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Category: Cafés and Restaurants (page 2 of 13)

Comfort food at its best – Soon Soon Teochew Porridge

If there is one meal that I have to choose to eat for the rest of my life, it will be Teochew muay (rice porridge). I grow up eating Teochew muay, I love it and never got sick of it. And till this day, I still think my grandmother makes the best Teochew muay.

Unlike the Cantonese congee where the rice grains break down to almost liquid form, the Teochew version retains the shape of the rice and pending on personal preference, you can have a watery porridge or a pretty dry porridge (in case you wonder, I love the watery version). In addition, the accompanying dishes for Teochew muay must be salty, to complement the bland yet sweet rice porridge. Some of the dishes that my grandmother always cooked (and I loved) to go with the porridge are bittergourd with eggs, preserved radish omelette, stir-fry pig livers with spring onion (yes there was a time I ate pig livers), and braised mustard green with tau pok (dried and fried beancurd).

It is pretty rare for me to eat Teochew muay outside. I only do so if I am sick or have a craving, and all seem to pale in comparison with my grandmother’s version.

Recently I was recommended to try Soon Soon Teochew Porridge that is a stone throw away from my house. My friend Lynda said I must have the steamed sotong (squid). And so I went. At Soon Soon, you will be confronted with a lot of Teochew dishes – braised pork belly, minced pork ball, homemade fish cake, bittergourd and many more. I chose my personal favourite – preserved mustard green, braised tau pok and of course the steamed sotong.

The rice porridge is pretty good – the rice grain has broken down just enough. The preserved mustard green and braised tau pok were not too salty. But for me, the star is the steamed sotong. When I first saw this dish, I thought it look rather plain. I am not sure what magic powder Soon Soon used, the steamed sotong was not plain at all. I am guessing the sotong was lightly seasoned and steamed with precision. The sotong itself was tender (not chewy) and it was sweet and delicious. I was going “I need a bigger piece”.

The unfortunate news is that the steamed sotong is not available all the time. And the staff is unable to tell me when it is available. So if you ever drop by Soon Soon and see the steamed sotong, please order it. It is slightly pricey but it is worth it. Good luck.

Soon Soon Teochew Porridge
13 Simon Road (Kovan MRT)
Opening hours: 11.00am – 10.00pm (closed on Tue)

A bowl of home – Bakmie Jakarta

Recently I helped my friend Su with the collection of her runner’s pack, in return she bought me dinner. She told me the place she was bringing me is owned by a good friend of hers and it was not a fancy place but they served delicious Indonesian food. With that, I was sold.

A couple of years ago, I worked with a group of young, energetic Indonesians. They often get homesick. To curb this problem, they seek solace in food that reminded home – ayam penyet, bee hoon bakso and so on. These colleagues of mine slowly introduced me to the fascinating world of Indonesia’s cuisine. And I became obsess.

Bakmie Jakarta (by Jiak Bak Mee) is run by Indonesian Marcelly Suhali (and her husband is her faithful sidekick). From Marcelly, I learnt that bakmie is a simple, fast food favoured by the Indonesian-Chinese. Bakmie, similar to our bak chor mee, comprised of mee and minced chicken (with bits of mushroom). You can add kecap manis (sweet sauce) and sambal asli (chilli sauce) onto the noodles. At Bakmie Jakarta, they offered a few type of noodles and different combination. For a first-timer, Su recommended me to have the Bakmie Special Set (S$6.90) which is bakmie with minced chicken, chicken katsu and pangsit goreng (fried wanton).

I was really excited to try bakmie – pork-free bak chor mee (yay). Upon ordering, we got our noodles in five minutes. I had a quick bite of the noodles – I love the chewy texture. Most importantly it does not have the alkaline taste which you will get from yellow noodles. With a good drizzle of kecap manis and sambal alis, it was perfection. Marcelly told me that the noodles are based on her mother’s recipe – eggs are added to give the noodles colour and texture. Marcelly’s mother even weighed the noodles so that the customers will have a consistent experience.

The special set was definitely a great way to figure out what you like (or don’t like) or when you want everything. For me, I don’t fancy the chicken katsu. As they used breast meat, I find the chicken to be overcooked and dry.

I also appreciate that each set comes with a bowl of soup. Since I ordered the “greedy set”, my soup has a bakso sapi (beef ball), fishball and wanton. I be honest here, I was prepared for the soup to be larded with MSG. I was happy that I was proven wrong. The soup tasted like itek tim (salted vegetable with duck soup). It was a bowl of good soup – I had to stop myself asking for a second bowl.

As Su and I have the privilege to eat with the owners, we were treated to a new side dish they were introducing – tahu gerjot (S$2.50). It was essentially fried tau pok with a sweet, sour and spicy dressing. We were told that tahu gerjot was often served as an appetizer as the tangy dressing waken the appetite. It not just woke up my appetite, I was addicted to it. It was moreish and it was pretty hard to stop.

At Bakmie Jarkarta, you know you are getting authentic Indonesian cuisine as most of the regulars are Indonesians. Some of them even ate there on a daily basis. It is true Bakmie Jakarta is not the fanciest joint in town. But they sure can bring a bit of home to you.

Bakmie by Jiak Bak Mie (closed)
117A Killiney Road (2nd floor above S11)
Open hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm (daily)

oink’s guide to … Oslo! A hop on the bus and an accidental discovery (part one)

My second day in Norway was sort of ruined by the Oslo Marathon. Unlike the marathons in Singapore which usually end around 11am, Oslo Marathon stretched from 6am to 6pm. Because of the long hours, many museums were closed. And the hop on hop off” bus which we planned to take was cancelled. Evie and I spent the day roaming around Akershus Fortress (but the castle and guided tour were not available) and the city.

We returned to the city the next day and we were thrilled to take the “hop on hop off” bus (150NOK/ S$32/ US$26)*. It may be touristy but it is one of the best ways to see Oslo. Furthermore this bus does not operate all year round. I was lucky as it was the last week of operation and they will be closed for winter.

Viking Ship Museum

Viking Ship Museum

Cooking pot made from wood!

Cooking pot made from wood!

The first place that we hopped off was the Viking Ship Museum (60NOK/S$13/US$10). At the museum, ships from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune were on display. Besides the majestic (and fragile looking) ships, items like tools, kitchenware, were also showcased. The museum is not big so you can finish touring pretty fast. Still I was in awe by the grandness of the ships and the history that encompassed.

Evie ordering lunch for us

Evie ordering lunch for us

After our quick tour around the Viking Ship Museum, Evie and I got really hungry. We stepped out of the museum to see if there is any nearby cafés. We spotted a signage that said there was a café around the corner. After a 5 minute walk, we found Café Hemma Hos.

Decorated in Victorian-styled furnishing, Café Hemma Hos has a small but interesting menu. Both Evie and I have our eyes on the salmon cake (How can I go Norway, and not eat everything salmon?) and we ordered one each.

Café Hemma Hos

Café Hemma Hos

Salmon cake

Salmon cake

The salmon cake (189NOK/ S$40) was served with quinoa, roasted vegetable, garlic aioli and two slices of toast. When we looked at our plates, Evie and I wondered if it is enough to fill our tummies (we ain’t small eaters). And it did. And we were stuffed. The salmon cake was stodgy and packed with salmon – they were definitely not stingy with the fish. The cake itself was not fishy. The taste and texture reminded me of our otah minus the spice. I also love the accompanying quinoa and roasted vegetables which had beautiful chargrilled look and taste.

Before our meal was served to us, the waitress made a mistake with our orders – she gave us chicken sandwiches instead. Hence we waited much longer for our food. Once the owner of café arrived, our waitress immediately fessed up her mistake to the boss. The owner came and apologised and offered us more tea and cake. I was really impressed with the service.

Café Hemma Hos is not just your ordinary cafe, it is also a furniture shop. While we were having our tea, someone eyed the chair that I was seating. So if you fancy the dining table, the plates you are eating from, you can actually bring them home.

As much as we would love to stay in the café and have more tea, we have a tight schedule and more museums to visit.

*The tour is about 75 minutes. You can pay via credit card. If you are paying cash, it is better to pay in Norwegian Krone than Euros.

Akershus Fortress
Akershus Festning  0150 Oslo
Entrance is free. But you will need to pay for guided tour and entrance to castle and museum. Please check website for opening hours.

Viking Ship Museum
Huk Aveny 35, 0287 Oslo
1 Oct – 30 Apr: 10.000am – 4.00pm; 1 May – 30 Sep: 9.00am – 6.00pm
Adult: 60NOK/S$13/US$10

Café Hemma Hos
Fredriksborg Road 16, 0286 Oslo
Opening hours: 11.00am – 5.00pm (Tue-Sun)

Happy birthday me! Por Kee Eating House 1996

Yes it is that time of the year where I indulge in an entire month of feasting, choosing the venue and not paying a single bill. For this year, some of the places were misses – there were still some great winners! One of them is an old favourite of mine – Por Kee Eating House 1996.

Despite the heavy rain, and arriving an hour after it open, Por Kee was packed on a Sunday evening. I am thankful my friend (and also the one who paid the bill) Kristen made a reservation and we got to sit comfortably in the air-conditioned section of the restaurant.

As there were three of us, we didn’t want to over-order. We carefully selected three dishes and one of the must-have for me is the Thai-styled steamed fish.

To order your food, you need to seek the attention of the waiters wearing orange coloured uniform (the ones in blues helped to serve the food). As the place was packed, it took quite a while before someone came and took our order.

Stir-fry pea shoots with garlic (蒜炒豆苗)

The first dish that we ordered was stir-fry pea shoots with garlic (蒜炒豆苗). Though it was slightly salty for me (on the hand, it was meant to be eaten with a bowl of rice), the pea shoot was tender yet without losing its texture. The garlic was not too pungent or overpowering.

Seafood shang mee (海鲜生面)

Upon another birthday girl’s request, we got a plate of seafood shang mee (海鲜生面). The shang mee was fried to crisp and soaked up all the beautiful gravy underneath – as you slurped the noodle, you still get that bit of crunch.

Almost got burnt by the fire

Thai-styled steamed fish (泰式蒸鱼)

After watching many plates flied past us, the star of the night finally arrived at our table – Thai-styled steamed fish (泰式蒸鱼). I took charge and ordered a sea bass (which was S$4/ 100g (freaking cheap)). The fish itself was very fresh, the meat was tender and not overcooked. The Thai-styled tom-yam flavoured broth was equally delicious. We were busy eating and drinking the soup. At that point, I kind of regret not ordering a bowl of rice. I could imagine how well the rice and the soup would go together. But I was too stuffed.

The beauty of Por Kee is it is very old-school. From the restaurant decor, to its waitresses, everything seems to be stuck in 1996 (which ain’t a bad thing). There is something very homely and comforting about the place. Yes the service maybe non-existence. The place and food feel like home – it is okay to eat and not say a word, and just indulge.

Por Kee Eating House 1996
69 Seng Poh Lane
Opening hours: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30pm to 12.30am (daily)

oink’s cafe guide to … Perth! Coffee at Gino’s

One of my favourite things to do in Perth is to plant myself at Gino’s (located at Fremantle’s cappuccino stretch), enjoy a cuppa and watch people (and birds) pass by. Going on holiday does not mean fighting against time, rushing from one place to another. Sometimes, all you need to do is sit down and enjoy what is front of you.

Cafe 1-5 South Terrace, Fremantle, Western Australia
Opening hours: 6am till late (daily)

oink’s guide to … Perth! Lunch at Kailis’


When I was in university, I was told one of the must-eats in Perth was fish and chips. Perth (apparently) has the best fish and chips in Australia and the place to go was Cicerello’s. I don’t recall much about that meal – all I remembered was the portion was huge and I had to pay for ketchup (yes I am that cheapskate). So for old time sake, I decided to drop by the Fremantle Harbour and have a fish and chips lunch.

One can choose to go to the touristy Cicerello’s which seems to remain a favourite among both the tourists and the locals. However I much prefer the quieter Kailis’ where they were just crowned “Best Fish and Chips” by SBS Feast magazine (2012). They were also famed for creating fish and chip gelato.

Seafood delight

I decided to be greedy and ordered the Seafood Delight which consisted of fish, scallop, calamari and chips. To help me wash the meal down, I opt for my favourite Aussie’s soda – Solo.

I chose to alfresco dining which later turned out to be rather stressful. Eating outdoor at the harbour was almost like being in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Every bite you take was under the watchful eyes of the sea birds who were hoping that you might drop or thrown them a chip. Some of the nasty ones even purposely swooped down near diners and ready to attack.

Despite the not too pleasant environment, it was a beautiful day. It was cool and breezy and the condition was perfect for chowing down a plate of hot fried food. Though everything on the plate was piping hot, somehow the batter went soft (the same go for the chips but I love soggy chips). Still the seafood was really fresh. I especially enjoyed the scallops which were plump and juicy.

Dining at the harbour is not for everyone (especially for those who are squeamish about birds). With Singapore’s hot and humid weather, I rarely dine outdoor. I will savour every opportunity – birds or no birds.

Kailis’ Fish Market
46 Mews Road, Fremantle, Western Australia
Opening hours: 8.00am till late (daily)

oink’s guide to … Perth! City Farm cafe

For as long as I know The Food Pornographer (TFP), she has always been taunting me with pictures of muffins, sandwiches from City Farm cafe. And it doesn’t help when you are hungry in the train, and reading her tweets. So for this trip to Perth, City Farm cafe was on top of my list.

I made a date with TFP and her sister, Juji (who is the genius behind Juji Chews) for breakfast at City Farm cafe. The cafe is located in East Perth which was easily accessible via the Yellow Cat bus from the city. It was a wet and cold morning and I cannot wait to tuck into breakfast.

How do you know it’s TFP’s brekkie? Bacon!

Both TFP and Juji ordered the scrambled eggs which came with two slices of sourdough toast. And of course TFP could not resist ordering a side of bacon. For me, I got myself the scrambled egg with aged cheddar and chives.

My plate of happiness

As some of you might know, I am not a big fan of egg. But the Tasmanian Mersey Valley’s aged cheddar in the scrambled egg was so delicious – it was creamy and savoury. I liked to have the egg with the sourdough toast (and butter) – it gave a bit of crunch and also cut through the richness of the cheddar. The coffee at City Farm was fabulous too. My flat white was aromatic and not too bitter (I usually have my coffee without sugar).

While we were having breakfast and chatting, I cannot help but notice that the staff started to bring out the muffins and sweets. There were spinach feta muffin, brownies, cookies. I want them all.

City Farm cafe is a delightful joint and I can totally understand why TFP patronised the cafe so often. I would too.

City Farm Cafe
1 City Farm Place East Perth WA 6004 Australia
(Accessible via Claisebrook train station or City Yellow Cat bus)
Opening hours: 7.00am-3.00pm (Mon-Fri), 8.00am-12.00pm (Sat) (closed on Sun)

oink’s guide to … Perth! Fremantle Market

Fremantle, or the locals lovingly called it Freo holds a special place in my heart. When I was studying in Perth, my rented apartment was a 5-minute train ride from Freo. Every weekend, with a basket, I trottered my way to Freo. I always maintained the routine – coffee at Gino’s, book browsing at New Edition and the last stop is Fremantle Market.

Hello Freo

Freo Market might be considered as a tourist spot, still I like to shop there. The market not just housed shops selling souvenirs and fresh produces, it actually had a few good food stalls. One of the must-go for me is Bodrum Kebabs. It is comfort food at its best. Imagine on Friday night, you had a few beers with your friends, and on Saturday morning, you have yet to sober up. And then you were presented with this Lebanese bread stuffed with grilled chicken, fresh vegetables and topped with rich sour cream. It was warm, cold and crunchy all at the same time. At Bodrum, they don’t just slice the meat off the rotating spit and stuff them into the wrap. They would pan-fry the meat on the grill to get them crisp. There are heaps of condiments to make your döner kebab complete (I always go for sour cream). And the döner kebab is huge. Till now, I can never finish one on my own.

Reunited with my favourite kebab

Often after shopping at Freo, I would need an afternoon snack to replenish my energy (yes, shopping can be quite exhausting). Without a doubt, I would run to Michele Crepes Suzette. They have a board full of all sorts of crepes you can get. If you are into savoury, you would love the mushroom and cheese. And if you in the mood for something sweet (like I was when I visited them during my trip), I would go for the nutella crepe. The crepe is thin, crisp and a bit chewy and they are not stingy on nutella. It hits right on the sweet spot.

Nutella crepe

Bodrum Kebabsand Michele Crepes Suzette are my all-time favourites at Freo market. During my trip, I spotted some new eats like Maison Saint Honore and Jus Burgers. Unfortunately I only have one stomach so I have to give them a miss.

I think the biggest reason why I love Freo is it’s a bit rustic, hippie, nor too commercial. You can park yourself at any cafes along the cappuccino stretch and spend hours reading or people watching. There is no stress, no fuss, just sit back and relax.

Fremantle Market
Corner South Terrace & Henderson Street, Fremantle, Western Australia
Opening hours: 9.00am–8.00pm (Fri), 9.00am–6.00pm (Sat and Sun)
Bodrum Kebabs (stall #5) and Michele Crepes Suzette (stall #4) are both located at the Hall.


My friend Evie was back in Singapore and I thought I would spring a birthday surprise on her. I asked if she would like to go to the newly open Gardens by the Bay and perhaps be interested in having a meal at Pollen. She gamely said yes.


Helmed by Jason Atherton whose first venture, Esquina, is a hit in Singapore, Pollen is set to bedazzle the crowd with modern European fare with a hint Mediterranean flavours. Pollen is also the only restaurant that is located inside the conservatories (it is located in the Flower Dome). And apparently, they get their herbs and vegetables from their in-house garden.

Just Peachy (S$12)

There are two seatings for lunch – noon and 1.30pm. At the time I made the reservation, I was only left with the 1.30pm seating. Both Evie and I got really hungry around 1pm, so we went ahead to Pollen and hoped that we can have our lunch earlier. We were ushered in to the restaurant and we were told that we could order some drinks while we wait till 1.30pm for our lunch.

Set lunch menu

After a 15 minute wait, the maître d’ came and asked if we had a reservation. I gave him the details and the next moment we were guided to the lower level of the restaurant. We didn’t take too long to decide what we wanted. We both chose the set lunch which was reasonably priced at S$55 and it included a starter, a main and a dessert.

Bread and butter

Little plates of awesome-ness

Once we ordered our food, the staff brought us the bread basket – we had a choice of sourdough and baguette – we greedily grab both. To go with our bread, we had butter, olives and this small dish of mashed trout and potatoes (with garlic and olive oil). That tiny plate of mash was delicious – it was sweet, pungent and comforting. I had no idea where they got their olives from but they were equally spectacular. They were not oily or too acidic. I was just happily nibbling on them.

Pertuna ocean trout with smoked aubergine

Both Evie and I chose two different starters. Evie had Pertuna ocean trout with aubergine while I went with the slow-cooked egg, chorizo and patatas bravas. Evie’s ocean trout was beautifully cooked – I think it was poached in olive oil. It was accompanied by an aubergine mousse which mellowed the flavour of the trout.

Slow-cooked egg with chorizo and patatas bravas

I surprised myself by ordering a starter that had both egg and pork. But I really wanted to try patatas bravas which were basically fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce.  Though my starter was not as pretty as Evie’s, it was darn delicious. And it also came with a potato mousse. I got a bit of the tomato sauce, egg, potato mousse and the thinly slice chorizo on my spoon – it was warm and comforting. I even dipped my bread in some of the remaining sauce – nothing shall go to waste.

John Dory with minestrone and baby courgette

We ordered the same main – John Dory with minestrone and baby courgette. Once served, the maître d’ poured in the seafood broth. The broth was thin and rich – the taste reminded me of lobster bisque. The fish was not overcooked and had a good bite. It was quite a hearty main.

Before our desserts were served to us, Evie and I ordered some coffee. Halfway through the coffee, Evie was worried that they forgot our dessert as we waited quite a while. I enquired about it and guess what, they really forgot about it. And how we knew? The executive pastry chef, Andres Lara personally served us our dessert. When the desserts were sent to our table, I could see the gas from the liquid nitrogen. Perhaps I watched too many Heston Blumenthal’s cooking shows, I was hoping for more “drama” but nothing happened. Just gas from the liquid nitrogen (I blame you, Heston).

Bitter chocolate banana, white sesame ice cream and caramel nitro

Despite the anti-climax, the dessert – bitter chocolate banana with white sesame ice cream and caramel nitro – was my favourite dish. It was not overly sweet. Though I did not detect the white sesame flavour in the ice cream, I absolutely love the chocolate banana crumble. And there was a pomelo or grapefruit sorbet that was snuck in, it was a much needed palate cleanser.

Petite four

At the end of the lunch, we were served with a petite four to share. It consisted of two flavoured marshmallows and two types of nougat. All were really good and went well with our coffee. The only problem was we wanted another plate – they shouldn’t make us share.

While we waited for our bill, the maître d’ came and apologised on the service. I readily admit that the service was shaky and it was rather hard to get the attention of the staff. However the food compensated for everything – they were too good to be ignored. This was definitely one of the best meals I had for the year.

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Opening hours: 12.00pm–2.30pm, 6.00pm – 10.00pm (daily)

oink’s guide to … Perth! Koko Black

Started in Melbourne, Koko Black is a delightful chocolatier which recently made its way to Perth. Besides the wonderful array of chocolate treats, Koko Black’s salon also featured delicious tea-time snacks.

Koko Black

Though it was not the first time I dined in Koko Black, I went there with a purpose – to meet my webby friend and fellow food blogger – The Food Pornographer (TFP). TFP and I have been exchanging conversation via twitter and emails for almost a year. Her website always left me hungry, and made me miss Perth very much. We bonded over our love for instant mee (specifically Mee Sedaap), and we graduated from the same university and she is one of those few people who will understand when I start to blabber about semiotics and discourse. The biggest reason why I am such a big fan of TFP is her approach towards food – besides overwhelming her readers with a lot of food shots, she is brutally honest about her gastronomical experience.

I arrived early and struggled to find a seat. I was unclear of the seating system – the signage said “wait to be served” while the waitress told me to just grab any table which was available. After a while, I managed to find an empty table. While waiting for TFP and her partner Jac to arrive, I studied the menu and knew what I want – Alice lamington. Lamingtons, originated from Australia, are essentially butter sponge cakes, coated with chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. You can eat it on its own or filled it with cream.

Iced chocolate (A$7.90)

Once TFP and Jac arrived, we quickly ordered our drinks and food. Beside the Alice lamington, I also got myself the famous iced chocolate. It was huge and it was topped with two big scoops of ice cream. It was every chocolate-holic’s dream. As it was my third cup of liquid chocolate of the day, I did not manage to finish my drink – I am such a failure.

Alice lamington (A$4)

The Alice lamington was everything I wanted – it was not too sweet, the cream was delicious and it had a good dollop of sour cherry jam which cut through the richness. Thanks to TFP, I have been dreaming about Alice lamington and I was so happy to finally sink my teeth in one.

Queen of Hearts (A$39)

TFP and Jac shared “Queen of Hearts” which comprised of sandwiches, sweet and savoury tarts and of course Alice lamington. They both generously shared their tea snacks with me but I was stuffed from my lunch and the iced chocolate. Judging from their faces, I think it was safe to say everything on the plate was delicious.

Jac had to leave early for her weekly netball hockey game, and TFP and I stayed at Koko Black to chat. I thought it was pretty amazing that we both chatted like we were old friends. Our conversation was not just about food, but also our daily lives. I was glad to make this last minute trip to Perth and catch up with a wonderful (new) friend.

Koko Black
Claremont Quarter, 23 St Quentin Avenue Claremont WA 6010
Opening hours: 9.00am–6.00pm (Mon), 9.00am-10.00pm (Tue-Thu), 9.00am-11.00pm (Fri, Sat), 10.30am-6.00pm (Sun)
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