Sunday, 8 March 2015

Taste Testing Macau's Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex (澳门大利来记猪扒包)

Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex, Serangoon, SingaporeWhen we traveled in Macau in 2009, we walked past an old and tired looking restaurant. If it wasn't for the ridiculous long queue of eager beavers lining outside the restaurant, we wouldn't have noticed it at all.

We went to investigate what people ordered, and it turned most people ordered pork chop buns (猪扒包). Ada loves pork chop, and I knew I couldn't drag her away with a forklift after this discovery. So we ordered one each. It was love at the 1st bite (more so for Ada than for me. This led me to suspect that the pork chop must be coming from a boar instead of a gilt).

Well, we didn't even notice the name of the restaurant until when we related to our friends in HK. They told us it was Macau's famous Pork Chop Bun, and the place was Tai Lei Loi Kei (大利来记).

Did we discover it by accident? Probably not because the queue was long enough to be visible from the Moon (which the Great Wall of China isn't. It's a myth. A little commonsense analysis will bear this out).

There're 2 foods that are well known in Macau (as far as I'm concerned). One is Portuguese tart that I enjoy as much as Ada enjoys her pork chop. But you can get Portuguese tarts in many countries (I know of a Portuguese patisserie in Sydney that makes excellent Portuguese tarts by an award-wining pastry chef). This pork chop bun is unique in Macau.

We have forgotten all about it since the Macau trip.

Fast forward to today, it appeared that Tai Lei Loi's had opened shop in Singapore just around the new year of 2015. I'm not surprise that Ada sniffed out the pork chop bun so soon after its opening. It's natural instinct of a foodie (let's call it the Foodie's Nose. She does have lovely nose, if I may say so).

Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex, Serangoon, Singapore Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex, Serangoon, Singapore

The Vibe:  It's set up as a fast-food restaurant like MacDonald's. But it's considerably more spacious than most of the more upscale restaurants I've been to (and removes any chance of eavesdropping on your neighbouring diners' conversations. Oh well, you win some, you lose some).

The Food:   We ordered 3 things for lunch between us.

Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex, Serangoon, Singapore
Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex, Serangoon, Singapore
This cash register needs fixing. Both the date and
time are wrong. Teething problem of a new store.

Signature Pork Chop Bun:  9 / 10.  The pork is as uniquely tasty as I remember. I took off half a point because while the bun is nice and warm, it isn't crunchy enough. Ada would probably gives a higher score.

Some complaint that it's expensive at $6.90 a pop because this is a fastfood joint. E.g. Big Mac is only $5.55, it seems you get a lot more meat. One's got to remember those meat in the Big Mac is minced meat, not whole meat. The space in the mince makes it looks more than it is (like froth takes up lots more space than water). Also with minced meat, you're not necessarily getting the same meat (I'm not talking about MacDonald's. I have no evidence. I don't want to get sued. But think about it).

I'm not saying $6.90 is cheap, but I wouldn't say it's expensive. The price is right!

Pork chop bun, chicken wings, and hurry fish ball, Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex, Serangoon, Singapore

Chicken Wings:  8.5 / 10. While we come for the signature pork chop bun, we didn't expect their grilled chicken wings are every bit as good as the pork chop bun. It's moist and tender with delicious seasoning. I love to know their recipe.

Curry Fish Ball:  6.5 / 10. Their fish ball is disappointingly tough and chalky. But their sauce is wonderful. Singaporean loves curry, and this curry should hit their spot. Singapore is well known for their fishballs, and so they expect a lot from it. Improve the fish ball, and this dish will go a long way.

Macau Milk Tea:  5 / 10. I forgot to tell them not to put sugar in my drink. I love milk tea, but I hate any kind of sweet tea or coffee. In the West (say in Starbucks), you decide the amount of sugar you want in your tea or coffee. In SE Asia, if you don't say anything, the default is that sugar is added (how do they know how sweet you want, if at all?). If you don't want sugar, you need to specify. In Singapore, you add "kosong" at the end. You need to add to subtract. Isn't it funny?

Overall Score:  8 / 10. I'll certainly come back again. If you haven't taken a photo with their pig, you should. Every has.

Pig logo, Tai Lei Loi Kei in Nex, Serangoon, Singapore
Say chop !

Th-th-th-that's all folks! Oops! Wrong pig!

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