In England there is the pub. In Japan, the Izakaya. Here in Singapore we have the Cze Char (lit cook fry). The Cze Char really started as a kitchen away from home where you get to eat home style cooked food. I guess, in the old days when most of our forefathers were immigrants who have left their families back in their home country, the Cze Char is their surrogate home kitchen where you come back from a hard day’s work to find something to eat.
Our Cze Char dishes are unique because they are an amalgamation of the styles of cooking from the different dialect groups mostly from the Southern Provinces of China. In the early days, I would expect that Cze Chars could be classified into Teochew, Hokkien or Cantonese, but as time went by, new Cze Char hits are copied by other Cze Char stalls such that nowadays, Cze Chars serve a cuisine that can be called uniquely Singaporean.
The Cze Char dishes continue to evolve, taking in the new ideas from other parts of the world. For example, we have Siang Hee’s pumpkin prawns which incorporates western flavours into the dish. We are also seeing more Cze Char places incorporating Japanese ideas like wasabi prawns and fried udon noodles. Over time, these too will be considered classic Cze Char dishes.
I realize that there are still so many Cze Char places which I have not blogged about yet and so I am now making a more concerted effort to archive Singapore’s best Cze Char restaurants. It is a daunting task because it would be difficult to have a top 10 Cze Char restaurant list. But what I thought would be feasible is to list the best Cze Char dishes and where to find them instead. So I have started a sort of Cze Char Menu in our forum where everyone can give their inputs as to where to find the best Hor fun, Pork Ribs, XO Fishhead Bee Hoon, Yam Ring, Har Lok Prawns and so on. Do join in and add your favourite Cze Chars onto the growing list!
I like the San Lou Hor Fun here as it comes with a bit of gravy and the Hor Fun is smooth and slippery. With a lot of other stalls, the Hor Fun tends to lack the gravy, but this stall makes theirs with a bit of gravy which is very nice. 4/5 The fish head bee hoon is also very good though I felt that it could have had a bit more ooomph in the soup. However, as I said, it is one of the few stalls which pride themselves at making it without the use of milk powder which I think is quite commendable. 4/5
Lee Heng Restaurant