The only thing that differentiated us from the rest of the customers was our local accent. Appearance-wise, we weren't that different. On a Sunday night, this seems like a preferred place for the workforce and students from the many provinces of China to gather and feast.
Our visit was unintended. It was one of those evenings when we were looking for good tze char (a rather impossible task since we were at Dhoby Ghaut) yet the tired feet were begging to rest. Strangely enough, the compromise was the few blocks of shophouses located nearby the Kallang MRT station. WtF, right?
The lanes separating the rows were dark and quiet - a contrast to the vibrant food streets of Geylang not too far from here. Was I at the other side of Geylang?
Further down the front (or back) row, we observed a single, well-lit lot. A restaurant! It didn't take long for us to make a choice.
Yaleju offers just 2 types of soup - clear or ma la (numbing hot, literally). I guess it has to do with the Dong Bei (northeast China) palate. Tom yum is not a staple stock there, I'm sure. The varieties of meat, seafood and vegetable were not unlike the many steamboat restaurants scattered around the island. The selection of pre-cooked dishes that night, despite looking abandoned and unkempt, were more interesting - braised pork ribs, trotters and chicken feet. They served these by the large plastic containers. However, I didn't find any of these interesting-looking dishes delicious. In fact, the bland trotters were a mix between a clean-shaven Monday morning and a Wednesday stubble. A few rare condiments are worth a mention though - fermented (red) soy bean paste, garlic/coriander/scallion/sesame oil paste (or what I called a Chinese pesto) and the simple black vinegar to go with some of the other dips.
Even at the late hour of ten, the restaurant was still packed to the brim. Tables were filled with glasses of beer (with ice) and plentiful crabs, prawns, beef and pork. Some looked serious while dipping their meats into the piping hot pot but most were just happily chatting the night away, intoxicated or not.
We left the restaurant with full stomachs and a feeling that we've just returned from a trip to China. That was fun.
Yaleju - Dong Bei Ho Guo
12, Jalan Ayer
(Near Kallang MRT Station)
Tel: (+65) 6746 6619