Spicy flavoursome chinese fare at Si Chuan Village
At a time when food and beverage businesses are faced with challenges such as labour shortages and rising food costs, it is comforting to find an eatery that has not only managed to survive, but also maintained its pre-pandemic food standards.
At Si Chuan Village in Mosque Street, the food is as tasty and flavoursome as when I used to dine there in 2019.
Many dishes are popular takeaways, such as the Handmade Leek Dumplings ($5 for 10) and its signature must-try dish of Spicy Fragrant Diced Chicken ($13).
Owner Cai Bing, 53, a Singaporean who is originally from Jilin in north-east China, opened the restaurant in 2006 as she loves the spiciness of Sichuan cuisine. She has managed to keep the food quality consistent because of streamlined work processes and trained workers, many of whom have been with her since the restaurant started.
The dumplings are made from scratch, with a springy texture. Garlic chives, not leeks, are used in the juicy and tasty filling with well-marinated minced pork collar.
Unlike many other versions, its Spicy Fragrant Diced Chicken is not numbingly spicy although it does pack heat and flavour. Chicken breast is marinated in an aromatic mix of spices including cumin, deep-fried, then given a quick toss with dried Chinese chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. The chicken remains crispy even if you order it for takeaway.
Offal lovers will enjoy the Deep-fried Pig's Intestine ($14). The intestines are turned inside out and thoroughly washed to rid them of odours. They are then braised and deep-fried before a final toss with dried chillies and other aromatics.
For these two dishes, you can request your preferred level of spiciness - mild, medium or hot.
Another dish I tried recently is the Pan-fried Pumpkin In Salted Egg Yolk Paste ($10). Instead of artificial-tasting salted egg yolk powder, premium salted egg yolks are used here. The pumpkin is cut into thick strips and deep-fried in potato flour before being tossed in the salted egg yolk paste. Every piece is crispy with a velvety texture.
The grilled items are well-seasoned, with just the right amount of cumin. Items to try are the Grilled Pork ($1 a skewer), Grilled Enoki Mushroom Pork ($1.50 a skewer) and the Grilled Golden Mushroom ($3), which is enoki mushroom grilled sans skewers.
The Boiled Green Soybeans ($8), edamame beans cooked with star anise, is a tasty side dish.
An interesting offering is the Cold Noodle ($7) served in broth. The dish, similar to Korean mul-naengmyeon, is found in north-east China, which is near North Korea.
The restaurant uses buckwheat noodles from South Korea served in a clean-tasting mushroom-based vegetable broth, together with tomato slices, kimchi and cucumber strips. The standard version comes with beef slices, but a beef-free version is available.
Where: Si Chuan Village, 2/3 Mosque Street
Open: 10.30am to midnight daily
Info: To order, go to CWRJ's website
Bistro-quality food at Cornerstone Pasta & Grill
Prices at Cornerstone Pasta & Grill may be a tad higher than that of Western food stalls in coffee shops, but its dishes offer value for money.
Its signature Har-chong Chicken Chop ($7.50) is an incredibly crispy yet juicy piece of boneless chicken thigh that is perfectly marinated and deep-fried. The prawn paste gives the dish a distinct seafood flavour, but does not overpower the meat. The secret behind the exceptionally crispy batter is the use of tempura flour.
Each main dish comes with a choice of a sauce and two sides. The Har-chong Chicken Chop is served with a spicy housemade sambal belacan dip, but the chicken is so tasty, it needs no further embellishment.
For sides, go for the housemade coleslaw and herb potatoes - crispy cubes of potatoes which are parboiled, deep-fried and tossed in a fragrant house mix of herbs including oregano, thyme and cumin.
Co-owners Cheryl Sou, 30, and Huang Wenting, 44, who both have no professional culinary experience, do a valiant job of serving up bistro-style dishes.
The Mushroom Soup ($3) is made in-house from fresh button mushrooms. It comes with a crusty and airy slice of baguette slathered with margarine and herbed minced garlic. The soup is carefully garnished with garlic croutons, pan-fried shiitake and shimeji mushrooms and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley. It tastes homemade and is way ahead of the lame milky canned versions served at many other Western-food stalls.
For those who are not laying off carbs, order the off-menu Seafood Marinara Pasta ($7.90). The sauce is made in-house from canned tomatoes which are pureed and simmered with bay leaves, among other herbs, for two hours. The resulting sauce is sweet with an appetising tang and goes well with the prawns, asari clams and slivers of Pacific dory fish. My only gripe is that the prawns are too salty.
The two pieces of pork loin in the Grilled Pork Chop ($7) are tender and the side of buttered corn is crunchy and tasty, although the mushroom rice is lacklustre and bland.
The All-cheese Quesadilla ($7.50) has a variety of cheeses in its filling - nacho cheese sauce, a mix of shredded mozzarella and cheddar, and grated parmesan - but the filling is too salty. The side of housemade salsa of tomato, red onion, coriander and a herb dressing that includes paprika and hand-squeezed lime juice is refreshing on the palate though.
The side of Mentaiko Fries ($4.90) includes a smidgen of prawn roe in the mentaiko dressing, but the fries lose their crispness too quickly.
Cornerstone Pasta & Grill
Where: Stall 3, 01-526, Block 159 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4
Open: 11am to 9.30pm (Mondays to Wednesdays and Fridays to Sundays), 4 to 9.30pm (Thursdays)
Info: Delivery available on foodpanda, Deliveroo and GrabFood