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

@mellbensignature_sg prides themselves on their crabs, specifically their chili crab. So naturally my dad & I gravitated to the nearest Mellben restaurant to get our chili crab cravings fixed, and we happily ordered two standard sized ones, priced at $98++ per crab if I remember correctly.⠀

The chili gravy was absolutely exquisite, possibly the best chili crab gravy I’ve ever had the good fortune to slurp down. Calling it a chili is a bit misleading, as it’s mostly tomato sauce mixed with chilies, eggs and vinegar. As you might expect from the description, the chili crab sauce is terrifically tomato-y, blending savoury, sweet & slightly sour perfectly into a tremendously thick sauce that’s speckled by copious amounts of egg mixed in. It’s slightly spicy from the chili added in, but the mild spice didn’t deter us from mopping up that glorious gravy with the deep fried mantous & rice.⠀

Unfortunately, it was painfully obvious that the crab was overcooked. The crab meat had lost some of its suppleness and moisture, and it clung tight to the shell. Sure, the Sri Lankan crab was meaty and fresh, but sadly the otherwise spectacular chili crab was marred by the chef extracting the crab two minutes too late from the wok.⠀

Sure, I still enjoyed this chili crab because of the sauce, but the overcooked crab clawed away at the satisfaction of getting our chili crab cravings satiated.

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@mellbensignature_sg is one of the most established seafood restaurants in Singapore, and I got to experience why they’ve been doing brisk business since 1985. We ordered a Soon Hock ($70++ for ours) done Hong Kong style, and we were absolutely thrilled by just how stellar the soon hock was.⠀

Hong Kong style fish is shockingly simple, but is stunningly sapid if all the elements are perfect. And here at Mellben, everything was definitely perfect. The soon hock was unbelievably fresh, and it might even have been swimming around in a fish tank just before we ordered it. Press F to pay respects to the fish, and to honour its delicious sacrifice. The stunningly fresh fish is steamed to perfection with the sauce mixture, consisting of (but not limited to) light soya sauce, hua tiao chiew (aka shaoxing rice wine), some Ve Tsin (MSG), a dash of sugar, some scallions and a lot of ginger.⠀

That’s all that is required for a fabulous fish dish. The sweet, supple flesh of the perfectly steamed fish is infused with the superbly savoury flavours of the sauce mixture. The steamed Hong Kong style fish may be simple, but it is certainly an ethereally excellent dish. I would recommend washing the saltiness down with a bottle of wonderful Sauvignon Blanc from Villa Maria. Normally, seafood restaurants have below average to average wines, but Mellben has this stunning sav blanc on their wine list that’s too good to be missed out on, just like this fantastic fish.

Look, I ain’t gon lie to y’all, Prawn & Potato Gratin ($14 nett) does feel kind of disjointed at times, but it’s held together purely by the supreme savouriness of the prawn bisque that’s served in a little metal contraption.⠀

Even though the menu description proclaims the square of deep fried potatoes as a potato gratin, it’s really a potato mille feuille as there seems to be an absence of butter & cheese between each thin layer of potato. Sure, it might not strictly conform to the definition of a gratin, but this potato mille feuille is a sufficiently pleasing potato dish. The outermost layer is a convivially crunchy layer that conceals the inner layers of dense & soft potatoes that have been sliced thinly, and this deep fried square of layered potatoes performs as you’d expect.⠀

To anyone who has ever had dim sum, the prawn pancake half of this appetiser should be eerily familiar. That’s right, the prawn pancake has been compacted into the familiar form factor of a beancurd roll. However, there are visible & discernible chunks of prawns in the beancurd roll, so you know for sure that you’re actually eating prawns in this savoury, delicious beancurd roll.⠀

Now, the potato mille feuille/gratin square & the beancurd roll have absolutely nothing in common, but that undeniably umami prawn bisque ties it all together. The stunningly savoury & briny flavours of all the prawns are expressed into the brown liquid, and that luscious liquid fuses the potatoes & prawns together with its irresistible flavours. It sounds like crazy talk, I know, but you got try the Prawn & Potato Gratin to believe it.


I was wondering what happened to Morphine Coffee which used to occupy the kiosk currently housing Flash Coffee at PLQ, and then I found in Singpost Centre, facing that ever popular mala soup eatery. No longer are they confined to serving coffee & pastries, they’ve got stuffed bagels, and they have rice bowls now.⠀

I initially wanted the Deep Dive bowl, which was seafood on rice. However, they were out of seafood and the beef bowl by evening, so I settled for a Taiwanese classic. Their Braised Pork bowl, a.k.a lu rou fan, costs sixteen bucks, but at least there’s no additional tax or service charge here. A serving of rice is topped with the stew-like sauce that contains all those finely chopped bits of pork belly, two large slices of oyster mushrooms, a still runny braised tea egg, a square of deep fried seaweed, and garnished with a little sprinkle of pickled mustard greens and coriander.⠀

The lu rou, which is the braised pork, was decidedly delicious. Having been simmered in the soya sauce based braising sauce, it has fully assimilated all the umami of the soy sauce along with the herbs added in, and it has imparted the collagen & fats from itself to thicken & enrich the sauce. The charmingly chewy oyster mushrooms are lightly grilled, while the still runny tea egg has managed to absorb some sapidity from its soy braising sauce. The fried seaweed was inexplicably irresistible though, and each clamorous crunch into the seaweed sparked such joy.⠀

However, as you might’ve already deduced, the dealbreaker here is the miserly portion of lu rou over the rice. This is the portion size I’d expect of a six dollar lu rou fan, not a sixteen dollar one. Paying ten bucks for this portion size is already eyebrow raising, but sixteen? That’s unforgivable. It’s such a shame too, all the flavours of the elements here are excellent and it’s all let down by a lack of the main element in the bowl.⠀

Still, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt since they’ve only been in business for two weeks. I hope they’ll adjust the portion size to reflect the price, because this delicious Braised Pork bowl deserves better.


Of course, man does not live by soup alone, so Char Stew Kitchen has a bevy of skewers for you to add on at a buck a stick. From marinated meats like beef, chicken and lamb to shiitake mushrooms on a skewer, they have it all for you to grill over an actual charcoal grill. The secret ingredient is that mala chili powder inside the little plastic squeeze bottle. It’s scintillatingly spicy & superbly savoury, transforming everything it touches into sapid & spicy deliciousness.


Besides perfect prawn noodles, @oneprawnnco also does ngoh hiang as their side hustle. If you’ve managed to rope in a dining partner, you’re in luck because you have enough party members to conquer the Tasting Platter ($8.50 before GST). Their prawn noods are downright divine, and their ngoh hiang is sufficiently competent enough to be a companion to the main event.⠀

As the name implies, the Tasting Platter is a smorgasbord of One Prawn & Co’s greatest hits. A carefully curated selection of classic pork ngoh hiang, crispy prawn cracker, seafood roll, fish cake, Crowd Pleaser Sotong Youtiao (their words, not mine), and fried beancurd, these Chinese fried fritters are a worthy complement to the stunning prawn noodles. My shock favourite was the sotong youtiao, with its perfect balance of bouncy chewiness from the squid paste, crisp from the deep fried youtiao (dough stick) that encases the paste, and the perfect balance of salty & sweet. Absolutely addictive, I tell ya hwat.⠀

The pork ngoh hiang was marvellously meaty & savoury with the abundance of ground pork within. Meanwhile, the seafood roll, fried beancurd (tau kwa) and house-made fishcake were decent and satisfied standards. The crazy crispy prawn cracker was excessively oily, but it was incredibly delicious. The greasy qualities were all too easy to overlook considering just how delicious it was, and each crunchy bite was an earnest appeal to excuse the oiliness.⠀

The perfectly piquant prawn noodles are more than enough reason to justify the expenditure & visit to @oneprawnnco, and the fried fritters are the sublimely superb icing on the cake. Seriously, at just eight bucks plus GST for a greatest hits compilation, the Tasting Platter offers unprecedented return on your investment.

Decent prawn noodles are fairly common in Singapore, but Michelin Bib Gourmand ones are considerably rarer. If you’re looking for prawn noods so good it’s got the official nod for good food at great value, @oneprawnnco is the one. For a sample of all of One’s greatest hits, ordering the Supreme Prawn Noodles ($20+ service charge) is the way.⠀

The correct way to enjoy the supreme sapidity of the Supreme is to order your noodles dry. The vividly orange-red soup arrives to your table bubbling hot in a claypot. The goodies of a trio of prawns, house made prawn balls, pork ribs, pork shabu shabu and clams are suspended within the soup, and the noodles are served in a separate bowl as it should be. Twenty bucks is a big ask for prawn noodles, but One Prawn & Co certainly do their best to make it worthwhile with the quantity and quality of the clams, pork & prawns. Both types of seafood are fresh with the sweetness & texture to prove it, the pork ribs are so tender they jump off the bone, and the shabu shabu was thick enough to satisfy.⠀

However, the undisputed main attraction is that stunningly savoury prawn soup. Using more than eighteen KILOS of prawn heads daily to produce the soup, the soup is indecently prawn-y, umami and slightly sweet. The pork bones added into the boil give the prawn stock a luxurious body & a fatty, luscious mouthfeel. Every sip of this screaming hot prawn star is a blast of concentrated, salty prawn-y goodness. This stellar shellfish stock empowers everything else with its fabulous flavours, and you can’t stop and won’t stop drinking it’s briny brilliance.⠀

Fortunately for you and I, One Prawn & Co offer unlimited refills. Yessir, unlimited refills, and unlimited satisfaction. Get your bibs out for this Bib Gourmand prawn star, ‘cause this is absolutely gorgeous.

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As odd as it may sound, I preferred Chuan Wei Xuan’s stellar Sichuan Fish with Pickled Mustard Greens ($24.90++) to the more popular mala fish. While the Mala fish is nice & spicy, I find the complexity of the pickled mustard greens far more intriguing.⠀

As you might expect of pickled mustard, it’s equally sour & salty, almost like a more intense pickle. The sour & salty mix thoroughly flavours the soup, as well as the mild tasting fish fillets. Sour & fish might not sound like the best combo, but balance that out with a good hit of salinity and it’s perfect. There’s something about a dish that’s salty & sour that compels you to devour it, and this Sichuan Fish definitely will compel you to finish it with relish.⠀

The soft, delicate slices of fish are backed up by sliced mushrooms and chunks of mustard greens, and the best way to savour this is to have everything all at once. Fish, broth, pickled mustard greens and shrooms combine excellently to form a savoury symphony of fab flavours. Sichuan may be known for its spice, but its tangy elements rightfully deserve some love too.

Popcorn chicken is good, but it can be better. That’s right, Chuan Wei Xuan has taken the bite sized deep fried chicken snack and made it even better. The Sichuan Spicy Popcorn Chicken ($18.90++) turns the heat up to eleven, along with your satisfaction.⠀

Little shreds of chicken are battered and deep fried along with a whole lotta Sichuan chili peppers. Surprisingly, it isn’t overwhelmingly spicy, instead possessing a mild yet insistent heat. Most of the chili is expressed through its pungent & peppery aroma, meaning that you smell the heat as opposed to having it burn your tongue. Just as well, as you’re able to taste & appreciate the mastery required to avoid overcooking the tiny bits of chicken, and to savour the chicken, groundnuts, Sichuan chilies & garlic all coming together in the hot oil.⠀

While your money could arguably be better spent on larger, more substantial dishes, there’s no denying that this hot little number is straight poppin’.

If you didn’t have fish while dining at a Sichuan restaurant, did you even have any Sichuan food? Fish in a spicy and sour broth is a cornerstone of Sichuan cuisine, and Chuan Wei Xuan’s Fish Filet in Hot Chili Oil ($24.90++) is a solid ass cornerstone.⠀

The chili oil isn’t purely chili oil. Instead, it’s a chili oil powered sour broth similar to a tom yum, but oilier and spicier. The supple boneless fish filets floating in the spicy broth have hoovered up an incredible amount of spice & sapidity from the chili broth, and each bite of fish is absolutely bursting with spicy, feisty peppery notes. The inexplicably addictive spicy soup is bulked up by the inclusion of tofu slices & glass noodles, giving you more excuses to experience pain & pleasure from this savoury soup.⠀

Spicy, peppery, tongue numbing and supremely satisfying, Chuan Wei Xuan’s Fish Filet in Chili Oil is simply irresistible.

The Sichuan Spicy Garlic Sauce With Boiled Pork ($13.90) seems to be utilising the same chili at first glance. However, the spicy sauce is notably less violent than the chicken, and seems to be more sour. I reckon they took that same chili and added more vinegar to it, and served it with the poached pork belly slices. The pork belly had most of the porky odours boiled out of it, and as expected of boiled meat, it’s kinda tasteless. Thus, thoroughly bathing each slice in the chili is a must before consumption. ⠀

While the pork is decent it its own right, I much preferred the stellar chicken with its painfully addictive chili sauce/oil. Now, thanks to this restaurant, I’m starting to understand how some people feel pleasure with pain.

I’m not big on Sichuan cuisine, but I always look forward to a visit to Chuan Wei Xuan. Their absurdly appetising 口水鸡 (Steamed Chicken with Chili Sauce, $13.90++) ignited my desire for spicy Sichuan cuisine, and it’s always on my table along with a bowl of rice every single time.⠀

This 口水鸡 lives up to its literal translation of saliva chicken, as this poached chicken dish is guaranteed to get your mouth waterworks going. The chili oil scintillatingly spicy, and it hurts so good. The chili oil is gloriously garlicky and stunningly sapid, slightly sour and numbing, thanks to the abundance of Sichuan peppers used in the cooking of this dish. The chilled chicken is remarkably tender, with porcelain, supple skin, and the chicken acts as a sponge to soak up the violently spicy yet supremely savoury chili sauce. It’ll hurt you and you will love it, believe me.

Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol. Insta: @okwhotookmyusername

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