Food @ Annapurna Circuit Trek

I am not a big fan of Indian food so I was initially apprehensive about the type of food I will be getting in Nepal. So to be sure that I don’t have to consume Indian or pure Nepalese food everyday, we brought along instant noodles, instant soup and instant porridge. But I was delightfully surprised when our very first day, we saw the menu at the tea house. There was of course Nepalese food but there were also very familiar food like fried rice, fried noodles, pizza, pasta, all sort of soup and bread. Our guide told us this was the typical menu for all the tea houses and we could pick any items from the menu at all the meals. Hooray!

Throughout the 11 days of trekking, our staple for lunch was mainly fried rice or fried noodle. These was because it was the easiest food for the tea house to prepare and the more easily digestible for us being familiar food. They were a hit and miss. Some places, it was well prepared and taste almost like those back home but some places it simply taste weird, especially the way the noodles were cooked.

For dinner when we have more time to wait for our food, we generally ordered more varied variety – like pizza which is just a base of dough with tomato on top and whatever toppings available which is either egg, tuna or vegetable, mushroom or cheese or a mixture..  Not great but still when one is hungry, it tasted really good!

Fried Pasta

One of my favourite was this spring roll – actually looks like chappati with whatever fillings like egg, tuna or vegetable or a mixture. Some places served it deep fried as well.

For breakfast, there was the usual toast with butter and jam spread but there were also other options like Tibetan bread which tasted really great, chappati which comes with egg or plain; pancake and corn bread among others.

This is chappati with fried egg which was real good as the chappati was freshly baked. 

The pancake was not the usual small pieces we get in Singapore but this full plate size giant and it comes with butter and honey. 

However, for us the single most requested food especially at the higher grounds was this simple instant noodles which they cooked in a garlic based broth. The hot soup and the noodles goes down so well in the cold and we have it for a number of breakfast and dinner!

Of course, when in Nepal we have to have Nepalese food and the most popular item was definitely the Dal Bhat, a rice dish served with lentil vegetables and curry and some assorted side dishes. 

My own favourite is the Mo Mo which is similar to our dumpling and comes with either tuna, cheese, potato or vegetable filling and is served either steamed or fried. However, of all the items available, this is the only one that is in my opinion too small a portion for me and I only had it twice although I think it was really great. I even tried to find them in Kathmandu to bring back to Singapore but was unfortunately unsuccessful.

Out in the circuit, they don’t have much fresh meat so our guide generally tell us not to order the meat item but on our way to Manang, we actually had our first taste of Yak meat in the form of a Yak burger! Yak meat is almost similar to beef but I thought they were a bit dry but it was good to have meat for a change.

At Manang, there were bakery and good real coffee – not those black water that pass off for coffee in the tea housesSo despite my initial apprehension, I didn’t starve or had to eat Nepalese or Indian food throughout and because of that, my original target to lose 5 kg for this trip did not materialise despite trekking for so many days!

Good but Expensive – The Coconut Club

While I do enjoy good food, generally I baulked at paying high prices for what I called hawker food. The few exceptions are when the food in question has got a very good review and the ingredients somehow justify the price. Even then, probably just once to see what the fuss is all about. Which is why it took me a long time to go down to The Coconut Club which is just a stone throw from my office for their famed Nasi Lemak.
One of the reasons is that the few times I pass by , there is always a long queue along the corridor. The other thing was paying $12.80 for a plate of nasi lemak which I can get equally famous and good one from $3.00 at food centre. Still curiosity got me going and I roped in M for a lunch date at The Coconut Club. We reached slightly early and there was no queue! The queue started to form around 12.15 pm. Thank goodness.
We ordered one plate of the $12.80 nasi lemak, 1 otak and 1 spicy dried prawn long beans (haebihaem long beans to share. The waiter didn’t seem to mind that the 2 of us ordered so little. Or maybe he pitied us and thought we were too poor to order more because when the food was delivered, it came with a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lodeh! How about that for great service!

The nasi lemak comes with a chicken leg joint cut into 2 unlike other places that usually just serve the drumstick. There was an sunny side up egg ; peanuts and ikan bilis. That was all but it was a rather big plate. And of course, after tasting the rice, I can understand how it got its fame.
The otak came in the usual banana leaf. It was rather big so I guess they must have made it themselves and the waiter confirmed that later. Although it was freshly made and filled with fish, I think it was overpriced at $10.50.
The haebihaem long beans which incidentally was not on the menu was a tad salty but the serving portion was very big.
I felt that the Sayur Lodeh was a bit too watery but there was a good mix of vegetables in it.

Overall, while a bit expensive, I couldn’t mind coming back for the nasi lemak. I heard the Chendol is good but I didn’t try that so maybe good excuse to go back.

Amoy Food Taste – Salad

When it comes to eating healthy, nothing beat the business district area. Everywhere one goes, there are multiple a salad outlet, Poke stores and now the latest in thing – salad bar masquerading as Health Food. Prices range from $5.00 to a whooping $15.00 for what is essentially some meat (they call them Protein); a little bit of carbohydrates (its always carbs) and a lot of vegetables. For those who don’t mind paying the high prices, there are places like Simply Wrapps, A Poke Therapy; Daily Cut, Grain Traders etc. Interestingly though, the more you have to fork out at the atas place, the smaller portion you get. So for those with smaller pockets and big appetite, there is always the food centre and over at Amoy Food Centre, there are 3 great options. Used to be 4 though but one of them closed down for some unknown reason.

Salad Corner
Arguably the most famous of the 3 with its presence on social media and other outlets at malls. The base set is $4.90 that comes with 5 toppings. Premium toppings range from $1.00 to $2.00. Service is so so. Items are placed in a plastic container be it dine in or take away. Sauces of one choice (and they have at least 13 options) are poured over the final contents and that’s it. Taste wise? Hey, it mainly vegs so what taste?

B Salad Kitchen
A sister stall to the more popular Chef B Pasta (both stalls are next to each other), this stall has been slowly growing in popularity. Each salad is $4.90 and comes with 6 toppings. Different combo are available at very reasonable price. The smallest range of sauces though. Service here is slightly better as the staff here are younger and can banter with customers. Like all the other stalls, the salad are sold in plastic containers and only plastic cutlery are used.

Mr Salad
The stall with a smile. This one got my vote for the most friendly service. Price at $4.90 with 5 toppings like the rest. Guess they do keep an eye out on the competition. Premium topping ranges between $1.00 – $2.00 and the choice of sauces are like the other – overwhelming until you don’t know what to choose. Whatever happened to plain old Thousand Island or French Dressing?

1) Service. The 2 times I went to Mr Salad, I got served by a man. Smiling and very helpful even though I spent what I think is an unreasonably long time agonising over the toppings and the sauces. Because I am a regular customer at Chef B, the only time I went to B Salad Kitchen, the staff there was super friendly. Maybe because the boss is just next door? The service at the Salad Corner was the most basic. Just the pick what you want, pack and go. Efficient so cannot be faulted but no personal touch.

2) Price. All the same. But Chef B has got 6 toppings and the portion is bigger. They also got various options like basic + 5 + 1 main for $5.30. So Chef B gets my vote for value for money.

3) Variety & Quality. Sama sama. All 3 stalls used only lettuce as base although Chef B has some other vegetables as well. The topping including the premium options varies but there is something to satisfy every one craving so no complain either and as long as it not canned, it fresh. And because turnover is pretty good at all 3 stalls with some toppings sold out by the time I eat at around 2 pm, I can only surmised that other customers have no issue with the quality as well.

5) Taste. What taste? Vegetables and greens have no taste at least to me. The only taste comes from the fruits and that is something they can’t control. So we are down to the sauces. Did they prepare it on their own or buy off the shelf? With so many options to try but since I usually only stick to balsamic vinaigrette or honey mustard I really don’t know how different the taste varies from the different stalls.

Final Score: All the 3 stalls are practically identical in terms of prices and variety of options and sauces offered. And since these are salads, there is nothing much to compare taste wise. Portion wise, all are also about the same so at the end of the day, I guess it all boil down to service and which one has the shortest queue so that I don’t have to wait too long. 

Cheap and Good – Chef Ron

People who said our hawker food culture is dying is being proven wrong as evidenced by the number of young hawkers sprouting up in our food centre and especially at Amoy and Maxwell.

But generally most of these young hawkers tend to come up with some more interest modern food like Noodle Story and Different Taste at Amoy but over at Maxwell Chef Ron is sticking to traditional food like braised pork and chicken and his signature, Ipoh Curry Mee.

I had tried the braised chicken previously when it first opened. It was good but not fantastic. In fact I remarked to him that his fried chicken wing for the nasi lemak look so uninspiring. Well, since then he has gone on to create more items and seems to have hit it off with his Ipoh Curry Mee.

Since I have not tasted any original Ipoh curry me, I have no basis for comparison but I do like his version. It comes with char siew, roast pork and chicken. There was a hint of mint which I felt gave a nice balance to the food. And there are plenty of towgay just the way Ipoh food should be like.

Each bowl of curry mee cost only $4 but honestly the serving wasn’t that big. So to keep my stomach happy, I added on a kong bak pau and I must admit, this has got to be one of the best kong bak I ever had!

Judging from the many favourable reviews on social media and the web, their food is a hit although I didn’t see that many customers.  Blame it on the ongoing construction work for the MRT where the hoardings are keeping people away.  What a pity but good for me since there is no queue.

Good but not so Cheap – Gyu Nami

Amoy Street Food Centre is fast becoming a start up for young food hawkers. The latest to join the line up is Gyu Nami, a Japanese Donburi stall set up by 2 cousins or that what I was told.

They served only 1 item – Wagyu Beef Donburi. At $10.00 a bowl, it is not cheap by hawker food standard. The rice serving portion is also rather small as evidenced from the small bowl. But what does not lack for is slice and slice of Wagyu Beef cooked medium well. There is also an Onsen egg and a bit of vegetables. The whole thing is topped with a rather interesting tasting sauce which I figured got mayo and some other stuff which I cannot identified.

Once again, not cheap for a food centre lunch but definitely value for money!

Cheap and Good – Sumo Prawn Noodle

Have heard much about this place at Ang Mo Kio and its prawn noodle that comes with lobster. Finally managed to find time to go there and try it out. There was a short queue when we arrived around 8 pm. Fortunately, the service was fast and the queue moved swiftly.

The four of us ordered 2 bowl of prawn noodles that come with 4 big prawns and 2 bowl of noodles that come with 2 crayfish.

This is the $8.00 prawn noodle. Beside the prawn, there is also clams.

This is the crayfish noodle which also comes with clams and cost $13.00 each.

We didn’t order the Lobster noodle as we felt it doesn’t the cost of dinner at such a place. It is however rather reasonably priced at either $18.90 for Asian Lobster or $24.90 for Columbia Lobster depending on the stock availability.

Regardless of prawn, crayfish or lobster, the stock is the same. Not overwhelmingly sweet but just nice that it will not cause one to get jeilat after drinking it all down. While the prices may seem pricey compared to other prawn noodles out there, considering the quality of the ingredients, I will think that it is cheap and good!