I actually chanced upon Yi Xin a couple of months ago, whilst taking a post-lunch stroll around Chinatown. I didn’t eat anything that first visit, but was drawn to the cluttered and homely atmosphere. Lots of hand-written or typed notices and menus adorned the walls, along with various posters promoting dharma courses and other Buddhist events. The feeling of clutteredness was exacerbated by the shelves of organic and vegan produce being sold – from noodles to condiments to fresh vegetables – which somehow enhanced the wide variety of vegetarian (Chinese, Buddhist – no egg, onion, garlic) dishes on offer. The overall impression was one of vegetarian industriousness, which I liked.
Located on Temple Street – one of the roads that runs off New Bridge Road and sandwiches the Sri Mariamman Temple (get it?) – Yi Xin is located in the noisy heart of Chinatown. It’s surrounded by elegant shophouses, spas, Chinese restaurants and TCM outlets, and is just a short walk from Chinatown MRT. When I visited (Saturday lunchtime), the servers were efficient and quite pushy. Don’t expect any exchange of pleasantries (or even time to peruse the menu); a ready-response to the brusque “yes?” is the best path to enlightenment. Sorry, I mean ingratiation. Singapore what!
Yi Xin Vegetarian Food
39 Temple Street
Open 08:00-22:00 daily
Praised by the Hungry Ang Mo as being “fantastically done”, this dish was an obvious choice. Indeed, it smelt delicious – the smokiness ignited my tastebuds with the promise of wok hei-ven. It was also ingredient-rich: finely chopped char siew, big (and quite random) chunks of tofu and olive-infused rice formed the base of the dish, whilst shredded lettuce, seaweed and pork floss provided the garnish. The rice had a nice crispiness to it, and the first few bites were indeed flavoursome. After that, however, it was downhill. The saltiness soon became overpowering, and the excessive use of MSG left my mouth tingling, swollen and gasping for water. My MSG hangover took (literally) hours to subside – not pleasant.
Wonderfully vivid colours – the green of the kai lan, the orange of the shredded carrot, and the soft milkiness of the soup all complemented each other well. The dish contained the aforementioned kai lan and carrot, alongside a variety of mock meats (fish, and some other strange chewy stuff), beancurd, seaweed, ginger and, of course, wheat noodles. The noodles were plentiful but a little soft and overdone – they disintegrated easily. The mock meats were slimy and mushy and fishy, which could be taken as either a positive or a negative. In terms of flavour, the ginger was dominant and made the whole dish taste quite medicinal.
An eatery that is, in my view, more authentically Chinese than authentically vegetarian. Whilst the range of ingredients used was good, the overall execution was a little haphazard. Relying on MSG for flavour is always a worrying sign. Overall, I wanted to like this place more than I actually did; it was a little disappointing.