Super-Nostalgic St Nicks Crispy Chicken Wings!

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Hello again Foodie Friends!

Please meet our newest Makan Kaki, Cynthea Lam – wellness coach, nutritionist-in-training & founder of Super Farmers, a company focused on helping people to eat well and live well through food and nutrition education. It’s a one-stop-shop for wellness workshops, urban farming kits and restorative herbal teas brand Apoteacary.

Quite by chance, we got to talking at her booth in Boutique Fairs and I ended up purchasing three boxes of deliciously soothing teas and an urban farming trio of microgreens to try growing myself at home (the kang kong, chye sim & gai lan were a success for this noob!).

Cynthea has a great story to tell and a wonderfully engaging personality, perfect for conducting her wellness workshops and dishing out sage advice, so enjoy our podcast and the first of her makan recommendations this week!

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Cynthea takes us straight back to her childhood with this delicious and nostalgic treat. She studied at St Nicholas Girls’ School throughout her pre-primary, primary and secondary school education. And St Nicks’ alumni will relate to this – Cynthea simply cannot forget the one thing she (and so many other school mates) loved to eat at recess time – Aunty Meow Lang’s fried chicken wings.

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Cynthea remembers that she once ate 10 chicken wings at a go and ended up with tonsillitis. But she still thinks it was totally worth it! That’s how irresistible those chicken wings were. Crispy, golden-brown and deep-fried to perfection, the wings were coated in a batter that was not too thick, just a thin, crunchy sheath that gave way to a moist, tasty interior.  In her opinion, she hasn’t tasted anything better since.

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Besides the power of nostalgia, Cynthea reckons the secret to Aunty Meow Lang’s wings was in the way she marinated and fried them with  so much love. Sadly, Aunty Meow Lang is no longer with us and her school stall has since closed. However, good news is, her grandson James is now carrying on her legacy at his stall (Coal 3606) and has started selling the same famous chicken wings according to his grandmother’s beloved recipe. Coal 3606’s Facebook page mentions that the wings were sold at at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School from 1972 till 2013. 

IMG_4334Interestingly taking the leap from one institution of education to another, Coal 3606 operates out of Republic Polytechnic’s foodcourt, The Lawn. There was a stall in Bukit Merah Lane, but that no longer is in operation and has yet to be updated on their FB. If you don’t fancy a journey into the poly located far North in Woodlands, don’t worry – you can still sink your teeth into the mouth-watering wings by placing an order via text message and have them delivered. Cynthea recommended that, so I did!

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I’m happy to report, the wings arrived exactly on time and were still hot as James promised (he stored them in a large aluminium tray surround by tin foil, but not covered, so they wouldn’t get soggy). I wasted no time ripping into one immediately. It was just as Cynthea had described. Crispy on outside, juicy on the inside.

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My teeth broke through the crisp batter with an audible crunch, the fragrance of the well-marinated chicken wing making the experience all the more pleasurable. I couldn’t pin point the aromatics, but I think I detected a heady mix of garlic, ginger, soy sauce and honey. Deeply umami flavours played off the hint of sweetness. Crispy skin and meat were thoroughly infused with flavour right down to the bone. And indeed, the flesh remained tender, juices running freely at first bite.

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One of Cynthea’s favourite parts (mine too) is the wing tip. Those stayed gloriously crunchy (not burned) and were a delight to gnaw on. Some were so shatteringly crisp that I could devour them entirely, bone and all! I was starting to realise why these wings were near-obsession for Cynthea, who said, “I think I can eat that everyday!”

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TASTE:
COAL 3606 (Old St Nicks/ Aunty Meow Lang’s Chicken Wings)
Republic Polytechnic The Lawn Foodcourt
9 Woodlands Avenue Block W4/W6 #03-11 S(738964)
Open: 9.30am – 4.30pm (Mon – Fri; closed Sat & Sun)
Tel: +65 98589792
NOTE:
Open to public only during off-peak hours – before 11am or after 1pm.
Best is to call/ text James Ngiam to be sure the wings are available and entry permitted.
He takes delivery orders too. I simply texted him to agree on the quantity, date & time, then made payment via PayNow. Easy!

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Sambal-smothered Fried Chicken Inspired by Film Legend P. Ramlee!

What do legendary actor P. Ramlee & fried chicken have in common? They are the passions of one man – Mr Haswandi Hashim – converging deliciously at his stall in Jalan Besar. After my Makan Kaki Chef Bjorn Shen, judge of MasterChef Singapore and Middle-Eastern restaurant Artichoke proclaimed it “the most amazing ayam goreng in Singapore” earlier in February this year, I hurried down to confirm this and was not disappointed. A few things have changed since February and on my last visit, I finally met the man behind Chef Bjorn’s favourite fried chicken. Turns out, this ayam goreng comes with rice and sambals as colourful as the story behind it.

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Mr Haswandi and his wife Nur Hafizah Ahmad launched La Porpo just two years ago with little fanfare, but have quickly gained a still-growing fan base. As a massive fan of film legend P. Ramlee, Mr Haswandi decided to name his stall after a catchphrase from his idol’s 1972 movie Laksamana Do Re Mi.

“It was a hilarious comedy and there’s one part where P. Ramlee was sitting on a flying carpet when he said ‘la porpo’, which sounded Spanish to me,” he explained. “La porpo is a phrase used often between me and my childhood friends. We all watched the same movie, so that’s our connection and appreciation of P. Ramlee. To us, it means something friendly, warm, creative.”

Like a secret password or magic code within his social circle, it brings together their shared love for movies and makan that Mr Haswandi hopes will extend to his customers. “I want them to come and get crazy about our flavours,” he said with a smile.

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That’s why he even named his F&B company Rasa Loca (an amalgamation of Malay and Spanish words that means crazy taste) and one of his spicy chilli pastes Sambal Loca. Mr Haswandi is also pleased he has his son’s seal of approval for a greeting he often uses (almost like the stall’s tagline) and can be seen in signage on the storefront, “Yo… What’s good?”

So what is good at La Porpo? Hands down, their ayam goreng or fried chicken, of course. Mr Haswandi’s recipe, “legendary in the family since my grandparents’ time”, has been passed down orally through generations. Combined with Nur Hafizah’s own family recipe, husband and wife have created the ultimate fried chicken, after much trial and error. Theirs is a fundamental fried chicken recipe versatile enough to use in many dishes like their best-selling Kelantan-style nasi kerabu, ayam penyet and ayam geprek. All started off with the same fried chicken foundation, but the difference is in the sambals.

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Continue reading “Sambal-smothered Fried Chicken Inspired by Film Legend P. Ramlee!”

New Branch for Chicken Wings PM Famously Queued For

img_8041For a dependably indulgent chicken wing, Eng Kee Chicken Wings is the one many flock to. Even our Prime Minister once famously stood in line for half an hour to get his chicken wing fix at the Redhill branch back in 2014. Indeed, the taste of Eng Kee chicken wings is as fresh and delicious as it was when I first started having supper at their original Commonwealth stall twenty years ago. And joy of joys, they now have a new branch serving up the same famous wings in West Coast Drive.

img_8047Opened just last year, the family behind the famed wings has taken over management of an entire kopitiam at Block 505. With a daily best of three thousand chicken wings sold across all three branches, I needed to check if things were up to scratch at the newest Eng Kee branch. My concerns might have been premature, because owner Mr Lim informed me that their seasonings are “all standardised” and the wings (imported from Brazil) are marinated overnight at Commonwealth before being distributed to all three branches. For the perfect signature product, they even have one staff member whose sole purpose is to choose only frozen chicken wings of similar size to ensure an even cook.

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For the next six hours or so, the chosen wings luxuriate in a marinade of oyster sauce, light soy sauce, salt, white pepper and other “secret seasonings”. The next day, they get a vigorous massage so that the marinade melds into every nook and cranny.

The next step is preparing a simple, light batter of rice flour and water, in which the marinated wings get a dip, before their final destination – a wok full of sizzling-hot vegetable oil. For wings that are juicy on the inside, yet crispy on the outside, Mr Lim said two factors need to be well-controlled: temperature and time.

How hot the oil gets is crucial. Too much heat and the wings’ exterior burns but interior remains raw. Too little heat and the wings absorb too much oil, resulting in unappetizingly greasy chicken. Less experienced staff might use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil, but his more experienced staff need only eyeball the wok to know.

How long the wings are fried for is also important – seven to eight minutes is the optimum cook time in their boiling bath of oil, which is changed often so it doesn’t darken or turn stale. Mr Lim insists that the wings need to be wok-fried by hand, not in an automated fryer, because they require constant watching and turning for that coveted even, golden colour.

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Their adherence to tradition activated a powerful nostalgia in me. These were the kind of wings you remember eating as child, the kind mum might fry up for a special occasion like a birthday or class party. Eng Kee’s fried chicken wings smelt enticingly savoury and were becomingly burnished, with a light crusting over tender, juicy meat. A gentle umami had penetrated right down to the bone and the light flavour of its oyster and soya sauce marinade permeated the chicken.

img_1110I especially appreciate a chicken wing for the different textures you get – the winglet portion is smooth and succulent, the drumlet portion is slightly drier yet yields a meatier bite, while the wing tip is all about the texture of crispy-fried chicken skin. Surprisingly, the deep-fried wings were not too oily, especially when eaten hot. Chilli sauce was provided for a sweet and not-too-spicy contrast to the wings, but I didn’t need it. The decadent dish was good enough on its own. I easily polished off four wings in one sitting.

img_8049Eng Kee’s secret to success was evident. It’s all about consistency, keeping to tradition and preserving the original taste of the wings without skimping on quality or ingredients. “No shortcuts,” Mr Lim said firmly. That, and maintaining their low prices, which have remained unchanged for years. “Our wings are still $1.30, noodles only eighty cents. Very affordable.”

img_8051The signature dish of Eng Kee has always been fried chicken wings, but they’ve also supplemented their menu to include fried noodles ($0.80), along with extra ingredients like ngoh hiang ($1.10), fishcake ($0.50) and vegetables ($0.50). Kind of like econ breakfast beehoon, except served through lunch and dinner.

For all these reasons, Eng Kee has always enjoyed brisk business, with generations of loyal customers who continue returning for their favourite chicken wings, in spite of the long lines. For now though, the new West Coast outlet appears to be the best bet for a queue-free experience. But to cut any wait time, Mr Lim left me with this parting hack: get online and order your wings for pickup or free island-wide delivery!

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  • TASTE:
    Denise ate at the Eng Kee Chicken Wings branch located at
    Block 505 West Coast Drive, Singapore 120505. It’s open Tuesdays to Sundays, 8am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm. Closed on Mondays.

Nostalgic Bakes

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Click here to listen/ download the podcast for this week’s episode – hot & fresh out of the oven!

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This week, our Makan Kaki Chef Anthony Yeoh of Summerhill Bistro in Sunset Way shares with us his discovery of more eats in his ‘hood, in particular a super-nostalgic bakery that serves up the very taste of our childhood! Balmoral Bakery is an institution for Sunset residents and it’s the good, old-fashioned kind of confectionary you’ll find in most HDB estates.

Continue reading “Nostalgic Bakes”

Wanton Mee – Wan of Singapore’s Most Wanted!

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Hello Foodies! We see the return of last week’s Makan Kaki, Head Chef of Burnt Ends, Jake Kellie, who’s off to Western Australia this weekend to headline the Feast in the Forest at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. We caught him just before his departure to recommend more makan and he offered up his favourite Wanton Mee stall at Hong Lim Food Centre, which sees relentlessly long lines at lunchtime. Of course, Singaporeans know that a long queue means good things at the end of the wait and Chef Jake is no exception – he’s willing to wait in line because their noodles are just that good! A typical visit to Ji Ji Wanton Noodle Specialist sees Chef Jake start off with some crispy, tasty, deep-fried Wantons that are packed full of minced pork and shrimp.

To follow-up, he gets a bowl of dry Wanton Mee with Char Siew. He loves the fat, juicy parcels of boiled dumplings floating in soup, which he scoops into his noodles and mixes in with the sauce. This way, the soft, pillowy, boiled Wantons take on lots of flavour from the sauce mixture.

Continue reading “Wanton Mee – Wan of Singapore’s Most Wanted!”

DIY Hum Jin Pang

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Click here for Denise’s interview with the resident Masterchef Singapore Judges Audra Morrice, Bjorn Shen & Damian D’Silva:

Click here to listen/ download podcast of Judge Bjorn Shen‘s recommendation for Hum Jin Pang!

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This week’s makan recommendation is the first of our Masterchef Singapore series, starting with Judge Bjorn Shen’s go-to place for Ham Chin Pang (咸煎饼 – literally, salty fried cake), or in this case, Hum Jin Pang, which is also the name of the stall found at Maxwell Food Market. The stall serves up two deep-fried varieties – savoury or sweet. In Bjorn’s words, this stall is “so gangster” that you have to cook your own food.

Continue reading “DIY Hum Jin Pang”

Ole Ole Ole, Ola Ola!

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Click here to listen to this week’s episode!

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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.

Continue reading “Ole Ole Ole, Ola Ola!”

VIDEO: HOKKIEN SNACKS, DEEP FRIED TRADITION!

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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.