Koshari Street, London

would never have discovered this place if not for the groupon trawling that took place while boredom struck a while back. yes, i am an #aunty and proud of it heh ūüėČ
(for the non-singaporeans: “aunty” when used on a young lady -cough- like myself -cough- usually means she is behaving more like a middle-aged to old female, hence the activity of¬†online bargain hunting being labelled “aunty” behaviour) saw what seemed like a really good deal – ¬£9 for a large koshari and drink for 2, did a quick online search to check out what exactly this “egyptian street food” entailed, and with my curiosity piqued and impressed by the rave reviews, promptly made the groupon purchase. am still very pleased that i made that decision¬†because i was far from disappointed!

occupying a small but comfortable¬†shop space along st martin’s lane at the fringe of covent garden, koshari street serves just one main dish, a type of egyptian street food known as koshari. you’re probably staring at your computer screen with raised eyebrows wondering what on earth koshari is; i can totally relate because i was once in that position. but i am proud to say that i now not only know what koshari is but have also had the great pleasure of trying some, and it is absolutely delicious!

koshari is a vegetarian dish consisting of lentils, rice, vermicelli, topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas, and caramelised onions. does that not sound like a wonderfully wholesome and warming combination of ingredients? well, even if you think it doesn’t, i assure you now that it most definitely is ūüėÄ

koshari street prides itself on everything being freshly-made with the best ingredients and bringing naturally healthy egyptian meals to londontown. upon entering the shop, you are greeted by a long stainless steel counter with the koshari condiments all very neatly and systematically laid out. service was extremely friendly and the server took the time to explain to us what exactly goes into a koshari, even letting us try the different tomato sauces with varying spice levels (mild/hot/mad Рdespite my penchant for spicy food because its a taste of home, i got the hot because i thought a cupful of mad sauce might really be quite mad) before we decided on the ones we wanted for our kosharis.20141007_132809
the koshari was then assembled before us and served piping hot in a huge cup (perfect for takeaways).

the groupon deal was for a large koshari and a drink, so that’s what we got:20141007_133229
large koshari Р£6.50 / fresh juice Р£2 (regular non-groupon prices)
not sure if you can see how big this cup really was because of the lack of proper scale, but it was really a¬†very¬†generous serving. (almost the size of an ice cream tub if i’m not wrong?)¬†they also do small and medium sizes and as we were devouring our large cups, we noticed that almost nobody¬†(there was a steady stream of customers coming in throughout our meal) except the odd large and famished-looking man ordered the large.

you’re probably wondering what lies beneath the glorious bed of glistening golden-brown shallots, so here are more pictures that reveal¬†the amazing goodness contained in a cup:20141007_133419
and now with everything mixed in:20141007_133933
my midnight hunger pangs are getting stronger by the second as i type this post (will need to promptly get into bed after this so morning will come quick and i can demolish some breakfast :P)… just looking at the pictures, i can remember the great satisfaction i got from this extremely¬†flavourful concoction that really packed a punch. what struck and impressed my friend and i most about the koshari was how fresh and well-done every single component of the dish was – everything was cooked to perfection and served piping hot. the lentils, macaroni and rice retained a delicious bite, while the crispy vermicelli bits, chickpeas and shallots on top added layers of crunch. the tomato sauce was extremely fresh, tasty and flavourful. it tied everything together wonderfully and as we were making our way through our mega cups, we were already imagining how happy we’d be on the cold winters day when we’d return to warm our souls with this yummy comfort food¬†ūüôā the ingredients were added so generously and in such¬†perfect proportions that¬†every mouthful was a burst¬†of flavours and textures in our mouths!¬†i did mention earlier that the cup was huge but what i¬†failed to mention was that i finished it anyway; i enjoyed it that much ūüėõ left the shop feeling¬†extremely¬†full, but a healthy full, having loaded up on a cup full of wholesome goodness.

besides koshari, koshari street also offers¬†some simple salads, a soup option that changes daily and a handful of puddings for¬†dessert. order a mix of things to make for a really satisfying meal¬†or alternatively, they do combo meals where you can get a koshari, side and drink for a reasonable price. given the quality of the ingredients and how filling and wholesome the dish is, i would highly recommend this little cafe if you’re looking for a quick bite around the covent garden area. the space the shop occupies is small so its ideal for takeaways, but they do have some counter-type seating within the shop so there’s always the option of dining in as well.

if you’ve never had egyptian food, now’s the time to change that! you have even more reason to because the groupon deal doesn’t seem to have ended yet: check it out here!

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Koshari Street
56 St Martin’s Lane
London WC2N 4EA

The Daily Cut, Singapore

amidst the myriad of salad shops in the cbd catering to the increasingly health-conscious office crowd looking to fight post-lunch food comas, the daily cut stands out from the crowd with its different take on the regular green salad.

eagerly counted down the minutes till lunch when i could go check this exciting new place out (#internlife), and arrived in the newly-renovated basement of one raffles place at about 1245pm on tuesday afternoon, greeted by a queue at the counter and a bunch of people waiting for their numbers to be called for collection of their food.
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as you can see from the pictures, the daily cut is an ultra fuss-free set-up, so simply “decorated” (in inverted commas because its not really decorated at all hahaha) that it almost looks like a temporary store that’s waiting to move into proper premises! there are no walls properly demarcating the shop space, and the sign is rather inconspicuous unless you look up and crane your neck purposefully. i like the fact that they have a small seating area with way more seats than many other salad establishments in the cbd. their ordering system is also rather efficient – you fill in a form like the one in the picture below, bring it to the counter to place your order and pay, and finally wait for your little salad (though i’m not sure if its still considered a salad given that the focus is on the protein/meats) box to be prepared.

here’s the order form which also serves as the menu:
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at the counter, you can see the staff at work putting together each box according to the orders received:
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meats to satisfy the carnivores out there
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veg mmm…

we had to wait pretty long (10-15 minutes) for our numbers to be called; we were actually starting to wonder if our orders had been somehow lost in the mix! but soon our yummy boxes were ready for our collection, calling out to us to tuck in.
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sirloin steak + romaine lettuce + edamame + sous vide egg + mushrooms (ginger ponzu dressing)

this was my box – i was super pleased with how everything tasted together (though it doesn’t look all that appetising i know)! we were all quite¬†impressed with the ingredients that were used; they were clearly of a good quality and very fresh. the sirloin steak was excellent – perfectly medium rare, juicy, moist and very tender; most definitely worth the $1 extra to order this! the romaine lettuce was fresh, the mushrooms (hidden but you can just about make them out in the bottom right corner) were sauteed very deliciously and the sous vide egg was poached to absolute perfection (amazing egg yolk waiting to explode also hidden here, unfortunately). i also really enjoyed the ginger ponzu dressing which was refreshing and light.

my friend for a large-sized one that came with 2 proteins:
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chicken thigh + tofu + brown rice + parmesan + sous vide egg + avocado (ginger ponzu dressing)

i didn’t try the chicken thigh but my friend mentioned that it was a little dry. i did try the tofu though, and it was more like tau kwa rather than soft/silky/smooth tofu. it would have been pretty tasteless if not for the subtle chargrilled taste that made it much better (you can see the grill marks on the tofu pieces in the picture above). note that this is the only protein option available for vegetarians.

think this was the most appetising-looking/prettiest salad of our party of 3 that day:
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sirloin steak + sweet potato + sweet corn + almonds + sous vide egg (thai dressing)

the sweet potato was grilled very nicely and the subtle chargrilled taste lingered and really complemented the natural sweetness of the huge chunks. this was another great combi of toppings – a good mix of textures and flavours.

we all left with our boxes wiped clean, feeling satisfied and surprisingly quite full! the portions are quite generous (especially the proteins) yet don’t leave you feeling like you’re on the brink of entering a food coma. i really enjoyed what i had and the best part is that its pretty healthy eating! lots of protein (perfect post-gym meal) and a great alternative to the regular salad bowls which are full of greens with no meat in sight (this is definitely a draw for males; i noticed significantly more¬†males here compared to other salad places around raffles place). another great thing is that you can mix and match the proteins/toppings/carbs such that you can eat here all day every day and never get bored…

that said, i think it is actually¬†slightly pricey even for the generous servings and good quality ingredients that you get. but that doesn’t seem to be stopping people from making a beeline for them at lunch hour, including myself –¬†might just have to make another trip down for lunch before my current internship ends in a mere two days! already getting excited about what to pick this time ūüėõ

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The Daily Cut
1 Raffles Place, #B1-31, One Raffles Place
Singapore 048616

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PS. matt’s chocolate shop is just round the corner and we couldn’t resist getting some¬†chocolate fudge cake for dessert:
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small fudge cake – $4
having heard so much about it, i had very high expectations and though i wouldn’t say i was¬†disappointed, the cake didn’t quite blow my mind either. they heated it up in the microwave for us (check out the glistening dark chocolate layer on top mmm…) – made it look yummier than ever eh? the cake itself was extremely moist and rich, without being overly dense or sickly sweet and chocolate-y. in fact, i would say despite being so chocolate-y, it managed to remain rather light! pretty good stuff (Y)

Shimbashi Soba, Singapore

today i shall write about my¬†newfound love for this soba place in paragon’s basement: shimbashi soba!!!
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i remember having tried it once with my parents when it first opened; it was quite a long time ago and we didn’t like it enough to pay it any return visits in the following years. it was only about 3 weeks ago when it was suggested as the venue for a dinner with some friends that i returned for them oodles of noodles. and i am glad i did!

shimbashi soba is a casual family-friendly set up with pleasant and efficient service and an extensive menu. besides a range of hot sobas and cold sobas, they also have set meals, some sushi rolls and assorted japanese sides, along with a decent array of desserts (which i hear are worth a try). we were there at half past seven on a weekday evening, and the place was full, with a queue forming outside the shop a while after we were seated. they have quite a few tables though, and food is served quickly so the turnaround time for tables is pretty quick.
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some info about their soba which is handmade on site daily:
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on my first visit there, i ordered the tenchirashi soba which is soba topped with mixed tempura fritters and a poached egg. this is the bukkake style of serving, where the soba is served chilled, with sauce poured over it. my eyes lit up when the plate of soba was laid before me, and i was not disappointed when i took my first bite!
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it is a generous serving of soba and there is seriously a mountain of tempura on that plate, so much so that its hard to mix everything together without having pieces of tempura falling off the plate, and you can barely see the noodles hidden below when the dish is served. the mixed tempura consists of prawn and assorted mushrooms and veggies like ladies fingers – just my cup of tea! the tempura wasn’t oily which kept the dish light, and the amount of batter coating¬†each piece was just nice. the ingredients were fresh and the oil used to fry the tempura was definitely fresh (always a plus point! nobody likes the taste of reused oil…). together with the sauce, egg, and topped with spring onions, everything came together very well to make a super yummy and refreshing cold soba dish. i loved this so much when i had it the first time that i ordered the same thing when i returned yesterday night! i contemplated others but figured the probability¬†of not being as satisfied and leaving disappointed were too high…

as for the soba itself, the noodles are delicious – they are of perfect consistency, springy with just the right amount of bite. the texture is spot-on and the best part is that the noodles are really light and you don’t feel overly full even after having a whole plate of noodles! the very yummy noodles are made fresh daily and are cooked and served only upon each order; this shines through in the taste and texture of the noodles. no preservatives or additives are added, and the soba is said to contain a range of nutrients not only beneficial to one’s health but also having¬†anti-ageing and beautifying properties.

if you want to really appreciate the noodles in a completely unadulterated form, i would suggest going for the options on the menu with less toppings to distract from the noodles themselves (they have plenty). other things my dining companions have ordered at our meals:
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cold soba with kimchi

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cold soba with sesame dipping sauce

this is the best way to really savour the noodles as they are – just plain noodles dipped into a delicious cold and creamy sesame sauce. despite being thick, the sesame sauce is not heavy and goes very well with the noodles.

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cold soba with clams broth

the broth here is a warm broth and we were pleasantly surprised at the clams in it. they were rather big and plump compared to clams used at other places which tend to be small and completely unsubstantial. the broth was yummy when taken with the soba, but was too salty for my liking when taken alone.

sorry i don’t have the exact prices for the different dishes above but they all range from about $16-$20! for the quality of the soba i’d say its worth it, but it is a little on the pricey side for the plain sobas which just come with dipping sauce (like the sesame one).

i’ve gone twice since i rediscovered this place, and i’m sure i’ll be going back pretty often, especially when i’m looking for a light, refreshing and quick meal. they also have an extensive vegetarian menu with a range of vegetarian sets that include vegetable tempura, vegetarian soba, vegetarian sushi etc. they all look good and seem to be a draw for vegetarians looking to enjoy some japanese food. oishi!!! soba so good ūüėČ

Shimbashi Soba
#B1-41 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road
Singapore 238859
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PS. if none of the desserts on the shimbashi soba menu catch your eye, there’s always honeymoon desserts right opposite to satisfy those cravings for some yummy chinese desserts:20140717_211325
green tea x durian x vanilla x watermelon: weird but (very) wonderful

The Living Cafe, Singapore

i cannot believe how long it took me to discover this hidden gem located right in my hood!!! located at the row of shops along bukit timah road just before you turn left onto 6th avenue is the lovely living cafe that serves an exciting range of really healthy food. i used to think it was just a healthy eating/organic food shop but my sister discovered that it was also a cafe a while back, and recommended that i check it out. 20140623_143610

i love how bright, open, clean and tastefully decorated it is. there is ample seating space in the cafe on the first floor, and a little loft towards the back of the shop where they have a shop selling healthy foods. they pride themselves on serving a range of not just raw and vegan foods but also regular foods which are done using quality ingredients and cooked healthily. you might be wondering what on earth raw food is and how one eats food raw Рi took this excerpt from their website:
“Raw food generally refers to a vegan diet that goes beyond just steering clear of animal products. There‚Äôs no cooking in the traditional sense (in that nothing is heated above approximately 118 degrees Fahrenheit), and ingredients are not chemically processed, pasteurized, homogenized, genetically modified, hybridized, or otherwise compromised. The basic premise behind a raw food diet is that cooking and processing foods generally decreases their digestibility and vitamin and mineral density, as well as their overall health-promoting qualities.”
(more info about raw food can be found here!)

here is their lunch menu (they have a separate dinner menu, and a brunch menu on weekends):20140623_143442

besides food, their menu also features a range of freshly-squeezed juices and freshly-made smoothies. all of them sound delicious and the best part is that they are not only completely guilt-free, but also very good for you!
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for those who would rather stick to water (in order to save some space for dessert ;)), you can help yourself to some reverse osmosis water:20140623_143652
not sure if it was all in my mind but i really thought the water tasted better than regular water! this might sound quite silly because it is just water after all, but i swear it tasted more pure and refreshing than tap water/regular ice water! its what i imagine water drunk straight out from a bubbling stream to taste like.

given that it isn’t often that you come across places serving raw food in singapore (hawker food galore!!!), i decided that i had to pick something raw from the menu:
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raw “cheese” burger: onions/beet/carrot/tomato/sprouts/raw “cheese” sauce/raw pattie (dehydrated – nuts/seeds/oats/onions/flaxseed)/guacamole – $18
i absolutely loved this!!! one of the responses i got to posting a picture of this on instagram was a correction of my caption of “raw “cheese” burger” to “raw “cheese” “burger”” which i was rather amused by.¬†healthiest “burger” ever? the carrots, beet, onion and alfafa came together wonderfully to make this yummy crunchy salad that was moist despite not being doused in dressing. the moisture must have come from the natural juiciness of the fresh veggies i think, because the “cheese” sauce was mostly contained to the top of the pattie, and was added in far from copious amounts at all. having the pile of veggies with the pattie was the best thing ever – the sauce tied everything together, and i enjoyed every bit of that pattie. the nuts, seeds and oats created a really nice bite and even though it was dehydrated, it still retained sufficient moisture to not be too dry. it reminded me a little of falafel (gotta love falafel) in pattie form, but denser and with more bite.

deconstructed so you get a better look of the pattie:20140623_145702despite it being completely veggie, it was actually rather filling (but not overly so) and left me feeling really satisfied. not sure if you can tell from the pictures, but it was a really huge “burger” and was piled very generously with super fresh greens. i liked it so much that i have a feeling i’ll find it difficult to order something different when i return to the living cafe…

my sister opted for the vegan tofu burger:20140623_145015vegan tofu burger with wedges and coleslaw: sesame crusted tofu bun, eggplant, mushrooms, raw dijon mustard dressing – $15
all their homemade burgers come with a serving of sweet potato wedges and coleslaw. though not raw and not entirely vegan (there are fish & meat options), they are prepared in as healthy a way as possible with the best possible ingredients. the sweet potato wedges were baked and lightly flavoured with some kind of herbs; they were of a great texture (just the right amount of bite) and the natural sweetness of the potato really shone through. as for the coleslaw, it was light, fresh and very refreshing – none of that commercial stuff drowning in mayo. i personally really liked the sesame-crusted tofu bun because i love everything tofu and everything sesame; this was right up my alley and such a cute idea to substitute bread with! the mushrooms and onions were tasty and added flavour to the tofu; the sister was really happy with her choice too.

the aftermath:20140623_151051

our plates were wiped clean (spick and span!!!) but the best part about eating such foods is that you never feel too stuffed or uncomfortably full even though you’ve had a filling and satisfying meal. perfect for checking out their array of raw desserts:
20140623_143110the only thing better than having dessert is having dessert that is healthy yet yummy. these desserts are really amazing, considering that they are raw!!! the living cafe has an array for you to pick from, ranging from truffles to cookies to cheesecakes to chocolate-mint slices to chocolate ganache cakes.

we opted for the lemon cranberry tart which the counter staff recommended:20140623_151525
lemon cranberry tart – $8.90
though quite steeply-priced at $8.90, my sister and i both agreed that this was totally worth it. it was so enjoyable that i’d have this over a regular (non-raw) lemon tart any day!!! the lemon filling was of just the right tartness and the consistency was dense yet ¬†not too heavy. the cranberries and pistachio bits that topped it added texture to the tart, as did the crust, which was probably my favourite part! after taking a bite of the crust, i decided a close-up shot of it needed to be taken so it could be appreciated in its full glory:20140623_151640just look at that amazing crust – if my taste buds didn’t fail me, it contained fig, pistachio, cranberries, dates, other nuts? so so so good. it was moist and dense but still provided sufficient bite that a tart base requires. it was also naturally sweet which balanced the sourness of the lemon filling. this is another thing¬†i’d find hard to resist ordering the next time i return!

seriously, eating clean has never been so appealing! i left the living cafe feeling really satisfied and happy after having such healthy yet yummy food. given the quality of what you’re eating, i also feel that the prices are very reasonable; everything stated in the menu is nett so you pay exactly what you see with no hidden costs. another plus point is that its open every day of the week!

as i paid at the cashier, the (very friendly) staff member asked if i was “eating healthy” and my response was “not really, but this makes it a whole lot easier!”. i’ll definitely be back here when i’m in need of a detox; in fact, i think i will be back even if i’m not!

The Living Cafe and Deli
779 Bukit Timah Rd
Singapore 269758
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