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Zi Char Choice Picks

Zi Char Choice Picks

Featuring Kok Sen Restaurant, JB Ah Meng, Penang Seafood Restaurant, Two Chefs Eating Place (Commonwealth), Seng Kee Black Chicken Herbal Soup (Kembangan), Zai Shun Curry Fish Head, Seng Kee Black Chicken Herbal Soup (Kaki Bukit 511 Market & Food Centre), Xin Yuan Ji (Bugis), Two Chefs Eating Place (Sin Ming), Tian Wai Tian Fishhead Steamboat (Serangoon)
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua
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Revisited the original Mellben Seafood at Ang Mo Kio last week after a long, long lull and besides ordering their signature Crab in Claypot Beehoon Soup, we also had to have the ever-popular Chilli Crab.
The crustaceans we got that evening were extremely fresh and superb in quality, with firm and springy flesh that was easy to remove from the shell. Striking an ideal balance between spiciness, tang and sweetness, the exuberantly tasty, thick and slightly gooey gravy made sure things got finger-licking good very fast. The mini fried “mantou” buns were dunked in it quicker than you can say “jacuzzi party”.
Here’s a tip: Do inform your server to bring your fried “mantou” at the same time as your Chilli Crab. Ours had arrived too early and were a little hard when we ate them. Trust me, they are not as shiok as when they’re piping hot and soft within.

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My niece had a craving for crab which is how I found myself at the original @mellbensignature at Ang Mo Kio again after so many years. It was nice to not have to queue since we were there before 6pm on a Thursday.
After her dad selected our crabs from the line-up of “Small”, “Big” and “Big Big” arranged on three chairs, we chose to have our two “Big” crabs prepared in different styles. The above videos show the signature Claypot Crab Beehoon Soup, which was the first to arrive.
The crustacean in our second dish of Chilli Crab featured the better specimen but this was nonetheless, still satisfying. What I loved most was the soup. It’s extremely tasty as the sweetness of the crab-rich broth had been heightened, and given just the right amount of body by some evaporated milk.
This is a great one-dish meal to order as there’s a generous amount of thick beehoon in the claypot too. On top of that, you can always add on extra soup and/or noodles for a few dollars more.
Our bill for 4 pax came to about $350 in total. That’s for two “Big” crabs, an additional serving each of the soup and noodles, a plate of fried “mantou”, one tofu dish as well as drinks.

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When one of my cousins suggested this place for our meet-up, I immediately agreed as I have always liked the food there very much.
The six of us covered the table with our combined favourites of clams stir-fried in garlic and chilli, the restaurant’s signatures of fried beehoon and white pepper, steamed fish head and crunchy fish skin with achar. Besides these, we also ordered a couple of stirfried vegetables because another of my cousins Gwen sure loves her greens.
Every dish arrived in a timely manner, was cooked perfectly and tasted very good. There was no over or under of seasoning at all. It is quite a feat considering how rushed off their feet all the staff are on a Sunday night with a perpetual queue outside JB Ah Meng’s entrance.
For your reference, the bill for the six of us came to about $260 in total, inclusive of a few beers and non-alcoholic drinks.

This fish head curry had the most “tau kee” (beancurd skin) I had ever seen. And they were truly the crispiest as well. But once they got pushed into the curry, those crinkly deepfried sheets collapsed in a heap as they started to soak up the gravy - something I found really shiok personally!
The style of curry at this stall suits me well as it’s not too thick or overly rich with coconut milk. There’s a nice touch of assam as well, which made slurping a lot of it all too easy.
I reckon the dish is worth the $25 price tag as the fish head we got was fresh and decent in size (three of us shared this along with two other dishes of stir-fried sweet potato leaves and steamed tofu with minced pork). Furthermore, the helping of lady’s fingers, brinjal and long beans was respectable. Although the few pieces of “tau pok” included were a little dryish, they improved a tad after I allowed them to soak a little longer in the curry.

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Maybe I haven’t been paying close enough attention but I don’t think many seafood eateries, regardless of price point, serve fresh #turbot. And I am referring to swimming-in-a-tank kind of fresh. My dad who is Teochew and really knows his fishes, ordered one straightaway. Although it’s not cheap (our perfectly steamed 700gm specimen cost $84), we were very pleased with its medium-firm, springy and flavourful flesh and gelatinous skin.
We are sure to return to try more dishes at “Tian Tian Seafood Restaurant” because the food we had turned out to be really tasty and well executed. Plus I like the old-school vibes of the place (they even have tables spilling out into the back alley of their shophouse unit). And for those of you who work late or are on the lookout for a supper spot that serves proper hearty fare, the good news is they operate from 5pm to 3.30am.

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This plate of sinfulness at “Tian Tian Seafood Restaurant” became a blip on my radar thanks to Caecilia (Instagram: @singaporeliciouz) who had posted about it some time ago.
I got around to trying it when my dad and I visited the seafood “zichar” spot along Outram Road this evening. To be frank, the dish is super simple - instant noodles stirfried with minced pork in a bit of sambal chilli and pork lard, then topped with a fried egg and luncheon meat. Anyone can probably rustle this up at home but it doesn’t change the fact that hoovering up those curly strands and chomping on the thick pieces of fried luncheon meat sparked joy in me.

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Not many places serve both pig’s liver and kidneys in a dish, let alone get it so right.
Even though I am useless in the kitchen, I know these organs are damn tricky to cook. Get the timing wrong and they can give rubber bands a run for their money. If the supplier doesn’t clean them properly, then you can be sure that complicates matters further.
Over at Joo Heng, the liver and kidneys are prepared so faultlessly, we cleaned up the plateful in a jiffy.
Poached till optimal softness then stir-fried very quickly with spring onions and ginger in a dark sauce with a dash of sesame oil, the thinly-sliced organs smell and taste very clean. They are also very tender to the bite.
Do make sure to order this signature dish when you dine at Joo Heng as it is a rare treat.

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How awesome it was to catch up with my ex colleagues (and a couple of their present colleagues) over lunch at Joo Heng restaurant, a “zi char” place In Joo Chiat. Oddly enough, although I have been in that area dozens of times, I have somehow overlooked visiting it in the last couple of years. The eatery has since been renovated, boasting an air-conditioned environment now for a more comfortable dining experience.
One of the signature dishes we ordered was this platter of steamed baby squid. When I was flipping through the menu, it had caught my eye and I knew we had to get it. Everyone else seemed pleased enough with how good it turned out to be - very fresh, springy and delicately sweet.

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Ordered the Oyster Omelette at “Maddie’s Kitchen” (level 5 of Far East Plaza) to share. It did not disappoint.
A serving costs $10.80 nett but comes with about half a dozen huge, creamy oysters. Honestly though, it’s the eggy parts of this dish that impressed me the most because I usually tend to zero in on those. Somehow, the way they fry the blend of egg with flour batter here gets amazingly fragrant and crispy results.
There was a very smartly-dressed elderly uncle (I’m guessing he is the boss / one of the bosses / related to the boss) hanging around the eatery and he kindly gave me a tip to mix the tangy chilli dip with the belachan chilli dip. That would make the best combo for dunking the oyster omelette in, he said. He’s right.

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It will be downhill after this point but at least my first meal of the first weekend of 2019 is a healthy bowl of sliced fish beehoon soup.
This $8 portion is big enough to be shared by two but if you’re famished, having it all to yourself won’t leave you feeling guilty at all. The dish has enough flavour so it tastes good in a “clean” way by itself but I prefer it with the housemade sambal belachan.

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To steam a fish perfectly is an art and at “Zai Shun Curry Fish Head”, they are pretty much a Jedi Master at it.
Browse around social media and you’ll see multiple posts praising their flawlessly steamed fish, regardless of the species. And they do seem to have many.
It starts with you choosing from the catch of the day packed with ice in a row of styrofoam boxes arranged in front of the stall. Somehow, big or small, firm or soft of flesh, the result is unerringly delicious.
I guess that’s what you get when you combine unbelievable freshness with what I suspect is steaming durations that are timed to the nanosecond.

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Journeyed to the West for a family event earlier today, after which a few of us adjoined to “Zai Shun Curry Fish Head”, a Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded eatery, for an early lunch.
Whilst waiting for our Red Grouper to be steamed, we dived straight into this spread that included bittergourd stirfried with eggs and salted egg (my personal favourite), “hae bee hiam” (fragrant fried minced dried shrimp), fishcake, an omelette with “chye por” (preserved radish), braised pig’s trotter, steamed stuffed squid in black pepper sauce and stewed “kim cham” (golden needles). All of the dishes were just as impressively fresh and appetising as when I was first brought here by my friends Iggy and Janice.
I’m glad to report that everyone else who joined me today for the first time, thought very highly of the food too.

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Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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