If you’ve been to Taiwan, you probably would have seen the ubiquitous restaurant chain, Woo Ricebox. There are over 200 outlets of Woo Ricebox across Taiwan, and now Singapore has its first! If you’ve not tried the food here before, you’ll be impressed by how much thought has gone into ensuring you have a tasty and convenient meal. How so?
First, the rice box itself. Woo Ricebox was set up in 1939 in the Chih-shang township, formerly a major railway interchange. In order to cater to the scores of hungry travellers embarking on long train journeys, Woo’s founder decided to create a nutritious and convenient rice box that transports well. As such, the boxes are designed to be small and compact, and are made with a special type of porous wood that helps get rid of excess moisture from the ingredients. This ensures the food – fried items in particular – does not turn soggy, and stays fresh even hours after purchase.
Second, the rice. You won’t be getting any ordinary rice here. Woo Ricebox uses only premium short-grain rice imported from Chih-shang; prized for its incredible fragrance and springy texture when cooked. Know that “QQ” texture that the Taiwanese are obsessed about? Yup, that’s what you’ll get from this rice. By the way, health-conscious eaters can opt for the high-fibre Five Grain Rice mixture, which is a blend of white rice, buckwheat, barley, millet and black glutinous rice. I found this especially tasty; it had a rich nutty taste and paired especially well with the braised meats. Speaking of braised meats, what’s great about the braised meats at Woo Ricebox is that they use a different sauce for each of the different meat. So instead of one standard braising sauce – so you get a different taste experience with each dish!
Third and perhaps the most important, the quality of the food served here. This is truly Taiwanese comfort food at its most authentic. Choose from 14 different rice boxes; each box contains the omnipresent Chih-shang rice, sauteed seasonal vegetables, pickles, braised egg and a main meat item. I highly recommend the Spicy Drumstick Ricebox – the blend of spices in the chicken marinade is addictive, and because of the porous wooden box, the chicken remained crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. For the ultimate in Taiwanese comfort food though, you can’t go wrong with the Braised Minced Pork Ricebox, better known as “lu rou fan“. As you tuck into the savoury blend of pickled vegetables, egg and minced pork, it’s not hard to imagine yourself sitting by a roadside stall in a Taiwanese night market, enjoying simple but delicious nosh.
Another interesting dish is the Taiwan Pork Ribs and Radish soup. Unlike our local version of pork ribs soup, this version appears slightly greasier but it’s no less flavourful. In fact, the tiny pieces of meat in the soup add an interesting texture to the dish. It’s particularly delicious when heaped over the Chih-shang rice. On rainy days, there are few things more comforting than a simple meal of Chinese soup with rice.
For drinks, there are – sadly, no bubble tea – but two Taiwanese classics, Homemade Melon Tea and Homemade Iced Tea. I found the melon tea to be very refreshing, especially after gorging myself on all the fried snacks. In fact, I finished two cups of it in quick succession!
Woo Ricebox is located at 10 Collyer Quay, #B1-03/05 Ocean Financial Centre, Tel: 6636 8101.
Material World was invited for a tasting and was not paid for this review. All opinions are the author’s own.
About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.
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