terrace Market & Food Centre to try a dish that came highly recommended by my Makan Kaki, Gayle Leong of Asian Specialty Gelato Store, Ice Ke Lim. At her urging to get there early to avoid missing out, I was one was of the first of a steady stream of customers at Ole Ole Bumbu, a family-run Nasi Padang stall in Marine Terrace.

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There, I met affable and chatty matriarch and chef Eliza Abdul Mutalib, who regaled me with tales of her culinary-crazy upbringing, as well as her love for cooking and for her customers. Take the name of her stall, which she created herself by combining the Malay word for spices (bumbu) with the world of sports. “You know, like the football cheer? Ole, Ole, Ole, let’s go! Simple to remember, yet lots of meanings,” she said. Also, in Indonesia, ole ole can mean souvenirs or as Eliza explained, “Tidbits are also called ole ole.”

The stall’s name certainly had layers of meaning, but would their lontong bring the same in flavour? I was very keen to find out if the spices were indeed worth cheering about. Perfectly confident, Eliza proclaimed that her lontong was a cut above the rest because she grinds all her spices from scratch.

Garlic and onion are added along with two other “secret” ingredients that Eliza willingly divulged, “Lemongrass and dried prawns. Not the small ones, not udang grago. Those are $5 or $6 per kg. Ours is special and can cost $18 to $20 per kg! It makes a lot of difference to the taste. There’s more sweetness from the prawn. I sauté it for longer so the flavour and fragrance really comes out.”

A whole lot of grinding also goes on for Eliza’s lontong toppers. First, her sambal, made from dried red chillies and belacan (fermented shrimp paste) is sauteed with ikan billis (dried anchovies) for a flavour boost. Next, her serunding (fried, spiced coconut sambal) gets the same treatment with dried shrimp and dried fish. “I add ikan parang that’s dried and ground. One packet costs $50!” Eliza revealed.

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6 o’clock: A chunky wedge of jackfruit! 9 o’clock: Lontong. 3 o’clock: Bergedil!

Continue reading “Ole Ole Bumbu – Lontong Worth Cheering About!”