Rasa Istimewa C2K at Choa Chu Kang Park

Rasa Istimewa C2K
Choa Chu Kang Park
Choa Chu Kang Drive
Reservations (highly recommended): +65 6877 1913

Opening Hours
Sun-Thu: 12 noon to 12 midnight
Fri, Sat, and Public Holidays: 12 noon to 1am

Halal status: Halal-certified
Halalicious Rating: 8.7/10

Average spend per pax: ~S$28.50

First of all, Selamat Hari Raya to all of y’all! I hope your Ramadan went well, insyaaAllah. My stomach can’t take all the ketupat/rendang/satay assault for the past 2 days you guys. Thankfully Ramadan is over and we can start exercising normally again!

During one of the Ramadan weekends my family and I had our iftar at the zi char place Rasa Istimewa C2K, which is located at Choa Chu Kang Park. I actually really love the place because the food is always really good and it’s kind of perfect for a low-key, satisfying dinner with the fam.

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Dates

Fat, squishy dates YUM.

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Ambience

The decor is kind of kitschy and eclectic, but I am grateful for the ubiquity of ceiling fans.

Halal zi char/seafood places are kind of few and far between in the West, particularly compared to areas like Chai Chee, teeming with competing halal seafood restaurants, so I am really grateful this place exists!

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Halal_Cert

Officially halal!

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Menu_Cover

Where good halal food congregates…in my mouth and belly, maybe.

We like to start off with some Satay ($0.60 a stick for beef/chicken/babat, and $0.70 a stick for mutton).

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Satay

We ordered 20 mutton and 10 chicken this time. I LOVE mutton satay; they’re just so juicy and satisfying; much more so than chicken, which my younger brother prefers. So my family will drive up to JB once in a while to have some cheap seafood; the satay there somehow is at best on par with the ones at Rasa Istimewa, and I find the sticks here much meatier than the anemic onces across the causeway. I suppose those places in JB cater almost exclusively to Singaporean tourists and don’t feel the need to improve their satay. But really, the satay at Rasa Istimewa is savoury, sweet, juicy, and super flavourful. LOVE. The peanut sauce is also surprisingly decent – spicy, and rich. 9/10 for the satay here!

I forgot to take a photo of the Fish Otak-Otak ($0.60 per piece) but it merits special mention. They serve the otak-otak piping hot, and the flesh within is moist, juicy, spicy, and SO GOOD. It doesn’t have that compact, smooth, too-processed taste and texture you get with some vendors. Love these, and will keep coming back for them. 9.5/10

The bulk of our order here is made of the Set Menu 1 for 4-6 pax ($88 excluding 7% GST).

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Set_Menu1

The first dish of the set is the fish; you can choose between Grouper or Siakap fish, and my family always picks the Grouper Fish in Tiga Rasa (tri-flavour) Sauce. I think they must mean sweet, sour, and spicy? Who even knows.

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Ikan_Grouper_TigaRasa Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Ikan_Grouper

It’s actually really delicious. The sauce is savoury, sweet, and sour, and garnished with these amazing strips of what I think is mango. Because of that the taste is rather Thai. Totally delicious. The fish is fried just right; crispy exterior (I personally love crunching on the crispy bones) and tender, rich fish meat within. 9/10

Item number two is prawns with a choice of 5 different cooking styles – cereal butter, black pepper, nyonya style, sambal chili, and sweet & sour. Our choice is the Cereal Butter Prawns.

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Cereal_Prawn2Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Cereal_Prawn3

YUMMM. These are also divine. The cereal bits are buttery and sweet; in short, super tasty. The bits of coriander are a great complement to the dish! The prawns are usually really fresh, and I confess there’s nothing I love more than to savour the heads (I know some people find it a little disgusting). 10/10

The third dish of the set is chicken with a choice of 5 styles. I’m not even going to talk about the others – the Prawn Paste Chicken is Rasa Istimewa’s specialty and I LOVE IT.

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Prawn_Paste_Chicken2

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Prawn_Paste_Chicken

YUMMMM. Look at how crispy and un-oily it looks.

The chicken is always so crispy yet juicy. The prawn paste taste is moderate so that it doesn’t overwhelm the senses, but you can taste enough of it. Perfect all the time. 10/10

The fourth dish is the vegetable course – I always go for the Kangkong Belacan because that’s really my favourite dish at every seafood/zi char place.

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Sambal_Kangkong

Rasa Istimewa usually does them pretty well, but on this particular visit I found the kangkong to be a little dry and bland. I think they didn’t cook it in enough belacan sauce, which is a huge pity. Subjectively I loved it anyway and ate almost all of it, but I know objectively it could be better if the kangkong were coated in more sauce and if the taste had been stronger. 7/10 this time around.

The fifth and final item on Set Menu 1 is the soup course. My family always goes for the Seafood Tom Yum Soup since we figure it is probably the tastiest of the lot:

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Tom_Yam_Soup

Not too inspiring, I must say. Plus those crabsticks are just not ideal.

The soup contains prawns, fish slices, cabbage, oyster mushrooms (which I LOVE LOVE) and -gasp- crabsticks. Hate seeing them – they make the dish feel really cheap in a bad way. That being said, the taste of the soup is decent; it’s flavourful and spicy. The ingredients could stand a bit of an upgrade but I guess it’s not the star attraction of the menu, or of the restaurant for that matter. 6.5/10

On top of the set menu, I’ll usually add a plate of Fried Sotong With Salted Egg (S$18 for a small portion):

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Salted_Egg_Squid

I LOVE salted egg dishes!! They’re really so, SO good. Rasa Istimewa’s rendition of the salted egg squid is laudable; they don’t skimp on the salted egg taste; plus, they garnish with – what else – coriander! My absolute favourite garnish. A respectable 8.5/10 for this dish.

All in all, I think it’s a great place to bring your family – the setting is casual. Service can sometimes be a little elusive, particularly on busy nights. The trick is to attach yourself to one particular server that looks industrious (there are a few; we’ve definitely singled them out with great success). Try to stick to one server to avoid frustration and disappointment. My experience here has been mostly positive. You just need to have a little patience 🙂

Rasa_Istimewa_C2K_Night_View

A night view of the restaurant from afar.

Below is a gallery of the full menu so you guys can decide in advance what you’d like to eat there. Happy selecting! Oh I almost forgot – please try the sour plum ice blended drink here! It’s SO yummmmm and provides a refreshing counterpoint to all of the food you’ll be eating!

 

Rasa Istimewa C2K
Choa Chu Kang Park
Choa Chu Kang Drive
Reservations (highly recommended): +65 6877 1913

Opening Hours
Sun-Thu: 12 noon to 12 midnight
Fri, Sat, and Public Holidays: 12 noon to 1am

Halal status: Halal-certified
Halalicious Rating: 8.7/10

Average spend per pax: ~S$28.50

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Penang Culture at Changi Airport Terminal 2

Penang Culture 
Changi Airport Terminal 2 Departure
Viewing Mall Level 3,
#036-087-01,
Singapore 819643

Operating Hours
Daily: 10.30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(Last order at 9.30 p.m.)
Tel: +65 6546 7793

Halal status: Halal-certified
Halalicious Rating: 8.8/10

Average Spend Per Pax: ~S$21

Earlier this week, I found myself running through the list of restaurants at Changi Airport, looking for a suitable halal place to break my fast. I was in Ho Chi Minh for a short work trip, and was going to fly back to Singapore later that evening. After looking through the list, which included Swensens, 4 Fingers, and Central Thai, I finally settled on Penang Culture.

Tucked away at the back of the 3rd floor above the Departure level at Changi Airport’s Terminal 2, Penang Culture serves authentic street food in airconditioned comfort, though of course it is priced at a premium to ordinary hawker fare.

I landed around 710 pm and was dying of hunger by the time I reached the restaurant 15  minutes later – luckily, each table gets a basket of prawn crackers, the kinds they usually dole out in Indonesian restaurants. I confess I did not take a photo of it as I was too busy stuffing my face, but it was there, swear. Some of the keropoks were lemau (not as crispy as they should have been), but they tasted good and helped tide me over as I waited for our orders. What also helped was the self-service water stations at one corner of the restaurant, since it meant I didn’t have to wait to quench my thirst.

The menu is crazy extensive, so I will leave the menu photos to the end of the post, but I really had such a hard time trying not to overorder. The one thing I absolutely love from Penang Culture is the BBQ Lala (S$8.95), which are lala clams grilled in their special sambal sauce:

Penang_Culture_BBQ_Lala_Clams

They were juicy and so tasty; I honestly don’t know how they do it. The sambal was absolutely amazing; just thinking about it makes my mouth water! I can’t quite put my finger on the taste, but it was both spicy and sweet, with a hint of lemongrass. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a smidge of belacan or dried shrimp in it. SO PERFECT. The clams themselves were a little chewy but I actually like that, so we’re good. 9.5/10

We also shared a small Penang Otah (S$6.95):

Penang_Culture_Penang_Otah

This was rather disappointing, and definitely not the best I’ve tasted. My main reference point here would be the sublime, fat, juicy-af Fish Otak Otak that they serve at Madam Kwan’s KL (The Singapore Madam Kwan’s isn’t halal, unfortunately). I also really love the moist and tasty otak-otak served at Rasa Istimewa at Choa Chu Kang Park. SO GOOD. But let’s get back to the present, wherein I am confronted by a sad, compact lump of otak-otak that was dry and not at all juicy. It wasn’t all-out horrible; just that I was just expecting more from this restaurant. The taste was also not on-point. It was slightly spicy, which was good, but it was also a little bitter, which I found unusual. My friend agreed with me about the texture, but didn’t really mind the taste. To that I say, you have NOT tasted the otak-otak from Madam Kwan’s! 6.5/10

Luckily, the Belacan Chicken Wings ($$5.95 for two full wings) were so so delicious. I even forgot to take a photo of the dish because I ate it way too quickly before realising what I’d done, sorry guys! You can take a look at the photo in the menu gallery below, but know that it tastes incredible. Umami, crispy skin, flavourful chicken meat, just all-around perfect. 10/10

For mains we shared a Premium Crab Meat and Salted Egg Fried Kway Teow (S$14.95):

Penang_Culture_Salted_Egg_Char_Kway_Teow

This was SO SO DELICIOUS!!! Boy did I regret having to share this dish. Because of the salted egg the texture of the noodles are every so slightly grainy, but that’s a small price to pay for the mad righteous flavour. The noodles are moist and packed with yummy prawns, squid, and some crab meat on top. Admittedly it’s a little pricey for ‘atas char kway teow’ but I’m telling you, this tastes so delicious, I would pony up the extra Yusof Ishaks for this plate of happiness. 9.5/10

All in all, Penang Culture is a great spot if you’re looking for a halal option at Changi Airport. I would definitely come back for the food!

As promised, here’s a gallery of the menu. You can also find it online when you click here.

Penang Culture 
Changi Airport Terminal 2 Departure
Viewing Mall Level 3,
#036-087-01,
Singapore 819643

Operating Hours
Daily: 10.30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(Last order at 9.30 p.m.)
Tel: +65 6546 7793

Halal status: Halal-certified
Halalicious Rating: 8.8/10

Average Spend Per Pax: ~S$21

Kowloon Express at 321 Clementi (Permanently Closed)

**Unfortunately Kowloon Express has ceased operations. Try The Dim Sum Place!**

Kowloon Express
321 Clementi, #01-01
Eng Wah Cinema Mall
Singapore 129905
Reservations: +65 6250 0833

Opening Hours
Daily: 11am to 10pm

Halal status: 100% muslim-owned, and MUIS certification in process
Halalicious Rating: 9.5/10

Average spend per pax: S$19

***Edited to add: please note the menu and prices have changed slightly since this old review! For updated menu and pricing, please refer to my latest review of Kowloon Express :)***

I LOVE good dim sum. Unfortunately, it’s so hard to find halal ones in Singapore outside of the usual suspects like Tang Tea House. I despaired of finding halal dim sum west of Bedok until a couple of months ago, when my friends brought me to Kowloon Express at Chinatown Point, near Clarke Quay. It wasn’t a restaurant; it was a takeaway kiosk where you could order super yummy halal dim sum to go. You could even buy frozen packs of it to bring home and DIY. The auntie working that night told us the owners were planning to open their first brick and mortar outlet in Clementi, and boy were we excited when we found out a month ago that the new restaurant was finally ready!

Located on the ground floor of the new mall 321 Clementi, Kowloon Express has wallpapers of the Hong Kong skyline, as well as red lanterns everywhere:

Kowloon_Express_Decor

Definitely not Instagram-worthy

The restaurant is a little out of the way for most people who consider Simpang Bedok or Jalan Kayu their backyards, but for a Westie like myself, having a halal dim sum restaurant in our neck of the woods is such a blessing. As an aside, have you guys heard Big Sean’s song Blessings? Its SO GOOD please check it out. What’s also great is this sign I saw at the restaurant:

Kowloon_Express_Sign

So much better than all the Keep Calm signs. Also, I saw another one that said No Pau No Power. So great.

Here’s a look at the menu:

Kowloon_Express_Menu_Pau Kowloon_Express_Menu_rice

Differentiating itself from the Chinatown Point Kiosk, Clementi’s Kowloon Express also offers other dishes, along with noodles and rice, on top of the standard dim sum fare. Good to have, in my opinion, but I plan to gorge myself on baskets upon baskets of dim sum, thank you. Upon deciding our orders, we were made to fill in the order form before passing it to the servers.

Kowloon_Express_Order_Form

One of Kowloon Express’ specialties is their Charcoal Salted Egg Custard Pau (S$4.50 for 3 pieces), which is just like a regular salted egg pau but with charcoal pau instead:

Kowloon_Express_Charcoal_Salted_Egg_Custard_Bun

Grey and shiny, just how I love ’em

I ordered both the regular and the charcoal ones – they were both amazing. The texture of the bun is perfect – smooth and a little waxy on the outside, but once you get past the initial coat you get this chewy, fluffy, thick bun whose quality is just top notch.

Kowloon_Express_Charcoal_Salted_Egg_Bun_Middle

LOOK HOW OOZY AND DELISH

Kowloon_Express_Salted_Egg_Bun

Oozy and delish – the regular white bun edition

If I pay just a little attention, I can taste the difference between the regular white bun and the charcoal one. For certain, the charcoal bun tastes better! I can’t explain it, you guys should try! These pau’s of joy are an undoubted 10/10 in my books.

Also, I took a video of the ooze, just so you guys can also experience the wonder:

And another one:

We tried the Prawn Wanton ($4.20 for 4 pieces):

Kowloon_Express_Prawn_Wanton

This was aiiight – I didn’t think it was great. Don’t get me wrong, the fried wanton skin was perfectly crispy and not at all oily, but it just wasn’t as special as the other options. 7/10 for me, and I would definitely recommend foregoing this in favour of the Deep Fried Crispy Fish Skin (S$5.80):

Kowloon_Express_Salmon_Skin

Guys. I mean. This was SO AMAZINGGG and I’ve been unable to stop thinking about it since then. Are they coated with addictive drugs?- they are so addictive and so yummy. The texture is crispy and incredibly light – there are no hard bits that will leave you worrying about the longevity of your molars. I don’t know how they do it, but these salmon skin strips did not taste at all oily. They were light, crispy, and umami. Eventually I ended up ordering a whole other plate because I really could not get enough of it. Best decision ever. 10/10 for these bad boys, and here’s another photo for good measure:

Kowloon_Express_Fish_Skin

We also ordered the Chilli Crab Pau ($4.50 for 3 pieces):

Kowloon_Express_Chilli_Crab_Pau

Kowloon_Express_Chilli_Crab_Pau_Middle

YUMMMMMMM

This was also really yummy, I was very happy with it. The bun was soft and fluffy, just like the description in the menu touted, and the filling was delicious! Very tasty and fragrant, I wish I’d had space for more. 10/10

Other things we ordered were the Shrimp Har Kow ($4.20 for 4 pieces) and the Beancurd Prawn ($4.20 for 3 pieces), which we got in both the steamed and fried versions:

Kowloon_Express_Har_Kow_Beancurd_Prawn

Basically we were too excited to eat the Har Kao and I forgot to take a photo before we all stuffed our faces 😦 We combined the one remaining dumpling with the beancurd prawn so it wouldn’t look so sad

Kowloon_Express_Beancurd_Prawn_Fried

The fried version of prawn wrapped in beancurd skin! Really yummy too, but I prefer it steamed.

I can’t fault these 3 items either, they were all amazing. My personal preference between the steamed and the fried versions of the Beancurd Prawn would be the steamed one, though with the slimmest of margins. The crystal skin of the har kao dumplings was just right – slightly chewy, did not break too easily, and most importantly not too tough. The beancurd prawn was also really, really flavourful. There were these bits of green leaves in it which I think was coriander, and gurl, I luhhhhh coriander. The taste wasn’t too strong, but just enough to keep it interesting. 10/10 for the Shrimp Har Kow, 10/10 for the steamed beancurd prawn, and 9.5/10 for the fried beancurd prawn.

Just a note – if you are looking to break your fast here, please make reservations in advance! Tables fill up pretty quickly. I had my iftar dinner here and am pleased to announce they push the food out fairly quickly so you’ll have something to eat by the time Maghrib rolls around, and they also provide dates 🙂

Kowloon_Express_Iftar_Dates

I really love dates. They taste so nutritious and full of energy after a full day of fasting and feeling concave.

Also, a special mention is warranted for the chilli that they serve here, which is truly a marvel. It’s a special homemade recipe that packs a punch. I can’t describe it, it’s just delicious. Please go try it today! I wish they sold them by the bottle!

Kowloon_Express_Condiments

Forget about everything else and go for that chilli in a bottle.

All in all, I would DEFINITELY come back to Kowloon Express for the delicious food and great service. The co-owner himself (he owns it with his wife!) was there at the cashier counter, taking orders and taking payments with a jovial attitude. Our waitress was doling out service with a smile and industriously clearing our tables of empty steamer baskets. SO MUCH LOVE. The terrible seating, though, can step to the left. I’m hoping once business stabilizes they’ll change to better chairs 🙂

Speaking of chairs, I forgot to mention that one of my friends brought along her toddler of almost 2 years, and he loved the salted egg pau, AND he ate the salmon skin as though they were chips! It’s really quite a kid-friendly place. Plus, they have those standard white baby chairs here so you can park your kid in a seat and eat in relative peace. Plus points!

Kowloon Express
321 Clementi, #01-01
Eng Wah Cinema Mall
Singapore 129905
Reservations: +65 6250 0833

Opening Hours
Daily: 11am to 10pm

Halal status: 100% muslim-owned, and MUIS certification in process
Halalicious Rating: 9.5/10

Average spend per pax: S$19

***Edited to add: please note the menu and prices have changed slightly since this old review! For updated menu and pricing, please refer to my latest review of Kowloon Express :)***

**Unfortunately Kowloon Express has ceased operations. Try The Dim Sum Place!**