Swa Gardens is one of those old world restaurants that are still faithfully churning out old favourites in the good old fashion way while the rest of Singapore keeps looking for novelty. From the good old aluminium glass doors to the conference chairs which have housed generations of dust mites, this authentic little Teochew restaurant continues to preserve the Teochew culture for a future generation of Singaporeans who don’t even know what it means to be a red bottomed “Kah Cherng Ang Ang” (Red Buttocks – A classic Teochew phrase) Teochew. Yes, this sort of old establishment is my kind of place and thanks to sumosumo who suggested this eatery, we all got to spend a few hours together savouring cuisine which our grandfathers used to enjoy.
There isn’t a more Teochew dish than cold crabs. My father used to tell me that the only way to eat crab was simply steamed. This is especially so when the crab is full of roe. Frying such excellent crabs in pepper or even worse, chilli sauce would be a plain waste of the roe. I guess it was akin to cooking caviar in curry!
Some people might think, “So what’s the big deal? I could do this at home!” Well the big deal is that these people can actually get their hands on some really good crabs and they know how to choose the best ones for steaming. And if you don’t think that is a big deal, then just consider that anyone can also put a chicken into hot water to make the White Chicken and yet how many of us can actually do it properly? Still go out and eat it right?
Anyway the Crabs that night were excellent. As Teochews would say, very “Chngi (fresh)” and and “Toi” (solid), full of the crab roe which is great if your doctor has just advised you that you need to raise your cholesterol levels! 4.25/5
Another Teochew classic, Braised Goose if not done right can come out tough and dry as cardboard. We were discussing about the fact that the geese in Hong Kong were so much fatter and flavoursome than those in Singapore and that it could be something to do with the colder weather up north. Anyway the Braised Goose was very good that night. The meat was tender and the loh was very “pang” (savoury) and we thorougly enjoyed it. 4.25/5
We conducted a vote for the favourite dish that night and the Oyster Omelette was one of the top three dishes. This is in effect a very simple dish of fresh oysters fried with eggs, but it was executed perfectly. The eggs were so wonderfully fluffy and flavourful that it made me realize how taken for granted the humble egg is. 4.5/5
I used to think that the only liver I ever liked was foie gras and pate. But after that night, I am adding the liver rolls into the short list. In fact, it was so good we didn’t even think it had liver in it. We were all just enjoying the savoury rolls without realizing we were eating liver. If you don’t like liver and are suffering from anaemia, this might be your answer to a source of iron. 4/5
The other star that night was the Pomfret, a fish that the Teochews prize more than any other fish. Come to think of it, I am not sure if any of the other dialect groups like this fish as much as we do? The only way that Pomfret is to be prepared — when you have the most “Chngiest” (freshest) fish — is to steam it with just a little sour plum and tomato. Any more and you won’t get to enjoy the freshnest of the fish. It takes a lot of skill to steam such a big Pomfret perfectly so that it doesn’t get overcooked and toughen up. Steamed Pomfret doesn’t get any better than this! 4.5/5
This ugly looking dish is probably food that my peasant forefathers used to eat after a hard day’s work at the farm. A simple dish made from three of the cheapest ingredients of Chye Poh (preserved radish), Kway Teow (rice pasta) and chopped greens, it was the way the chef infused the smoky flavour of the wok into the Kway Teow that was magic. 4/5
Orh nee (yam paste) is one of Singapore’s top three desserts as shown in our recent dessert poll. However, the sad fact is that there isn’t a lot of places that does a really good Orh Nee. Traditional Teochew Orh Nee comes with caramelized pumpkin, lard and NO coconut milk. I really don’t know how the coconut milk idea came about, I don’t like it at all. The Orh Nee here is very good and was just a relief that they still do it the traditional way here albeit they probably have substituted vegetable oil for the lard. 4.25/5
It was great to meet up with everyone and especially some of the new kakis that have joined our blog and forum community recently. The food was great and this time round we have even started grooming the next generation of foodies by having a table for the kids. It was also quite amazing to host three friends from Down Under who were here on holidays and have signed up for the makan session while overseas! We even had a whole table of friends from Jurong who haven’t even heard about the blog! I wonder if they will start reading it after that night?
Special thanks to sumosumo and khim for organizing the evening and look forward to seeing you at the next one!
There was an excess of funds as we collected a little bit more to cover GST and tips. We gave a $50 tip to the staff and the leftover $196 was donated to the Myanmar Cyclone Fund.