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Chinese Charmers

Chinese Charmers

Even though the other countries of the world have so many tasty offerings, nothing hits the spot quite like sublime Chinese cuisine for this boy.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

Both Ye Shang Hai & Ye Lai Xiang are in the business of peddling tasty, tantalizing Teochew porridge, they’re in the same approximate post code, and they’ve even got similar names! So of course, comparisons will be drawn, and blood will be shed-yeah, maybe not the blood part.

I’m just gonna come out right now and say it: Ye Lai Xiang’s dishes are better. The texture of Ye Shanghai’s meatballs were a bit odd and a bit too loose, and there was less flavor in those balls. The braised intestines were a touch too salty, and the pig liver was overcooked. However, the curry vegetables were insanely indulgent and seriously sumptuous, and of course, one can never go wrong with chye poh omelette.

But the one department that Ye Shanghai has Ye Lai Xiang utterly vanquished was in the wallet department. You see this spread of six dishes with two bowls of porridge right here? Ten bucks. That’s right, one red Yusof Ishak covered the cost of this dinner. I’m gonna be honest here, I did a double take when the cashier told me the price of the meal. Thrice.

So, the final verdict on Ye Shanghai! Good? Eh, a little debatable but I’m going with a yes. Cheap? Oh hell yeah.

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The Salted Plum has become something of a cult hit within the grossly overpopulated Raffles Place/Boat Quay District. The (not necessarily 13) reasons why are easily evident, as their famous Lu Rou Fan 2.0 comes at $12 a bowl before the ten percent service charge kicks in, and adding on an appetizer and a bottomless house drink only extracts another $3.80 out of your wallet.

It may not be cheap, but it’s certainly good. A sizable slab of pork belly that’s been slowly braised in a thick, savory sauce gets comfy atop a bed of freshly steamed Japanese rice alongside its bedfellows, which consists of some boiled bok choy and a runny half boiled egg.

The whole hunk of pork belly is a definite upgrade from the humble slices of pork belly usually found on an un-pimped lu rou fan. The sauce was heartily herbaceous and sufficiently savory. Said sauce permeated deeply into the tremendously tender belly, which really only needed a spot of firm persuasion from a soup spoon and a pair of chopsticks to part like the Red Sea.

The Salted Plum were being kind of miserly with the sauce, as there wasn’t nearly enough of it to properly flavor and lubricate the fluffy rice and bland bok choy. A little more sauce would’ve resulted in much more magic happening within the confines of the bowl, and that’s one thing that The Salted Plum should definitely improve upon. In fact, it’s probably the only thing that needs improvement with this pimped up sequel to the lu rou fan.

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Hotpot’s been around for donkey years, but it’s enjoyed a renaissance in recent years for some odd reason. With hundreds of hotpot joints blossoming up all over the country, and with stalwarts like Hai Di Lao & Beauty In A Pot, it really is becoming an oversaturated market.

However, Shi Li Fang’s claim to fame is that it’s the cheapest(?) hotpot place around. And I might actually be inclined to agree here, as the spread that’s pictured here plus more on the side set my buddy and I back about fifty bucks. Not bad considering that we’re two big eaters and we got some of those tasty, tasty premium meats.

The mala hotpot is as you’d expect; hot, peppery and guaranteed to make you sweat. The collagen chicken broth, on the other hand, was simply stellar. Wobbly collagen chunks are slowly melted down with wolfberries to form a deliriously delicious and wonderfully wholesome broth that’s thicker than Christina Hendricks. It’s so good that I didn’t really want to cook anything in it, instead longing to just pour it all down into my stomach.

Their meats and other offerings are decent, but nothing particularly outstanding. Their premium pork slices were quality stuff, and the beef was a beauty to behold. Seafood was super fresh and there’s really nothing to complain about. It’s certainly good eating at a good price, so round up the gang to bang this hottie of a pottie.

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I’m really, really annoyed that the two of the most acclaimed Teochew porridge places are both in the west, which means that getting those late night Teochew comfort food urges sorted is pretty damned hard. So when I happened to be in the Wild West Of Singapore at night, I immediately made the most out of that opportunity and headed straight to Ye Lai Xiang.

In all honesty, I’m glad the munchies drove me to Ye Lai Xiang, because boy I was missing out. Comforting bowls of Teochew porridge were backed up by piquant plates of Teochew comfort classics.

The braised big intestines that were thoroughly cleaned and slowly braised in a sapid sauce, and were a delish delight to down. The preserved vegetables were nicely acidic, zingy and quite literally mouthwatering. The sour qualities of the veggies got my saliva glands running at full output capacity and ready to receive all the fabulous food that was inbound to my stomach.

The meatballs were, as expected, rustic, simple yet remarkably redolent. Tender, juicy and superbly satisfying to chew on, the meatballs were a ball of a time. The ultimate winner of the night was doubtlessly the stellar otah. Large chunks of fish are suspended within the orangey-brown block of deliciousness. It was mildly spicy and remarkably rich thanks to all the coconut milk that went into its formation, and the fragrance was fantastic. Of course, the taste was even better, and each bite of otah was deliciously divine.

If you’ve been stranded in the Wild West and you’ve got the midnight munchies, fret not cause your friend Ye Lai Xiang is here to take good care of you.

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I feel no shame in admitting that this is my first ever mala meal. Due to mala being ridiculously overpriced, I’ve always given it a wide berth, opting for something much more value for money instead.

However, I ended up at Xiao Man Niu mainly due to the fact that everywhere else was packed to the rafters. I sympathetically patted my wallet and started picking out my ingredients of pork shabu shabu, chicken, Taiwanese sausage, fishballs, luncheon meat, instant noodles and assorted veggies. Fortunately, the damage at the end of it was about $25, which was a lot better than expected.

As for the mala itself, I was chose Xiao la due to all the stories of just how butt scorchingly violent some mala could be. It was nicely spicy, and didn’t overpower any other flavors in the xiang guo.

Overall, for $25, my first mala was actually pretty decent.

Alittle tashi is built from the ground up on a tapas/sharing plate concept, so the Baked River Prawn ($32++) does raise a whole lotta eyebrows as it seems to be in complete rebellion of said concept.

A colossal river prawn is butterflied right down the middle and baked, and is then draped atop a bed of crispy shiitake garlic rice like one of your sexy French girls. Ginger scallion sauce is then squirted right down the prawn’s crack for a little extra excitement and flavor. It wasn’t as fresh as it should’ve been, but it ain’t all that bad in all honesty.

The crispy shiitake garlic rice would be better off with a more pungent garlic flavor, but other than that, it was pretty decent. Sure, the rice is kinda hard and crunchy rather than soft & fluffy, but they did put ‘crispy’ right there in the menu so you had ample warning of what to expect.

The real reason why I thought this dish was rather weak when considering alittle tashi’s foundational concept of Asian fusion sharing plates was mainly down to that river prawn. It’s large enough to be shared between two, but when you’ve got a ménage a trois or more, that prawn is under equipped for said task. And when you consider the fact that this dish is $32++, it’s real easy to believe that you’ve been cheated. Especially if you don’t use #BurppleBeyond.

Tasty? Yes. Worth it? No. Hotel? Trivago.

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The bird is NOT the word here, as this unholy matrimony of roast pork belly and mussels is all about when porcine met mollusk. Yes I know, Crispy Pork Belly & Mussels? The name alone is crazy enough, but follow me down the rabbit hole and you’ll see how deep this goes.

The mussels are just standard issue mollusks straight out of the shell, nothing special really. The crispy pork belly, on the other hand, was deliciously decent even on its lonesome. Sure, the rind could’ve been a lot crispier, but the juiciness of the superbly seasoned meat and the tantalizingly well cooked lard made the pork belly stand out.

However, the thing that manages to seamlessly fuse the two elements together isn’t black magic. It’s a sweet & sour black tamari sauce, as I have been reliably informed by alittle tashi themselves. That sourness works well to cut through the admittedly negligible brininess from the mussels, as well as the fatty richness of the pork belly. Seafood excels when paired with sweetness, and the mussels really shone with that hint of sweetness, and so did the pork belly.

It’s a daring dish, and it’s true, who dares wins. This dish was one of the two outstanding dishes that night, but I still can’t help but think that at $30++ for a plate, this was overpriced. Fortunately, with #BurppleBeyond, we did get another dish free with this baby, so it made that $30 oh so absolutely worth it.

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What do you do when you’ve been deprived of chicken rice for months, and you’re constantly assaulted by pictures of the most titillating chicken rice around town on Instagram?

Simple. You go straight to the OG bird hawker to get that itch scratched real good the minute you hop off the plane. Boon Tong Kee has been around for decades, yet I have never quite appreciated their supple, tasty birds this much until now.

Boon Tong Kee’s Cantonese style steamed chicken is tastier than the Hainanese equivalent, and the hot soy sauce mixture that they pour over the chicken just elevates the wonderful flavors to another level. The flesh is supple, moist and utterly unforgettable. The skin is like gelatin; wobbly, slippery and excitingly enjoyable.

The chicken rice is one of the best in the world too. It’s heavy, full of fabulous flavor, fluffy, and stunningly slick. The fragrance is almost better than the taste, as you can smell the rice coming to your table, and it is heaven.

Truly, the humble Singaporean (hands off, Malaysia) dish of chicken rice is an art form of its own.

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If one goes to a Peranakan restaurant and doesn’t order babi pongteh, has one ever really been to a Peranakan restaurant?

Chili Padi’s excellent rendition of the timeless Nyonya classic is making me lean towards no on this one. It’s really quite astounding as to how a hodgepodge of soy sauce, fermented soybeans and other assorted spices can result in a love so right.

The pork belly is lovingly stewed to a near melt in your mouth tenderness, and all that TLC during the braising process loads the belly cut of porcine full of stunningly savory flavors. The sauce is moderately oily, which is to be expected given that the pork belly was braised in said sauce, but the flavors in there are just extraordinary. Pair this piquant porcine up with a plate of freshly steamed white rice, and you could very well reach the promised land.

Yeah, babi.

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So that their kids can get a-head in school. Geddit? It’s two puns in one sentence! Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.

Chili Padi’s Assam fish head ($21.80++) is no joke however. The meaty fish head and a whole assortment of vegetables are soaking luxuriantly in the rich, slightly sour and superbly satisfying assam gravy. The fish is fresh and the perfectly cooked flesh is remarkably firm and moist. The spice is just at the right level to get you a little hot and bothered under the collar without obfuscating any of the other flavor profiles in the clay pot.

With fish like this, Chili Padi is certainly getting a-head in terms of making gravy.

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This bowl of braised pig trotter is downright delectable, and I’m pretty sure Authentic Mun Chee Kee are pretty proud to...trot them out.

Flavorful sauce? Check? Well cooked, delicious and tender braised pork? Check. A properly stewed layer of fat and skin that envelopes the meat, and melts slowly in your mouth leaving a delightful, slightly sticky feeling on your lips and tongue? Also check. I’m telling ya, these braised pig’s trotters has me trottin’ cross town just to taste ‘em.

Also, DEEZ NUTZ.

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Authentic Mun Chee Kee claims to be the king of pig organ soup, but one thing they’re definitely king of is the ever luscious lu rou fan.

Tender, tremendously titillating strips of stewed pork belly (kong bak) are laid to rest upon a mound of white rice, and is showered with a deluge of the sauce that the heavenly belly was born out of. In other words, it’s the perfect food to have when you’re drunk. All that indecent indulgence is yours for just $1.80 a bowl.

Hail to the King, baby.

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Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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