Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food – an Updated Review

Type of Institution: Vegetarian 

Address: 8 Smith Street, Singapore 058971
Tel: +65 6225 9026

Opening Hours: Daily 12:00 – 23:00

Overall: 9.0/10

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food(This review was updated again on 26 August 2012. The original review was written on 23 April 2012.)

Mdm Wong began acquiring her impressive culinary skills when she was compelled to adopt a healthy vegetarian lifestyle after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Soon after, she started cooking for her fellow cancer patients as well. Such experience eventually culminated in the opening of Ci Yan, a Chinese restaurant tucked away in a corner of Chinatown with simple wooden stools and tables and many religious artefacts. As you might expect, most of the ingredients used are organic and a lot of attention is paid to the nutritional content of the dishes, without compromising on flavour. It is easy to feel at home in Ci Yan – the ambience is laidback, the food is comfortingly traditional Chinese, and both Mdm Wong and her husband Mr Seow are warm and friendly.

The menu, which features about 4-6 dishes, changes daily. It always includes the brown rice set. The price of each dish ranges from $5-$7. I would recommend you call the restaurant before visiting to check what is the daily menu. Usually you will hear a voicemail reciting the day’s menu in both English and Mandarin. Perhaps my only gripe is that portion sizes lean towards the small side (though I’ve been told I eat a lot…).

Vegans should take note that they have been increasingly using dairy products in the dishes, so please check with them before ordering! Needless to say I’m severely disappointed.

Soup

Herbal Soup

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodOn one night I visited, there was a fairly large group of people in the restaurant who had reserved a table and had placed their special orders prior to that day – I was jealously eyeing all the food arriving at their table because it all looked so appetizing, and yet we couldn’t have any of it. But we got lucky because there was leftover herbal soup, which was proudly proclaimed as the “best soup you can ever have” (not quite, but pretty close). The light yet richly flavoured herbal soup combined many flavours and textures, derived from the various mushrooms (such as monkey head) and Chinese herbs (such as codonopsis root or dang shen) which were braised for 8 hours.

Red Lentil Soup

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodThis was a simple, sweet and creamy red lentil soup. ($3)

Pumpkin Soup

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodThis was similar in concept to the red lentil soup, except with pumpkin. ($3)

Mains/Sides

Brown Rice Set

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodCi Yan’s rendition of the staple dish at almost every Chinese/Singaporean healthy eatery in Singapore – the brown rice set –  usually impressed with its side dishes. The Brown Rice Set Meal is a safe bet if you’re looking for some simple and traditional Chinese food. Expect side dishes such as fresh, crispy and crunchy long beans, slightly crunchy cauliflower with black fungus mushrooms and button mushrooms, tender strips of marrow green, sautéed Chinese greens, and a simple salad with iceberg lettuce and carrot strips. Perhaps the most interesting side dish I have come across is the bittergourd cubes cooked in a way as to eliminate most of its bitterness.

My favourite side dishes always featured chewy and firm tempeh, either marinated in soy sauce or curried and accompanied with sesame seeds. I really wish it would be easier to find good tempeh dishes in Singapore because I love its naturally nutty flavour, its dense chewy texture, and the fact that it is super healthy (it is rich in soy protein, dietary fibre, riboflavin, magnesium, manganese and copper etc.).

Braised Mala Noodles

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodAn extremely satisfying dish – the noodles as well as the fresh mushrooms, tender carrots, crunchy lettuce and extra-firm tofu soaked up the slightly spicy braised mala broth, which was rich but not overwhelming.

Mushroom Spaghetti in Olive Oil

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodThis was a light and simple pasta dish. Al dente spaghetti was topped with shimeiji mushrooms and strips of iceberg lettuce and cucumber, and tossed with olive oil. ($6)

Millet Fruits & Veg Salad

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodThis was an extremely hearty millet salad with an impressive variety of ingredients – it’s good for hungry people! The dominating taste was the natural sweetness from the raisins, red and green apple, shredded carrot, pear, pumpkin and star fruit. Other ingredients included cucumber, sprouts, tomato and tiny cubes of mock ham. Although the salad sauce with flaxseed was too mild to contribute any flavour, but the nature flavour of the ingredients more than compensated for this. ($7)

Stir-fried Tung Hoon (Glass Noodles)

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodSavoury glass noodles were tossed with carrot strips, mock meat and beancurd skin, and topped with shredded lettuce. Notably, this wasn’t oily in the least. ($5.50)

Lotus Leaf Rice

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodThe Lotus Leaf Rice arrived steaming with fragrance and moisture. Tiny bits of mushroom, peanuts, broad beans, kidney beans, and gingko nuts lent an interesting texture. I could barely taste the mushrooms though because they were cut way too small. The portion size was akin to  a satisfying snack rather than a main dish. ($6.50)

Organic Cold Tofu

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodI loved the generous serving of organic cold tofu slices dressed with a sweet soy sauce reminiscent of that accompanying Chee Cheong Fun. This was topped with refreshing cucumber slices, shredded seaweed and nutty white sesame seeds. Highly recommended. ($6.00)

Dessert

Mung Beans with Durian

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health FoodThe picture above might look rather nondescript, but this was easily one of the best dishes I’ve had here (and I’m not mad about durian). The simple, traditional Chinese Mung Bean Soup dessert was given a sophisticated twist by the subtle taste of durian permeating throughout the soup. Chunks of durian and intact mung beans added an interesting texture. Fresh coconut milk topped it all off. ($2.50)

Conclusion: If you’re like me, i.e. you love clean, healthy, feel-good and delicious organic vegan food at reasonable prices – this is the place for you! Definitely one of my favourite eateries in Singapore.

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6 comments
  1. gmjacobs said:

    I, too, wish for more tempeh at veg restaurants. And Mdm Wong cooks it so well!

    Whole Earth has a tempeh dish, but I don’t see it at most places. I also don’t see tempeh at the supermarket near my home. The nearby wet market has tempeh, but if you arrive before 8am, it’s gone.

    • I think I’ve tried Whole Earth’s version, but I prefer Mdm Wong’s. Thanks for the wet market tip 🙂

  2. oldornew said:

    The food shown in here does seem nice. However, I am very shaken by the horrible service I have recieved today during my visit. I had gone to this place on a separate occasion and was thus very excited to bring my family to this place today. However, when I learnt that the labelled charsiew wrap no longer had charsiew, I asked to change my order to brown rice set. The storeowners were very immature and handled this by throwing tempers when things do not go their way. The male boss and his son started slamming the doors so many times, and as the only customers in the store, me and my family felt very unwelcome. The owner snactched the money from my hand, and meanly commented that I was joking around. Well, they should not misrepresent their dishes if they don’t want any changes. The food served to us was subpar at best, I think as they were irritated. Also, the cherry on top of the cake was when the lady boss demanded if we had paid from our meal as we were leaving. What horrible attitude. They may be an old couple, but their immature attitude proves otherwise. Please save yourself the unpleasant experience and go elsewhere for your meal. I know that we all wish to have a pleasant enjoyable experience when we have our meal and don’t want to ruin our trip to chinatown because of bad attitude.

    • Hi, I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad experience at Ci Yan! I’ve not been back in a long time – mostly because I’m too busy with work, but also because there seems to be an inclination towards non-vegan vegetarian dishes on the menu during my last few visits (which I find completely unnecessary since the almost exclusively vegan daily menus they used to have were fantastic) – but I’ve never received similar treatment and I can’t imagine the couple being so rude in any case. They both do have a lot of personality, but that’s another story of course.

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