MICHELIN-STARRED SOYA SAUCE CHICKEN

Will you queue to eat Michelin-starred hawker food?  And how long are you prepared to queue?

Well, I have decided to give it a try when I was in Chinatown recently, although I don’t normally like to queue too long for food.  It turned out to be a good 45-minute wait during non-peak hours (after 3pm), on a weekday.  Perhaps this is considered not too long the wait, given its popularity way before being awarded one Michelin star last year.

S$12 for half a soya sauce chicken and S$6 for a mixture of char siew and roast pork.  Very affordable prices for its “status”. 

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Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle – one of the two hawker food stalls that was awarded one Michelin star in 2016.  The other was Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.

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The queue was divided into two parts : one in the air-con area inside the shop and the rest outside

I noticed that the queue was made up of mostly foreigners/tourists.  How not to be attracted to this cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world if you are touring Singapore?!  Moreover it is the first time in the Michelin history that an Asian street food has been given this prestigious award.

It took me about 25 minutes just to have my take-away order taken, and then another 20 minutes to wait for my order to be ready.  There were no separate queues for eat-in and take-away customers but overall the queue was moving smoothly and the wait was pleasant.  🙂

A very pleasant, senior-in-age male staff  who was in charge of clearing and getting ready the tables for the eat-in customers, doubled-up his roles in managing the queue too.  He was so nice to even offer me a stool to sit at one corner while I was waiting to collect my order.   Such a nice gesture of customer care has definitely won my heart!  I just hope that this uncle’s job is not too strenuous for his age.

I wonder how many chickens, and how many kilos of roast pork and Char Siew are sold each day?!

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Basically there is a good numbering system for order-taking and collection of food/order.  There was even a self-service order station!  Cool!  Unfortunately, it was under utilised based on my observation.  Most people seemed to still prefer the manual ordering system over the cashier counter.  I also noted that the staffs were pleasant, friendly and efficient.

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So, was it worth my 45-minute wait?  Yes, definitely!  While hubby and I think that the char siew was quite good, the roast pork was nice but nothing spectacular.  The star i.e. the soya sauce chicken, was definitely outstanding.  The meat was tender, sweet and has a nice herbal fragrance.  Oh, I also love the chilli which has a very shiok sourish taste that went very well with the chicken!

Together with my home-cooked Chinese spinach soup, we had a lovely dinner that day.  I would surely want to go back again someday and to eat there instead.

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29-02-2016

I have completely forgotten that today is that special day we have only once in every 4 years.  Yes, it’s 29 February!

Thanks to a dear friend’s message this morning that reminded me of the day.  This good old friend (since primary school days) who resides in Johor Baru, sends me beautiful messages almost every morning.  Thanks to WhatsApp.  Such communication is made possible without incurring additional cost in our monthly phone bills.

It was kind of too late to think of doing anything special for the day after receiving my friend’s message, and I didn’t want to crack my head for that too.  I thought it is good enough to just do something that I enjoy lately i.e. to read in a cafe.

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Why in a cafe?  Well, in my temporary lodging now, I don’t have a proper study room and the lighting in my bedroom is poor and bad for my eyesight.  Secondly, I tend to feel sleepy in the afternoon, so reading in a cafe over a cup of coffee and occasionally plus a piece curry puff, keeps me awake. 🙂   In Marine Parade central area, there are quite a number of cafes, all just within a stone’s throw away.  How nice!  Starbucks is my pick, so they have been getting a bit of business from me lately. 😀

My current read is a book entitled Diplomacy, A Singapore Experience.  Although I am just halfway through the book, I have found it to be not only a very interesting read but also educational. It provides insights into Singapore’s foreign policies, describes the country’s challenges as a small state and also the government’s efforts and initiatives in creating good diplomatic and economic space for the country.  I must admit that I was actually not sure if the book would suit my reading interest (I have interest only in a small range of books).  I also worried that it might be too boring and “cheem” (a Singlish word meaning difficult to understand) to read, judging from the book title but I am so glad that I had picked it up.  The book was written by S Jayakumar, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Singapore who have already retired from his political career in 2011.

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And, I had a date with hubby in the evening.  Fortunately, he was able to get off from work not too late (before 7pm) today. Hubby has been so busy with work lately and it doesn’t help when you have bosses who are slave drivers!

We went to our favourite chicken rice shop – Boon Tong Kee – in East Coast Road for dinner.  This shop is also within working distance from where we live now and going back there for a meal is one of the many things that we want to do before moving out of Marine Parade.  Too much good food to savour in this area and its vicinity!

A simple but satisfying meal.  Happiness can be that simple. It is about being able to do things that I enjoy.

MEE HOON KUEH

Long long ago (OK, I mean many months ago 🙂 ), hubby requested for Mee Hoon Kueh, a soup-based local food traditionally made manually from flour dough, and pinching it into small flat pieces.  Today, most (if not all) of the Mee Hoon Kueh sold in food centres are machine-made, thus generally squarish in shape and even in thickness.

I know it has taken me too long, so I finally made it for dinner this week, all with my hands without the use of any equipment like dough mixer or dough roller etc . 🙂

Mee Hoon Kueh was one common home-cooked food in my growing up years.  I don’t dislike this food but two members in my family – my elder sister and one of my cousins who lived with us – hated the food and just refused to eat it, for whatever reason which is still unclear to me until now.  So my late grandma and my mum always had to add some Bee Hoon (rice vermicelli) into the soup to cook together, for their sake.  It was not bad a combination, actually.

Ikan Bilis (anchovies) stock was used to make the soup

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It is not difficult to cook this dish at all but it just need a little bit of patience (and strength) in kneading the dough, setting it aside for an hour or so, and then pinching and stretching it a bit into pieces (preferably not too thick) to cook in the soup.

I used 180g of flour, an egg, 80ml of ikan bilis stock and a pinch of salt to make the dough.  Adding ikan bilis stock (instead of water) was a (brilliant) suggestion from hubby, and as it turned out, the Mee Hoon Kueh tasted better.  🙂  Leaving the dough aside (in a bowl and covered with cling-wrap) for an hour or so is necessary for the Mee Hoon Kueh to be softer.

Topped with  some “fried” ikan bilis (by microwave method) and shallots before serving

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The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, as the saying goes.  It gives me great pleasure whenever hubby enjoys the food I cooked!

MY FIRST SOON KUIH

I finally got down to my attempt on Soon Kuih, a Teochew (dialect) food made using turnips as the main filling.

(Kuih is a Malay word for bite-sized snack or dessert foods commonly found in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia – Wikipedia.com).

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DS and I like Soon Kuih.  We miss the ones we used to enjoy in Batu Pahat, Malaysia where we came from.  Unlike the Singapore version, the ones in Batu Pahat use only turnips (but nothing else) as filling, and the turnips are cut in small cube size (instead of being julienned).  They are served in watery chilli sauce and red sweet sauce whereas over here, Soon Kuih are commonly served in black sweet sauce which is a little thick.

In Alexandra area, there is one kuih stall (named Poh Cheu) selling pretty good Soon Kuih, probably the best we have tasted in Singapore all these years.  The skin of the Soon Kuih is soft and not too thick, and the filling compact and tasty.  There are probably better ones on this sunny island but we haven’t come across yet.  We enjoy eating the Soon Kuih from Poh Cheu as dinner on some Friday evenings when I don’t cook dinner.

So, I had been entertaining the thought of making my very own Soon Kuih. I imagine it would be nice and very satisfying if I could just produce them with my own hands whenever I feel like eating them!

The making of Soon Kuih involves two parts of ingredients – the wrapping skin made using flour and the fillings.

For the fillings, which was the easy part, I added garlic, carrot, black fungus, mushrooms and dried prawns to the turnip, and stir-fried them till soft with salt and pepper added as flavouring.  Traditionally, as the name of the food implies, bamboo shoots (pronounced as Soon in Teochew) was one of the main ingredients.  But I wonder if people actually use bamboo shoots these days.  Fresh bamboo shoots are more expensive than turnips, and it requires quite a bit of steps to treat them in order to get ride of the bitter taste or weird smell, as I have read about it from a cookbook.

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The real challenge for me was the making of the wrapping-skin which I was actually not sure of what type of flour and the ratio to use.  Thanks to the convenience of internet, and after some online searching, I decided to use the Soon Kuih dough recipe from this food blog called Guai Shu Shu, hosted by a gentleman by the name of Kenneth Goh.  I was amazed by not just the large amount but also the varied categories of recipes in his blog!

Dough using 40% of rice flour and 60% of wheat flour as per Guai Shu Shu‘s recipe

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Oh mine, the rolling and wrapping were no easy tasks at all.  The skin tended to break easily, hence I had do it very carefully and slowly.  Too thick the skin will not be nice to eat.  So, it requires a bit of skill but it is a skill that can be improved with practice, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect! Excluding cooking of the fillings, I ended up spending close to 3 hours to prepare the dough, and produce 12 considerably decent-looking Soon Kuih for dinner and also breakfast the next day.

First batch fresh from steam oven.  They looked a bit dull before being coated with a thin layer of cooking oil

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Garnished with sesame seeds and spring onions

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I am glad that I have tried this and thanks to Guai Shu Shu’s recipe!  I was satisfied with the skin, but I did not get the taste of the filling quite right.  That can be improved.

However, given the time spent, I concluded that it may be too much the trouble and time spent to make a few just for the two of us.  It will be better to just get DS to buy them back whenever I have a craving for it 🙂

ONDEH ONDEH

Another attempt from my to-do list over the past weekend.

Ondeh Ondeh

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Ondeh ondeh is a common sweet food (or kueh, in Malay word) in Malaysia and Singapore.  They are small green soft and chewy balls with palm sugar (gula Melaka) as filling, and are coated with grated coconut.  As I had learned during my school days, traditionally the ondeh ondeh dough is made using sweet potatoes and tapioca flour (thus the chewy effect), and infused with home-made pandan juice to make them green in colour.  Today, artificial colouring is readily available in supermarket.  There is also a variation of recipes available online. Some do not even use sweet potatoes but tapioca flour or glutinous rice flour only, or a mixture of both.

I have chosen to use pumpkin instead of sweet potatoes and this explains why my ondeh ondeh were orange in colour.  This saved me the trouble of preparing pandan juice and I don’t like the idea of using artificial colouring.  As it has been so long since I last made them and I never kept the recipe, I made references to a recipe found in one of the cookbooks I have.  That recipe calls for the use of sweet potatoes, glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour.

My steps :

Steamed grated coconut that was mixed with a small quantity of salt and 3-4 pandan leaves for about 10 minutes, and then set aside to cool.   Pandan leaves enhanced the aroma of the grated coconut

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As I couldn’t get fresh grated coconut from the nearby mini wet market, I settled with this packed grated coconut sold in supermarket.  It is good enough but I would have preferred to use fresh coconut, if available.

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Cut pumpkin into small pieces and steamed with 3-4 pandan leaves for about 15 minutes

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Grated palm sugar.  I used a peeler to do the job

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Mashed the pumpkin while it was still hot and then mixed with glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour to form the dough

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I used a proportion of 320g of pumpkin (before steaming), 300g of glutinuous rice flour and 50g of tapioca flour with 100ml of water to make the dough.  Love the natural colour of the pumpkinOndehOndeh08

As my mashed pumpkin was quite wet after steaming, I decided to use only 100ml of water which was just half of the actual amount on the recipe.  But I think I should have used even less water as the dough was a little wet and really soft, so soft and it became a bit challenging to shape into small balls.  Or perhaps there is something not very right about the ratio of the ingredients that I used for the dough.  So I ended up with jumbo ondeh ondeh which were about double the size of the usual ones sold! 😀

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Boiled in a small pot until they floated up to water surface, and continued boiling for another two minutes

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Coated with grated coconut

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Done!

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Despite the slight difficult in shaping the dough into balls,  I was satisfied that they turned out pretty well – soft and a little (but not overly) chewy.  I have chosen not to add any sugar onto the dough (as in the recipe), so the sweetness which came from the palm sugar was just right for me.  I love that nice flavour of the melted palm sugar that oozed into my mouth when I ate them!

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Ondeh ondeh are not difficult to make but I wonder why it has taken me so long to make them!

The next time I make again, I will go back to the traditional recipe of using sweet potatoes and tapioca flour, and perhaps using Japanese purple potatoes! 🙂

HOME-COOKED HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE

I have a whole list of food that I am interested to try out in my little kitchen but had been procrastinating for one reason or another.  I know it’s bad.  I remember a phrase I learned in school : procrastination is the thief of time. So, I must try to break this bad habit, and turn my to-do list into real actions.

I kicked off with Hainanese chicken rice which is considered one the national dishes of Singapore, popular not just amongst the locals but tourists as well.  I am not really a fan of chicken but this is one local food that I will think of savouring at times when eating out.

Yummy dinner last night – my first attempt in cooking Hainanese chicken rice

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It was a very satisfying effort despite spending slightly over 3 hours in the kitchen preparing and cooking.  The steps were a little bit tedious (if I compared with steamed chicken) but definitely not difficult.  With DS giving me a score of 8 out of 10, I considered it a success although it was my first time cooking this dish. 🙂

My chicken rice was cooked with references made to the recipe published on Rasa Malaysia but I used a slightly different cooking method, and made some adjustments to the ingredients used.

I used a Sakura spring chicken which I bought from Fairprice Finest.  A spring chicken is much smaller in size, and the meat is tender. So, that was a good choice.

This is how I cooked it.

Ingredients used to boil the chicken : pandan leaves, carrot, spring onion (scallion), garlic, young ginger, coriander and a cube of (Maggi’s 50% less salt) chicken stock to enhance the flavour of the soup.

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Put all ingredients into the pot and filled the pot with cold water until the whole chicken was submerged under the water.

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The chicken was seasoned with salt and sesame oil for about 15-20 minutes before cooking.  I use sesame oil a lot in the kitchen, not just for seasoning but sometimes for cooking as well.

I used medium fire to bring the water to boil and then switched to small fire to continue boiling for another five minutes.  After the gas was turned off, I left the chicken in the pot for another 30 minutes without opening/removing the lid.  When the chicken was removed from the pot, I put it on a plate to cool but omitted the step to plunge it into cold water immediately for 5-10 minutes.  I would prefer to minimize any risk of contaminating the chicken when leaving it in cold water. OK, may be I am paranoid!

Happy with the outcome – the skin was all smooth and shining and the chicken was just rightly cooked

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The broth was then used to cook the rice, make vegetable soup and sauces.  No waste at all.

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While the chicken was being boiled, I seasoned the rinsed rice with a pinch of salt, one teaspoon each of sesame oil and cooking oil and mixed it well with 3 slices of young ginger, 3 cloves of garlic and some fried shallots.  I didn’t use much oil for the rice as I didn’t like it to be too oily.  As you can see from the photo above, the broth was already quite oily.

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Then soaked the rice with the broth for 30 minutes before cooking

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The chicken soup was cloudy with some “dirt” (as seen above).  This was expected since the chicken was not blanched with hot water before cooking.  So I used a small sieve to filter out the dirt before using the broth.

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The rice was fluffy and nice although DS thought that it didn’t have the usual strong flavour from a good chicken rice stall/shop

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Vegetables soup cooked using the broth, carrot from the chicken soup, corns and lettuce. 

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As for the sauces to go with the meal, I must confess that I took a shortcut, using what’s available in my fridge.

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I used the bottled ginger sauce from Soup Restaurant which is really good and went very well with the chicken.  As for the chili sauce, I used this hot chili Padi sauce which I bought in Malacca, and mixed it with some lime juice and the chicken broth to make it watery.

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I was really glad that I managed to chop up the chicken neatly with just a medium-sized knife instead of a chopper knife.  I picked up the skill of chopping a whole chicken (using a chopper knife) in my high-school days and it is something that I am still proud of myself although I haven’t done so since I left school. 🙂

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We completed our meal with a bunch of Nagano-produced seedless Kyoho grapes which I bought from Isetan supermarket.  What a treat!

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Oh, we really over ate last night although we didn’t actually finish all the food.  A night walk at the park nearby, after dinner, was a nice way to end our day and make us feel a little less guilty from all the extra intake of calories! 🙂

EATING OUT AT TANJONG KATONG ROAD

DS and I went to Tanjong Katong Road for dinner last Monday (31 Mar).  That was one rare night out since I normally cook simple, no/low carbo dinners on weekdays.

Tanjong Katong which is in the east zone of Singapore is known to many Singaporeans as a place for food.  The road looks rather quiet at night, but there is a good variety of food on both sides of the road. It is not far from where we live and also easily accessible by bus.

Our target that night was to go to Eng’s Noodles House for its Char Siew wanton noodles.  We had been there once last October.  We liked it and decided to go again after watching a TV food programme about this noodle shop recently.  See, that’s the power of TV programmes! 😀

Oops, luck was not on our side!  We should have rung up the shop before we went.  It was not opened for business that day (it closes on alternative Mondays).

DS was quick to spot a long queue across the street and that became our obvious alternative choice.

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We had to queue for about 15 mins to get our food.  So, that must be good, right? 

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Spotted on the wall – Best Food Awards 2003.  It has appeared on TV programmes and also newspaper articles.  So I got really excited and my expectation was also heightened as we approached the counter to make our orders.

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Pretty good variety of dishes to go with the coconut rice (nasi lemak).  I noticed there was continuous cooking in the kitchen, and the food replenished from time to time.  So, they were fresh.

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My choices – otah (poached patty made of spicy fish paste), fried Kuning (yellowstripe scad) fish, vegetable curry and fried ikan bilis (anchovies).  I always prefer Kuning fish to fried chicken and it is a must-have for my nasi lemak.

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DS chose ladies’ fingers (or okra), fried chicken wings, ngo hiang (fried minced meat roll) and sotong balls.  By ordering different dishes, we got to eat more variety of dishes by sharing with each other. 🙂

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I would say most of the dishes were good & tasty, especially the chicken wing, fried anchovies and ngo hiang.  However, the ladies’ fingers didn’t go well with DS.  He found them too hard, perhaps under cooked.

We were expecting the nasi lemak (coconut rice) to be very fragrant since there was a very strong coconut  aroma permeating the air around the shop while we were queuing to buy. But we were a little disappointed that the rice was not as fragrant as we expected.  We have just tasted very fragrant nasi lemak at Madam Kwan’s recently.

In my opinion, to pay S$14.70 for two plates of nasi lemak (without drinks), the meal was a little pricey considering that it is a hawker food sold in a simple, non-air-conditioned shop.  In fact, many of us were sitting outside the shop, along the corridors in front and by the side of the shop (see second photo above). I also noticed near the serving counter an inconspicuous signboard written “Extra Serving of chilli, cucumber are chargeable”.  So, you can’t ask for more of these unless you are prepared to pay more.  I wonder how much more?!

So, this sums up our first experience with this popular Ponggol nasi Lemak.

We then moved on to have our second round!

We found a durian stall not far away from Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre!  That was lovely!  If you have read my past posting, you would know that I love durians, more so if they are really good ones!

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These Mao Shan Wang durians have very yellowish and creamy flesh which I like a lot.  At S$12 per kilo (reasonable price for good quality durians), this one costs us S$20 and the two bottles of water were complimentary.  What a thoughtful service!  This was the first time I came across free supply of bottled water from a durian seller!  There were 7 seeds in this durian below.

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See how small the seed was! 🙂

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I jokingly told the stall owner how expensive it was with just 7 seeds and guess what happened next?  He came offering a second one at no costs soon after. What a pleasant surprise! But we didn’t feel good to accept his offer, after all he is making a living.  He finally agreed to collect S$20 from us although I think this was a bigger and heavier one with a lot more fruits.

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After a very satisfying session savouring these durians, we had a short chat with the very humble and friendly stall owner.  We learned that he has been in this business for more than 20 years, selling particularly Mao Shan Wang (formerly called durian kunyit).

Stall owner, uncle Leong, taken while chatting with him.

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We were given a name card before we left.  Uncle Leong suggested that we ring him before we go again.  This is to make sure that we don’t make a wasted trip there.   On days when he finds the quality of durians from the supplier not good enough, he will not open for business. That was impressive!  Surely, uncle Leong is a man who knows his business and understands what a good customer service means.  That explains why he has many repeat customers.   This is just so different from the fruit seller nearby our home who started to sell us not so good durians after we became his regular customers.  We have stopped buying from this guy.

Thanks, uncle Leong!

We will surely go back for more, probably in early June as he recommended.