And so, on a lazy afternoon, we crept into this sleepy coffeeshop along MacPherson Road. It wasn’t our first time there, but the way time moves at half the speed over there is still pretty amazing and worth mentioning.
For sure it was sleepy, because the uncle behind the counter was face down in his hands on the tabletop having a nap–and we were almost shouting at him by the time we decided that maybe someone else had better serve us. Well, he must have been really tired–so no worries–and we got the coffee uncle to serve us instead. We told him that we were going to take some photos, and feature the shop, and it was really nice of him to straighten up his bow-tie and up his customer service factor by a couple of notches–awesome.
The first thing we tried was Lotus Leaf Rice; you would notice it looks as appetising as a leaf ever would, thanks to good sunlight and great technology… But honestly it looked alright in real life, and we couldn’t wait to open up and tuck in.
It was EXACTLY how it looks in the picture–WET. It wasn’t oily, but it was surely wet. We suspect that people did not really have the time to wait for their Lotus Leaf Rice to be heat up upon order, and so the uncle had a serving always in the steamer and ready to go. And we just happened to get the one that was ready-to-go since don’t-know-when. It wasn’t a great impression, but we went ahead to taste it anyway–we always give food a chance, however bad it looks (our brownies didn’t have toppings in the early days too, and so many people still gave us a shot!). The glutinous rice was overdone as expected because of the over-steaming, and so it was almost losing its texture as rice and somewhat soggy–but we know some people do like it that way. Another problem from the oversteaming, the insides smelt just a little too grassy–that would probably be the leaves overcooking, causing unwanted notes to show up in addition to the intended Lotus Leaf fragrance. The positive thing was that the package was filled with so much tasty ingredients that rice didn’t really seem that large a factor after awhile; there were pieces of chicken and pork, a chestnut, and a salted egg-yolk.
However long it was steamed for, the fact was that we finished every last grain of the Lotus Leaf Rice. Reason? It grew on us as we ate more and more of it. There was this rustic quality that comes with home-cooked food and indie hawker stalls–stuff you would not get in shopping malls. Where are you going to find such strong Lotus Leaf flavour anywhere else? And probably only mummy overcooks her rice from time to time and you know you are having something that cannot be found anywhere else. Lotus Leaf Rice = 73 Brownie Points
Next up, we tried the Da Pau. It was great as usual. The pork was delicious and succulent, cooked right in many aspects. The bun that encapsulated the meat was perfect–thin without being flimsy, and firm enough to hold its shape. With just the right amount of gravy soaking into the bun, this was one truly satisfying Pau. Da Pau = 80 Brownie Points
We were almost done when this Kong Bak Pau caught our attention. Why was it made like that? Typically, there would be a larger bun with just a little meat and fat visible at both ends. This was terribly interesting–but you wonder if it was the taste buds or curiosity asking the questions. In any case, this Braised Pork Belly Pau was summoned to our table for a full inquiry. =) It is difficult to describe how it went, but let’s just say it was over pretty quick and we had only good to say about it. Kong Bak Pau = 80 Brownie Points
One more thing–okay, okay, three more things–before we left, some Dessert Paus. On hindsight, it wasn’t that good an idea because first, we were beyond full by then, and second, we tend to be really strict on sweets… But oh well, from left to right: Coffee Pau, Pandan Pau, and Corn Pau. They definitely looked fun and interesting, but the buns were too thick relative to the fillings. The flavours could have been represented better and the textures could have been more fine. Probably something for the rare customer who isn’t full even though the rest of the table is; but we still rather recommend having half a Da Pau for dessert any day (we will share with you). Dessert Paus = 55 Brownie Points
Worth coming back for all the right reasons!
Lai Ji Handmade Pau & Dimsum
458 MacPherson Rd
Opening Hours: Random (Whenever uncle is awake.)