Singapore Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant in Philadelphia's Chinatown.
1006 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Singapore Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant
It’s Faux Good!
-- Lisa Kelvin Tuttle
For years we have been blessed with several good options for kosher Asian food in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Now, with one less kosher eatery in Chinatown, due to the closing this past spring of Cherry Street Vegetarian, I thought it was time to bring attention to Singapore Kosher Vegetarian, our family’s new favorite Chinatown spot catering to Jewish diners and the vegan set. (After running a successful enterprise for many years, Cherry Street’s owners decided to retire rather than take a huge financial hit updating their old building to meet current health codes.)
Singapore Kosher Vegetarian’s head chef, owner, and manager, Peter Fong has been the proprietor for 16 years, eight of which have been in the current location at 1006 Race Street in the heart of Chinatown. Peter, who is originally from Malaysia, recreates traditional Southeast Asian recipes derived from Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim cooking—and all of it is kosher pareve. And Peter’s pleasure in presenting his specialties and in serving the Jewish community is apparent.
Singapore Kosher is known for its tasty, colorful trickery. Though vegetarian meat analogs have slowly gained popularity in the Western diet, mostly among vegetarians and vegans, these faux meats were created by vegetarian Buddhists in China over 1,000 years ago. The chefs who make them artfully sculpt yuba, seitan, and tofu into forms resembling beef, poultry, fish, and even shellfish.
Yuba (pronounced "YOU-bah") is a soy protein-lipid complex derived in the manufacture of tofu, and is often referred to as "tofu skin." It is incredibly versatile and, through folding and shaping, takes on a meaty texture. Seitan ("SAY-tan"), also known as wheat gluten, is made by washing dough made from wheat flour in water until the starch is rinsed away, leaving only the gluten, which can then be cooked and processed in various ways. These culinary innovations allow the kosher diner to
experience the range of traditional Asian cuisine while observing Jewish dietary laws.
For starters, Singapore Kosher Vegetarian serves an extensive selection of dim sum appetizers. There are 45 choices on the take-out menu alone! On the list are a wide variety of interesting dumplings, including steamed Shanghai Dumplings, steamed or pan fried Leek Dumplings, Bamboo Leaf Sticky Rice Dumplings, and crispy-fried Curry Dumplings. These were a fun surprise, kind of like Indian samosas, with a lightly spicy potato and vegetable filling. All of them were artfully formed and had a generous amount of filling. Six dumplings range in price from $2.50 to $4.50. Our Steamed Vegetable Dumplings and Chicken Dumplings were served with vegetable garnishes and a soy-ginger sauce that had just the right balance of saltiness and sweetness. "Here’s your kreplach," Peter said with a twinkle in his eye as he served them.
Also worth sampling are the many spring rolls (such as cellophane noodle rolls, jicama seaweed rolls, and Vietnamese rolls). I also got a kick out of the traditional Steamed Chinese Buns, whose sweet-savory vegetarian filling tasted like barbequed beef (four large buns for $1.50). These were light and fluffy and were served with a gingery soy dipping sauce. And of course we had to sample Singapore Latkes, which are just what they sound like—crisp potato pancakes, served with "apple sauce" similar in taste and consistency to duck sauce. Other pancakes include scrumptious Pan Fried Scallion Pancakes, Eggplant Fritters, and Vegetable Fritters.
There are close to twenty kinds of soup! We enjoy Singapore’s Wedding Soup, which is not on the menu, but very worth the special request. It has a creamy, flavorful broth with lots of fresh corn, bright greens, shredded carrot, soft tofu, and vegetarian "ham" in a bowl large enough to serve two or three people.
Make sure to try the delicious Pepper Steak Singapore Style—filet steak with sautéed green peppers, snow peas, broccoli, and sweet onions, cooked in "chef’s special" black pepper sauce; Peter’s delicious make-believe Golden Shrimp Singapore (we liked this with the tangy sweet and sour sauce on the side); and the lovely Phoenix Nest: vegetarian chicken, beef, pork, and Chinese vegetables cooked in chef’s special garlic sauce, and served in a crispy edible taro bird’s nest.
Some surprises on the menu include Indonesian Gado-Gado (crispy tofu, bean sprouts, and veggies in a peanut butter satay sauce), Vegetarian Salmon Fish (steamed or fried in either a lemon or black bean sauce); and Ginko Herbal Duck with Cashews (crispy duck with shitake mushrooms, ginko nuts, wolfberry seeds, cashews and Shanghai greens with ginger, garlic and a five-spice sauce). All of these entrees were $9.95 each.
The restaurant offers weekday vegetarian lunch specials for $5.95, with a choice of either Wonton, Hot and Sour, or Vegetable soup, plus a spring roll and brown rice; for $7.50, diners have a choice of Miso, Seafood Shark Fin, or Seaweed Vegetable Soup, plus a spring roll, one curry and one steamed dumpling, and rice.
Singapore Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is open from 11 am to 11 pm seven days a week and most major credit cards are accepted. They also provide off-site catering for parties of up to 700 guests, and can accommodate 45 people in a private party room upstairs from the main dining room. Singapore Kosher Vegetarian is under the supervision of the Va’ad Ha Kashruth / Rabbinical Assembly, Mid-Atlantic Region.
Until we eat again . . .
Lisa Kelvin Tuttle has professional experience in the gourmet, catering, and health-food fields, as well as being an experienced kosher camp cook. Her greatest pleasure, though, is cooking Shabbos dinner for family and friends. She is Communications Director for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and resides with her husband, Alan, and sons Adam and Jeremy in Wynnewood.
Pan Fried Scallion Pancakes
Sometimes called Chinese Pizza, these flavorful fritters filled with fresh green onions make a satisfying (though definitely not low-fat) snack. They are traditionally served with a soy-ginger dipping sauce, but are also great with apple sauce.
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cold water
3 tbsp shortening
1/4 tsp salt
2 large bunches green onions, sliced
oil for frying
Mix together the flour and water until a dough is formed. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for a few minutes. Place in a bowl, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough to a 1/8 inch thickness.
Spread a thin layer of shortening on the top, sprinkle with salt, and then press a layer of green onions into the dough.
- Roll into a ball, then break off a small piece of dough,
about the size of an egg, and roll it on a floured surface to a
1/8 inch thickness, pushing any green onions that escape
back into the dough. Repeat with the remainder of the dough.
Fry pancakes in 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet. Cook for approximately 3 minutes on one side then flip and cook for 2 more minutes before placing the pancakes onto a paper towel-lined plate. Salt to taste and serve immediately.
Previously on the Kosher Table
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