A Teochew Ah Hia’s Tapas Bar
Get ready for a whole new Tapas Bar experience! Instead of nibbling on croquetas and sipping on Sangrias, why not order Teochew marinated raw crabs and chase it down with a shot of Moutai?
If that last sentence managed to pique your interest, then you’d want to check out the newly opened Shao Teochew Tapas Bar at Holland Village which offers a tantalizing twist on the traditional tapas bar.
Perhaps you are already familiar with Shao, the restaurant founded by Jack Ding at Frankel Avenue. Ding was born in Swatow and pursued computer science studies in the United Kingdom. However, after completing his degree, his passion for food led him to experiment with various concepts until he finally established Shao in 2019. Although he had initially intended to offer Chinese-style BBQ meats, he began to receive requests from customers for Teochew cuisine upon learning about his Swatow background. Jack quickly gained a following for his Teochew dishes, particularly for his delectable marinated raw crabs.
The new establishment at Holland Ave distinguishes itself from the first restaurant by offering small plates that complement its collection of Moutai, some of which are exceptionally exquisite. I am not a drinker, so I cannot provide intricate details about the Moutai; however, if you appreciate Moutai, I believe the bottle featured in the photo above should capture your attention.
Must Try Dishes
Shao has gained immense popularity for its Teochew-style marinated raw crabs, which have become a recent trend locally. The crabs undergo two crucial steps: salting and freezing to -60°C, to ensure food safety and facilitate separation of the flesh from the shell. The crabs are then immersed in a marinade consisting of soy sauce, garlic, chili, and other spices.
Besides crabs, their marinated cockles are also a fan favorite. The cockles are blanched in hot water and then marinated. Shao also offers marinated oysters and prawns. Although the marinating sauce is more or less the same for all seafood, we found them to be excellent overall. 4.5/5
I was particularly taken with the cuttlefish sausage, which is the standout dish of the day. Jack drew inspiration from the bak tou yee ie cuttlefish balls he enjoyed as a child in Swatow. He brought it up a level by adding squid ink to the cuttlefish paste and extruding it into sausage links. The resulting texture and flavor are exceptional and unlike anything else I have tasted. Yet, it still has that old-school flavour. 4.5/5.
Can Try Dishes
Youtiao stuffed with cuttlefish paste is quite a classic in our seafood eateries. It is said that it was the late Mdm Cher of Chilli Crab fame who first served the dish at Palm Beach Restaurant! Deep-fried until golden and crispy, the same cuttlefish paste that made the cuttlefish sausage so good is stuffed inside. However, as much as I enjoyed the dish, I couldn’t help but think that it was missing something. A dipping sauce. Maybe a classic rojak sauce with ground peanuts or something with a bit of a kick like wasabi mayo would have elevated it to a whole new level. Still, it’s hard to deny the appeal of this dish. 4/5
At Shao, they take the cartilage found in chicken Maryland, something most of us tend to ignore, and turn it into a crispy, salty and peppery treat that pairs perfectly with Maotai. The texture is definitely on the crunchy side, which might require a bit of work to chew, but it is actually quite enjoyable. If you never thought of cartilage as something to savor, this dish might just change your mind. 4/5
Fish collars are one of those things that most Westerners tend to toss aside. But thanks to the Japanese, grilled hamachi collar, is now a bone fide dish at Japanese restaurants. We Teochews, however, have always known that the best parts of the fish are its head, collar, fins, and tail! So, it is fitting that at Shao, they have a dish made of hamachi collar. The collar is first chopped up and then marinated with fermented bean curd, and fried till golden and crispy. While the dish is certainly enjoyable, I can’t say it’s quite reached “classic” status yet. But with a few tweaks, it might just be, someday. 4/5
The Bak Chang here is worth trying, thanks to the unique combination of nonya-style pork filling and sweet yam paste in the middle. It’s a duo of flavors that I personally love and they complement each other really well. However, my only gripe is that there is a bit too much glutinous rice in each dumpling. If they could tip the scales toward having more filling and less rice, it would have been perfect. 4/5
Try If You Must
After being thoroughly impressed by the other dishes, the lamb chop was a bit of a letdown. I couldn’t help but wonder where the Teochew influence was. All I tasted was a slab of meat grilled with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Don’t get me wrong, it was decent, but it lacked that unique flair that I was anticipating. If they really wanted to stay true to the theme of this joint, they could have added some cumin and chili powder to give it that mouth-watering Chinese-style BBQ flavor. Without that, it’s just another lamb chop on a plate that you can find at any other place. 3.5/5
Shao has truly nailed it with their unique concept and delicious offerings. There is no doubt that the food here is top-notch. The only thing to watch out for is that some may find the prices on the steeper side. But if you’re in the mood for delectable small plates of Teochew goodness to pair with your Moutai then this is the place to be!
i don’t think that bottle in the picture is Moutai right? its just Baijiu. Moutai is a brand itself. Not all leather bags are Hermes too.
Thanks for that. I am no expert in moutai. Let me clarify with Jack.
That’s definitely not Moutai just baijiu
Jack has clarified that: Moutai town which is famous for baijiu, in Moutai town has many different baijiu brand, this brand is called wenshi 问世..
I have asked Jack, the owner. According to him: Moutai town which is famous for baijiu, in Moutai town has many different baijiu brand, this brand is called wenshi 问世..
I see you live up to your name
Fun fact… Moutai is also the largest alcoholic beverage company by market capitalization in the world too, so it’s really prestigious