Plentiful portions at Ying Thai
If you like Thai food that packs sufficient heat without bringing tears to your eyes, head to Ying Thai, a coffee shop stall in Ang Mo Kio.
With generous ingredients, plentiful portions and reasonable prices, the dishes offer great bang for your buck.
My favourite dish is the pad sii yew with pork ($5.50), the Thai version of fried kway teow. The flat rice noodles are tossed in Thai dark soya sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce until they are beautifully caramelised with hints of a smoky wok flavour.
Try the noodles on their own first before squeezing the wedge of lime over them.
The well-marinated slices of lean pork are tender. Carrot slices with serrated edges, crunchy bean sprouts and fried egg lend bulk and texture to the dish.
The best-value dish is the basil pork with rice ($6) which comes with a sunny side-up egg.
It is a common offering, but Ying Thai keeps it as authentic as possible with the use of Thai holy basil (krapow) instead of the more commonly available Thai sweet basil (horapha). The hefty portion can easily feed two if you also want to try other dishes.
The tom yum seafood soup ($7) is punchy with spice and tang, but will not set your tongue on fire.
Each bowl comes with three unshelled, fresh and sweet sea prawns, though they have been deveined and their heads removed.
Fresh squid and slices of toman swim in the soup that is thickened with a splash of evaporated milk. It would be perfect if not for the slightly fishy odour from the toman, though lemongrass and Thai lime leaves add a citrusy aroma. White beech mushrooms elevate the dish.
Do not let the creamy green curry chicken ($6) lull you into thinking that it is harmless. It packs heat, along with the rich flavours of spices such as coriander and galangal. You get substantial chunks of boneless chicken thigh meat, with carrots, long beans and brinjal.
Even the mango salad ($5.50) is served in a hearty portion. It is well-balanced with savoury, sweet, tangy and spicy flavours, and the topping of cashew nuts adds a touch of opulence.
Where: Ying Thai, Stall 1, 01-1771, 122 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 3pm and 5 to 8.30pm. Closed on Mondays
Restaurant dining at wallet-friendly prices
In these days of rising food and labour costs, it is heartening to find establishments such as Hong Kong Street Family Restaurant Bedok, which has not only survived the pandemic but still serves quality food at affordable prices.
The eatery opened in Teck Chye Terrace in 2001, then moved to Eastwood Centre in 2005 and to its current location at East Village in 2014. The cooks have worked there for more than 10 years.
Going by the quality and robust portions, some dishes offer greater value than those at zi char stalls.
The crab meat with fish maw soup ($14++ for small) is a must-try. But the small portion appears closer to medium size – the claypot brims over with viscous soup and can easily serve four.
The soup is chockful of meaty slivers of crab and large pieces of fish maw with a lovely gummy texture.
The restaurant prepares its superior broth from scratch, using pork bones and old hens. The stock gives the fish maw soup a strong and sturdy base of flavour.
A long-time signature dish is the pork ribs and bitter gourd in bean sauce ($12++ for small). The thickly sliced gourd is cooked to tenderness and the pork is fully infused with the savoury flavour of black fermented bean sauce.
The eatery’s seafood hor fun with egg ($8++ for small, $14++ for large) is light-coloured with a clear gravy, but packs wok hei and plenty of seafood and cai xin.
The hor fun is fried without dark soya sauce as owner Joyce Wong, 63, prefers it that way. But you can request for the dark soya sauce version.
Fresh toman, which is found in the dish, is delivered daily. The fish is clean-tasting with no fishy or muddy odours.
The salad yu tiao ($12++ for small) comprises 10 large pieces of golden fried dough fritters generously stuffed with tasty sotong paste. The fried fritters are crispy on the outside but fluffy inside.
To accompany your meal, order the homemade barley drink, which is concentrated and not too sweet ($1.50++).
Where: Hong Kong Street Family Restaurant Bedok, 01-67/68 East Village, 430 Upper Changi Road
MRT: Tanah Merah
Hours: Open 11am to 2.15pm and 5 to 9.45pm daily. Closed from Jan 20 to 24