Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mr Bean - Savory Bean Curd, Unique and Refreshing

Founded by 2 best friends way back in 1995, and launching their humble first outlet in People's Park Hawker Centre, Mr Bean has since then, mushroomed into a 60 plus outlet phenomenon, employing over 600 staff.

It all started when the 2 founders saw a soya bean milk making machine at an exhibition, and realized that it could make soya bean milk very swiftly and efficiently.

With the proposition to make soya bean milk for the masses and taking out of the hawker markets and into the mainstream, Mr Kang and Mr Loh have pioneered soya bean milk as a fast food business, whilst still insisting on freshness and quality.

Now, after nearly 2 decades into the business, Mr Bean is now hoping to reinvigorate the fast food soya bean milk concept with a playful and whimsical new twist - serving various forms of desserts and even including a savory component into the mix.

I was fortunate to be invited to a tasting with a couple of my fellow friends to savor some of these new items, which are currently available only at Bedok Mall. And depending on how successful these new items are received, we are likely to see more of these newer desserts in Mr Bean outlets islandwide in the near future.

Pearly Mango Paradise

This mango themed cold dessert was one of the newer concoctions, mixing bubble tea styled pearls with pomelo and chunky mango bits into the bowl, and served with their cold tao hua (beancurd). While the idea was there to add some citrus flavors into the classic sweet bean curd flavors, the overall result felt a bit flat, largely due to the choice of mangoes used and the somewhat watery syrup.

Tang Yuan with Kinako Peanut Coating

This classic dessert dumpling has been given a playful twist here. Served in a bowl of soya bean milk, you are supposed to take out the 4 individual tang yuans (dumplings) and roll it on a paper tray of kinako coating before consumption.

While there was nothing really extraordinary flavor wise, it was the whimsical nature and the interactivity that turned this into a rather humorous time for the party at hand. Likewise, I think it would play well with youngsters and kids alike when they order this and have a rather fun time rolling the dumplings.

Three's A Crowd

The 3 being referred here is actually grass jelly, soft peanuts, red beans and pearls. Wait, there's 4. Oh, I see now, no wonder 3's a crowd, haha. Actually, the grass jelly, which you cannot see here, is buried beneath the rest of the ingredients.

It was an interesting fusion, and the combination of the different textures of the toppings really contrasted well with the smoothness of the jelly. It was simple in a sense, but as a cooling dessert, it was somewhat perfect on a hot summer day.

8 Treasures Beancurd

What I liked even more was this hot dessert that had a more comforting, homecooked feel about it. It had their standard hot beancurd underneath, but filled to the brim with an assortment of red and green beans, lotus seeds, lime beans and many other beans and peanuts like ingredients.

The result was a less than expected sweetness aftertaste, but great for a cold rainy night. The warm soothing beancurd at the end was just a perfect way to finish off this warm and welcomed dessert anytime. I suspect even the elderly might favor this.

Lychee Pop

I just had to mention this tasty beverage as well. It reminded of a mash up of lychee cocktail and beancurd smoothie. The lychee essence somehow brought a zesty and refreshing taste to the creamy soya bean milk flavors. And it had these tiny burstable pearls of lychee bombs that exploded with a childish ecstasy.

Signature Savory Beancurd

Saving the very best for last, this was the dish that I came here for. I was told it was an innovative take on traditional beancurd fare by infusing savory elements into the mix. In this case, it was like taking out the mee pok in a bak chor mee bowl and transferring the remaining elements into a bowl of freshly brewed beancurd.

By all accounts, such experiments should fail with a loud thud. Instead, it surprisingly worked, and worked very well indeed. There was a generous topping of vegetarian floss, chicken slices, chinese greens and fried shallots. Infused with a spicy, almost ma po tofu like sauce, it did for awhile, resembled a ma po tofu dish.

But the inclusion of vinegar eventually led me back to the renderings of a well made bowl of bak chor mee pok. By substituting noodles with bean curd was a stroke of genius. The beancurd absorbing all the heat of the sauce, whilst providing the perfect milky bed for the savory stuff.

Mr Bean Sitting Arena

These new dessert stalls are nicely furnished and for the outlet at bedok mall, there is probably a seating capacity of a dozen persons or so. Not exactly spacious, but despite the tight spaces, it still feels cozy and relaxing.

 I certainly enjoyed the fresh creativity that Mr Bean has injected into its outlets and business, and despite the fact there are still some niggling flaws here and there to work out, their innovation in revitalizing their soya bean business must be applauded.

Equally deserving of applause is Mr Bean's commitment to the social enterprise of their business. It has been well documented that Mr Kang and Mr Loh also give back to the society by contributing to events like Operation Smile and also assisting with the likes of Pathlight.

It is this spirit that I find very encouraging, that when Singapore business owners make it, they have the social conscience to help others less fortunate. This same spirit is quite lacking in our society these days and I hope and encourage more successful businessmen to do likewise.

Mr Bean's continued success is due in no small part to their continuing desire to learn and evolve and improve. Tradition by itself accounts for nothing if you cannot adapt to a growing change, and adapt they have.

While purists will still stubbornly stick to their market stall favorites (which is fine in their own way), Mr Bean paths a way into our food future by showing that change comes with nature, and by continuing to research and experiment, there will always be a better product at the end.

Mr Bean Dessert Concept Store
311 Upper Changi Road
Bedok Mall

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ian, Thanks for your awesome review! May I ask what's included in the 8 Treasures beancurd? Shall check this place out!