Feeling hungry yet? For today, we will be exploring alternative options to lunch and tea – thinking of vegetarian or perhaps, Thai-styled tea options? Take your pick from Vegetarian Express – a vegetarian cafe with standard on par to that of a cizhar stall , or Tuk Tuk Cha – a Thai-style cafe that serves up the famous Thai iced milk tea here in Singapore!
Tuk Tuk Cha
by Kirstin Sow
Like bubble teas from Taiwan, Thailand is pretty well-known for their iced milk tea too. While we used to have to travel all the way to Thailand just to get a taste of it in the past, fortunately we don’t have to now! Tuk Tuk Cha, the cafe arm of the famous Thai Boat Noodles at Bedok Point, has now opened at the newly renovated Suntec City Mall, and hopes to introduce authentic Thai tea and coffee to the masses.
The golden toast with three of their popular dips – pandan kaya, taro kaya and Thai tea kaya respectively, are freshly prepared upon order and are fried till they are crispy on the exterior while retaining a fluffiness in the interior. There was also a slight a hint of butter to it too, and the kaya dips greatly enhanced the experience. The pandan kaya, with the distinct coconut and egg flavour, is reminiscent of the kaya toast that we are accustomed with having at coffeeshops for breakfast. The Thai tea and taro flavoured dips however, were just plain sweet and I couldn’t really pick up the hint of tea nor yam from it.
Newly added to the menu, the Aloha Coconut Shibuya toast was served with a scoop of coconut ice cream, fresh coconut flesh and dried shavings, and drizzled heartily with maple and chocolate sauces on top of a thick-cut toast. You would have thought that the toast would be drenched and soggy from all the moisture above, however, to my surprise, the toast was crisp and well complemented with the ice cream. In fact, the toast was sliced in a unique criss-crossed fashion that the ice cream and sauces could seep in slowly, hence creating layers of taste with each mouthful. The maple syrup too, added a nice finished touch to the palate – giving it a fragrance that is both pleasing and satisfying.
Freshly brewed daily with the specially imported tea leaves from Thailand, the Thai green milk tea was balanced well enough such that the proportion of milk and green tea did not overlap one another and you could taste both of it clearly. The green milk tea was smooth and rich, and the sweetness was toned down by quite an amount here in Singapore so as to suit the Singaporeans’ taste buds. For an addition of $0.50, you could also get additional toppings such as mango pearls, coconut jelly or caramel jelly added into your drink too.
Tuk Tuk Cha serves up quick bites and hence is a great solution if you are looking for some snacks or something as a tea break. Seating here is limited, although the layout is pretty unique, as they had specially imported a Tuk Tuk from Thailand and retrofitted the body of the vehicle with a wooden table and some seats around it instead. If you are around Suntec on a weekend and would like some Thai snacks, do drop by and sip on a cup of Thai milk tea while munching along to toast, and enjoy the Thai music that plays in the background.
The drinks and small bites here are relatively inexpensive and make for a good light snack or tea break when the hunger pangs strike. Even if sweets aren’t to your liking, there are other options available such as Tom Yum Toast and these are relatively pocket-friendly too.
Tuk Tuk Cha
3 Temasek Boulevard #02-605A Suntec City
Opening Hours: Mon- Sun: 9am to 9pm
by Zelene Lee
If you were a vegetarian staying near the Kovan neighbourhood, you would already have known that there is scarcity of vegetarian stalls in the hawker centres. However, did you know that situated at the second level of Heartland mall, Vegetarian Express café is one such café that focuses on delivering a wide array of dishes straight from its incredibly small kitchen?
Even though the interior isn’t too appealing to grab any of your attention, I am very sure the names of their food most definitely will. In fact, Vegetarian Express has come up with innovative names and fusion dishes to attract younger generations to start a vegetarian diet. On top of that, neither GST nor service charges are being charged here, not even takeaway charges! How awesome is that!
Not to worry as that is definitely not frog legs! Replaced with fried oyster mushroom and served in creamy sweet sauce made from butter, eggs and milk, topped with a few basil leaves, the outer batter is really crispy and tasted similar to honey corn flakes, while the mushrooms within were crunchy and chewy, kind of like Sotong sticks from a Old Chang Kee.
A fusion of western salad with cold soba noodles, this was served with generous helping of different ingredients such as cabbage, carrot, lettuce, and seaweed, sprinkled with some crunchy rice crackers and creating burst of surprises upon every bite. Word of advice: Do thoroughly mix the sesame sauce for the best taste as only then can you enjoy both the sweet and savoury taste blended in unison.
If you have a few friends with you, try sharing a combo platter with them to start off your meals proper! Consisting of Pandan Chicken, Spring Rolls and Calamari rings, each item were delicious in their own ways. The calamari rings surprisingly was really similar to real calamari rings – crispy on the outside and chewy inside. The Pandan Chicken, though made of mock meat from flour and water, could even fool meat lovers alike as it was juicy and tender just like real chicken too! The only letdown I felt from this combo platter was that you have to eat them hot as after they get pretty soggy and oil-filled when they are cooled.
This Unagi (eel) had taken me by total surprised, as it not only looks like the real unagi, it even taste like one. Melting right in your mouth once you had a bite on it, the tender juicy ‘meat’ falls apart, and the teriyaki sauce enhances the taste and texture of the mock fish.
With monkeyhead mushrooms as the lead, this dish was cooked together with carrots, broccoli, black mushrooms, and baby corns. The texture of the monkeyhead mushroom was unique as it is spongy, soaking up most of the gravy of this dish. Overall, this dish is savory and goes very well with rice rather than on its own, and the mixture of vegetables makes the composition interesting – between the soft and spongy monkeyhead mushroom, and crisp baby corns, carrots and broccoli. There’s a homely feeling to having this dish, reminiscent of home cooked food that mum’s make. It is no wonder then that this is their signature dish!
In no way losing to authentic Chinese Zi Char, you can decently smell the fragrance of the broccoli and mushroom and konnyaku, which is used to mimic sea cucumber, when served. As konnyaku is tasteless in nature, the sweetness of this dish is actually brought out from the broccoli and mushrooms instead. What is nice about this dish is that konnyaku is actually a healthy choice since it has no fats nor cholesterols or even carbohydrates!
The creamy cheese and tomato melts right in your mouth, making it simply heavenly. The spaghetti is slightly overcooked, probably due to it being soaked in the creamy cheese, resulting in it being soggy. However, just the huge helping of melted cheese, which ensures that every mouthful you take is definitely a cheesy one (pun not intended) was just enough to make anyone’s mouth water just by looking at it .
Finally to wash it all down, I would strongly recommend this dessert drink which is high in collagen. There is a fairly unique taste to this, as it is thick but not as if it was a milkshake. The sweetness was controlled nicely too, and despite the ingredient being coral seaweed, you can be sure that there is nary a hint of anything fishy within! If you don’t quite fancy this drink though, there’s nothing to worry too as they too offer homemade Lemongrass Tea ($1.60) amongst other choice too!
The cafe exudes a soothing vibe, with clean and bright colours gracing the interiors and the walls with relaxing murals of trees. The concept is pretty much like a Hong Kong teahouse, great for having a quick bite in it, or having it as a takeaway instead. Despite the lack of manpower, the boss is really friendly, and it is a wonderment as to how they are able to keep the high standards for their food in such a small kitchen inside! It gets a little more crowded or probably packed by 6pm though, but you generally can expect your food to be served within 10 minutes.
Contrary to the believe that since vegetarian dishes are made of mock meats etc and therefore they should be cheaper, it is really not the case at all. Here, thankfully, the prices are reasonable, and in fact, the dishes are much better than some of the well-known vegetarian restaurants in Singapore – the quality control for the food they send out and the portions really do put some of those vegetarian restaurants to shame, and even normal ci zhar stalls too!
205 Hougang Street 21
#02-04, Heartland Mall
Tel: 6383 5672
Opening hours: 11.00am – 9.00pm