Fatty Cheong's Char Siew: To get good Charsiew, you need to know a little pig anatomy!

With Wahcow, Taukwa and Liverpool

"Bu Jian Tian" Charsiew

Our Kakis have been raving about Meng Kee Charsiew which Wahcow brought back from KL and were lamenting why we can't get Charsiew which is as good here. The main characteristic of Meng Kee's Charsiew is that it is really fatty and they managed to roast it till the fats just melts in your mouth, so you really get a great flavourful and tender Charsiew. But Singaporeans tend to be more health conscious, so many of the stalls here sell very lean Charsiew.

According to Wahcow, the lean charsiew from Meng Kee tasted as ordinary as the Charsiew we have here. So, he felt that if we could get someone here to roast a more marbled piece of pork, we might be able to have a delicious Charsiew without having travel all the way to KL.

I immdiately thought of Fatty Cheong and called him to see if he could do for us a no holds barred Charsiew using the best cut of pork that he could get his hands on.


Closeup view of "Bu Jian Tian" cut

Now, Charsiew is not made from one specific part of the pig. It is not like Sio Bak (Roast Pork) where you have to use Belly Pork. So in order to have a really satisfying Char Siew experience, you need to know some basic pig anatomy.

Most Charsiew is made from Pork Shoulder which is the part just behind the neck. In Singapore this part of the meat is commonly known as Wu Hua Rou (five flower/pattern pork). But it is not so straightforward. For some people (especially the Cantonese), Wu Hua Rou actually refers to Belly Pork. Their explanation is that there are five layers of meat and fat in Belly Pork.

After searching through the internet and also talking to the local butchers here, I have come to the conclusion that Wu Hua Rou refers to Pork which has a significant amount of fat and can refer to belly, shoulder or collar. I think it is called five pattern not because there are five layers of meat and fat but because when you look at the cross section of the meat, the white of the fats vaguely resembles the ancient Chinese character "five".

At any rate, Pork Belly has more than five layers. There are three layers of muscle and three layers of fat plus the skin. So it is actually seven layers, not five. We Teochews refer to this cut as Sar Cham Bak (3 layer pork) which refers to the three layers of muscle. For students of anatomy, these refer to the external and internal oblique, and transversus abdominis muscles. Yes, our anatomy is quite similar to pigs and especially so if you eat a lot and don't excercise.

According to Fatty Cheong, the most prized Charsiew is from the "pig armpit" which is also known as "Bu Jian Tian" (Never sees the sky). Technically, this is the part between the shoulder and belly and so the meat is nicely layered like belly meat. The meat here is tender and springy at the same time and really full of flavour.


Pork Shoulder Charsiew

For those who are more health conscious, the pork shoulder is leaner, but it depends on how the meat is cut. Shoulder and collar have more fats than other parts of the pig, but depending on how it is cut, you will be able to get a lean piece of Charsiew. I find the lean cuts a little too dry, but for our resident metrosexual, Taukwa, this is his preferred cut for everyday eating, but he admits that the "Bu Jian Tian" is much tastier.


Really fatty Charsiew

It might be shocking, but there are some people who actually request for Charsiew which is essentially fats with a sliver of meat in it. According to Fatty Cheong, these tend to be men of the baby boomer generation. We all felt it was just too rich and not something we would dare to order again.

Fatty Cheong's "Bu Jian Tian" was excellent. I had almost the same level of excitement as when I ate my first piece of Meng Kee's Charsiew. There are two points of difference however. Fatty Cheong doesn't make his Charsiew as charred as Meng Kee's because most Singaporeans do not like to eat too much of the charred bits, and he uses Brazilian pork which he himself admits is not as great as Malaysian pork. Unfortunately, Malaysian pork is still banned in Singapore, so we won't be able to do a proper comparison. Meng Kee's scores a 4.75 for me and Fatty Cheong's scores a 4.6/5, but we all felt that it is still the best one we have come across in Singapore.

Oh btw, there has been discussions in our forum that there is a even better Charsiew which is a stone's throw away from Meng Kee's called Overseas Restaurant. If you are in KL, you might want to check it out.

Conclusion

Fatty's Cheong's "Bu Jian Tian" is best Charsiew we have had in Singapore so far. Unfortunately, the Charsiew across the border just has that little extra ommph that can't be found here.

For more pictures of Meng Kee Charsiew check out PChong's blog entry here.

Fatty Cheong
ABC Brickworks Food Centre
6 Jln Bukit Merah #01-120 (near POSB ATM)
Open 11am till about 8.30pm
Closed Thursdays
98824849, 94281983

*Eating excessive amounts of fat can be detrimental to your health especially if you suffer from chronic conditions such as high cholesterol and heart disease. So please eat in moderation and avoid altogether if you are under medical advise to avoid eating fats.

58 comments:

taukwa said...

I am definitely not a fan of fatty char siew but I must say that Bu Jian Tian is really very good. So good that I ate another piece instead of only 1 as challenged by the other 3 gentlemen.

The lean shoulder char siew is more my cup of tea.

Of course, the really fatty one didn't find its way onto my plate.

P. Chong said...

wow, what timing...I just wrote a blog post on Meng Kee...to be published tonight. Will put up link when the article is online later.

Will drop by and order some Bu Jian Tian for lunch today.

ieat said...

Great, then I can link your blog post on Meng Kee too!

Constance Chan said...

that's very informating. i love char siew too and at home sometimes make our own. ya the leaner ones don't taste as yummy. Malaysian pork also tastes different somehow.. but at home sometimes some ppl don't roast it but use wok to fry.. results also different.

Constance Chan said...

oops i meant 'informative' lol

Anonymous said...

AVA should investigate whether Wahcow is allowed to bring in Char Siew into Singapore from Meng Kee in KL, Malaysia. I thot pork is not allowed into Singapore from Malaysia.

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

Anon, the M'sia pork ban refers to trading purposes (= LARGE quantities) and frankly, raw meat is more dangerous than cooked ones.

back to charsiew.

i was unlucky to have missed Meng Kee when i was in KL the last time but my frd drove me to a roastmeat spot in Cheras where the queue was never-ending and the food has quite a standard. we were given the choice of lean/half-lean/fatty charsiew and my half-lean was quite fatty to s'pore standards. nevertheless, i know my arteries would forgive me as it's OUT OF THE WORLD. the world of s'pore, that is. no fatty stench of pork despite that translucent layer of "jade" looking right at me, and you all peeps are right, the caramelised top was both smokey and well, caramelised. no hint of those scary sneaky red coloring!

their roast duck and roast pork was great too though i'd much prefer the duck to be "smokier". roast pork was fresh and it's crackling fantastically crispy. so all in all, it was a great meal. and that's in Cheras only!

in the next morning, my breakfast of wanton mee (nameless stall) in the back alley of Petaling Street also beat 90% local hawker standards. charsiew made in Meng Kee-Cheras style (not as fatty and as nice), wanton has those old school fragrance (abit garlicky, remember?) though a tad fatty and fried chopped garlic and oil on top of the noodles and that dark sticky soy sauce? oh my, all for RM$3.50 for a small serving, $5 for large. i had small and it was good enough.

my frd is a KL-ian and from her, there're many great places for chow out of those famous ones. my, i'm drooling already.....

there should be a makan session trip made to KL to uncover those little-known chow greats. heh.

singaporeshortstories.blogspot.com said...

I tried the food before.

The food is good!

ieat said...

Well Fresh Fry, make sure you are checking out the forum, because a KL trip is possibly in the works sometime this year.

dramaqueen said...

我喜欢肥而不腻的叉烧

wahcow said...

mooohahahah....the pork was checked from left to right and then up and down at the customs...

indeed the KL char siew had something special and if fatty cheong is correct.... its the type of pork used.

but hey, cheong's char siew is already among the top 3 in singapore i was pleasantly surprised how spontaneous he and ieat is about the experiment.....

fresh fry !! let us know which is the address for the cheras char siew....sounds damn good man

fatty streaks of pork, eat at your own risk....moooohahhahaha

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

ieat

will sure keep me eyes PEELED for your notice! =)))

wahcow

no probs! am now waiting for my frd to return from her company trip then ask her for the addy. but the fear i have now is, SHE ONLY KNOWS HOW TO GO. u know lah, alot people like tat one.....

me blog entry on my KL trip (sorry, dunno how to link into the words)

http://talesofasmallfry.blogspot.com/2008/09/kl-nom-nom-pictures.html

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

oh, and the bak kut teh from Klang. a certain fishhead steamed with tofu, very tok-gong wok-hei filled black noodles (noodles cant be found in s'pore), and the BBQ chicken wings in Jln Alor? oh my my.....i missed all of these (my friend planned all these for me) 'cos i fell ill in that trip on the 3rd day..... T__T

liverpool1965 said...

hmmm haven't tried kay lee that ieat blogged before...must go try after reading pchong's post...cheras? give me the directions!

Anonymous said...

Will check with AVA whether can bring in char siew and siow bak from JB, since I vsist JB often.

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

dear KL (food) lovers,

nah nah nah, don't say don't have, I GOT THE ADDY LIAO! nicked it from the Net. and i've checked the pictures, it's the one i'd been to! DROOL!

http://juliansi.blogspot.com/2007/05/roast-duck-at-sun-ming-cheras.html

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

the signboard was changed but i recognised the uniform, they all wear pastel blue polos with the store name. there are 2 servers, 1 to take drink order, 1 to take food. their barley water was home-cooked leh! they sell steamed soups too, in ceramic bowls that kind? i've seen many people eating that. oh, i heard from my friend that the sour preserved veggie was great too, but me wanton mee breakkie was still swimming so i had to give many a miss.

behind this store, which is at the front row facing the main roads, you turn in to kinda kopitiam place and you'll see many people tucking into bak kut teh. not sure how it's like 'cos i was too full after the meal.

jems said...

wow. Didn't know there are so many char siew fanatics. I like lean char siew so the shoulder cut will definitely work out better for me :)

tj han said...

So we can just go to the Fatty Cheong's stall and order the BJT cut of charsiew now?

Anonymous said...

You can't just get a chef to do what you want and expect it to be perfect. They're best at what they do. That char siew looked too 'uncooked'. Are you sure it's really delicious?

Holy Drummer said...

I'm not a fan of char siew, honestly. But the one Wahcow brought back from Meng Kee in KL really brought me down to my knees...

I stick to my sio bak when in SG, but next time when I'm in KL I will SPAM char siew. Death by char siew!

liverpool1965 said...

holydrummer, try Fatty Cheong's yet?...the 3 version were good! :)

Anonymous said...

Leslie, there is a SAO LA stall at Tampines Blk 409. The owner is a cantonese. His food is cantonese aka restaurant standard. I believe you will like his char siew. While you're there, you can try his roast duck, his pork belly or his bbq chicken thigh. I love all of his SAO LA a lot but he uses a lot of msg i must warn first.

Go in the morning if you want to eat fresh. Coz he roast quite early so by lunch time it's not as good liao.

Cool Insider said...

Looks yummy and something that will go straight off to my tummy - and arteries I suppose. Nothing compares to a great pork roast. ;)

ieat said...

Hi tjhan, yes, actually his BJT charsiew has always been on the menu. You just have to specifically ask for it.

Anonymous, the only way to know if it is delicious is to go down and try it yourself.

scboy said...

I went to Fatty Cheong today and have Char Siew rice (actually, Char Siew / Roast Pork combo rice).

Char Siew was good. Definitely one of the better one i have tried. The only other place which I think is as good is probably Kay Lee @ Paya Lebar. Between the two, i would probably go for Kay Lee, simply because it has an after taste. It's a 51/49 situation so very tight.

The best Char Siew I have ever tried is in HK, at the Chinese Restauarnat at New World Rensssance (new world?) Hotel @ Wanchi (next to Grand Hyatt). Local business partners brought me there for dinner and said that Renaissance serves one of the best Char Siew in HK.

Roast Pork - I am a big fan of roast pork and i have to say Fatty Cheong's is ok (only). The best roast pork i have tried in Singapore is at Philips Streeet at Raffles Place. For those of you who works at Raffles place, you should know where this is. It's opposite the ex-abn amro office, opposite the temple. Simply the best Roast Pork i have tried anywhere, in Sydney, Melbourne (where there are lots of HK-er), and even in HK.

ieat said...

Hi Anon, can you let us know which stall this Roast Pork is? With such a recommendation, I surely need to go try it myself.

khim said...

e pork shoulder charsiew looks very tempting. it's e kind of charsiew my mum & me will like!! dad will prefer something like e really fatty charsiew!!

sumosumo said...

fresh fry - are u a friend of juliansi's?

if u look around hard enough on his blog, u will find his eating exploits with me in singapore, and also when i went to visit him in KL..

Anonymous said...

Hi there, actually i also want to introduce the charsiew near my house. it at blk 214 coffe shop, feel feel to go try. it about the same taste as this. the roast duck from that stall is also damn nice n crispy

Anonymous said...

sorry forgot to put the address. it at serangoon ave 4 blk 214

Damien said...

The roast pork scboy recommended is located at the coffeeshop next to Saybons at Philip St.

rn said...

I went up to Fatty and told him "give me the fattest char siew you have" and that just melted in my mouth.

ieat said...

Haha, careful you don't eat too much or you end up looking like him!

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

hi sumosumo,

i'm not a frd of juliansi, just nicked his blog link 'cos his explanation of the Cheras stall location is very good, just so S'pore's KL food lovers can use. when my frd drove me to tat stall, i just remember that there are different exits to make before we can go into that road. rather confusing.

scboy said...

I went to eat this again on Sunday afternoon. The difference is this time round, I tried the fatty part, or the bu jian tian. I have to say, it's probably 'the' best char siew i have tried in Singapore.

I never knew that there could be such a big difference in taste between the lean part vs the fatty part. I was totally blown away by it and it tasted so good that I ordered another plate, but this round char siew noodle instead..

The next time i visit HK, i will definitely try it again @ Renaissance Hotel (the best char siew i've had anywhere) and compare it again. I suspect the char siew tasted so good at Renessance, could be due to the fatty part served.

As a result of the 2 plates of Char Siew rice / noodle, I was so contended and happy (and also because I worked very late on Sat night) that I had a super long nap, from 4pm in the afternoon on Sunday, all the way till 7am on Monday (well, i did wake up at 11pm for a toilet break and shower, before i went back to sleep again). :-)

ieat said...

Hahaha! So eating Bu Jian Tian caused you to Bu Jian Tian!

Anonymous said...

overseas restaurant charsiew is really really good. when we went berjaya times square for church camp, we had to order in advance for the char siew, but it was worth every cent

Anonymous said...

I am delighted to disclose that i tried fatty cheong's lean char siew rice a few weeks back.I simply adore and cannot forget the roast flavour.Even now i have the urge to return to the hawker centre just for another feast.It was the first time i experienced char siew that had that bbq taste.It was as if the meat never left the roasting pit.It is currently my favourite stall.I urge pork lovers to try his char siew as soon as possible.It is "tandoori pork" at hawker prices.

Speaking of tandoori meat,i ate @ SOFRA, the turkish restaurant @ Shaw Leisure Gallery today.The Shish Kebab dish i ordered was heavenly.The chicken breast(one can choose the lamb and meat option) cubes were lightly yet deliciously marinated.The sides were nice contrasting artworks.The soft,mushy tomato sauce and herb-based rice that was studded with chickpeas complemented the crunchy(pan-fried i believe)caramelised onions and greens tossed in what i reckon are light tangy dressing and olive oil well.The flavours were mostly subtle and yet the natural ingredients and herbs used titillated the tastebuds.If you like italian or middle eastern food and do not want to get sweaty and smokey roasting your own meat,give this place a try.I was assured that the restaurant serves authentic turkish cuisine.I feel the food was reasonably priced(about $17 after factoring in GST and service charge),healthy and delicious.

Julian Si said...

Slurrrp Charsiew :-)

This is ... Juliansi!

wahcow said...

back at fatty cheong today with some friends.....ieat told me he has a new roast rib kind of thing....so have to go down and try lor

its supposed to be spicy char siew style ribs....not so spicy for me...fatty cheong explains he has to make it suitable for children....not bad at all....finger licking good lah....but would be better if he uses bigger ribs.

STILL !!! the best thing is fatty cheong's bu jian tian char siew. It is damn power...this time even better because it was hot right out of the roasting pit...perfect timing !

think 5 of us finish 3 plates of the bu jian tian....even the most health conscious ones among us find it hard to resist......moohahahahahahha

ieat said...

Health conscious? You don't mean our man Taukwa do you?

liverpool1965 said...

what's the right time to go wahcow?

wahcow said...

no lah...taukwa going to KL to enjoy the char siew of meng kee and overseas restaurant liao.....

best time to go ? .....actually dun have cos he makes when he finishes selling the batch before....guess i was really lucky.

Towkay said...

Being a fellow doctor, I am intrigued by the bu jian tian cut! As best as I can tell, it roughly corresponds to the pork breast cut (one of the newer non-traditional cuts like the flatiron), which seems to be a layered composite of the pectoralis major and minor muscles, with perhaps some small portion of the serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi. these are well exercised muscles especially in a quadraped, so in addition to the fat, part of the taste must be due to the higher myoglobin content.

cactuskit said...

Wah.... no wonder you towkay.... Need to get a medical journal to understand your thesis. ; )

Need to make a trip there or Les wouldn't stop making fun of me saying I'm not a true foodie when I haven't tasted the food here. : )

ieat said...

I am amazed you still remember your anatomy so well Towkay!

Towkay said...

hahaha, that went waaay back.

When I googled the pork breast cuts, the cross-sections look exactly like the good hong kong char siew that I have eaten. HOWEVER, i think the dry lean traditional cut that we grew up with is the tenderloin (scientific name: iliopsoas) instead of the shoulder, simply because there is no other muscle that can be butchered to give those long strips you see hanging at the roast meat stalls. It is way too lean to give a proper crust, and i know before our taste buds were corrupted by the hong kong influence, that many char siew makers simply boil the meat with some red dye (shudder).


Unless.... next time you speak to the fatty cheong, can you ask if he butterflies the bu jian tian to make a long strip? also how does the pork from brazil come? in retail cuts? primal cuts or whole sides? I suspect they come in primal, and the wholesaler or butcher cuts the pecs out of the ventral portion of the shoulder primal cuts. If so, it shouldn't be too hard to request this at the butcher.

ieat said...

I am not sure if they use the iliopsoas muscle. There is only two strips in every pig and they are quite small. This cut is also more expensive.

Most of the time, I see butchers just butterflying the shoulder to make Char Siew. Some cuts can be quite lean depending on how you cut it.

Mich said...

Alamak, went to Fatty's to try the char siew today and it was CLOSED!! Is it usually closed on Mondays? Actually I was wondering whether it might be because most pork places aren't open on Mondays.

Anonymous said...

the last 3 times i went over the weekend it was closed. have they closed for good???

FoodLover said...

Compare to KL Meng Kee? Not even close!

ieat said...

Hey I have eaten at Meng Kee before. They too have their off days!

Johor Kaki said...

I stumbled upon a char siew in Johor Bahru that is unlike anything that I have tasted before. Its at You Kee XO restaurant in Taman Ungku Tun Aminah in Skudai. They call it crystal char siew. You may like it too.

ieat said...

That sounds good!

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kelvin ow said...

This char siew def issnt worth trying. Nothing fantastic.

Just like any other normal char siew stall or worse.

Gravy is normal taste. Char siew is not sweet nor does it have any burnt smell/taste. Meat is not exactly tender at all.

Try Alexander Food Village or Burlington Sq that row of stall facing OG albert complex...anytime better than this!

Roy Leow said...

Just tried it on Sunday and it was really sinful though I am still a teenager here. I will come and patronise them again but I wont be ordering BJT again. I'd say it's worth a try.

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