Due to the recurring F&B COVID-19 restrictions, when she’s not ordering in, she’s been making it a point to explore the Ang Mo Kio area near where she lives to support hawkers as much as possible. She joked that she was reluctant to reveal her Laksa place because she knows people will complain that they’ll have to queue for longer than before once word gets out! Fortunately for us, I managed to twist her arm and she finally shared that she has to visit this humble stall at Mayflower Food Centre at least once a week for her spicy, lemak fix. It’s a stall that’s been there for a long time and according to Irene, is usually run by an old uncle who only accepts standard orders for his coveted Laksa, because the queues are usually long.
Of course, I had to go check it out for myself and after doing a little research because Irene could only tell me the location of the stall, but not its name, I discovered that Quan Xing Mei Shi is the only stall at Mayflower Food Centre that sells Laksa. For some reason, it was closed the 2 times I paid it a visit – both times on a weekday morning at 9am, right smack in the middle of their alleged opening hours. Persevering, I was third time lucky. At the stall were an affable man and woman, but no sign of the “old uncle” Irene mentioned. Turns out, the younger gentleman is the son and he was the one who served me. I quickly dapao’d two portions to go (both for me, just in case – I’d worked so hard for my Laksa!).
Thoughtfully packed separately in bags (I paid extra for the reusable bowls in these photos) – the blanched noodles, beansprouts, sliced fish cake, a dollop of chilli paste and a generous scoop of laksa leaves went into one bag, whilst the hot gravy, thick-cut taupok (tofu puffs) and cockles went into the other. I would have preferred that the cockles were packed with the noodles instead to prevent overcooking, but they were so generous with the little shellfish (I counted at least 12), I really couldn’t complain. At least they were sweet and fresh and didn’t end up rubbery!
As Irene was telling me, the stall doesn’t usually accept any special orders – you take your Laksa as they make it – absolutely no permutations, except you can choose between yellow noodles or thick bee hoon (chu mi fen). Even without the old man there, I didn’t dare push my luck with his son and obediently went with their standard, which was a good portion. Irene loves that one can have a whole bowl of this Laksa and not feel too full or jelak.
Hey Makan Kakis! Look who we have as this week’s guest? Fresh from his triumph at MasterChef Singapore Season 2, Winner Derek Cheong joins Denise online & on-air to chat about his journey to being Singapore’s new MasterChef.
Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 1) – Derek talking about his reaction to his win in the MasterChef kitchen, his thoughts on the judges, the biggest lessons he’s learnt along the way and what he’s doing with his $15,000 cash prize (only what a “mad scientist” would buy!).
Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 2)– How Derek put his 3rd year engineering studies on hold to join MasterChef, who his culinary hero is, which culinary books have inspired him, the first dish he ever cooked and his ideal dinner party guest/ meal.
Despite his reputation as a fine-dining chef and “mad scientist” with a penchant for molecular gastronomy, MasterChef Derek Cheong maintains that he’s still a “Hawker Boy” at heart. So when he’s in need of a bowl of coconutty comfort, this famous Laksa brand is his absolute go-to. 328 Katong Laksa is one of the handful of Katong rivals for good reason. It really is very, very good.
Today, our Makan Kaki is Host of Talking Point, Steven Chia, who has previously regaled us with tales of his investigations into bread, instant noodles and bubble tea. This time, he joins us to talk about FRIED CHICKEN!
Why can’t Singaporeans get enough of it? Just how many varieties are out there in the market? Is there such a thing as healthy fried chicken? And what happened to Steven when he subjected himself to a Talking Point experiment to eat fried chicken everyday for 2 weeks straight?
Steve gives us a little taster of what to expect in his 2-part Talking Point special – catch it this week (15 April) & next (Thurs 22 April), 9.30pm on Channel 5 or via CNA!
And with all his food adventures, we had to ask him – where he goes for his favourite foods. Keep reading for his makan recommendation!
One of Steve’s family favourites is a Malaysian-Chinese restaurant in the West Coast area that serves up classic Penang-style dishes. In particular, Steve loves Penang Island Kitchen’s char kway teow ($12). It’s not too oily nor sweet, has lots of wok hei and is fried with lots of egg and bean sprouts, just the way Steve likes it. Packed with a generous poriton of lup cheong (chinese sausage), sliced fish cake and prawns, this noodle dish really hits the spot!
Our hawker culture has officially been added to the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity! In celebration, let’s go back and explore some of our best-loved hawker dishes, as voted by GOLD 905 listeners earlier this year. Simply scroll through & click on the list I’ve conveniently compiled for you below.
With sincere thanks to all the hawkers past, present and future, for all your hard work, expertise and contributions to Singapore’s unique food heritage. We salute you!
For more, come back often and explore my entire archive of delicious Makan Kakis recommendations!
We’re back with our Makan Kaki Lyn Lee, of Awfully Chocolate, Sinpopo Brand & now mooncakefair.com her new project, just in time for Mid-Autumn Festival. The countdown begins from now till 1 October! Scroll down for details on this one-stop virtual mooncake marketplace and also, the selection of mooncakes Awfully Chocolate has for the season. Or have a listen to our podcast here.
This week, Lyn also wants to share with us the joys of a childhood hangout – Bukit Timah Plaza! Anyone who grew up in the area will remember iconic eating places in the shopping centre, like Wishbone and Happy Kappy ice-cream. Struck by a craving, she popped by to check things out and sadly it has since closed down. So she walked around looking for something else to eat and chanced upon Tok Panjang Nonya Cafe in Basement 1, run by a husband and wife team, Patrick and Angelina. On that day, Patrick was the only one there and what a friendly, persuasive character he is. He kept saying, “Come in and try our homemade kueh kueh. If you try, you’ll definitely come in to eat!”
The exchange was so fun, that Lyn and her family allowed themselves to be cajoled into the cafe for a bite to eat. They ordered Nasi Kunyit with whole chicken leg curry & Mee Rebus, which they enjoyed. In particular, the fragrance of the yellow rice was lovely and the curry is thick and savoury, with a hint of sweetness. Tok Panjang isn’t about elaborate Peranakan dishes, but is dedicated to simple, satisfying, no-nonsense home-cooking.
Other dishes to try are their Mee Siam (both dry and soup versions are yummy) and their Laksa Lemak, which is very tasty, with lots of curry flavour, rich coconut and a little sweetness rounding things off. Other goodies include their Nasi Lemak, excellent crispy fried ikan billis (super-tasty & addictive, available in takeaway containers) and their dish of the day, which varies. The day I visited, soy braised chicken rice was on the menu and wow, the rice (which Patrick generously doled out in tiny tasting cups) was just like Hainanese chicken rice – fragrant with garlic and pandan, shiny from delicious chicken fat.
But Tok Panjang’s signature has got to be their handmade kueh kueh – 4 pieces for $4 – on display at the very front of the cafe. One bite and you’ll immediately know that these have been made from scratch, with love.
All the kueh kueh looked gorgeous, with their different colours and textures.
Kueh Pandan (green), Kueh Kosui (brown) & Ubi Kaya Kukus (yellow) were all meltingly tender and not too sweet, especially when showered with the savoury grated fresh coconut. The sweet potato ondeh-ondeh was also squelchingly good.
Also available is the Pulut Seri Kaya, also known as Kueh Salat. Unusually, Tok Panjang’s version has sticky black rice topped with the thick pandan custard on top. But Lyn’s favourite is the Ubi Kayu Kukus, steamed tapioca kueh. But you can also enjoy their Kueh Bingka, which is baked tapioca with a browned crust on top.
Other sweet treats you might want to try are their refreshing Mango Sago, or their Chendol. We’ve saved the best for last though – their Chendol Agar-Agar is really fantastic and worth the calories. It is exactly chendol captured in a firm, layered jelly – delicious and creamy, yet light and refreshing.
Another plus is Patrick’s generosity with samples. One visit and I had tastes of butter cake, chocolate cake, and a whole selection of savoury mains. Lyn too, was the recipient of a bag of kuehs to takeaway for free one afternoon when she arrived with friends. It was Patrick’s way of saying sorry they had almost sold out.
It’s always these spontaneous discoveries that leave a lasting impression and you’ll definitely remember Tok Panjang for their delicious home-cooked Nonya rice and noodle dishes, as well as their lovely handmade kueh kueh. Please so go early though, because they often sell out right after lunchtime. Best to go first thing in the morning when they open at 9am.
TASTE: Tok Panjang Nonya Cafe @ Bukit Timah Plaza 1 Jalan Anak Bukit, B1-52C, S(588996) Open Daily: 9am -5.30pm Tel: +65 92737979
Mooncakefair.com is Singapore’s first and largest dedicated online mooncake fair & one-stop shop that runs from now till 1 October 2020. The mooncakes are delivered straight to customers’ doorsteps in temperature-controlled food trucks, straight from a F&B centralised distribution centre.
With over 35 notable brands from hotels, restaurants, and bakeries, Mooncakefair.com currently has the widest variety of mooncake players on a single dedicated mooncake platform.
There’s also a special feature for corporate and bulk orders – discounts can be applied by combining orders across all brand partners, so no need to commit to a large quantity from any one brand before getting that corporate price or bulk discount!
While you’re on mooncakefair.com, check out Awfully Chocolate’s extraordinary artisanal mooncakes luxuriously presented in one-of-a-kind bespoke wooden keepsake chests. The Awfully Chocolate Mid-Autumn Collection 2020 comprises two distinct styles of mooncakes – Classic Baked Mooncakes and Chocolate Truffle Mooncakes.
Each chest of Classic Baked Mooncakes boasts four different flavours, baked in either light golden Shanghai pastry or signature dark chocolate pastry. New this year is the Six Treasures with White Lotus flavour, inspired by the traditional “Five Nut” mooncake with a unique spin. The 100% Premium Dark Cocoa’s distinctive roast is enhanced with a salty-sweet medley of fruit and nut, creating a lovely balance in flavour and texture.
Complementing the Classic Baked Mooncakes is the matching wooden chest of pure Chocolate Truffle Mooncakes. Every exquisitely handcrafted chest of eight holds four delightful flavours.
SEE: When it comes to where the best laksa can be found, foodie feuds and fierce debates abound – everybody has their own opinion. So when Gold 905 listeners voted for a National Day series featuring Singapore’s best local dishes, laksa came in a solid second with several favourites coming to the fore.
To be clear, we’re referring to laksa lemak – noodles in a coconut-based curry soup and often served in proud Peranakan homes. Recipes may vary from kitchen to kitchen, but most agree that the spice paste, or rempah, has to have the right balance of herbs, spices and seasoning (my mother’s laksa lemak recipe has 15 ingredients for the rempah alone!), along with good quality coconut milk, hae bee (dried baby shrimp) and seafood stock (fish or prawn), to make a rich, tasty curry soup.
Tau pok (fried beancurd puffs), fishcake, cockles and beansprouts have also become standard ingredients, along with thick bee hoon (rice vermicelli) and a sambal (chilli paste) as a condiment on the side. But perhaps the most important ingredient, known for its distinctive aroma and flavour, is daun kesum. The herb is also known as laksa leaf for good reason.
Over the years, different hawkers found fame with their own special version of laksa lemak. So whether you prefer your laksa without hum (cockles), or a gravy that’s thick and creamy, or noodles eaten with a spoon instead of chopsticks, here are three places recommended by Gold 905 listeners that we think are noteworthy:
What else can we stay-home circuit breakers order in or takeaway with just a budget of $20 enough to feed 4 people? Da Jie Niang Dou Fu & Hainan Chicken Rice is worth a try! No prizes for guessing what they specialise in, but what’s unique is – their food is halal. For a family with different tastes, I’d say go for their Yong Tau Foo – for a minimum order of 5 pieces at 80 cents each, you get a massive variety of ingredients to choose from within their refrigerated display. Whether you love deep fried goodies like wantons, chicken nuggets, prawn wrapped in potato and yam rolls, or toufu stuffed with fishpaste, fishballs and beancurd skin, or veggies like eggplant, lady’s finger, bittergourd, chinese cabbage, xiao bai cai, kang kong, as well as instant noodles, chewy glass noodles, mushrooms, sausages and more. Best of all, everything 6 different flavours, including tom yam & their healthier soup option.
HEAR: Click here for this week’s souperlicious episode!
Don’t have the time or extra cash for a trip to Penang -Malaysia’s dining haven? Here’s the next best thing – a trip to Island Penang Kitchen. This week, our Makan Kaki Chef Anthony Yeoh recommends this casual dining restaurant in Clementi for your Penang Food Fix!
Not only does this eatery serve up yummy Cze Char dishes to share like sambal kangkong & Lobak (the Penang version of our Ngoh Hiang), their Prawn Noodle Soup is also outstanding.