Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peng Lai Ge Taiwanese Snacks 蓬莱阁台湾小吃

Zha Jiang Mian - Noodles with Mince in Braised Bean Sauce
I'll be upfront and admit my heart does not beat for Taiwanese food. It's blah. It's bland. It's puzzling (why something that tastes like this can be popular). But maybe that's just the variety in Singapore. I've not been to Taiwan but I've seen long, lovingly detailed reviews of Taiwanese snacks. So I'm still optimistic for the day I'll encounter something to change my mind about the dullness of Taiwanese food. Today, however, is not the day.

Peng Lai Ge has been at Joo Chiat for eight years. The owners hail from Taiwan and set up this eatery when they saw very little in the way of Taiwanese eats in Singapore. The food is quite authentic, says my friend, but in a homestyle manner. This isn't the wildly popular commercialised snacks you'll get from the night markets.

Zha Jiang Mian mixed
We tried the zha jiang mian (S$5) - noodles with mince in braised bean sauce. Technically this isn't Taiwanese, but a Northern Chinese dish. The noodles here were a bit too starchy for me, and tended to get tangled in stubborn, hot clumps. They failed to absorb much of the seasoning. The cucumber juliennes were also a bit old and fibrous. I think one can easily make tasty zha jiang mian at home. Check out didally's recipe.

Fried chicken
Fried spiced chicken (S$5.50), which were unusually tender while retaining a crisp exterior. The owner claims they carefully remove all the fatty parts, so it tastes crispy and not greasy. Not unpleasant but I think I prefer Lai Lai's version which has a more complex flavour.

Taiwanese vegetable
The owners also highly recommended their "seasonal Taiwanese vegetable" (S$7) - yes, the name is that generic. It's not on the menu and they only prepare it when they get can get stock of the vegetable. Although hesitant and unsure of the vegetable species, I took a gamble. Unfortunately for me, it's like a hybrid of chye sim and xiao bai chye, both of which are my most hated vegetables. But I have to say the stir-frying method is not bad - very clean-tasting, delicious in a simple manner.

Taiwanese rice dumpling
I had to try their "Taiwanese rice dumpling" (S$3.50), billed as using only the finest Taiwanese glutinous rice. But as you can see from the photo, that rice is rather mushy. What was surprising was that the rice dumpling came doused with a funny brown gravy. It's like raw garlic puree flavoured with braising sauce. So pungent and spicy, it was like garlic wasabi. Oh man, dragonbreath +10.

Peng Lai Ge also boasts smelly tofu (fried fermented tofu) as a signature dish, something I did not want to try. They have quite a lot of other dishes too, like oyster mee sua (vermicelli), braised beef noodles, scallion pancakes, egg-wrapped meat floss, fried chitterlings, various soups and desserts.

Decor is spartan but clean. There are helpful photographs in the menu. These were taken by the couple's daughter. Peng Lai Ge has several outlets now, but the owners say there have been imitators who tried to replicate the entire name and menu without consent (notably one in Vivocity, which closed after the owners took issue with them). Wow. I'm still puzzled why anyone would want to copy this. Perhaps I need to try more dishes but I'm not sure when I'll be coming back.

PENG LAI GE 蓬莱阁台湾小吃
456 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: 6478-1787

with branches at:
No. 82 Lau Pa Sat Festival Market
18 Raffles Quay

#B2-LF2 Changi Airport Terminal 3
Basement level 2 South


  1. oooo i have tried this stall once at Lau Pa Sat...jus lyk wat u have mention, the taste of the dishes are blah... =S not worthy..i rather spend my budget on satays..haha..sumhw i find that one can acquire the tasty n healthy dishes at home.. =D

  2. i hated taiwanese food when i was in australia...but i found tasty ones in hong kong and i got hooked! hehehe i especially like the tasty minced pork over rice. yummmy yum yum

  3. love your blog!its amazing!:)

  4. this and any... i mean ANY HK char chan teng... ENEMY!!!

  5. southernoise: wah you home already so fast, after Miharu! lol!

  6. renee: SATAY RULES, anytime!!!

    MochaRita: so there are yummy versions? hmmm

    kas: thanks!!

    Southernoise: ENEMYYYY!!! lol
    finally some cuisine you actively hate!

  7. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of Taiwanese food either, but there is at least one good Taiwanese restaurant around here that I don't mind eating.

  8. wow so many S'pore food!!!
    a great blog you have here. you mind if i link you?

  9. There is indeed not many good taiwanese snacks here in spore. However, the ones I had in Taiwan are really good! Smelly tofu, braised organs, braised meat rice, oyster mee sua and omelette. I am planning another trip to taiwan again! lol

  10. I remember friends always order this dish while we were in Australia. I never really liked it. But ate it anyway. LOL.

    Oh ya, because as students, we got to eat cheap food. hehe..

  11. Oh my god! Your 'favourite' vegetables. Haha. Next time don't choose seasonal.

  12. I totally agree with you on Taiwan food. During my 9 mths there, I did not find anything I enjoy. I prefer Singapore food definitely (maybe I'm biased since I grew up with that)!

  13. I think each and every chief put in their heart and soul to cook out these food.It may not be appealing to MOST of the singaporean here.That is because you are use to Singapore food.
    Well,i think it taste just right.
    Isnt singapore food oily and heaty too?? I wonder~

  14. Love your blog, really really appreciate the lovely photos.

    Being a Taiwanese who grew up in Sydney and the UK, I was hoping for better quality Taiwanese food as Singapore is much closer to home, but I must say I've been very very disappointed.

    Next time maybe you can consider stopping over en route to Japan?


  15. Thanks Needy! I guess nothing here is as good as the real deal in Taiwan itself. Perhaps some day I can go and see for myself. =)


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