12 March 2016
TEA VALLEY (茶食坊), a Taiwan casual diner in Singapore, is set to go places. At a food tasting session at its oldest outlet in Downtown East, Lawrence Lim, Director of the company, explained that the cafe chain would like to expand further – not just in terms of outlets, but also into the types of services TEA VALLEY can provide.
TEA VALLEY began in 1999 as a bubble tea shop, but soon expanded into offering Taiwan street food as
well. In Taiwan, street vendors often set up their portable stalls in the evenings along smaller alleys, or at regular night markets. The food is often fried or deep-fried for a quick, portable snack, and is especially satisfying on chilly nights.”I want to bring value to my diners. Taiwan made a strong impression on me for its extensive street food offerings. I believe that good food should be enjoyed by one and all at affordable prices. We hope to open more outlets around Singapore in the near future to add another dimension to Singapore’s exciting street food scene,” he said.
Lim has transported dishes from Taiwan’s street cuisine over to Singapore, taste-testing the recipes multiple times before introducing them to customers. He has found that popular snacks in Taiwan do not always tempt tastebuds locally – like the very chewy tianbula (甜不辣), which TEA VALLEY has reinterpreted as a fishcake, while others simply go out of fashion and end up being retired.
The tasting menu for the day included a single-portion seafood steamboat, hot and sour noodles, fried golden (enoki) mushrooms, deep-fried cuttlefish, crispy salted chicken, as well as a selection of the 40 teas that are on the menu at TEA VALLEY @Downtown East.
The jasmine passion tea has a strong hint of passionfruit, while the honey lemon tea is very sweet and redolent of lemon. All three of these teas are served chilled, and come with chewy white pearls. Rose honey tea was my favourite, as it is served warm in a glass teapot to show off the pink rosebuds, and barely tinged with the fragrance of honey.
The steamboat was a colourful mix of prawns and vegetables, cooked to tasty perfection, while the fried dishes combined crispy salty-sweet batter shells with succulent interiors. In Taiwan, the same type of food typically runs to being more strongly flavoured, but these were lighter and more suited to the local preferences for less oily food.
Lim imports high grade teas as well as other food ingredients from Taiwan to make sure the experience is as authentic as possible. He recently invested in a central kitchen to ensure consistently high-quality meals. Next steps, he said, include exploring the feasibility of catering and franchising, as well as opening a new outlet in Tiong Bahru.
TEA VALLEY will be introducing fruit vinegars as well as selected menu items at a Taiwan fair at Isetan Westgate from 5th to 13th April, 2016.
TEA VALLEY @Downtown East is at The Alley, #01-05A, where peak periods are typically weekday and Sunday lunchtimes as well as Saturday evenings. It is one of several outlets. The others are at Chevron House #B1-04, Clarke Quay Central, #B1-47, and POMO, #01-26. An outlet is anticipated at Tiong Bahru Plaza once the mall renovations are complete.
The menu differs slightly from outlet to outlet – the Downtown East outlet is the only one which serves steamboat.