A lot of thought and effort go into running Yi Lian. The servers wear matching uniforms (yellow t-shirt, red apron) and haircuts, and are generally very helpful; a variety of notices inform you of “today’s specials”, “signature dishes” and how (and where) to queue up; the signage is as colourful as it is interesting. Buddhist iconography stimulates the mind, whilst pictures of the dishes offered do the same to the palate. Lots of visual cues and activity to grab your attention. Nice.
In terms of dishes, Yi Lian is one of those places that specialises in vegetarian versions of local classics. Chicken rice, laksa, lor mee, kway chap, kway teow, wanton noodles and porridge all feature prominently on the menu. I don’t think I will ever really understand the obsession with trying to replicate the taste and texture of meat (kway chap, for example, is a delightful combination of pig offal and noodles in dark sauce; delicious, no?). But if doing so makes vegetarian food more accessible to non-vegetarians, then it is undoubtedly a good thing.
Yi Lian Vegetarian Food
665 Buffalo Road, Tekka Food Centre, #01-279
Visually at least, this dish was a near-perfect replica of standard Hokkien Mee. It was served piping hot, and the ingredients mirrored those of its non-veggie cousin: mock prawns, calamari, pork and (real) eggs, a mixture of egg and rice noodles, kangkung and bean sprouts, and chilli sauce and lime. It’s been a while since I last ate Hokkien Mee, but I found it to be a little on the oily side. Also, i’m not a huge fan of mock meats, and found the prawns and calamari to be very rubbery and quite tasteless. That said, the mock pork had a deliciously smokey flavour; indeed the whole dish had nice wok hei undertones.
A dedicated vegetarian eatery that is serious about food, philosophy and business. The efficiency with which this place is run is impressive, as is the quality of service. A very good choice if you’re a fan of the fake stuff, and want to eat vegetarian replicas of classic Singapore cuisine.