HOMEY HOKKIEN MEE
If you prefer Hokkien mee to be dry and full of wok hei, you will be disappointed with the claypot version here. But if you like them a bit wet, then Kim Keat Hokkien Mee will hit the right spot.
The stall in a coffee shop in Toa Payoh Lorong 4 does a roaring trade selling its Claypot Hokkien Mee ($10, $15 and $20).
It arrives at the table bubbling. Dig in as soon as possible because all that broth gets soaked up very quickly by the noodles, and they then turn mushy.
This is not the best Hokkien mee I have had, but there's a comforting, homey vibe about the dish that I like. The prawns are firm and sweet and there is a generous helping of boiled belly pork in the dish. Inevitably, the squid overcooks. So a savvy diner will take it out of the claypot the minute it reaches the table.
Much has been made of the strips of roast pork scattered on top together with cubes of lard. I can do without the roast pork. They are deep-fried - no, incinerated - and offer little flavour. The golden-brown cubes of lard, however, are very welcome.
WHERE: Kim Keat Hokkien Mee, Block 92, Toa Payoh Lorong 4, 01-264 MRT: Braddell OPEN: 11.30am to 9.30pm (Wednesday to Monday), closed on Tuesday
MOREISH THAI VEGETARIAN
The choices for vegetarians have been getting a lot more varied and exciting, and the food is usually so good that carnivores like me go for meatless meals too and enjoy them.
The latest is Pepper Jade, a Thai vegetarian restaurant at Sunshine Plaza. It is opened by the owners of Teng, a Japanese vegetarian restaurant in the same building.
But how do you cook Thai food without the all-important fish sauce? The kitchen manages very well.
Some of the dishes on the menu are vegan and the kitchen does not use eggs, garlic, onions or shallots.
No eggs? Then why is there Son-In-Law Eggs ($14, above) on the menu?
When the dish comes, I have to smile. The white of the eggs are made with mashed-up yam and the yolk is mashed pumpkin. These deep-fried croquettes are drizzled with a tangy sauce that tastes like a cross between a yam basket and the popular dimsum dish of wu kok.
No eggs, no fish sauce, no problem. The kitchen uses aromatic ingredients such as coriander leaves and roots, chilli, citrus juices and palm sugar to great effect. I do not miss the meat at all.
Tang Hoon Prawn In Claypot ($15) is a case in point. Coriander roots add depth of flavour and the noodles are just peppery enough and full of umami. I am happy to eat the dish without the mock prawns, which taste just like overcooked real prawns.
Other good things to order include Phap Thai ($8); Pomelo Salad ($10), full of sweet, juicy fruit and crunchy nuts; and Tom Yam In Claypot ($12), not too spicy but very aromatic and moreish.
WHERE: Pepper Jade, 01-20 Sunshine Plaza, 91 Bencoolen Street MRT: Dhoby Ghaut OPEN: 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30 to 10pm (weekday, including today), 11.30am to 10pm (weekend) TEL: 6337-7030
TIPPLES AND NIBBLES
Sake is gaining traction in watering holes and restaurants in Singapore and I am glad for the number of sake bars that have opened up.
Copper On Stanley is a low-key bar serving sake, cocktails and small bites. It is a good place to have a quiet chat over a couple of drinks and nibble on snacks.
I am drawn to the cocktails. Grapefruit ($22, right) is a take on the Salty Dog. It is made with tequila, grapefruit liqueur, lime, sugar and soda. The drink is not too alcoholic and is endlessly refreshing.
Pear ($22), with sake, pear eau de vie, elderflower and pomegranate juice and arils, is another delicious one. I find the bergamot flavour in Earl Grey ($22), a gin-based cocktail, a little too assertive, however.
In a sake bar, you have to have some sake and the Tsukino Katsura Yanagi ($10 a glass), a junmai ginjo, is dry and crisp, the way I like the drink.
All this drinking can make a person hungry.
Order Pidan Tofu ($5) if you enjoy the funk of century eggs. The crunchy tobiko on top adds textural contrast. Chicken Karaage With Citrus Mayo ($7) comes hot, crisp and juicy, all that you need in fried chicken.
There is also Korean Fried Chicken ($7), big, meaty and glazed with soya. They are perfect with a glass of sake or two.
WHERE: Copper On Stanley, 01-01, 3 Stanley Street MRT: Telok Ayer OPEN: 5pm to midnight (Monday to Saturday, including today) TEL: 6221-3639
TART, NUTTY 'FRIES'
Pickles, salt-and-vinegar crisps, fruit vinegar, I love them all. Tart food perks me up.
So I am immediately enchanted by the Cornflake Cornichons ($7, photo) at Wildfire Burgers, the perfect bar snack.
Cornichons, or tiny pickled cucumbers, are coated in crushed cornflakes and deep fried. The restaurant tried a version with breadcrumbs that I also like because the brininess and tang of the pickles come through more strongly.
It has decided to go with the cornflake version and I can see why. The nutty flavour of the cereal makes it a much more interesting snack.
Could this be the substitute for fries I have been looking for?
WHERE: Wildfire Burgers, 01-28 313@Somerset, 313 Orchard Road MRT: Orchard OPEN: Noon to 11pm (Sunday to Tuesday), noon to 1am (Wednesday to Saturday) TEL: 6509-4408