Otah 60 cents
Our hawker food is constantly evolving. In our current environment, some dishes are doing well while others are languishing. In 2010, I published "The End of Char Kway Teow" and briefly alluded to Char Kway Teow as one of those dishes which I fear may continue on its downward path toward mediocrity. Other dishes like Bak Kut Teh, Chicken Rice, Cze Char and Prawn Noodles will continue to do well. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but I think the primary one is that of simple economics. People are willing to pay $6-$8 for Bak Kut Teh but not for Char Kway Teow and you can serve other side dishes with Bak Kut Teh which makes it much more attractive for any enterprising hawkerpreneur to take on.
Then, there is the category of foods like Otah, Satay, Chwee Kueh, Bak Chang which are foods that can be prepared in a central kitchen and sold at stalls at the hawker centres without too much expertise in the preparation. Over the years, these foods underwent consolidation such that the better ones have expanded to central kitchens while the less popular ones have simply closed because of many of these products are labour intensive and it is only by mass production that the seller can generate enough volume to make money.
One of the besetting problems of such expansion is often the loss of the artisanal quality of the food. Unfortunately, human beings have yet to build machines which can fully replace himself so although some tasks can be fully automated, there remains some things that can only be done properly by human hands. This is where tradeoffs between efficiency and quality are made. Should we accept a lower quality, machine made process or favor quality over efficiency and still do it by hand?
I am glad that some companies like Lee Wee & Brothers still place quality over efficiency in their products. In a recent visit to their central kitchen, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of their commitment of producing otah which remains true to their mum's traditional recipe.
Lee Wee was telling me that they had tried to fully automate the whole otah making process but there were somethings that still needed the human touch. They had tried using a machine to peel onions but found that it was less than desirable, so they had to revert back to Aunty power. The process of mixing the rempah into the fish meat is also done by hand after they found that they couldn't quite get the texture they wanted with the machine mixer.
The three brothers are still very much involved in the daily production of the otah. The rempah in particular is made only by themselves in order to keep the recipe a secret as well as to ensure its consistency. Even things like the cutting of the lemongrass is still done by one of the brothers because they want to ensure that only the tender inner stems are used in their otah.
Lee Wee & Bro Otah (top) 60 cents, Another brand of otah 50 cents (bottom)
I have to admit that I had not tasted Lee Wee & Bros otah prior to my invitation to visit their factory. I had always walked past their stalls in the food centres and assumed that they were mass produced stuff that were not worth the calories. Having tasted their otah at the factory, I decided to compare theirs to the more "generic" otahs which are commonly available elsewhere.
A lot of people have commented that 60 cents is a little expensive for their otah. However, I think it is only fair if we based our judgement on the quality of the otah vis a vis the cheaper alternatives. The normal otah that I often buy is usually quite spongy and after grilling I often notice that there is a layer of "skin" around it. At the factory, I learnt that they only use Batang fish which has been chopped roughly for their otah and I also noted that the amount of fish to the rempah was quite generous. As you can see from the photo, the fish meat is quite discernible in the Lee Wee otah as compared to the competition. The texture and bite of the otah is also superior as you can there is a nice contrast between the fish and the paste whereas the other otah is quite homogenous. The flavour and aroma of the freshly prepared spices in the Otah is also quite distinct. 4.5/5
Mum, Lee Wee & Brothers
With rising manpower costs and increasing prices of raw materials, the pressure is for producers to compromise on quality in favour of efficiency. It is good to know that there are families like Lee Wee and brothers who are still passionately working hard at preserving tradition! Although the Otah is a slightly more expensive, the difference in quality is quite obvious.
Lee Wee & Bros' Foodstuff
42 Lor 1 Realty Park
Various outlets throughout Singapore
Assam Fish Head $15 (half) promo price
You know what makes Malaysian Cze Char different from Singapore Cze Char? You might find this question a little superfluous, but there is a reason why I ask. Most of the Cze Char dishes in Singapore are cooked by Malaysian Chefs, so you would think that it should taste very much the same. But everyone knows that the food still tastes different across the causeway. So what gives?
Crab with Korean Tang Hoon $23 for two 400-500g Sri Lankan Crab (promo price)
Well, the most obvious reason is that their ingredients and sauces are different from ours. Ingredients like Malaysian pork are not available in Singapore which is why some people insist that Malaysian Char Siew is much better than Singapore's. Our two countries also tend to use local soy sauces such that you can't really make a good KL Hokkien mee here unless you import the stuff from Malaysia.
Salted Egg Crabs $23 for two 400-500g crabs
Although a lot of Singaporeans feel that food is better across the causeway, not many realize that one important aspect to take note of is the issue of food safety. The food in Singapore is more regulated than that of Malaysia. So Kway Teow (rice noodles) in Penang has a much better texture than Singapore. The reason is because Singapore has banned the use of borax in the manufacture of Kway Teow because of the risk of cancer. As a result, our Kway Teow is flaccid compared to that of Penang. Farmers in Malaysia also tell me that some of the veggies that are served in Malaysia will never be allowed to be imported to Singapore because of the levels of pesticide used. Singapore also regulates and limits the power of the gas burners. So in Malaysia, it is not uncommon to see them frying stuff in a wok with the flames enveloping the entire wok. That is not permitted here.
On a more positive note, Singapore Cze Char has access to a wider variety of ingredients from across the world. So, while most Cze Char in Malaysia uses mainly local crabs, Singaporeans have access to Sri Lankan crabs, Alaskan King Crabs, Dungeness crabs as well as ingredients from all over the world at the Cze Char Chef's disposal if he is creative enough to use them.
Salted Fish Pork Belly 咸鱼花腩锅 ($15)
Many of the dishes we get here are imported from Malaysia. Stuff like Chao Tar Bee Hoon and Salted Egg Crabs were popular in Malaysia and brought over to Singapore by the Malaysian chefs. However, there are still many dishes which are popular in Malaysia that don't seem to have made it here yet. One such dish is 咸鱼花腩锅 (Hum Yu Fa Lang Pou - Salted Fish Pork Belly ). This is one of my must order dishes whenever I visit Malaysia. It is one of those dishes that make you want to order an extra bowl of rice!
It is getting very expensive to eat crabs in Singapore, which was what attracted me to Eastern House of Seafood. They are currently having a special promo where you pay $20 for two crabs. Each crab weighs around 400-500g, so that means you are getting 800g to 1 kg of crab for $20! That is excellent value since medium and large crabs are now going for $55-$60++. So being able to eat crabs for anything less than $40 is quite a bargain. For $20, the crabs far exceeded my expectations. They were meaty and sweet and the various sauces were very good. I wouldn't say that their black pepper sauce is as good as Eng Seng's, but it is better than a lot of other places and frankly, I am happier eating two small crabs here for $20 rather than having to spend much much more elsewhere. The salted egg crabs here are actually very good as are the Crabs with vermicelli. They use Korean tang hoon here so the texture is excellent. You need to add and extra $3 for these two dishes. 4.25/5
After a very satisfied first visit, I organized for another round of makan to try more of his dishes and specially ordered 咸鱼花腩锅. The owners are very friendly and accommodating and so I managed to eat my salted fish pork belly! It is their first attempt at it and turned out quite good but a bit more salted fish flavour would make it even better! 4/5 (You need to pre-order this dish)
Wok Grilled Sotong $20
There are a few signature dishes here which I would highly recommend. The first is the Assam Fish Head. It's $15 for half a head and it's fresh, tasty, cheap and good. 4.25/5
Their Wok Grilled Sotong is a must try. Everyone who ate it said it was excellent. This is quite a unique dish that is not one of those standard Cze Char dishes you find everywhere. The squid is first marinated overnight and then slowly bathed in a mixture of marinade and hot oil. The result is a tender sotong with a nice smokey flavour which tastes as if it were charcoal grilled, except that it's not! Everyone who had tried this dish loved it. 4.5/5
Tempura prawns with Si Ji Dou ($18)
The Singapore style tempura prawns here are also very good. The batter is flavoured with a bit of shrimp paste (Har Cheong) so it is crunchy and savoury and they use a good sized fresh Ang Kah prawns such that unlike a lot of cheap Japanese eateries, you can really sink your teeth into real prawn meat after the crunching through the crisp batter. The crisp Si Ji Dou is also an excellent idea which combines the apple like crunchiness of the Si Ji Dou with the deep fried crunch of the batter. The tempura platter also comes with a local style soy sauce dip just like what you get with tempura. 4.5/5
Dinosaur Pork Ribs $16
The Dinosaur Pork Ribs are also very good. These have been marinated overnight and steamed before being finished in a wok to give it a nice smokey flavour. The ribs are tender and the sauce has a unique smokey BBQ flavour. As shiok as eating baby back ribs but at half the price. 4.25/5
Pork Trotters Bee Hoon $8 (single portion)
If you are going there for lunch and don't have enough kakis to order a few dishes, then the pork trotters bee hoon would be a good one dish meal. They use canned pork trotters to cook the dish which is what is usually done. The bee hoon is well fried and it makes a very nice, satisfying meal by itself or as accompaniment to some of the other dishes here. 4/5
You know what the difference is between Cheap and Good vs Good and Cheap? Cheap and Good means you take a whole lot of Cheap places to eat and pick out the good ones. Good and Cheap means you take a whole lot of Good places to eat at and pick out the cheap ones. This Cze Char is Good and Cheap since I only like to blog about Good places. So in my whole list of Good places to go for Cze Char, this is the cheap one! This place is Good and Cheap! That's why it's currently the go-to place for Cze Char for myself and several of my kakis!
55 Chai Chee Drive
10.30am to 11pm daily
Today we pay tribute to the humble carrot cake. This is a dish which has its roots in Southern China where it started off as rice cakes. When it arrived in Singapore, the rice cake was fried with sweet black sauce which is a popular condiment in South East Asia. Then someone gave it a twist by adding adding radishes (white carrot in Chinese) to the rice cake and frying it sans the black sauce. That is, in a nutshell, how we came to have two versions of the dish!
Everyone has their own preferences. Some like it black, some like it white. Some can't decide and just order both. The more passionate hawkers still steam their own carrot cake which is quite a laborious process. However, as our pick of 5 popular stalls here shows, steaming your own carrot cake doesn't necessarily mean automatic success with the crowds. Two of the stalls featured here use commercially bought carrot cake but still manage to produce a tasty dish with their superior wok kungfu! Notwithstanding, my favourite stalls are still the ones which both steam their own cakes and fry them well. I am still hoping that in the future, some enterprising hawkerpreneur will set up a carrot cake "restaurant" where the cakes are steamed on the premise, using freshly milled rice from a stone mill and fried with plenty of smoke and passion!
Here I present five famous stalls which you can get some Carrot Cake satisfaction!
Fu Ming Carrot Cake
Fu Ming Carrot Cake is aptly named because when the uncle fries the carrot cake, the whole stall is literally "Fuming" with smoke! This is one of the few places where both white and black versions are good and the carrot cake is still made by hand on the premises!
Redhill Food Centre
Blk 85 Redhill Lane
12pm to 12am
Read the full review
Lau Goh Teochew Chye Thow Kway
Peter Goh's father was one of the pioneers of the white carrot cake and in it's heyday, he was the undisputed king of carrot cake. Nowadays, they don't steam their own carrot cake anymore but Peter employs a special trick to make his carrot cake distinct. He uses his hand to mash the carrot cake so that its craggy surface holds more chye poh and fish sauce! Peter is hearing impaired so regulars here use a combination of pointing and improvised sign language to order their dish!
Zion Riverside Food Centre
Stall 26, Singapore 247780
12pm to 2.30pm
6pm to 11pm
96745483 (SMS only)
Read the full review
Bukit Merah View Carrot Cake
This is the only stall left in Singapore which still uses a machine to grind rice to make into carrot cake! They tell me that this is the only way to ensure that rice of acceptable fragrance and quality is used. I am still hoping for more stalls in Singapore to resurrect the art of making their own carrot cake this way!
Bukit Merah View Food Centre
Blk 115 Bukit Merah View
7am to 2pm, 6pm to 1am daily
Read the full review
Chey Sua Carrot Cake
This is undoubtedly one of the most popular stalls in Singapore. They have been around for a long time and are still making their own carrot cake in small aluminum bowls. In our recent poll on facebook, this stall was recommended by the most number of people! If you are a self professed carrot cake lover but haven't eaten from Chey Sua yet, then you might as well go to Paris and not visit the Effiel Tower!
Chey Sua Carrot Cake
Toa Payoh Block 127 Food Centre
Open 6am till 1pm
Read the full review
Song Zhou Luo Bo Gao
This is another very popular stall amongst our facebook fans. The stall owner doesn't make his own carrot cake but makes it up with his superior frying skills! The black version is the one that they are famous for.
Bedok Interchange Food Centre
Blk 207 Upper Changi Road
6.30am to 8pm Daily
Read the full review
Mee Pok Tar $3
I get very excited when I come across a bowl of hawker food that is done with passion. I get even more excited when it is done by Gen Y hawkers AND doing it better than a lot of the more established stalls out there. It is conventional wisdom that our new generation hawkers can't be as good as the older ones. But I don't believe that it has to be so. With better ingredients, better technology and a more scientific approach to our hawker dishes, what is there to prevent a Gen Y hawker from making a better bowl of fishball noodles than their forebears? As far as I can see, the only thing that is holding them back is this very illogical Singaporean mentality of not wanting to pay a higher price for better quality hawker food while happily forking out the cash for the latest food fad.
Unless we can signal to Gen Y hawkers of our willingness to pay more for a better bowl of noodles, then there is no way that fishball noodles can evolve to the level of Ramen noodles. There is absolutely no reason why it shouldn't. After all, I have heard that the Japanese have visited Singapore to try and learn how we make our fish balls. Now, if we don't do it, soon they will be making a better bowl of fish ball noodles than us!
A few of our other hawker dishes like Prawn Mee and Bak Kut Teh have already paved the way of progress. These dishes have been able to break the typical $3 price ceiling of a hawker dish and their future is quite secure. Can fishball noodles do the same? Can it be elevated to a level where it can be exported overseas as a Singaporean dish much like how Sarawak Kolo Mee or Ipoh Hor Fun is now doing here? Or will fishball noodles continue to be regarded as a $3 dish with a uncertain future? What Gen Y hawker will be willing to continue to make their fishballs by hand unless there is prospects for them to own a Condo and a car and send their kids to pre-school?
My vision for the future of fishballs is a Ramen-ya concept where the noodles and fishballs are both made fresh on the premises. The technology to make excellent noodles in a small space is already available, thanks to the Japanese love for Ramen. I have attended Ramen classes at Eureka Cooking Labs and I can tell you that the machinery, the ingredients and the knowledge for making the perfect mee pok is already available in Singapore. What would it take for some enterprising hawkerpreneur to turn back the clock and resurrect the art of making of noodles with the same precision and passion of the Japanese? Won't you like to taste artisanal mee pok tar?
Joanne and Daniel
I am glad to have met Joanne and Daniel who share my vision. These two Gen Y graduates just happen to be fishball hawkerpreneurs. They wake up early to start making fish balls at Old Airport Road Food Centre at 4.30am in the morning! Over the next 3 hours, they will be beating the fish paste, hand molding the fish balls, as well as preparing the sambal chilli and the pork lard. By 7.30am, they are ready to present their bowl of mee pok tar!
This bowl of fishball noodles is easily one of the best I have eaten for quite a while. The fishballs and fishcake are excellent and have a quality about them that sets them apart from the rest. I was told that they use only pure fish meat without the addition of any flour in the preparation of the fish paste. The combination of the sambal chilli, vinegar and lard is just right. Not too spicy, not to sour but enough to bring out the taste of the noodles. The fishcakes are very very good. It's tender, bouncey and juicy with just the right amount of saltiness. 4.5/5
Is it perfect? By his own admission, no. Daniel feels that it can be better and more consistent. But that is going to require a central kitchen where he can better control every aspect of the fishball making process. He also feels that the noodles can be better but so far what he has is about the best that he can get from his supplier. He too feels that making his own noodles will be a big step towards that perfect bowl.
What this all means is that they cannot remain a single stall in a hawker centre. Indeed, they have already expanded to two stalls. One here at Old Airport Road and one in Redhill. The challenge is to be able to set up a central kitchen with several stalls across Singapore selling the noodles. That will be the only way to justify the cost of running a central kitchen. This seems to be the only way forward at the moment given the limiting factors of manpower and the perceived price ceiling of a bowl of fishball noodles. The challenge of having a few stalls run by workers will be the loss of that personal touch.
One possibility, and this is the one that I have been alluding to earlier in the article, is to open an artisanal fishball "Ramen-ya" like restaurant where each portion can be priced similar to that of a bowl of Ramen. This would mean that this couple can continue to prepare the dish themselves, everything from making the noodles and the fishballs to cooking and assembling the final dish. Of course, the higher price must be justified by easily perceivable quality and taste. I believe there will be a significant segment of Singaporeans who are discernible enough to support this, just as we have supported prawn mee and bak kut teh.
A very satisfying bowl of fishball noodles! With Gen Y hawkers like these, the future of fishball noodles is secure at least for another generation!
Joanna's father was the one who first started Ru Ji Kitchen (Blk 44 Holland Drive) over 10 years ago having learnt the skill from his brother who sells fishball noodles at Ghim Moh Food Centre. His passion for his fishballs was soon recognized and he was invited to represent Singapore overseas during Singapore Day celebrations. Joanna and Daniel started off by helping her dad with fried bee hoon in the stall next door before deciding to focus on fishballs.
Ru Ji Kitchen
Old Airport Road Food Centre
51 Old Airport Road
7.30am to 1pm
Sichuan Seafood Soup $3
There has been a proliferation of PRC food stalls over the past few years. Just walk along People's Park Centre and you will be able to see the changing landscape of the hawker centre there. However, I haven't written about any of them because I find the food a little too "authentic" for me. PRC food seems to have a peculiar flavour which I don't find enticing. I felt the same way during my trip to Kunming. I know that this is a broad generalization as there are many regional cuisines in China. Perhaps I would feel a little different if I went to Chaozhou or Xiamen where the Teochews and Hokkiens came from as the food there might be more familiar to a Singaporean palate.
Having said that, I have blogged about several stalls which are run by naturalized PRCs who sell excellent food. Shanghai Renjia and You Peng come to mind. I think that they have been here long enough to be able to tweak the dishes so that it is more suited to our local taste. You might feel that this robs the dishes of their authenticity, but I think it is a good thing as that was how our very own versions of wanton mee and char kway teow came about.
This stall is run by yet another naturalized PRC lady who is married to a chef from a very famous hotel (which I cannot mention) who specializes in local cuisine. What that means is that you are going to be presented with a dish which is relatively new to the local food scene but familiar at the same time as the flavours have been adjusted to suit the local palate. Not only that, but the dishes are also prepared using sound cooking techniques as directed by an experienced hotel chef!
If you are looking for a something new, spicy and shiok, then the Sichuan Seafood Soup will surely hit the spot. This is best described as the usual Seafood soup which has been spiced up with Sichuan Mala soup base. However, the flavours have been moderated somewhat so it isn't unbearably spicy although it still packs quite a punch. This stall sells prawn mee as well as other soup dishes and using its prawn stock as the base for the soup. The flavour is sweet, well rounded and accented with the heat and palate numbing quality of Sichuan peppers. Shiok is the probably the best way to describe it. 4.5/5
Zha Jiang Mian $4
Detractors might comment straightaway that this doesn't look like a bowl of authentic Zha Jiang Mian as it shouldn't come with the prawn and the fried fish. Well, if you want to the original Zha Jiang Mian, it's very simple. Just ask for the $3 portion and they will give it to you sans fried fish and prawns. I, on the other hand would rather pay the extra $1 to get all the extra ingredients which I feel add a bit more excitement to the dish.
The meat sauce is very good. I managed to speak to the Chef (husband) who was at the stall that day. He explained to me that a lot of places don't do the meat sauce properly which result in the meat being dry. (Yes, the minced meat in a sauce can get dry!) In order to make sure that the meat is still moist, it needs to be marinated first before cooking. The sauce is a little dull until you mix it with the chilli, noodles and thinly sliced cucumber, then the whole dish becomes rather lively with a nice contrast between the crunchy chilled cucumber, the zing of the chilli, the sweet and savoury meat sauce and the satisfying chew of the noodles. 4.25/5
Singapore hawker food is constantly evolving. As ethnic dishes from other regions of China get modified to suit the local palate, it will slowly become accepted as local hawker food. This means we get to try something novel, yet familiar at hawker prices! If you are looking to put some zing to your dreary workday, the Sichuan Seafood Soup will surely shock your tastebuds out of its slumber and raise some of the hairs on your head!
50 Noodle Stall
50 Serangoon North Ave 4
#01-30, First Centre
9am to 5pm
Wow, time flies! This is the sixth year we are running TGIF and it gets better and better every year! This year we managed to book the Grand Pavilion Restaurant which is a new Cantonese restaurant that took over the premises of My Humble House at the Esplanade and instead of the usual buffet lunch with paper plates, we are going to have a nice sit down lunch with proper chinaware!
There are quite a few christians in our ieatishootipost community and this is the one time of the year that we take the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with everyone. So this is an open invitation to anyone who is interested in finding out more about Jesus Christ and how He can be a powerful force of transformation in your life. We have invited Jabez Tan to share his life journey from being a gangster and drug trafficker to prisoner to successful hawkerpreneur and I will also be sharing a message about Good Friday. Feel free to bring the whole family along as we will also have a parallel program for the kids!
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free," Luke 4:18
This Easter, you too can experience the freedom that Jesus promised!
To register, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Shirley at 97946034.
See you there!
Black Chicken Soup $25
If you have been to Sik Wai Sin recently and felt the the food tasted a little different, there is a good reason for it. Desmond, one of the two brothers who used to helm the wok over at Sik Wai Sin has left to opened his own place up the road!
Those of you who are familiar with the dishes at Sik Wai Sin would know that they serve a very limited menu which can be divided into either steamed or wok fried dishes. Desmond used to cook the wok dishes whiles Steve was in charge of the steamer. Desmond tells me that he had always wanted to open his own place and this new place has the full support of his family.
Tofu Prawn (large) $25
I had eaten here when the restaurant was just opened earlier in the year. But at that time, Desmond was still breaking in his new kitchen and had tried to make his dishes more healthy by using less salt and oil. The dishes at the time were a shadow of what he used to serve up in Sik Wai Sin. A few months down the road and Desmond is now very much in command of his new wok. His gas burners are now pushing out twice the amount of heat compared to his old place which means that he can really up the wok hei (smoky wok aroma) of his dishes. Because all the old customers have commented that they wanted the dishes he used to serve at Sik Wai Sin, he has decided to forgo the healthier option and give his old customers what they want. That's not good if you are health conscious but great if you want to eat something shiok!
There are a few dishes which I specifically go for whenever I come here and the Tofu prawns is one of them. This dish is a must have and is guaranteed to make you eat an extra bowl of rice. Yes, it is salty and oily but it's just so good! 4/5/5
Kailan with Beef (large) $25
There are only 13 dishes on the menu and they are all meant to be eaten with rice. The limited items mean that they can really focus on getting good produce and cut down on wastage. This is one of the factors that sets Sik Bao Sin apart from a lot of other Cze Char out there. You will notice that the dishes here are a little pricier than your garden variety Cze Char but with good reason. The kai lan they use here are the cream of the crop and they are tender, crunchy and sweet. The other factor that sets it apart is that it is one of the very few Cze Char where the dishes are prepared by a Singaporean chef owner. As you probably realize by now, most Cze Char places hire Malaysian Chefs to cook, so finding a real Singaporean Wok Star is a rarity. All this means that each dish is personally prepared with care using the best ingredients which is why it would be unfair to compare their prices with your normal Cze Char.
The kai lan with beef is the "must order" dish there, if only to get a good whiff of the wok hei which registers a 9 out of 10 on the Wok Hei scale. The alluring scent of this increasingly rare quality in wok fried dishes is worth every dollar and minute spent! The aroma is so thick that you can smell it from where you are are seated! 4.25
The only thing that really bugs me about the dish is the quality of the beef which can be inconsistent. They are still using beef knuckle and cutting it by hand and they don't use any bicarbonate to tenderize it. So, on some occasions, it can be a little tough. I am still trying to persuade Desmond to try using US Angus karubi chips instead which I am sure will propel this dish to the 4.75 range!
Sweet and Sour Pork (large) $25
Sweet and sour pork has become such an ubiquitous dish that lots of Cze Char places serve it rather dispassionately. Indeed, this dish, which probably ranks as one of the top ten favourite dishes has been relegated to that of a commodity. I have eaten one at a famous cze char place recently that tasted as if it was just scooped out of the bain marie of an economic rice stall! While it is good that you can buy this at almost every economic rice stall in Singapore, it does mean that the status of the dish has been demoted to that of the hum drum.
Thankfully, Desmond still takes pride in this classic Cantonese dish and every plate is prepared ala minute. What results is a pork which is crunchy on the outside but still steaming hot and juicy on the inside. Desmond tells me that he has tweaked the sweet and sour sauce a little from the old place and so far the feedback has been good from the old customers, myself included. 4.25/5
Steamed Pork with Salted Fish $14
Opening his own place has meant that Desmond has to take charge of the steaming station which was previously the job of his older brother, Steve. He has hired and trained another cook to look after this, but it is still very much under his supervision.
The steamed pork is a good example of what I mean by food that is prepared with passion. The pork is still being chopped by hand such that it has a bouncy and firm texture which is very different from a lot of other places that serves this dish which uses ready ground pork tends to be mushy. The slice of salted mackerel is generous and is great with rice. 4.25/5
Steamed Fish Head $25
The other steamed dish which is famous here is the steamed song fish head (fresh water carp). This photo was taken earlier in the year when they just started and the new cook forgot to add the generous handful of pork lard. So the fish was fresh but the sauce lacked something. I didn't order it the second time I was there so I can't give you an update except to say that we saw all the other tables ordering it, so I expect that like all the rest of the dishes here, it should be like what it was in the old place.
Excellent old school Cantonese style dishes that is perfect to eat with rice. Unlike a lot of other Cze Char places, the Singaporean chef/owner actually cooks all the dishes himself! That does mean that the waiting time can be a little longer than usual but it also means that you can be assured that each dish is cooked with great care. If you have forgotten what a good Wok Hei smells like, the fried Kai Lan will surely jolt it out of your temporal lobes.
Sik Bao Sin (Desmond's Creations)
592 Geylang Road
(Between Lor 34 and 36)
11.45am to 2.30pm
5.45pm to 9.30pm