21 local businesses to support in 2021

Edited to remove Ying Garden (closed) and replaced with Simple Lifestyle Healthy Vegetarian

Happy new year! How’s your 2021 so far? Due to the situation in UK and Japan, I can’t apply for jobs yet (still waiting for UK to send my cert!). Also I didn’t get to take much breaks last year due to my book, studies (TESOL and JLPT) and freelance private chef duties. I’m taking it easy this month so now I finally have time to share more! The following is a list of local businesses I personally love and patronise. I’m sure some of you have already heard of or visited them, but some of these aren’t well-known yet. If you’re doing Veganuary, do check them out.

The list also contains some sponsored discount codes to products I personally consume and recommend. Addresses, opening hours etc are linked in the names of each business.

Eateries

I couldn’t go out much since April 2020, so this list is shorter than I wanted. These are great places to dine in because their food is unique, or what I consider the best within a category.

1. KIND BOWL

Type: Vegan, some dishes can be made alliums-free

Finally a vegan Vietnamese place in Singapore and finally a more affordable option in Somerset! Previously, only certain Vietnamese chains like Nam Nam offered just one or two vegan options on their menu. Whenever I was in the Somerset area, I could only go to Real Food which isn’t budget friendly. So I’m really glad that Kind Bowl opened just 2 minutes from the MRT. I’ve had their No-moo Noodles (has house made cha lua and very spicy!), Kind Pho (my favourite), No-crab Noodles (has house made crab cake), No-moo Latte and Summer Roll (fantastic sauce). I love the freshness of the dishes and the friendliness of their staff. On my first visit (vlog below), Amanda and I were happily taking photos of the dish. One lady staff brought over our last dish and gently said, “Eat soon, cold already not nice”. That warmed our hearts just like how their pho warmed our tummies. If you’re going in a big group (no more than 8 of course), do make a reservation as they seem to be often packed.

More on Kind Bowl and others in my vlog.

2. MONG CHA CHA 

Type: Vegan, alliums-free

The first vegan bubble tea shop in Singapore located in Fortune Centre, the building with the highest concentration of vegetarian/vegan eateries in Singapore. I make it a point to patronise Mong Cha Cha whenever I’m in the Bugis area. If you bring your own bottle, they’d even give a discount. My current favourite is their Strawberry Boba because it has a nostalgic taste that reminds me of my favourite childhood snacks. The Mugi Rice Creme is also a dream come true – as a kid I used to love Starbucks coffee with whipped cream. I’m so glad there’s a vegan and caffeine-free version as I became intolerant to caffeine after 25.

Mugi Rice Creme Latte. Image: Mong Cha Cha

3. MUMMY YUMMY

Type: Vegan, alliums-free

A household name within the Singaporean vegetarian community, not only because they serve affordable, vegan and alliums-free comfort food, but they are also a social enterprise with a strong focus on helping the underprivileged. They distribute vegan food to certain groups of elderly, disabled and other needy people in Singapore, such as the case of the visually impaired man selling biscuits on the street till 11pm. They have many outlets across the island. I used to work in CBD so I went to their old Shenton outlet often with my ex-colleagues and we always enjoyed their economic rice, laksa, lor mee and hor fun. Some time in 2019 they moved to Amoy Food Centre where they had to downsize their kitchen. So they stopped offering a large variety of dishes but adopted a pay-as-you-wish model. Just place your payment into their donation box after ordering your food. Personally I find that the food’s flavour has changed since they moved, but I still try to support them when I can because of their charity efforts. Their vegan chicken rice is rather delicious, I always ask to add some more veggies for a more balanced meal.

4. SAN DE VEGETARIAN

Type: Ovo-lacto Vegetarian, alliums-free

This chain has been around for a long time with currently 3 outlets across the island. I have only eaten at Yew Tee Point‘s outlet so what I’m writing is only based on my experiences there. During my polytechnic FYP, I interviewed the boss of San De as part of a collaboration with Koufu. She started off as a seamstress and converted to Buddhism. With zero experience in F&B, she started her own vegetarian stall more than 10 years ago and it remained standing till today – a feat for any vegetarian business in Singapore. This stall is very popular and I have seen queues even during non-peak hours. There are many dishes I love here. My top pick being their economic rice, specifically during breakfast. The food tastes freshest during the morning and sometimes there are handmade breakfast exclusives like soon kueh, peng kueh, lor mai kai, that were all vegan when I asked. I absolutely loved their lor mai kai, it was so homely and stuffed with mushrooms and other ingredients. I also like their boiled soups; the flavours change daily. Other than the standard watercress or radish boiled soups, they occasionally offer interesting flavours – I’ve never had green papaya boiled soups anywhere else!

I’ve not had lor mai gai in years and I’m so glad to have eaten a handmade one.

5. THUNDER TREE 

Type: Vegan, alliums-free

Thunder tea rice isn’t a dish that will appeal to everyone because of the green herbs soup. However for those who enjoy this dish that’s said to be the healthiest hawker dish, you must visit this stall. Even if you don’t love thunder tea, you can still enjoy their other homemade dishes like Mushroom Kolo Mee, which is my favourite non-herbal dish there. They have two outlets, one in Raffles Hospital and one in People’s Park Centre. I’ve only been to the People’s Park one. They are already rather famous as they sell delicious food, using organic whenever possible, at a pretty affordable price. I enjoy chatting with the boss whenever I visit too. He’s so passionate about lei cha; he always tells people not to add chilli into their herbs soup as it will clash with the flavour – but their homemade chilli is so fiery and amazing especially with the Mushroom Kolo Mee.

I think they are also the first in SG to sell Leicha Kolo Mee. Eat it like tsukemen or pour the soup into your noodles.

6. simple lifestyle vegetarian cafe

Type: Vegan, alliums-free

Located in Oxley Towers, this is one of the few remaining vegan places in CBD that is both healthy and affordable (for people who are not on Spass/Epass salary). When I worked in CBD, I brought my own food most of the time to save money. The only thing that prevented me from visiting here often was that they were only open for lunch and usually ran out by 1pm. Despite that, I have eaten there countless times in 2019 (often rushing down at 1230pm when I could) and their dishes were always high-quality, nourishing and delicious. Their Buddha bowl, which is basically cai fan but much healthier, has quinoa mixed into the rice and comes with a colourful variety of sides. Their homemade soups and chilli are superb too, you can taste the natural savouriness and sweetness of the ingredients used. They now have self-pickup and delivery only but has increased the variety of dishes, now offering ready-to-eat, evening and frozen meals to heat up at your office or home. Menu is updated daily on their facebook – the priciest dish is only $5.50 before delivery charges. You can whatsapp them to make your order.

Tomato noodles – my absolute favourite from them. Once, a lady who sat beside me exclaimed loudly while on the phone, “OMG! This vegetarian food so yummy!!!” while sipping their soup.

7. YU LONG VEGETARIAN FOOD

Type: Vegetarian, alliums-free

I have very high standards for dumplings because my parents are from Shandong, where practically every household has their own dumpling recipe. So far in Singapore, none of the dumplings I’ve had outside comes close to what we make at home. However, this stall, in Circuit Road Hawker Centre, offers the best guo tie I’ve eaten outside of my house so far, considering that the skin is not made from scratch. The flavour of the filling is well balanced with an inviting warmth and savouriness that keeps you coming back for more. Pair it with their ginger vinegar for extra oomph. In any self-respecting Shandong household, all dumpling skins must be made from scratch using certain techniques that I shared in my book and IG. It’s a very labour-intensive process so most local businesses prefer pre-made skin. It’s located just opposite Victor’s Veggie, so you can try satay, otah and dumplings all at once.

Comes with black vinegar and ginger strips.

8. VICTOR’S VEGGIE

Type: Vegan, alliums-free

I think this is the best vegan satay in the whole of Singapore. Tender, juicy, perfectly charred and incredibly addictive – and I’m not usually a fan of mock meats. I’d travel across the island all the way to Circuit Road Hawker Centre just to eat this. The quality and taste has always been consistent since 4 or 5 years ago when I first had it. I’m glad that they stopped using styrofoam plates since early 2020. Their handmade otah is also what I’d consider the best vegan otah in Singapore. Much more tender and flavourful than the frozen types commonly used in vegetarian places. Their staff is kind and Uncle Victor is always up for a friendly chat.

More Circuit Road Hawker Centre finds in my vlog 🙂

9. Warung Ijo

Type: Ovo-lacto Vegetarian, alliums-free

Probably the first vegetarian and alliums-free Indonesian restaurant in Singapore, located near Haji Lane. So far I’ve tried Mee Soto (favourite), Nasi Lemak Rendang, Lemper, Skingkong Santan, Bakso Soup, Lemongrass Tofu and a jar of their housemade Cabe Ijo – all of them were fantastic. I’ve never experienced such consistent high quality in various dishes in a single restaurant before. I’ve also ordered from them via Oddle (islandwide delivery) and the dishes still tasted incredible after being on the road. They do use egg and dairy but most of their dishes can be veganised, which are clearly labelled in the menu.

What I love about Warung Ijo is that many of the items are homemade and you can taste the care put into them! Image: Warung Ijo

10. WELL LOFT 

Type: Vegan, alliums-free

Well Loft is the fully vegan and alliums-free evolution of Well Dressed Salad Bar, a cafe in Chinatown that has been the meeting point for the vegan community since 2016. It’s now located on level 3, just above Eight Treasures, one of the most established Chinese vegetarian restaurants which is also very vegan friendly. Enter from the side entrance of the shophouse and climb up the stairs. I had my Christmas lunch there with family and we absolutely loved it. My favourite savoury dish is the Breakfast, Brunch or Dinner because you get a bit of everything, be it house-made tofu ‘feta’ or guac, in one hearty plate. My top pick for dessert is the Tira-Miso Good, a layered sponge cake and coffee ice cream dessert topped with a miso-infused sweet cream. Browse their menu here.

The Breakfast, Brunch or Dinner. Image: Well Loft

Don’t forget to check out Eight Treasures just below too, they have wonderful Vegan Shark’s Fin Soup, Eefu Noodles, Hor Fun and other traditional dishes – perfect for your CNY gathering.

Bakeries

11. ALMOND BAKERY

Type: Lacto-vegetarian, alliums-free

This is a neighbourhood gem located in Bukit Batok, just 2 shops beside the popular Sunny Choice vegetarian cafe. They offer local flavours and Asian-style breads and buns that are incredibly soft and fully. In this part of Asia, bread is more of a snack and breakfast item thus our breads are very soft – it’s just what we prefer. Every time I visit, I’d see new vegan bun flavours. Vegan breads and bakes are clearly labelled. So far, I’ve had their vegan red bean buns (absolutely recommend), sambal bun (spicy!), salted mung bean (recommended for those who don’t like sweet stuff) and coconut bun (nostalgic flavour). I also like their multi-coloured bread that’s made with natural colouring. 

It’s so fluffy and fun to eat, you don’t even need to cut it – just pull off a chunk and marvel at the texture!

12. EASTERN HIGHLANDS 

Type: Lacto-vegetarian, alliums-free

I’ve shared a lot about this bakery which is popular within the local Chinese Singaporean vegetarian community, but I feel they aren’t well known enough within other groups of people, especially the younger generation. A humble and old school bakery, located along Sims Avenue, that specialises in local flavours like tau sa piah (bean paste pastry), pandan cake, marble and banana cakes. During the Chinese festivals like CNY and Mid Autumn, they also offer specials like pineapple tarts and vegan salted egg yolk mooncake, which is my favourite item from them. They also sell dried food products like quinoa and peach gum (the only source of vegan collagen as far as I know). They have never used eggs and also do not use dairy for most of their bakes. Just ask the friendly uncle to help point out which ones are vegan, which often is most of their products. Kwan Tzi Tzai, the popular vegetarian eatery famous for their laksa, is also located just a few shops away from them.

Old school, fluffy and cheap.

Home businesses

Living in the far Northwest of Singapore has it’s cons. I can’t buy from home businesses as much as I want. I’d love to be able to meet up for collection at various locations but they are usually at least 1 hour away from me, and delivery to my area is rather expensive. But these are 2 home-based businesses who shared with my their carefully crafted goodies which converted me into a fan!

13. LALACAKELAND 

Type: Vegan, alliums-free

Out of the vegan home bakers I know, they offer the most beautifully and delicately crafted cookies, cupcakes, cakes and more. They sent me their Christmas box last year and it was such a delight just opening the box. For Chinese New Year, they usually offer pineapple tarts and more, so follow their IG for updates. They also do custom character cakes and cupcakes too. Order here if you want your next special occasion to be instagram-worthy.

Look at what they can make! Image: lalacakeland

 

14. 4MY 

Type: Vegan

The first artisanal vegan camembert cheese made in Singapore by new startup 4MY. Organic cashews are cultured naturally, creating a soft, creamy interior encased with a bloomy white rind. As someone who does a lot of fermented food at home, I really appreciate the care and knowledge behind each block of cheese. Fermentation is not easy at all because you are dealing with a live ecosystem of bacteria and they can be very temperamental. You can enjoy the cheese and the rind with crackers, jam, fresh fruit or a glass of your favourite wine. My favourite way to savour this is to pan fry slices of it with olive oil till golden brown. The taste changes to a bold mushroom-y woodiness. The amount of complexity and potential in each block is mind-blowing, considering that only 5 ingredients are used. Order here.

Find your favourite combinations – I like my vegan camembert with a bit of spice!

Retail

15. Vegetarian world foods online

My go-to for daily essentials are always NTUC and wet market, but there are some specific items that aren’t sold in those places. That’s where Vegetarian World Foods Online comes in. They are the one-stop supplier of everything Asian and vegetarian/vegan since 1990, offering many items that you’ve probably never thought they even existed. Have you tried vegan belacan? I get both the powder and block types from them to use in curries, sambal and stir fries. Also love their vegan abalone sauce, which is such an umami bomb that I just need to use a small spoonful each time. When I feel like making kway chap, I buy their seitan rolls (called vegan intestine but it’s just seitan shaped into rolls). The laksa paste and vegan Thai fish sauce are staples in my pantry. They also have Beyond and Omnimeat (the 1kg pack is good value for money). For your upcoming CNY reunion dinner/hotpot, they’ve even curated a CNY list, including Bak Kwa, hotpot bases, yu sheng sets and more. I enjoy shopping there as vegan items are prominently labelled on their online shop, ingredients are listed and their customer service is great. They also have walk-in warehouse located at Tagore Drive but it’s now currently suspended due to COVID-19, so do order online (free delivery above $60).

Staples in my pantry.

16. Souley Green

The first vegan online shop in Singapore, offering carefully curated and ethical groceries, household and lifestyle products from snacks to bedding to household cleaners. Since their launch in 2016, they have promised to only offer healthy, conscious and environmentally-friendly products. I’ve been shopping there since 2016 and they have always kept this promise while bringing in exciting new products often. My favourites are the Minor Figures Nitro Cold Brew Mocha, Nature’s Charm Sweetened Coconut Condensed Milk (perfect for teh tarik!), Gretel Sprouted Cashews Truffle Salt, Mia Chia Cashew Ginger Raw Bites and Chef’s Choice Vegan Pad Thai Sauce. One thing I’m eyeing from their shop is the Pockeat Food Bag  – a cute, foldable and waterproof food container for all your tabao needs. 

Psst: Teh tarik recipe in my book!

Now you can make Teh C at home.

17. CRAZYBADMAN: vegan PROTEIN POWDER  

An online sports shop with a few vending machines across the island that sells the best tasting vegan protein powder I’ve tried. The BioTechUSA Vegan Protein also dissolves well and isn’t chalky, lumpy or clumpy, making it easy to drink. I personally find the Forest Fruit and Banana flavours too sweet but I like Chocolate Cinnamon and Vanilla Cookie. You can also bake with them, I’ve made protein breads and cakes with various flavours (recipes here) and they turn out really delicious and moist. If you work out regularly, this is a good addition to your smoothies, smoothie bowls or just into your non-dairy milk. Use MORETHANVEGGIES for 10% discount on this at checkout on Crazybadman.

Protein Dark Chocolate Brownies. Recipes on their youtube.

18. MUSHROOM KINGDOM 

I love shiitake mushrooms for its meaty texture and wonderful umami, and I know plenty of people who will agree. But have you tried shiitake chips as a snack? There are a few brands locally but Mushroom Kingdom’s chips are the best I’ve tried. It’s crispy, crunchy and way too addictive without being dry (the problem with other brands, in my opinion). The shiitakes are premium ones grown in Taiwan, and air-fried with RSPO certified palm oil. You can purchase on their online shop or via Shopee. Comes in 3 flavours: Original, Black Pepper and Honey Butter (contains dairy). 

So hard to resist eating the whole pack!

19. Simpliigood 

Spirulina is said to be a superfood, with 50x more iron than spinach at 95% bioavailability, while packed with all 9 amino acids that are essential for our bodies. At one point few years back, my mother was very into spirulina and bought a lot of tablet supplements. Not only those tasted bad and smelled weird, it was also difficult swallowing the large tablets. Simpliigood’s raw spirulina comes frozen in pods that you can just plop into your blender/food processor. If you taste the frozen pod directly, you’d get a slight ocean-y flavour. But once you add into smoothies/sauces/pesto, you can’t taste it at all. I’ve not had great success incorporating them into the type of Asian food that I make often and I don’t enjoy smoothies, but I’ve made spirulina pesto and dips with it and they were absolutely delicious. You can use code MORETHANVEGGIES for 10% discount at checkout on Simpliigood. 

Noodles tossed with homemade spirulina pesto and miso soup. Made it by simply blending Simpliigood spirulina with basil, mint, garlic and salt.

20. Bizsu.co 

This one’s for those who can’t live without carbs and want to incorporate superfoods into their diet (like me). Bizsu is a new startup founded in Singapore and they aim to help people and businesses be sustainable. They offer a selection of eco-friendly products and one of them is the spirulina pasta that comes in linguine, fusili or penne. Just 2 ingredients used, durum wheat and spirulina. Just one serving offers 10g protein! Tip: If you’re craving for healthy and protein packed ramen noodles, boil the linguine with salt and 1.5 tsp baking soda per serving. Then add into your soup base and top off with your favourite ramen toppings. This is a simple hack that turns pasta into bouncy ramen noodles!

Spirulina linguine with roasted tomato sauce and homegrown basil.

21. FUPI 

Here’s another snack that’s great for CNY – think zhai er but levelled up. Beancurd skin is a staple ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Frying them turns these thin sheets into a snack which can be seasoned in many ways. Fupi is the best beancurd skin snack I’ve tried. Everything including the flavour, crispiness and packaging, are well-designed and balanced. There are 2 flavours, Tomato Hotpot and Sichuan Mala. Both are equally flavourful in my opinion, it just depends on whether you like spicy or not. I’ve even sent the Sichuan Mala to my boyfriend in Japan and he loves topping his noodles with it. Available on Shopee or selected 7-elevens. 

Image: fupi.co