Food Picks: Chilli Padi's laksa pao fan, Chef Cheung's Authentic Hand-milled Rice Noodle Rolls, Maxi Coffee Bar

Chilli Padi has come up with the perfect pao fan, combining laksa broth with seafood and rice.
Chilli Padi has come up with the perfect pao fan, combining laksa broth with seafood and rice.PHOTO: CHILLI PADI

Comforting laksa pao fan

I feel sorry for people who shun carbs. They are missing out on pao fan, a dish of rice soaked in broth that has become popular in Singapore over the last year.

Some places offer two different textures of rice - steamed and crunchy - and the contrasting textures are so delightful.

Chilli Padi, a Peranakan restaurant chain and catering business, has come up with the perfect pao fan, combining laksa broth with seafood and rice.

The Laksa Pao Fan set, which serves five, costs $68. It has become so popular that the restaurant might put it on the menu permanently, instead of offering it just until Sept 30.

It comes packed neatly - the steamed rice and crispy rice are packed separately - as are the prawns, battered fish fillets, pacific clams and seafood bean curd rolls.

Whether a pao fan is worth eating hinges on how good the broth is. Chilli Padi's aromatic laksa broth is excellent. It is not too rich with coconut milk and comes with a generous amount of chopped laksa leaves and sambal to amp up the flavour. The egg floss, like the kind that sometimes comes with fish soup, adds to the allure, as does the crispy rice.

I would add beancurd rolls the next time I order it. I can imagine the rolls soaking up all that laksa broth.

Life has been rocky the last 18 months. And yes, I know it's important to stick to diet and exercise regimens instead of eating for comfort. But you know what? Sometimes, a warm bowl of rice, seafood and laksa broth with family is just what we need to make it through another day.

How to order: Go to the Chilli Padi's website or call 6340-1042 at least two days in advance. The delivery fee is $20 or $25, depending on the area.

Cheong fun worth rising early for

Prawn Rolls and Pork & Century Egg Congee from from Chef Leung's Authentic Hand-milled Rice Noodle Rolls. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

If pao fan represents some sort of backlash against the low and no-carb craze, then the current mushrooming of cheong fun businesses is adding fuel to that fire.

An excellent one to try is Chef Leung's Authentic Hand-milled Rice Noodle Rolls at Chinatown Complex Food Centre. The stall opens at 7am and the rolls sometimes sell out two hours later.

I get there just before opening time and other customers are already waiting. One woman frets that her order is taking too long and she needs to get to work.

Meanwhile, chef Leung Tsz Cham is making the rice rolls lightning fast. The 64-year-old, a dim sum and pastry specialist, had worked at the Raffles Hotel since 1991 and opened the stall on July 1.

He pours thin layers of rice batter onto shallow trays and slides them into the steamer. The thin layers of rice skin are not so much rolled as scrunched up, making beautiful white pleats.

When I tuck in, I can taste what the fuss is about. The plain rice rolls ($2.80) have a stretchy texture and the fragrant flavour of rice is not obliterated by the sauce and chilli that come with the rolls. Prawn Rolls ($4.50) boast a good amount of firm, fresh crustaceans.

Chef Leung wanted to recreate a dish he has not been able to taste since leaving Hong Kong. The rice for the cheong fun is milled daily at the stall and all the condiments are housemade. There is so much work involved to make a $2.80 breakfast.

If dim sum is meant to touch the heart, then chef Leung's cheong fun speaks to my soul.

Where: Chef Leung's Authentic Hand-milled Rice Noodle Rolls, 02-096 Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 335 Smith Street

MRT: Chinatown

Open: 7am to 2pm (or until sold out), Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Mondays. The rice rolls are available for takeaway only.

Lovely coffee and snacks

E&T and madeleines from Maxi Coffee Bar. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

Before things went pear-shaped, I spent a rainy morning just chilling with friends. After a lovely breakfast, we wanted coffee. Maxi Coffee Bar at Ann Siang Hill was a short walk away.

I am so glad to find out that all the drinks and food I like on the menu are available for takeaway and delivery.

Order the E&T ($10), a shot of espresso with tonic. I love this refreshing drink and Maxi's version is one of the better ones I've had here.

The White ($5.50) is good too, but the cereal milk in the Iced Cereal Milk Latte ($7.50) is not strongly flavoured enough for me.

On my last visit there, I snagged a Brown Butter Pecan cookie ($5.50). Its heft makes me happy and the cookie is perfect after a spell in the toaster oven.

What you must order are Madeleines ($12 for five), which we had that morning. They are the perfect, small batch pleasure. These warm, shell-shaped cakes are baked to order and beautifully humped, with a lightly crunchy exterior and pillowy interior.

If you are doing a takeaway, I suggest - no, insist - you dig into the bag and eat one immediately.

However, nothing beats snaffling one the minute the plate hits the table, preferably one of the outdoor ones.

May we all be able to do that soon.

Where: Maxi Coffee Bar, 6 Ann Siang Hill

MRT: Telok Ayer

Open: 8.30am to 4.30pm (weekdays), 9am to 4.30pm (weekends), closed on Mondays.

How to order: Go to Maxi Coffee Bar's website. Delivery windows: 9.30 to 11.30am (order before 9pm the day before), 1 to 3pm (order before noon the day of), daily. Minimum order for delivery is $25, island wide delivery costs $9.