I think the challenge for anyone entering the zi char business is to be able to come up with one or two signature dishes with the ability to capture people’s attention. You Huak managed to do it with their seafood white bee hoon, New Ubin with their beef fried rice and Royal J with their fried porridge. Just being competent in the usual compendium of zi char dishes will only get you so far. It’s the ones who are able to come up with something new and interesting that will stand out from the crowd. And it really doesn’t have to be a new invention. It just has to be something that is new to Singaporeans.
The dish that captured our attention was Uncle Lee’s “sand skin chicken” (沙皮鸡). Most of us would be familiar with the shiny crispy skin “roast chicken” which is served at Chinese restaurants. This is a little different. The chicken is first marinated overnight and then coated with a batter and deep fried till the skin is super crunchy. It is then chopped and served with crispy fried ginger strips. I have always enjoyed Chinese style crispy fried chicken and this is a novel twist which in some ways has made it even better! 4.5/5
NB: There are limited quantities of the crispy skin chicken so it is best to call early to reserve.
The head chef at Uncle Lee’s used to work at a famous curry restaurant which explains why his curry dishes are so moreish. The assam fish head curry is one of the better ones we have tasted and the curry was well balanced without being overly spicy so that you can pour it over your rice and eat it like a porridge. If they had used wild caught fish instead of farmed fish, I would have given them top marks. 4.25/5
The chinchalok sotong is made with a nonya style sauce which has quite a bit of a kick. Again, it is very balanced with bright floral and fruity notes that will add variety to your selection of dishes. 4.25/5
I hate to admit it, but I actually quite enjoyed the golden fluffy tofu. It is the kind of dish which will appeal to kids because it is a simply deep fried tofu. However, the chef managed to coat each piece of tofu with a very a layer of crust which tastes like a savoury snack which is a nice contrast to the pillowy soft tofu underneath. 4/5
Their prawn rolls are filled with chunks of prawns which you can see from the photos. The meat has a nice tackiness about it which makes the texture a little different from the homogeneous minced meat at other zi char. 4.25/5
Some of the other dishes I would recommend are the seafood white bee hoon 4/5 which is quite tasty as well as the sambal kangkong 4/5 which has that requisite smokiness about it. I didn’t like the Four Season Beans that much because they used a french bean which were a little too thick. 3.5/5. I also felt that the dong po rou lacked that special something, though the pork has been cooked till the fats are meltingly soft. 3.5/5
In case you are wondering who “Uncle Lee” is, he is actually an engineer who used to run own stainless steel factory who has diversified into zi char because of his own love for food! The little eatery is family run and has a nice homey feel about it. Although Uncle Lee doesn’t do the cooking himself, he makes sure that the food is cooked to his liking!
This new family run zi char restaurant serves up very competent dishes as well as a crispy sand skin chicken which is quite unique and worth the trip.