Hawker Chan HK Soy Sauce Chicken

The Mr Chan of the famed Hawker Chan in Singapore was originally from Ipoh, Malaysia. He later moved to Hong Kong, where he acquired the skills in making his signature HK style soy sauce chicken - before settling and opening a hawker stall in Singapore. His rise to fame was documented, from a humble food court stall, to being awarded one Michelin star rating from the Singapore Michelin Guide. 

I did not go to the original stall in Chinatown Food Centre, because I googled and got this address on Smith St instead. It is a new establishment, from investors who had bought Hawker Chan's recipe and set up a shiny, fancy, new restaurant to accommodate the growing number of curious diners.

I arrived at 11:50am, and already a line was snaking out from the shop. The motion sensor sliding door could not close due to the line of people extending out to the entrance. A staff later asked us to step back into the outside queueing area so the door could close and regulate the interior air-conditioning.

Well, that was certainly a first. 

There was a healthy mix of locals and foreigners queueing, compared to the 1-Michelin star Bak Chor Mee (only locals there, perhaps unsurprising). Total waiting time in the first queue was ~15 mins. The first queue is where you order and pay. There is also an automated kiosk for you to place your meals, and pay! Fancy schmancy!

Once paid, you are handed a receipt with a queue number. This is the second queue where I waited some ~25-30 minutes before my number was pinged to pick up my food. Tables are also limited especially during the rush hour, resulting in people hogging tables, even though their queue numbers were still a long ways off.

Total waiting time for both queues = 45 minutes, before lunch rush hour. Actually, the queue kind of died down after 12:30. May be a good idea to come really early, or a little later.

Finally! Two dishes with soy sauce chicken - one with rice for myself and another with noodles for my sister.

Most friends/family have told me to order their noodles - and I concur.

Noodles were springy and comes with a mushroom-y sauce. Quite a delight to eat. The star of the meal - soy sauce chicken - has a very subtle, delicate flavour. Chicken is tender, but I have had more tender chicken, sous vide style. The chicken is certainly nice, although I can't say I understand the one Michelin award, sorry. Perhaps for the real experience, I should have gone to Hawker Chan's original stall?

Rice was dry and semi-hard. I also ordered a side char siew (rBBQ pork) with the rice. It was nice and well-caramelised. Yummy, but not worth 45 minutes queue I think. I would much prefer to go back to the Bak Chor Mee for queues!

Still, a very affordable meal at under SGD$20 for the two dishes, including beverages.

Hawker Chan Soy Sauce Chicken
78 Smith St
058972 Singapore
Opens Thursday-Tuesday, 10:00am - 8:00pm
Closes Wednesday

See my other hawker Michelin post in Singapore here.

The Proposal

It all started with dinner. 

They usually do, right?

In front of the Hong Kong harbour, on a chilly wintry night, he didn't drop onto one knee. No, sir....

I'll leave it to your finest imagination!

Tai Hwa Bak Chor Mee

Ah, Singapore! And Bak Chor Mee! Bak Chor Mee (BCM) is a pork noodle in vinegar sauce, and an acquired taste. When I first moved to Singapore, I did not take to BCM readily. Neither did my Malaysian family and friends. They all complained of the intrusive vinegar taste and preferred instead to have the regular pork noodles without vinegar.

On top of the vinegar, some hawker stalls will pile on mushrooms, creating a very strong taste to your palate. Despite all of that, I have eventually started to appreciate BCM and do crave for it from time to time! To make it even more desirable, BCM can only be found in Singapore (no business elsewhere kot, heh).

Regrettably, my time in Singapore was not spent enough on discovering BCM places, thus I have not tasted enough BCM to gauge how superior one is to the next. So, this trip to Singapore, I made sure one lunch slot is dedicated to the recently awarded 1 Michelin Star eatery by the Singapore Michelin Guide.

It wasn't hard to locate the restaurant, if you consult Google map (I also realized with a jolt that I have been here before, to dine at the western food stall next to the BCM). The BCM stall is located on the right-most corner of the kopitiam. 

If you're having problems locating the BCM stall, just look out for the long queue! There were approximately 7 people ahead of me already in line when I arrived at 1:20pm on a weekday. Protocol here is a little different from the others. First, you get into the existing line. Then eventually, one of the uncles will gesture for you to approach the stall. You tell him which type of noodle you'd like, and of any additional ingredients requests. He tells you how much your order is, but you don't pay yet. Then you go back to the spot in line where you were waiting.

The noodles come in a variety of upgrades, starting at a base of $5, then $6, $8 and $10. It was my first visit, so I asked for a "regular" order, which turned out to be $6.

The turnaround per customer is approximately 2 minutes; so my wait was a mere 15 minutes. Based on friends' waiting experiences and from what I gathered online, the usual wait is 30-45 minutes or up to 2 hours! I'm not complaining over a 15 minute wait, now!

The $6 bowl comes with a bowl of seaweed soup. Minced pork, slices of pork fillets, pork balls, dumplings, pork liver and a piece of fried fish sole are arranged prettily on a bed of flat noodles. I tried the soup first, very sweet and not too salty. Mixed the noodles up so everything is coated in sauce. Took a bite of the pork fillet. Wow, it is tender and just about cooked, the vinegar sauce beautifully balances the meat. The pork liver was just as impressive - almost melting in the mouth! It is a far cry from other noodle stalls who overcook the pork liver. Those are usually chewy or crumbly. The noodles are wonderfully al dente, adding a whole dimension to the dish. 

The dumplings, on the other hand, I wasn't wild about them. I felt the dumpling skin was a tad too thick, but everything else shined. It was so good, I polished the entire bowl clean. I'd wait 45 minutes for this bowl, and next time, I'll take the $10 premium upgrade.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
#01-12 Blk 466
Crawford Lane
Opens daily, 9:30am - 9:00pm
Closed 1st & 3rd Mondays of the month

Brunei: Our Favourite Cafés

**Updated 2nd May 2017

We've uncovered a large number of wonderful cafés and restaurants during our stay in Brunei. My initial thoughts on Brunei were, well, boring. But the beauty of this country is: if you take your time to get to know it, gradually peeling off the outer layers, you'll be rewarded with a wealth of exciting activities and eats!

Before we move on, there are some presumptions that need clearing up. Yes, you CAN get pork in Brunei! And contrary to popular belief, the non-halal eateries are not shrouded in secrecy and nor are they rare. These restaurants will usually have a notice on their premises - Food not suitable for Muslim people.

***This list is not comprehensive, we are still subjecting ourselves to various experimentats... anything to ensure hypotheses and results are consistent before we present them here :)

1) Danes Cafe

Whenever we make a trip out of Brunei, one of the first things we crave for when we return is kolo mee. So far, the best version (in Brunei) can be found here. 

Coffee is decent - cakes are a hit or miss. Sometimes we get very dry cakes (which may have been left in the chiller for a while), and sometimes, deliciously moist cakes.

Our usual orders are the Charsiew Kolo Mee (for him) and Danes Kolo mee (for me). The Danes kolo mee is an exercise of self control. Springy noodles with pork balls, pork crackling, minced pork, pork lard and topped with a slice of bacon and sunny side up egg! Best eaten with pickled chillis. Bliss!!

Other choices available at Danes are ribs, pork burgers and other cafe food. I'm predictable and I ALWAYS order the Danes kolo mee, hehe.

Danes Cafe
Unit 102, Bangunan Batu Bersurat
7:00am - 10:00pm
Must have: Danes Kolo Mee

2) Brew Cafe & Brewery

Brew Cafe & Brewery (wish they'd change to a less generic name... try looking for THAT on Waze!) is under the Mr Baker umbrella branch. 

We arrived at 11:30am, and completely missed out on the breakfast options. Breakfast is only available till 11am, with the usual breakfast fare of scrambled eggs, sausages, toast - that sort of options. 

The herbed bagel with roast chicken, cheese, tomatoes and salad leaves combination goes really well together! Bagels are also chewy, without being overly dense. 

Half boiled eggs and flat white. Hands down, Mr Baker has the best coffee in town! The espresso brewed here has a medium acidity and a slight bitterness. My only gripe is they put too much milk in their coffee beverages.... good for diners who like a large cup of coffee, I suppose.

Our second visit, we managed to get there in time for their breakfast menu. This is the Croissanwich - with chicken, cheese, tomato and a side salad. 

Croissants are well-made, with defined lamination. Although, I wish the staff had used a better knife to slice my croissant - because it turned up looking squashed, heh.

The cafe also has an in-house bakery. They sell a variety of bread options like sourdough, baguette, croissants, tarts and much more. We weren't wild about the desserts here though. Pandan sponge cake was incredibly dry, and the egg tart shell was a disappointment (hard, not crumbly).

Brew Cafe & Bakery
Unit 47, Block C, Gadong Central
7:00am - 10:30pm
Must have: Coffee, breads, croissants, bagels.

3) Alter Ego

We passed by this cafe, and I was immediately attracted to its exterior but we were already leaving. As soon as I got back, I searched it up online. Strangely, there wasn't much information other than some commenting on its decor.

I was pleased to see that they offer French pastries (digressing, we drove 15 minutes to a patisserie called Le Doux Patisserie only to be massively disappointed by their pastries)  such as Petite Antoines, and fusion choux pastries.

Espresso machine looks promising.... but the coffee was mediocre. All I could taste was milk :(

Steak and Unagi rice bowl -

That poached egg is perfect - all jiggly and indecently squirmy and glistening. I really liked the unagi, whereas V prefers the steak. Served on rice with Japanese seaweed, this was really yummy.

Karaage chicken with a spicy sauce-

Crispy, crunchy and tender chicken strips. Great for snacks.

Matcha Religeuse-

I was a little disappointed with the choux pastry, to be honest. It is obviously an "old", stale choux. The choux shell should have a bite to them (not crunchy, but at least with a bit of texture). The choux pastry I got was soft, stale and lacking body. Its saving grace was the matcha cream, though. It was fluffy and light.

We also tried the Petite Antoine... and it was forgetful. This used to be one of my favourite desserts in pastry school but I don't quite know what went wrong here! The chocolate ganache didn't have that intense chocolaty flavour... it was really meh.

That pink pastry in the background is a Bandung St Honoré. 

Bandung is an Indonesian beverage, pink in colour and usually sickly sweet. Alter Ego's interpretation of the St Honore tasted like cough syrup. On the upside, this choux wasn't as stale as the Matcha Religeuse (I had the Matcha Religeuse on a different occasion - at brunch - so it may have been an overnight product. Whereas the St Honoré was purchased at night and probably freshly made).

Alter Ego
Unit No 2 & 3, Block E, Ground Floor
Lot 5788, Kampung Kuilap
10:00am - 10:00pm
Must Have: The Grains and snacks

p/s Alter Ego is on the same street as TWO escape rooms!
p/p/s After our second visit here, we have exhausted our options for desserts because the menu is limited. Although, it did state on the menu that it is still in a soft launching mode. Let's see.

4) Rack & Brew

As a special mention, Rack & Brew also has one of the nicer coffee in town! Hot meals are average. We suspect their cake is sourced from the same baker as Danes Cafe (because, they carry the same cakes). So it is a hit or miss with the dessert too. The yam cake is delicious!

There is also a boutique on the upper level of R&B. Personally, I think the style is cute and gorgeous, but the quality is on the lower side, and the price tag on them does not justify the purchase.

**Edit - Since taking a barista course, I have become a coffee snob (as my fiancé is quick to accuse me of). The coffee at Rack & Brew is good, but not great. Definitely one of the better ones in town.

Rack & Brew
Opposite The Mall Gadong, next to McDonald's & upstairs International House of Pancakes
9:00am - 11:00pm
Must Have: Coffee & Cakes!

5) Roasted Sip

Yaay! A specialty coffee maker, or third wave coffee brewers have entered the Brunei market! Plus point - they are really close to where we stay, so I could grab the car in the early hours and have a satisfying cuppa before the fiancé goes to work. 

I was there on two occasions - both times, I ordered a Piccolo latte. I know, I should have ordered an espresso to really appreciate the coffee, but I REALLY, REALLY enjoy my coffee with milk! 

Anyway, the first try, I really liked the strong espresso - but I also find it lacking in acidity. The barista is very friendly, though. He chatted with me about the coffee beans, and how they roast the beans in house. 

Piccolo latte, and a salted egg mini croissant.

The roasting is done once a week, so if you're lucky, you can even witness it while getting your caffeine fix! 

My second trip there, the coffee was much better. It was well balanced: the acidity and bitterness. 

They also serve a small selection of pastries. I tried their salted egg croissant - which was quite good. Their chicken puff was alright, puff pastry wasn't as flaky as their croissant. Which is absolutely fine, because the coffee here takes the centre stage. 

Roasted Sip
Complex BG3122
Jerudong, Brunei
7:00am - 7:00pm
(Opposite GK Restaurant)

The Georgian Adventure - Hike to Chalaadi Glacier

Our third, and last hike in Svaneti. There are so many more places to hike and explore around Georgia, it was a hard decision to premature...