You can just imagine why Gu Ma Jia is called Gu Ma Jia (First Auntie’s House) right? Well, the story goes that Gu Ma has 5 brothers and 1 sister and is not only the eldest in the family but also happens to be the best cook. So the younger brothers and sisters often invite themselves over for some of Gu Ma’s home cookin’. After a while they managed to persuade her to open a restaurant so that they can go eat any time they like. So now, in case you don’t have a Gu Ma who can cook well, you too can yourself to Gu Ma’s place …. for a small fee of course!
But seriously, eating at Gu Ma Jia really is like eating at the home of favourite Aunty. It is not just that the menu features some of Gu Ma’s personal recipes, but this restaurant is run as if it is an extension of Gu Ma’s own kitchen at home. The reason I say this is because the family actually still heads to the market every day to buy their ingredients instead of getting a supplier to deliver them to the doorstep. So, their veggies are bought fresh and they handpick up their seafood from the wet market every other day!
Gu Ma’s signature dish is undoubtedly the Assam Fish Head which the kakis all loved. The gravy has a good balance of sweet, sour and savoury that goes well with rice. The extra oommph in the gravy comes from the fact that unlike a lot of other places which steam their fish head first and pour the gravy over, they actually cook the fish head in it, which means that that gravy is infused with the sweetness of the fish head! The Indians tend to cook fish head this way, but sometimes it can result in the fish meat being over cooked. However, the fish here is cooked perfectly and the meat is still moist and tender. The only complain we had was the serving plate was a little shallow, so there wasn’t enough gravy to go around and the size of the fish head was a tad small for $25. But if Assam Fish Head is what you are after, this is definitely worth a try! 4.25/5
If you love Sotong (squid) then the Cereal Sotong here is worth ordering. The Sotong is lightly battered and cooked perfectly such that it is still wonderfully tender while the thin batter is crisp and not oily. They have also tweaked the cereal recipe slightly with a sprinkling of British style Curry Powder so the taste might be reminiscent of Twistees Curry Chicken Flavour. Goes well with rice and highly addictive! 4.25/5
Hae Chor is one of those dishes that I often order because I like how the five spice flavour and plum sauce goes with rice. As a result, if you read through my Cze Char posts, you would invariably see this dish appearing a lot. Most places in Singapore boast about their own homemade Hae Chor and quite frankly, I find most of them to be good although I can’t really put my finger on one that is outstanding. So here is another good Hae Chor to add to the list. I like its traditional five spice flavour that is subtle but still distinct. However, the texture was a little too fine for my liking. I would prefer a bit more crunch from the chestnuts and toothy bounce from meat filling but as a whole, it is still quite a decent Hae Chor which I would not hesitate to order the next time I visit. 4/5
One of the more innovative dishes which we had was the crispy brinjal with Si Ji Dou (Four Season Beans). You would not doubt have come across crispy brinjal with pork floss before, but here the crispy brinjal is first tossed in a sweet marmite sauce before being fried with Si Ji Dou. It was a nice dish, but both items could have very well been served separately and it wouldn’t have made a difference in the taste. 4/5
When it comes to eating crabs there are broadly two schools of thought. Some people insist that crabs should be eaten just steamed so that you don’t mask the natural flavour of the crab. The other school want the crab to be stir fried in lots of gravy so that you can lick the flavours off the crab shell. Me, I belong to both schools. I like the natural flavour of the crab, but I also love the flavour that the shell imparts to the sauce its been cooked in. It’s especially good when the sauce sticks to the shell and you have to lick it off its shell!
Having said this, the salted egg sauce here is really very good but it didn’t stick so well to the shell of the crab. Would have been nice if the crabs were dusted with some sweet potato starch before deep frying so that it forms a sticky layer for the salted egg sauce to cling to!
However, what the chef did very well was to cook the crab in two stages. He first steams the crab before deep frying it. The two stage cooking results in the flesh of the crab to be perfectly cooked and results in the meat of the crab nicely separating from the shell. I am sure you have eaten crabs before where the flesh is still stuck to the shell of the claw right? That’s the result of one stage cooking! 4/5
They serve their Kyoto Pork Ribs here with a bit of finesse. The pork is actually wrapped in aluminum foil and they spray some rose wine over it and light it up so that the fragrance of the rose wine fills the room before you open the aluminum foil to reveal the wonderfully tender pork. The pork tasted nice and juicy which indicates that they have been freshly fried and the sauce was nicely balanced. One of the better Kyoto Pork Ribs I have come across! 4.25/5
Gu Ma Jia is a great proposition if you are looking for a quiet family run place for a meal. They visit the market daily to choose their own produce, so its fresh and adds that personal touch to the dishes. The Assam Fish Head is very good although we felt that it was a tad small. Note that prices shown are nett of service charge and GST.
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Gu Ma Jia