Ah Tan Wings (Maxwell)

Har Cheong Gai (fermented shrimp paste chicken) is a regular feature during my family meals at tze char place. It is however rare to find this dish in hawker centres where it is easier to find barbeque chicken wings instead.

Ah Tan Wings first home was at Yishun Park Hawker Centre and I was happy to see an off-shoot at Maxwell Hawker Centre.

P.S Unfortunately the Maxwell outlet is closed from 15th Dec 19 onwards. They are still operating their Yishun and Timbre+ outlets.

Unlike tze char places whereby one portion of Har Cheong Gai usually consist of minimally 6-8 pieces that can only finish by 2 or more people, what I liked about their concept is I can order a single portion Atas Wing Meal that comes with 2 wings and rice, topped with a sunny egg.

Their wings have a relatively light batter compared to others served in tze char places, so it really depends on one’s preference. I’m pretty pleased with their house-made chilli with the right balance of tanginess and spiciness, and its available for sale as well! Chilli is such an important condiment that we have different types of chilli to go with different dishes. I get upset if the tze char eatery delivers my order without providing me with the specific chilli to go with my Har Cheong Gai. 

It’s disappointing that they had to close their Maxwell outlet but this hawker centre is still one filled with many other famous heritage stalls.

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AFURI Ramen 阿夫利, Singapore

Newly reopened Funan Mall prides itself as a swanky lifestyle mall, ditching its former IT mall image. However after visiting it seems like most people felt that the mall is now filled with too many F&B establishments.

Notwithstanding the tough competition, there is one shop that has a long queue barricade set up with people waiting to be seated even at unearthly timing of 5pm (who eats dinner at this time?). 

Just like other new hypes, the queue here dwindled off fairly quickly once Singaporeans got tired of it. I managed to visit them for a late dinner without waiting.

AFURI Ramen from Japan, known for its yuzu-scented ramen, opened its first outlet in Singapore. While I have heard of Ichiran Ramen, Tsuta Ramen or Ippudo Ramen when people talk about “Ramen Shops in Tokyo”, the Afuri Ramen is new to me.

Before we tuck into their signature ramen, we first tried the Afuri Buta Wing Gyoza that comes with a thin crispy sheet connecting the dumplings together and served with a house-special dipping sauce. The “wings” are created by adding a flour mixture after frying the gyozas and flipping it out from the pan to keep the “wings” intact. Unlike other typical gyoza dips made by mixing rice vinegar, soy sauce and chilli oil, the dipping sauce here has an extra oomph to it. They might have added minced garlic, ginger, green onion etc. that elevated its flavour.

Here’s the signature dish of Yuzu Shio Ramen shio tare, chicken broth, yuzu, bamboo, egg, chashu pork, endive, fried garlic, nori. The clear soup, served with thin noodles, tastes light and refreshing with hints of citrusy yuzu. The soup is very easy to drink and light on the stomach. Overall it is a well-balanced dish and is not as heavy and rich as tonkotsu ramen.

For those warm days whereby one don’t feel like slurping down hot soup, you can try the Yuzu Tsukemen cold noodles, chashu pork, egg, bamboo, yuzu juice, endive, green onion, nori, yuzu soy tsuyu. The noodles used is the thicker type, which is also chewier. I liked that the dipping sauce is not too thick and has aromatic sesame fragrant.

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Beverly Hills Cheesecake

Beverly Hills Cheesecake brings in desserts from US chain The Cheesecake Factory.  To quell doubts on the authenticity of the desserts, the shop have the rights to sell the famous cheesecakes but they do not have the rights to use the famous brand’s name.

The demand seems strong during its opening week (9th Jul 19) and my colleague even made a dash down during lunch time to grab these cheesecakes. But the hype died down quickly when I passed by a week later with many flavours still available.

As I heard that the cheesecakes were on the sweet side, I decided to try a Godiva Double Chocolate Cheesecake and a more savoury Reese’s Peanut Butter Cheesecake. The latter was clearly more to my liking with a combination of sweet and salty notes. I also enjoyed the additional crunchy texture due to the toppings.

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Artea

After toiling for a week, I typically like to indulge in a good weekend breakfast. Picked up these beautifully packed tiramisu from Artea on a friday evening when the queue was relatively short. There was a perpetual queue outside the shop with limited seating space when their soufflé pancakes was the in-trend.

After the soufflé pancakes hype, they are now injecting new flavours to the classic Tiramisu dessert. The colourful snacks lined up neatly in the display, sitting squarely in the marble-print holders, was a joy to browse through. Attention was paid even to the carrier, look at the gold foil wrapper! There was definitely a sense of excitement when the staff passed me this “gift”.

I chose the Earl Grey Tiramisu and Lychee Rose Tiramisu. The adapted version remain layered with whipped mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese, albeit with varying flavours in between the tiers. I still prefer traditional tiramisu over these modern renditions.

 

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Chuankee Seafood (Lower Delta) 泉记海鲜煮炒

When I first received the address of the eatery to meet my parents for a dinner, I did a double-take. Why did they meet me in the industrial estate?  Turns out this tze char place was bustling with activities and diners on a Sunday night.

In fact it was an understatement to describe Chuankee Seafood as bustling with activities because the entire canteen was filled to the brim and tables even spread out onto the tarmac of the estate carpark. This place appears to be extremely popular with multi-generation large dining groups. I soon found out some of the perks which probably makes it a natural choice of many families to dine here. The wait for food is understandably long due to its huge crowd but kids can be entertained by free flow of DIY popcorn and cotton candy!  It was a thrill to try our hands on twirling our own cotton candy as evidenced by the constant giggling and laughter at the station.

If you prefer more proper food, you can also order some satays (paid separately) to curb your hanger pangs.

There are also free flow of flavoured ice sticks/ice cream/popsicles available.  These dessert items are so popular that often if you arrive for a late dinner slot they might run out when you finish your main meal. While some eateries have additional charges to provide utensils for birthday celebrations, there are no such qualms here. In fact if you tell them you have a birthday celebration, they throw in free firework sparkle candles and play the birthday song for you. The highest record I ever registered was to hear the birthday song for half a dozen time during one of my dinner there.

Now for the food. I would rate the Nonya Assam Fish Head as the standout dish. You get to pick the fish head from the display cabinet when you order and the price are marked clearly. The fish head was fresh and steamed well. The sweet and sour gravy was superbly appetizing and pairs well with plain rice.

The place has several live seafood tanks so you can also order fresh shellfish such as clams, lobsters/prawns etc. I tried the Sambal clam and Cantonese Chili Garlic Prawn, also known as Bi Feng Tang Prawn.

Of course not forgetting Singaporean’s favourite dish of Chilli Crab.

The food are reasonably priced but you must be prepared for a long wait. Hence it might not be worth your time if you are only there for a casual simple meal.

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Wu Pao Chun (吳寶春麥方店), Singapore

Wu Pao Chun the famous Taiwanese bakery has opened its first Singapore outlet at Capitol Piazza.

The two famous items of the bakery are the award winning “champion bread” of Lychee Rose Royale and Red Wine Longan.

Although it doesn’t look huge from the photo, these large loaves of bread and cost more than S$20 per loaf.  When we arrive at the bakery, the staff was giving out samples for tasting and I decided to purchase the Lychee Rose Royale for the subtle sweetness from lychee bits along with a healthy dose of mixed grains.

What impressed me was the texture of the bread which dense yet chewy. It is certainly a luxury item for the occasional indulgence. I split up the loaf of bread to be shared with my parents and we only finished it over a few days later. Thankfully it didn’t turn bad, although it was tastiest when eaten fresh immediately.

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Took Lae Dee, Singapore

Took Lae Dee first caught my attention when they opened their first overseas branch in Singapore in 2018. Originating from Bangkok, the Thai restaurant chain is known for their cheap and good menu. I only managed to visit them when they opened another outlet in the city centre at Funan (mall).

True to its name, the food price remained pretty affordable here with GST absorbed and no Service Charge.

Notably I found the Thai Milk Tea $2.80 and Mango Sticky Rice $5 to be quite a steal. The ice cubes are made of thai milk tea so it doesn’t get diluted when the ice melts and it is served with a small portion of evaporated milk on the side. While I understand that the ripeness and quality of mango might be tough to control, I hate it when some eateries serve harden glutinous rice. The sticky rice here was served warm and pretty acceptable.

Both the Seafood Tom Yum and Pad Thai with Egg Wrap are at $8 each, but for the budget conscious you can always order the normal Pad Thai or Pad Krapow (minced chicken/pork with chilli and basil leaves and rice) at $5.

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Soon Heng Pork Noodles & Mr Lorbak

Bak Chor Mee is a noodle dish commonly found in Singapore’s hawker centres. It is a egg noodle dish typically served dry and tossed in vinegar, minced meat,  stewed sliced mushrooms etc. But Soon Heng Pork Noodles sells what is known as “Bedok-Style Bak Chor Mee” because it’s a soup version.

I had the default Mee Kia (thin egg noodles) on my first visit. It does seem like eating Chinese-style Ramen as the broth is light yet flavourful. Subsequently I found my true love – Mee Tai Mak (silver needle noodles). I prefer eating Mee Tai Mak as in 1 single scoop I can have a good proportion of soup, minced meat and silver needle noodles. The wontons are also splendid. I always try to leave one to the last!

This is a heartwarming comfort food on cold chilly days yet light enough to be eaten on warmer days.

Located within the same coffeeshop is Mr Lorbak (relocated to Lower Delta in Jan 2020).

Other than the melt-in-your-mouth Braised Pork Belly, I like that they paired it with the crunchy black fungus for added texture. The spicy chilli serves to cut through the fats from the pork. The portion might look small but I found it to be just the right portion so that we are not overwhelmed by the richness of this dish.

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Haven Bistro

Having heard about a new eatery – Haven Bistro, serving an individual sized mini teppanyaki along Jalan Besar, me and my lunch khakis headed over to suss out this joint. When we arrived at the row of shophouses we kept a lookout for the signboard of the eatery, but was surprised to see this eatery housed at the lobby of a budget-friendly hotel.

My mini teppanyaki arrived hot and sizzling with a generous portion of beef, oyster, prawn & squid sitting on a heap of vegetables. I appreciate that they provided a variety of different coloured veg instead of opting for the easy way out of laying a chunk of cheap bean sprouts as a base.

The seafood were reasonably fresh but I was disappointed with the slightly tough beef. Perhaps I left it on the hot plate for too long? Other than the novelty factor, the hot plate was too narrow for me to make sure that the ingredients are evenly cooked and coated with the black pepper sauce.

Fans of teppanyaki might find the combo value-for-money.

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Snacks & Food from Fukuoka

If you are lost as to what snacks to buy when in Japan, the best bet is to go to the main JR station of the city you are visiting. Chances are you can find a huge variety of souvenir and gifts to bring back all at one-stop.

For me, I like to visit them as one of my first stop to buy some snacks to try locally before deciding what to re-purchase to bring back for friends and family.

Being a warabi mochi lover, Josuian 如水庵 Tsukushi Mochi was the first item I went on a hunt for within the confectionery area of the departmental store. It’s available in packs of 3, 6, 12, 18 etc…all the way to packs of whopping 45!

Each piece of the mochi is wrapped with a colourful paper resembling the Furoshiki wrapping used to carry Japanese bentos. Within each tiny package is a bamboo pick, a sachet of sweet black sugar syrup to be poured over the mochi covered with kinako  (roasted soy bean) powder.  I really loved the texture of the smooth, silky yet chewy mochi. The best part is it is individually packed in a modest portion good for ladies who wish to end their meal with something sweet but concerned about eating too much. The shelve life of this product is also much longer than the freshly made ones I bought from confectioneries, making it a good souvenir to bring back for friends/family.

The next item on my shopping list is the Fukutaro Menbei Mentaiko Senbei. The star product is rice crackers with spiced cod roe (plain), although they have introduced a variety of other flavours as well.


There are some samples available for tasting in the store, but I only tried the “plain” flavour before deciding that its too crowded (I visited during the Golden Week) to squeeze my way to reach all the sampling containers scattered around. So I decided to buy a box of mixed flavours including the classic “plain“, popular “mayonnaise“, “hot & spicy” and “green onion/leek” so that I could try them in the comfort of my hotel room.  While I couldn’t taste much of the mayonnaise flavour, the “hot & spicy” might be a little too spicy for some people. The “plain” flavour was tasty enough for me to buy a few more boxes as gifts, this flavour is available conveniently even at the airport. But if you would like to purchase other flavours, its wiser to purchase them at the downtown stores.

The next snack was actually very famous and popular in Tokyo because the confectionery opened an outlet there. Little did people know that this product originated from FukuokaHonpo Yoshinodo Meika Hiyoko is a thin dough shell wrapped around a mixture of egg yolk and bean paste.

It tastes very much like our savoury mung bean paste (咸豆沙) wrapped with a thin mooncake-liked pastry skin. The simple flavour made it suitable for children along with it’s kawaii (cute) little chick form. I enjoyed this as it has an old-school taste, but didn’t buy more as the boxes were pretty bulky to hand-carry.

One of my interesting find was this Mentaiko French Fries from Calbee as it’s in crinkle cut rather than the usual Jagarico type (straight fries). The crinkle cut resulted in more surface area to coat the savoury mentaiko seasoning and is crispier than the straight fries.

While wandering around Daiso I spotted this nostalgic treat (pic above, right)!  I bet most kids now would not have seen this before – cos Singapore banned sale, import and manufacture of chewing gum since 1992.

I always make an effort to visit the supermarkets in Japan, especially if they have a food hall. It’s a foodie paradise for the fresh produces, fruits as well as the cooked food. Here I chanced upon a stall selling Kumamon shaped waffle – although I’m in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture. Even the wrapper is printed with the famous mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture.

Fruits are notoriously expensive in Japan, but its comparatively cheaper than getting them at imported price in Singapore. So we typically buy strawberries to munch on during our trip. We headed over to the supermarket on the last day of our trip to bring back strawberries and more importantly Miyazaki Mangoes. The mangoes are produced in Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island. With a peak harvest between April and August, they are really juicy, sweet and sold when they are at the right ripeness.

Since we made a day trip to Kagoshima, we also stopped by Kumamoto train station to stock up on some cute snacks. I also randomly picked up the Annouimo Sweet Potato Pie for my mum who loves sweet potatoes. Being the largest producer of sweet potatoes in Japan, Kagoshima is the “Land of Sweet Potatoes”.  Although I didn’t get to taste it, she was happy with this omiyage.

Even the red bean cakes has the Kumamon mascot imprinted on it~ Bought these to snack on for our ride back to Hakata.

Despite spending many hours travelling on the Shinkansen across Kyushu Island, we were spoilt by the abundance of sumptuous food right from the start of the day. I look forward to the healthy porridge breakfast served with an array of Japanese side dishes.

With Children’s Day being celebrated on 5th May in Japan, there were Koinobori (鯉のぼり), “carp streamers” hung because carp are known for their ability to swim upstream, they symbolise courage and determination for the kids.

The hotel had a pancake stand filled with cute designs for the kids! Don’t they look too pretty to be eaten?

On the late night whereby the queue for the famous ramen stall was too long, we gave up and decided to just buy some takeaway back to our room to fill our stomach. We found a shop selling 一口餃子 Hitokuchi gyoza. These bite-sized gyozas are much smaller than the regular ones so that you can stuff them in 1 mouth. I guessed they looked slightly soggy after being brought back to our room.

Food is easily available 24/7 in Fukuoka as some ramen shops that only opened for late night supper into the wee hours. We were too tired to venture out for food hunt, but was satisfied with what I could grab from konbinis.  I’m always amazed by the variety of cup noodles (posts on cup noodles 1, 2) and their ever evolving innovative flavours such as this Lan Zhou Beef Noodles. It has a beef-based soup with mildly special spicy chilli oil and “fake beef cubes”.

Chanced upon these cute Komeda’s Coffee miniature gashapon (toy capsule) and decided to try my luck. Got pretty lucky to pick the signature dish Shiro-Noir at first attempt! It’s the little surprises and the excitement of opening up the capsules that make gashapon so addictive. Got the coffee set on the second attempt. Very satisfied. Yeah.

Picked up these two Gotochi Craftholic keychains because I was attracted to the food badges: Watermelon and Ramen.

Our hands are really quite full from having to hand-carry so many confectionery snacks and yet I was tempted to buy the LeTao Melon Double Fromage frozen cake from the Fukuoka airport. Although this cake originates in Hokkaido, it is also available in Tokyo‘s airport, I didn’t buy it cos the ice pack provided can only last 6 hours – not enough to cover our flight time back to Singapore.  The opportunity cannot be missed when departing from Kyushu as the flight time is only about 6 hours.

Japan‘s taxi fare is notoriously exorbitant but this was the first time we took a taxi from our hotel downtown to the airport. This is because the Fukuoka airport is only a 15-mins ride away and it only cost around ¥1500 (S$20).  Although it was a morning flight, we arrived at the airport effortlessly and was able to enjoy our inflight meal in good spirit (instead of being super tired). The highlight was the mini bottle of Dassai 23!

Canape of Singapore Chicken and Beef Satay, Appetizer of Smoked Duck with Braised Daikon and Yuzu Dressing, Main Course of Wok Fried Seafood with Kung Pao Sauce and dessert of Sakura Ice Cream.

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