Zi Char Choice Picks

Zi Char Choice Picks

Featuring KEK Keng Eng Kee Seafood (Alexandra), Changi Village Hawker Centre, Penang Seafood Restaurant, Ah Chiang's Porridge (Tiong Bahru), Island Cafe & Bar, Swee Kee Eating House, Prince Coffee House, Lau Ah Tee Bak Kut Teh, Sun King Ryoriya (Far East Square), Eat First 食之为鲜
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

There has never been not been a line of people waiting to get into @newstationsnackbar whenever we walked past. Hence, the sight of an unoccupied table at this popular eatery on level five of Far East Plaza beckoned like a neon-lit sign from the universe.
@huatkaliao and Ipp didn’t overthink - just went straight for their signatures of Salted Egg Pork Rice ($7) and Teochew Fried Hor Fun ($6.50).
The highly addictive former comprised of very tender, well-fried pieces of meat flooded in a creamy sauce that’s thick with salted egg, a touch of sweetness and chilli heat.
Stirfried with expertise, the latter’s springy ribbons of rice noodles heaved with intense “wok hei”. It was super shiok as there were crunchy bits of “chye por” (preserved radish), baby squid, prawns, egg, “chye sim” and sliced fish cake intermingling with the “hor fun”. Highly recommended if you are like me and enjoy this dry style of carbs.
We added on the Bittergourd with Black Bean Sauce too. It was also tastily cooked and not too oily.
Bonus: The Kopi-O here turned out to be surprisingly good as well.
You can bet your bottom dollar we will be returning to try more dishes soon.

Instead of our usual order of #malaxiangguo which @wang_zai_kitchen does very well, we decided to get the one-dish meals from their selection of “zi char” items on a recent visit. As the owners are from China, they have their own spin on things which I feel, gives each dish extra shiok-ness.
I loved my item no. 26A: “Sliced Pork Belly with Sauerkraut”. Intense in “wok hei” and very appetising, it has thinly sliced meat stirfried with “kiam chye sng”, Szechuan dried chillies and other spices with pieces of fresh pork lard. Served with a mound of rice and a fried egg (I burst it so you can see the yolk is runny), it makes for a very tasty and satisfying meal.
Item no. 27, the fragrant Stirfried Chives, Pork and Black Fungus rice set with a runny-yolked egg, is also damn good. There’s a hint of heat lurking in the background which makes you want to wolf it down faster.
Apart from the above which I highly recommend, they also do a rice set with julienned potato and minced pork that is really flavourful as the strips of tuber which have a crunchy firm bite, are stirfried with a dash of vinegar. The piquant tang is so lovely, it will have you forgetting it’s carbs-on-carbs you are demolishing 😄

1 Like

It seems that decades ago, Uncle Ho Hoi Ching or “Ah Ching” use to be the head cook at the original famous Geylang Claypot Road for over twenty years. He then left to start his own stall in a coffeeshop in Bedok South, but these days, you can find him at:

430 Upper Changi Road, #01-09
East Village
Singapore 487048

This eatery is owned by Mr. Teng and occupies two units. It used to be called “Eng’s Wanton Mee & Claypot Rice East Village” but the signboard has since been changed and doesn’t include the word “Eng’s” any longer. Our friends who took us there, chose to sit outside under the evening sky as the weather was really pleasant. Mr. Teng then brought me to the kitchen to have a peek at Uncle Ah Ching and his assistant at work. The heat was so intense from the multiple charcoal stoves, the younger man’s shirt was soaked through with sweat.
The claypot rice was indeed every bit as amazing as May described. One of the wait staff did the final touches for it right at the table - lashing on the thick black sauce before giving the contents of the claypot a thorough mix.
I found the salted fish used to be of superb quality - it’s moist and intense, lending a stunning funky savouriness to the dish. The rice was very fragrant, and the chicken pieces - large, juicy and incredibly tender to the bite (yes, even the breast meat). As for the “lap cheong”, it was decent and there was a reasonable amount of “chye sim”. We were also given some sambal chilli to spice things up if we wanted.
The portion May got was good for 4 to 5 pax and it proved plenty partly because she also ordered a few other dishes, but that’s another story which warrants its own post 😊

A sloppy mess that looks like a slapdash effort but we were impressed at how tasty this mountainous serving of “Fish Head & Bittergourd Bee Hoon” ($18) proved to be.
Manned by what looks like a father-and-son team, “Guang Xing Original Taste Fish Head Bee Hoon” (stall #01-31) at Changi Village Food Centre had already attracted a queue by the time we arrived around 5.30pm for an early dinner. All in all, it took about 15 to 20 mins from ordering to the food arriving but we didn’t mind the wait.
There’s “wok hei” but I was more interested in how full of fish-rich flavour the rice noodles were from the stock and the wet, braising style of frying. This is not a dish for those who can only handle fish fillets because the Red Snapper fish head is chopped into large pieces and has bones you’ll need a pretty nimble tongue to maneuver around. But those who can, are amply rewarded. The strips of bittergourd retain some bitterness and crunch which provide a welcome contrast to the bee hoon.
I really like the sambal chilli mixed with fresh-cut chilli padi and splash of soya sauce that’s served alongside. It really works for this stronger-in-fish-taste noodles.

To be fair, I shouldn’t even draw comparisons between this massive serving of Singapore-style Fried Hokkien Mee for 8 pax and the typical smaller plates served at hawker centres or coffeeshops, because Henry Lau, our host and chef, had mentioned that his food costs for this dish is disproportionately high (seems like it is due to what is needed to make the stock).
Anyway, as he was frying this dish, I was thinking to myself, how much better can Fried Hokkien Mee be, right? But trust me, THIS WAS MIND-BLOWING! No wonder @ramenking2018, the organiser of our dinner, sang such high praises of it.
I swear there is some kind of powerful chemistry at work in Henry’s version. Obviously, the components that play vital roles are the concentrated stock (which Henry quite understandably, preferred not to divulge anything about), the equipment used, the extremely strong fire, Henry’s finely-tuned cooking sequence (he is careful about what goes into the wok and when), the insane amount of pork oil (it tasted so full-bodied and fresh) and minced garlic in frying, and the cubes of pork lard that remained miraculously crunchy on the outside even after being simmered for a time (Henry said it took many attempts to perfect them). All these and more amalgamated into a swoon-worthy shiokness I couldn’t resist having three servings of.
And when his homemade sambal belachan was mixed in (it sings with a lyrical note of fresh lime juice), shiokness went right off the charts.
I will create a video post soon about our entire meal at @liufusifangcai (it costs $80 per pax, and the menu is decided by Henry) but as you can see, my number one dish of that evening needed its own post first.

To make a booking, please Whatsapp Henry at:

8525 0020

1 Like

The best thing about this dish is the seafood as both the large and meaty crayfish, as well as the clams were fresh and cooked well. However, I could have done with a little more flavour in the broth. It wasn’t as tasty as I’d hoped but thankfully, the crunchy pieces of pork lard helped.

2 Likes

A few weeks ago, @heyrozz had organised lunch at this “zichar” place which, to my surprise, turned out to be in my parents’ neighbourhood of Siglap.
At first glance, the one-page menu at “Eat First” looks like it could be lacking but on closer inspection, it’s clear that there’s enough variety to please most people. The dishes they do are tasty but still manage to taste rather light and clean - a big reason why Roz enjoys the food here.
My favourite from that meal would be the Fried Kai Lan with Beef. The meat came in really big slices and were not over-tenderised. Plus they had a nice smokiness which added significantly to my enjoyment.
I liked the simplicity of the Minced Pork Steamed with Salted Fish too. It’s a humble dish but done well.
Annette’s favourite was the Beancurd with Prawns. Those were some fresh and large specimens of crustaceans we had. And the gravy they swum in, was eagerly spooned up by all to be poured over our rice.
I’m glad we ordered the Steamed Fish Head too. Dressed with “tau cheo”, spring onions and chilli, it was finished with loads of crunchy pork lard which in my personal opinion, is THE ingredient that makes or breaks this dish. The fish died a noble death as Roz, Willin and I stripped it completely clean.
When Willin and I heard they do Sweet & Sour Pork too, we immediately added an order of it. “Eat First” does theirs in an unexpectedly tangy sauce with meat on the chewy side.
If you like Black Chicken Herbal Soup, make sure to order theirs if it is available. Because it is not oily, you can sip the clear and nutritious broth easily.

3 Likes

The one dish you must try from Chef Chik (stall #01-36) at Haig Road Market Food Centre is this “Steamed Prawns in Garlic Sauce”. Perfectly-cooked crustaceans aside, it is the bed of #cheecheongfun arranged beneath that got my jaw meeting the floor. What a simple but smart idea - it adds so much to the dish because those silky-soft steamed rice rolls end up absorbing the sweet prawn juices and insanely fragrant garlic sauce. I couldn’t stop eating them once I got started. It’s pretty much a one-dish meal when you think about it.

Do note this stall has unusual operating days and hours. They are only open from Wednesdays to Saturdays and while lunch is served from 11.30am to 2.30pm, dinner is a brief and rather awkward window of 4pm to 5.30pm.

6 Likes

If you are considering “zi char” for takeaway or delivery, @kengengkee should be at the top of your list. My recent dinner there was very satisfying as usual. Based on that meal, these are the dishes by Head Chef & Co-owner Wayne and his team that I feel are worth ordering because they should travel well too:

1. Salted Egg Squid (small: $18) - The slightly chewy rings of squid are evenly coated in a dryish style of slightly spicy, creamy salted egg paste. Highly addictive (especially with a cold beer).

2. “Hae Chor” (Prawn Rolls) - Wrapped in delicate, thin beancurd skin is a generous amount of juicy and tasty filling composed of minced prawns, pork and water chestnut. I had three at one go because yeah, they’re totally irresistible.

3. Coffee Pork Ribs (small: $15) - Hand on my heart, KEK does one of the best renditions around. Theirs feature large, boneless pieces of meat that are unfailingly tender, fragrant and delicious from a sweet and rich caramelly coffee marinate.

4. “Har Jeong Gai” (small: $12) - The prawn paste chicken is quite literally a flavourbomb on bones, so be warned, they are easy to overeat.

5. “Nai Bai” with garlic (small: $8) - A simple yet tasty stirfry.

6. Sambal French Beans with Minced Pork (small: $8) - Crisp, juicy vegetable with some meat and a bit of a spicy kick is appetising for sure.

There is one other key thing that can’t be “dabao-ed” and that is the warm and friendly service by the other Co-owner Paul Liew who runs the front-of-house. I look forward to experiencing it first-hand again once this situation with the coronavirus improves and we can all return to dining out with peace of mind.

2 Likes

@kengengkee (also known as "KEK Seafood") is a MICHELIN Plate Restaurant I am familiar with as it’s one of my family favourites for “zi char”. Seeing forever-cheerful Paul, his brother, Head Wayne and the rest of their family never fails to spark joy.
Having dined at KEK Seafood several times, I obviously have my must-haves, of which the Claypot Liver is tops. It is imperative to be enjoyed in the unique KEK style, that is with plain white rice popped in and given a good stir. Trust me, you do not know how sublime liver can be until you‘ve tried this.
Apart from having a very good supplier because the liver tastes really fresh, the kitchen team treats the cooking of the liver like a science to ensure it arrives perfectly cooked (it has to be soft!) on the customer’s table. So if the customer is seated in the air-conditioned area, which happens to be twice as far from the kitchen as a customer seated in the al fresco section, cooking time is halved. This is because they take into consideration that the liver will continue to cook in the claypot as it’s being carried all the way there by the wait staff. Honestly, I was so impressed when I heard this.

H O S T E D
I am always on the lookout for new “zichar” places to take my parents, so when an invitation to try “Lai Bao” was extended to me by Brand Cellar PR agency, I accepted.

Like many “zi char” joints around Singapore, this too is located within a coffeeshop in the heartlands (Toa Payoh to be exact). Their branding is quite striking though and is easy to spot. The menu was planned for my group of four pax so we didn’t choose the items.

Below are the dishes I would order if I happen to visit #LaiBaosg again:

1. Ginger Chicken (Half: $6) - Served cold, it‘s the ginger sauce spread all over that makes this dish very tasty. I would not go so far as to say the chicken was perfectly cooked but at least the breast was not dry or stringy.

2. Lai Bao Wok-Fried Fine Beans (small: $7) - One of my favourites was this stirfry of crunchy beans topped with strips of crispy yam.

3. Deep Fried Teochew Duck Fritters (small: $8) - I wasn’t aware it contained duck because the taste wasn’t obvious but that didn’t stop me from reaching out for one piece after next. Pretty addictive.

4. Sixties Fish Head Charcoal Steamboat (small, grouper: $15) - I liked the sweetness of the collagen-rich soup and that it arrived flooded in long cabbage, meat rolls, tofu, black fungus, baby tomatoes, seaweed and yam. Before being added, the chopped up pieces of fish head had been fried so as to impart more flavour. Don’t expect to find chunky pieces of fish meat in here since it is the head that’s used.

5. Crisp Fried Aubergine & Pork Floss (small: $7) - Prepared in a fragrant, dry-style, this was another dish everyone enjoyed.

Would I return? Yes, but only if I am in the area because frankly, we are pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to good “zichar” options in Singapore.

2 Likes

H O S T E D
Tucked away at one end of [email protected] is the latest-to-open outlet of New Ubin. It is located within an al fresco food court and when you visit in the evening, they are the only tenant in operation so seating is plentiful.
The menu planned for the six of us featured a mix of their popular signatures and a few dishes that were new to me.
I found the chargrilled foie gras satay with raspberry sauce tasty and rather novel. It’s a great item to share as a starter. Ditto the caramelised, house-smoked pork collar which was a tad chewy but still enjoyable.
My personal favourite of the night was the green dragon vegetables stirfried in New Ubin’s signature sambal cinchalok and petai sauce. It’s spicy, tangy and in my opinion, shiok to the max.
The platter of USDA “Choice” Ribeye plus potato wedges, sautéed onions and sauces, served with a big portion of “Heart Attack” Fried Rice, was as usual, a crowd-pleaser. Beef and flavourful rice are always a satisfying combo.
It did meet its match in the Ubin Nasi Lemak, the first dish to ever come out from their own test kitchen. Although some parts of the rice we were served was a little hard, there‘s no denying its fragrance. The accompaniments did not fall short either with the ayam bakar and cuttlefish sambal being very tasty. So too the condiments of fried egg, fresh cucumber, ikan bilis and ikan asin (salted fish). The sweetish sambal was addictive and mixed well with the rice.
Unfortunately, the Charcoal Fish Head Steamboat wasn’t quite up my alley as the soup was light and slightly sourish. I prefer the richer opaque style personally.
If you love crabs and are keen to try something different, they do a version of the crustaceans stirfried with whole roasted garlic that‘s pretty decent.
Besides the festive dessert of Christmas stollen, we also had the gula melaka caramelised bananas with housemade coconut ice-cream. I really enjoyed the ice-cream a lot as it had shreds of coconut flesh buried in it

Follow me on Instagram (@veronicaphua) for richer content of videos and Stories! 😊

What To Read Next

5 Best Restaurants for a Bachelorette Party in Singapore
5 Best Restaurants for a Bachelorette Party in Singapore Are you organising a bachelorette party for a bride-to-be? Finding the ideal dinner location for a night of celebration and fun with your girlfriends can be difficult. Not only are there too many options in Singapore, but it is also tough to find a restaurant that caters to everyone’s tastes.
Burpple
Restaurant Gaig: New Five-Course Menu At Michelin-Starred Spanish Restaurant
Restaurant Gaig: New Five-Course Menu At Michelin-Starred Spanish Restaurant Savour vibrant Catalan fare with a refreshed five-course menu at restaurant Gaig.
Burpple
Go Nuts For These Coconut Drinks & Dishes in Singapore
Go Nuts For These Coconut Drinks & Dishes in Singapore Want to escape the sweltering heat in Singapore? The answer lies in everything coconut—from shakes and drinks, to ice cream and desserts, you name it!
Burpple
8 'Ulu' Cafes & Restaurants Worth Travelling To In Singapore
8 'Ulu' Cafes & Restaurants Worth Travelling To In Singapore Desperate to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city? If you’re dying for a quiet cafe or restaurant to recharge at or simply want to avoid the crowd, we’ve got you covered.
Burpple
ADVERTISE WITH US
ADVERTISE WITH US