Sunday, September 28, 2014

Alexandra Village Mini Steamboat


For a long time, Queensway has been the go-to place for two things- athletic equipment and furniture. Queensway Shopping Centre and the nearby IKEA store has served generations of students, looking for great bargains on running shoes and their first pieces of furniture to fill their humble dormitories at the National University of Singapore.

These days, students can look forward to even more in the area since a tiny little gem has been found at the Alexandra Village Food Market that sits just a stone’s throw away. After a hard day hitting the stores one can refuel at Alexandra Village Mini Steamboat-the result of much elbow grease and late nights by three relatively young stalwarts Tino, Clarence and Don (the eldest of these gents is only 32 years old). 

 Where steamboat is often thought of as a large, laborious feast, these guys serve theirs’ in a mini steamboat version- perfect if you want to go it solo for if a group of friends want to have problems choosing from among the six different broths up on offer. 

Our favourite broth was the Pork Rib and Shark Fin Melon, which get’s its name from the translucent fibres reminiscent of its expensive namesake. The melon added weightiness to the clear broth that was already flavourful before we added the meats. 

If you want something a little more satiating, opt for the Laksa broth. It had the same consistency of flavour and coconut creaminess you would expect from an actual bowl of Laksa. Nothing was watered down.

These days, diners expect a steamboat stall to have the (almost) obligatory Mala broth. Often times though, the numbness of the peppercorns and the overabundance of chilli oil, overwhelms the taste of everything else in the pot.

Patrons at Alexandra need not worry as the owners have excluded Mala from their menu and more than made up for it with a Tom Yum broth that was of a quality you would expect from a proper Thai restaurant, not a mini-steamboat stall in a food centre. As one of the proprietors, Don, explained, this was based of a recipe he got from his girlfriend’s mother, who happens to run an actual Thai restaurant in Thailand.

Seems the broth wasn’t the only recipe he got from her because the Thai-style green chilli sauce that accompanied the meal was also a differentiating factor, adding another point to the score sheet with a slightly tart and savoury goodness that goes well with just about everything. 

Everything, from the broth to the condiments, is made from scratch here in Alexandra. The only thing that comes from a bottle is the gel fuel used to heat the personal steamboat stoves. This alone is a welcome change from the usual solid fuel used by their competitors. The latter creates sparks and smokiness, irritating your eyes and your mood by burning out too quickly.

Steamboat broths have been much maligned for harboring large concentrations of the culinary world's pariah seasoning- MSG. Indeed some establishments have been so generous with this miracle of flavoring technology that after an evening supping with them you are rewarded for your efforts with dry throats and muscle cramps.
Not Alexandra. The stock is made fresh each day based on a recipe known only to the owners. They are drawn from large vats characteristic of Lao Huo Tang
老火汤 herbal soup stores and bear an influence from the same. 

Quality and hygiene are both taken care of here. Fresh cuts of meat (chicken, beef, pork and lamb) are sourced from a butcher that supplies Western restaurants. Together with the seafood, every ingredient is kept in chillers (not the fridge) until they're ready to be served. This ensures that food gets to you ready to eat, not icy and frostbitten like you’ll find elsewhere. 

For those of a more vegetarian persuasion, a yong tau fu set is also available. And if you’re not a fan of steamboat, the sesame oil claypot chicken is also to die for. Just make sure you get it early because it sells out during lunch every day.

For just $7.90 a set (comes with meat/seafood, fresh vegetables and the broth), this really is a steal. So head on down to Queensway and indulge in some great bargains. Just make sure you pay a visit to Alexandra Village Mini Steamboat, you’ll be missing out on a great deal otherwise.

Alexandra Village Mini Steamboat
Blk 120 #01-23
Bukit Merah Lane 1
Alexandra Village Food Centre

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