HEAR: Click here to listen to this week’s episode!
Hey Foodie Friends! Looking for some really sublime seafood done Spanish-Latin-American-style? This is THE place chefs love to go and you should too! This week, ur Makan Kaki Chef Bjorn Shen of Artichoke Restaurant recommends OLA Cocina Del Mar, a wonderful contemporary, open kitchen restaurant and bar that serves only the freshest and sustainably sourced seasonal produce. Helmed by Peruvian chef-owner Daniel Chavez, OLA has been making waves since it opened back in 2013.
In Singapore where you can have sashimi for breakfast, prata for lunch, bulgogi for dinner and just about anything else in between, you’ll excuse this Hokkien girl for not having the chance to acquaint herself much with the food of her people. Until recently, that is. In my quest to get in better touch with my Hokkien roots, I’m grateful to my Makan Kakis – restaurateur & food writer, Violet Oon and Theatre’s Broadway Beng, Sebastian Tan – for pointing me in the right direction, starting with deep-fried snacks, steeped in hand-made Hokkien tradition. If you love Ngor Hiang, Liver Rolls and the like, let us take you from the Heart of the City to the Heartland of the North, and give you two tempting options.
TRY THIS: China Street Fritters
Stall 64, Maxwell Road Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184. Tel: 92386464. Open 12-8pm Tuesday – Sunday (Closed Monday). This is a stall that takes Violet Oon way back to her early days as a professional food taster in 1974, but goes back even further to when hawkers literally sold their wares on the street. This Hokkien snack stall is a family business that used to operate out of China Street in the 1950s and moved to China Square in the 1970s. These days, China Street Fritters is run by the affable Ng Brothers over at a stall in Maxwell Food Centre. Many have been bowled over by the traditional flavours, the “original” taste of the fritters and the richness of the delicacies, as many older folk who flock to the stall will testify.
In this day and age of factory-made products, it’s heart-warming to see hawkers who are still proudly making their food by hand, according to the same recipes that have been passed down through generations. I definitely got a crash course in typically Hokkien snacks during my visit to China Street Fritters, so here’s a quick run-down of some best-sellers:
• Guang Chiang – the traditional pink Hokkien sausage made from a lean pork & a flour paste mixture, enhanced by the typically Hokkien deep fried flat fish called Pee Her, which gives the sausage a delightful umami. This mixture is stuffed into pig’s intestine and the distinctive pink is actually food colouring, which gives the Guan Chiang its traditional look.
• Ngor Hiang – Rolls made from minced pork, good quality Five Spice powder, all wrapped in bean curd skin, steamed, then deep fried.
• Liver Rolls – cubes of cooked liver, Chinese chives and slivers of pork fat (their secret ingredient for ultimate flavour!). The Ng brothers proudly call this their Hokkien version of sushi, because of the way its cross-section looks when cut and fanned out on a plate
• Egg Slice – Eggs beaten with flour, lard & other flavourings, steamed, sliced and then finally pan-fried. This has a firm texture similar to luncheon meat.
• Century Egg with ginger.
• Fried Bee Hoon – this reminds Violet of the kind served up in our old school canteens. Plain bee hoon fried with soya sauce & bean sprouts. The thing is, plain bee hoon is very hard to do well, but theirs is fragrant and tasty despite being “plain”.
Everything needs to be doused liberally with their wonderful starch sauce & chilli sauce. The starch sauce is not gloopy, but silky and fresh, with silver threads of egg running through. The sweet, runny chilli sauce has a strong, solid flavour from the chilli powder.
OR THAT: Old Chong Pang 老忠邦五香虾饼
#01-166, Chong Pang Market & Food Centre,104 Yishun Ring Rd, Singapore 760104. Open 6-10pm Tuesday – Sunday (closed Monday). This stall in the North of Singapore is a popular one and has been frying up Hokkien snacks since 1986. Old Chong Pang is owned and operated by a friendly husband and wife team who also just happen to be Sebastian Tan’s uncle and aunt on his maternal side of the family. Interestingly, just like the owners of China Street Fritters, they are also Ngs!
Their stall sees a steady stream of dinner-time customers who have a staggeringly vast array of snacks to choose from. Here, you’ll find the usual hand-made favourites like Ngor Hiang, Liver Roll, Sausage and Egg Slice, along with Tau Kwa, Fishballs and Century Egg with ginger. And then there are other goodies like prawn rolls, shredded yam fritters, and 2 kinds of prawn fritters that Mrs Ng says are also hand-made with pride. Fried bee hoon with bean sprouts is also served here at Old Chong Pang, along with a similar sweet, runny chilli sauce.
What Old Chong Pang has going for it is the sheer variety of choices and the deliciously briny prawn fritters (one is much like a small pancake studded with tiny shrimp, and the other is a huge, crisp, yet fluffy explosion of batter embedded with crunchy prawns). Another must-try is their stewed soy-sauce pork. Tasty morsels gleaned from a pig’s head – from lean meat framed by layers of fat and gelatinous skin to crunchy cartilaginous slices of ears – are slow braised in soy till tender and go so very well spooned over the bee hoon, which just sops up all the fats and juices like a sponge. Add all the other crunchy deep-fried elements and you get a very textured, satisfying, albeit calorific sampling of Hokkien street food culture.
A lot of the snacks are essentially protein with a lot of flour mixture and if I were to hazard a guess, this is part of a thrifty tradition of stretching out the use of pricier meats and egg. Frying preserved the ingredients and added flavour. Eaten with bee hoon, these would have made for a substantial, but relatively cheap meal for those engaged in manual labour.
All this month we’re celebrating Singapore’s 52nd Birthday by asking our rolling panel of foodie friends what they consider some of the most unique Singaporean food, so you can really look forward to a very sedap and patriotic August 2017!
This week, I’m thrilled to welcome yet another Makan Kaki, who’s long been an avid cook and entertainer, besides holding down her career as a food writer and award-winning book author. Please meet Annette Tan, who’s been making headlines after her private dining concept took off in a big way! She’s the brains, beauty and brawn behind FatFuku, which offers you the experience of dining at her home as she whips up a menu from her childhood memories. From her family’s Chinese New Year staple of Mee Siam fried into a crispy pancake, to Curry Devil Pie inspired by her Eurasian friends to her Bak Kwa Jam Baklava, Annette is all about re-imagining local favourites that are hearty, witty and delicious. Today, she kicks off our run-up to National Day with her recommendation of a quinessentially Singaporean-style restaurant in the East Coast…
Annette grew up and still lives in the East, so trust her as she takes us for a deliciously retro feast at Hua Yu Wee, a very traditional, Singaporean Seafood restaurant, which has been serving hungry Singaporeans classic zichar dishes since the 1970s. Annette has been eating there since she was a child and she remembers her cousin’s Grandma living just next door, so they literally used to bang on the Hua Yu Wee’s fence, calling out, “Auntie, chao fan (fried rice)!”. Hua Yu Wee remains a neighbourhood stalwart, operating out of the very same house it began in, one of the last structures of its kind along East Coast Road. It exudes the charm and culinary bustle of a bygone era and its retro, nostalgic atmosphere is probably also what keeps diners flocking back again and again. That, and the undeniably yummy food, of course!
There are a handful of dishes that Annette always orders when she visits Hua Yu Wee and we recommend you do too! Definitely get the Chilli Crab, which Annette says is, in her opinion, one of the best in Singapore.
On balmy evenings, bring your own booze, sit outside in the backyard at one of their stone tables and get your hands dirty digging into this awesome Chilli Crab.
Indulge in crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside deep-fried Man Tou, succulent fresh crab with a thick eggy gravy that’s sweet, but with enough spice to balance things out. This is truly a taste of old Singapore!
Be sure to add the classic Cantonese Har Lok (fresh prawns wok-fried in a sweet caramelised soy gravy with ginger and spring onion) to your order and get that sauce all over some fluffy white rice.
Hua Yu Wee is known for their traditional dishes, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t kept up with times, bringing together classic cooking with little modern twists. For example, try their Lala Clam Hor Fun, which is soft and silky but topped with a crispy garnish of deep-fried noodles for texture. The Feng Sha Chicken is also a wonderful rift on Ayam Penyet.
This is the Chinese version of flattened chicken – roasted to a mouth-watering golden-brown, this chicken is indeed flat (in fact, if you order it as takeaway, it comes in what looks like a pizza box tied with pink rafia string!), juicy and boasts a crispy skin to die for! Add their sambal or the addictive spring onion, garlic, ginger dipping sauce and fireworks will go off in your mouth!
Hua Yu Wee remains a charming throwback to old Singapore, from the chatty staff still dressed in their “SQ” batik-print shirts & kebayas, to the colonial house it still occupies, to the open courtyard for al fresco dining (although back in the day, it used to be much closer to the beach and the sea!). If you prefer dining in air-conditioned comfort, sit inside the house and also watch out for the “show” – the long kitchen is housed separately and the line of cooks juggle live seafood, roaring flames and hot woks is indeed a sight to behold!
TASTE: HUA YU WEE
462 Upper East Coast Rd, Singapore 466508
Open Daily: 4 – 11.30pm
Tel: +65 6442 9313
On a recent work trip to Miami, a friend from Houston recommended I try Yardbird, a restaurant renowned for its signature Southern-fried chicken and waffles. I was not disappointed by my visit there as a solo diner. Great food, cocktails and service got me all excited when I discovered upon return to Singapore, that they were opening a branch here at Marina Bay Sands! Even better, I got to meet the man behind the brand and pick his award-winning brains about everything from food, to creativity and music. The affable John Kunkel was recently in town for the official launch of The Bird, but made a little time to discuss with me his favourite things on the menu and also to recommend some makan places he’s enjoyed in Singapore.
First of all, the Yardbird restaurants in different locations are not cookie-cutter – while the classics like their fried chicken with cheese waffles, Bourbon-maple syrup & house-made hot sauce and minty watermelon salad remain the same, Chef Kunkel has taken time with his staff to come up with new cocktails and dishes that are specifically designed for the Singapore palate. Take their Low Country Laksa – a South US meets Singapore dish that gets inspiration from New Orleans Creole-style cooking, featuring seared Snapper in a ginger-coconut broth. There’s also the Black Pepper Crab Cakes, where Maryland meets Singapore. Don’t miss their deviled eggs, given a little umami twist with smoked trout roe topping. Wash everything down with a yummy Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade – dangerously refreshing & fruity, with an alcoholic kick.
B1-07, Galleria Level
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
LUNCH Daily 11:00am – 4:00pm
DINNER Daily 4:00pm – 11:00pm
DRINKS & LIGHT SNACKS Daily 11:00pm – 2:00am
WEEKEND BRUNCH SAT & SUN 10:00am – 4:00pm
TEL: +65 6688 9959
Some Local Places John Kunkel recommends:
1. Burnt Ends Modern Australian Barbequefor that open fire-style of cooking. Try their signature Sanger – made from pulled pork shoulder, homemade cole slaw & chipotle aioli sandwiched in a brioche bun. BURNT ENDS
20 Teck Lim Road
Lunch: Wednesday – Saturday 11:45am – 2pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday 6:00pm to Late
Tel: +65 6224 3933
2. FOC for excellent Catalan-style Spanish Tapas, including their grilled octopus, croquetas, patatas bravas & squid ink paella. FOC
40 Hong Kong Street
Open Mon – Sat 12 – 2pm, 6 – 10:30pm
Tel: +65 6100 4040
3. Atlas Bar for great cocktails in a gorgeous Art Deco environment. ATLAS BAR
600 North Bridge Road
Open Mon – Sat (Closed Sun)
Mon – Thu: 10am – 1am
Fri: 10am – 2am
Sat: 3pm – 2am
Telephone: +65 6396 4466
4. Roti Prata from Lau Pa Sat – for that perfect balance between crispy, fluffy pastry and mellow, spiced curry.
Lau Pa Sat (Telok Ayer Market)
18 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048582
Open 24 hours Daily
Tel: +65 6220 2138
Hi Hungry People! Have you heard? My Makan Kakis radio show on the Lunchtime Jukebox is now an online series! This month, it’s all about everybody’s favourite spicy, crispy snacks – CURRY PUFFS! Watch all the delicious, deep-fried foodie action unfold on Gold 905’s FB, or visit 8Days.sg, as I take you from East to West for some of the best! With thanks to my Foodie Friends Chef Willin Low & Actor Fir Rahman for their recommendations.
This week sees the return of our beloved cookbook author, restaurateur & Makan Kaki, Violet Oon, who’s been keeping very busy with the launch of her third and latest restaurant, Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill at Clarke Quay. Lucky for us, she’s taken some time off her very full plate to share with us a few more of her current favourites to dine at in Singapore, so let’s start with this famous, classic Teochew institution that has seen many location changes, but thankfully the quality of food has remained largely unchanged! Violet has been eating at Huat Kee since the 1980s, but this authentic Teochew Restaurant has been around since the late 1960s, first operating out of Wayang Street, before moving to the old Ellenborough Market (present day Swisshotel Merchant Court), then Happy World in Katong, followed by a longish stint along Amoy Street, before finally settling at the RELC Building along Orange Grove Road. But what about the food? Here’s what Violet really enjoyed at her last visit:
The suckling pig is excellent with a shatteringly crisp, fragrant skin.
Also try their Teochew Fried Kway Teow with kailan, which has a tremendous “wok hei” and lovely depth of flavour because theu use two types of chye por (preserevd radish) – the sweet and salty kind.
If it’s crispy, typically Teochew snacks you crave, they have it all – Hae Cho (Prawn Rolls) and the Liver Rolls too.
Another stand-out dish which Violet raves about is their Seared Sea Cucumber, which is first braised for hours in a rich pork broth, before it is seared in a hot pan for an extra smoky flavour. Now in itself, sea cucmber is tasteless and is usually eaten for its texture, but in this dish, you get the best of both worlds – delicious flavour from the arduous cooking process and amazing crunchy texture from the spongy, collagen-y meat!
To round off your feast at Huat Kee, you simply can’t go wrong with the classic Orh Nee (steamed, mashed yam cooked in oil, with hand-peeled ginko nuts).
If you prefer, the labour-intensive traditional Tau Suan is also good, as is the Teochew-style Cheng Tng, a cooling, nutritious brew of longan, white fungus and other herbs. Best thing about it is the hint of persimmon perfuming this dessert!
Violet loves Huat Kee for several reasons. Firstly, it continues to serve up wonderful Teochew cuisine after all these years in the business. Secondly, it’s a family business that has been passed on from generation to generation and continues to do well with the passing on of traditional recipes. Also, they’ve gone into food production, sourcing good quality, all-natural seafood like abalone and sea cucumber from countries like New Zealand, before distrubuting far and wide to places like China.The abalone, in particular, is unbleached, which means you get a natural, less processed product, free from bleach and other nasty chemicals. That’s why their abalone has a greyer hue. As for the sea cucumber, they semi-dry it for good texture and it is available to buy and take-home for your own future cooking endeavours. But why take home when you can let them cook it for you? And finally, location location location! It’s current RELC venue is big enough to seat 200 diners comfortably and there is ample parking.
So there you have it, the many reasons why Huat Kee remains Violet’s Teochew favourite – if you want quality produce cooked the proper way, maintaining the original taste and traditions, look no furthur than this family-run restaurant!
TASTE: Teochew Restaurant Huat Kee
30 Orange Grove Road
#02-01 RELC Building
Open Daily: 11am – 3pm; 6 – 10pm
Tel : 6423 4747
HEAR: Click to hear what Mu Qin has to say about this Sembawang Zichar institution!
This week, our Makan Kaki, co-author of food guide Eat. Muse. Love. Toh Mu Qin takes us to the north of our little island for some superb Zichar at a Sembawang institution. White Restaurant sees long queues at all its outlets and the original one in Sembawang serves up platter after platter of their signature famous White Bee Hoon. What Mu Qin loves about this classic dish is the light, tasty, milky-white gravy and fresh seafood like prawn and squid. The Bee Hoon is tender and springy without being mushy and the shreds of omelet scattered throughout add another dimension. Their sambal chilli is also the highlight here, very spicy with an extra tangy kick, which pops on the palate and extends your appetite! Essentially, this is a very simple dish using very simple ingredients, but one that White Restaurant takes utmost pride in. Make no mistake, it’s a simple dish, but complex in flavour and it takes great skill from the chef control the fire for the wok and the cooking time to produce plate after plate of white bee hoon perfection! This is a definitely must-try when you pay a visit to White Restaurant.
Other dishes Mu Qin would recommend include the fried home-made tofu, which sees silky soft mashed tofu encased in a crisp batter and deep-fried to a golden-brown, crusty, more-ish snack. While you really can’t go wrong with anything deliciously deep-fried, it’s that wonderful contrast between the crunchy outside and the soft inside that makes this tofu dish so yummy.
If you, like Mu Qin & Denise, are a fan of the salty, pungent, fermented goodness that is Black Bean Sauce, you’ve also got to order the Leather Jacket fish stir-fried with black bean, chilli, garlic and crunchy veg. The fish is always fresh, tender, yet firm and tasty.So there you have it, just a few quick and delicious dishes you’ve got to try. White Restaurant has established itself as the originator of the famous White Bee Hoon and it’s definitely worth the trek to Sembawang for a taste of Zichar heaven! If not, check out their website for their other outlets, spanning from Toa Payoh to Punggol!
*all pictures courtesy of Toh Mu Qin
TASTE: WHITE RESTAURANT
22 Jln Tampang, Singapore 758966
Tel: 6257 2002
Open: 11.30am to 10.30pm (Closed on Wednesday)
Click here to listen to this week’s delicious episode!
Here’s the final installment in our Makan Kaki Shermay Lee‘s guide to the best eats in Balestier and she’s saved the best for last, with a no-frills zi char place that boasts some of the best Har Cheong Gai (Prawn Paste Fried Chicken) she’s tasted. Located in a corner shophouse next to Balestier Plaza along Balestier Road, 881 (XO) Fish Head Bee Hoon is a standalone restaurant that does both its signature Fish Head Bee Hoon & Crab Bee Hoon (dry & soup versions) really well. Shermay recommends you go with friends so you can order more dishes. But yes, the Fish Head Bee Hoon is a must.
Next, definitely go for the above-mentioned Har Cheong Gai, which really is phenomenal when eaten freshly-fried and piping-hot at the table! Their style is to serve only the winglets, but that’s nothing to scoff at, especially since they are the perfect combination: tender and moist on the inside, once you crunch through the crispy, golden-fried outside. A squeeze of lime and a dip of chilli really enhances the distinctive, savoury, prawn paste flavour of these well-seasoned wings – super-yummy!
Another favourite of Shermay’s is the Cereal Prawns – big, juicy and fried so crispy you can eat them whole – shells, heads, tails and all! The milky-salty-sweet crispy cereal coating is extra fragrant with curry leaves and can be eaten like a snack on its own!
Finally, you’ve got to order the deep-fried fish skins. Salted egg yolk seems to be the trend on everything these days, but 881 Have been doing this for ages – it’s not a trend, it’s undeniably tasty! These crispy fish skins come to the table hot off the wok, having been stir-fried in a rich salted egg yolk and crispy egg white sauce, perfumed with red chillies and more curry leaves. You won’t be able to stop at one. In fact, you’ll probably want a whole portion to yourself!
As Shermay highly recommends, eat in a group for more tasty variety! These dishes, all small portions, fed 4 people for only $49.70. Delicious food, value-for-money, what’s not to love?
TASTE: HONG KONG STREET CHUN TAT KEE 881 (XO) FAMOUS SEAFOOD (FISH HEAD BEE HOON & CRAB BEE HOON)
412 Balestier Road
Open Daily: 11am – 11pm
Tel: +65 62545768