Dim Sum, Beef Hor Fun & More!

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Our Makan Kaki, Chef Anthony Yeoh of Summer Hill French Bistro is back to share another late night discovery near his restaurant at Sunset Way. Just a short drive in the direction of Beauty World, you’ll find Mong Kok Dim Sum at Cheong Chin Nam Road, the famous stretch of eateries that open late. There, you’ll find decent dim sum and other zichar favourites available till 1.30am.

A branch of the 24-hour Geylang restaurant, Mong Kok Dim Sum opposite Beauty World serves up a mean “Geylang Lorong 9 style” beef hor fun that’s savoury, umami and full of legit smoky wok hei.

The sauce is glossy, not goopy; intensely flavoured with red chillies and fermented black beans; and the flat rice noodles have a delicious char from being tossed in a searingly hot wok. Large slices of tender beef and a few stalks of leafy green bok choy complete the dish, along with tangy pickled green chilli to cut through all the richness.

Chef Tony was also pleasantly surprised by the dim sum, which turned out to be pretty good, especially the fried shrimp dumplings. He imagined they would be a bit limp and soggy 20 minutes after takeaway, but when he opened up the packaging when he got home, they were still hot and had maintained their crispy outer crust.

Inside, the fat dumplings were packed with a generous amount of creamy shrimp filling, made even creamier with the accompanying mayonnaise dip. Needless to say, he was impressed with how well the dim sum had held up to travel. These just might be worth ordering again for pick-up or delivery.

Another good choice would be their chee cheong fun (steamed rice flour rolls), which are made fresh to order, right before your very eyes.

Swipe to see chee cheong fun in the making!

The rice flour rolls are thin enough and slippery-smooth, just holding back your choice of fillings – char siew, prawn or crispy you tiao.

char siew chee cheong fun
prawn chee cheong fun
crispy you tiao chee cheong fun

Then the hot and steamy rolls are served doused in a light savoury-sweet sauce for extra moisture and flavour. For takeaways, they separate the rolls from the sauce to prevent sogginess.

Chef Tony appreciates that Mong Kok Dim Sum has a branch near his restaurant and is open late, so he gets a decent meal after dinner service is done at Summer Hill. So next time you get a case of the late-night munchies, you can’t go wrong with great dim sum, beef hor fun and the rest of the extensive menu at Mong Kok Dim Sum!

TASTE:
MONG KOK DIM SUM
8 Cheong Chin Nam Road S(599733)
Open daily: 11am – 1.30am
Tel: +65 8686 8829

Branches also at 214 Geylang Road & 197 East Coast Road.

Available for home delivery – order online via Grab

National Day Special: Top Local Eats (Chilli Crab)

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In our recent poll for the National Day series, Gold 905 listeners voted chilli crab as the third most popular dish, just behind chicken rice and laksa. An obvious choice, perhaps, but this is one dish we can proudly say was created in Singapore and as island-dwellers, our tables never go too long without the succulent, spicy seafood treat of mud crabs wok-fried in a piquant, savoury-sweet gravy, served with bread or buns on the side for maximum sauce-absorbing purposes. This week, we feature 2 fantastic and very different styles of Chilli Crab.

1. ROLAND RESTAURANT

Welcome to the birthplace of Chilli Crab. Or as our photographer put it, “The OG Chiili Crab”. Roland Restaurant began life in the mid-fifties by the Kallang River as a humble seafood stall, with just few wooden tables, stools and kerosene lamps. Run by husband-and-wife team Cher Yam Tian and Lim Choon Ngee, business began booming with Madam Cher’s signature creation of crabs stir-fried in a combination of tomato and chilli sauces. The stall evolved to a restaurant initially called Palm Beach along Upper Changi Road and in 1985, their son Roland took over the family business. The eponymously named restaurant has made Marine Parade home ever since.

The chill crab served at Roland Restaurant is still made according to inventor Madam Cher’s recipe and she even makes an appearance now and again in the kitchen (usually when the camera crews come knocking). So if you’re hankering after taste of those good old Bedok Beach days, you know where to find it. Long-time customers still return to ask for this off-menu item. According to Roland, his mother’s original recipe was sweeter, with more of a tomato ketchup flavour and always served with a side of crusty local-style French loaf.

However, their signature on-menu chilli crab has gone through some minor tweaks. “Moving with the times. We always listen to customer feedback,” explained the affable Roland. These days, the sweet tomato ketchup has been dialled down, the chilli paste ramped up for kick and egg has been added for extra texture. The French loaf is also gone, having made way for the now requisite mantou (Chinese wheat flour buns).

In truth, I’m not really a fan of chilli crab, which is usually too heavy on tomato ketchup for me. But a couple of friends, determined to change my mind, dragged me to Roland Restaurant more than a decade ago and made a convert out of me. Their chilli crab is all about a better balance of flavours. The first thing I noticed was the aroma. The thick sauce smelt of the sea – a little bit funky, deeply earthy and savoury. “This is what the younger generation prefers. We try to keep all the flavours very natural, yet true to my mother’s recipe,” Roland pointed out. Indeed, their gravy wasn’t excessively ketchupy or sugary and its fiery chilli heat tickled the back of my throat in the most stimulating way.

Brininess, spiciness, a touch of tang and a hint of sweetness all worked harmoniously in the gravy, expertly thickened by threads of egg white. Its deep, rich colour, so unlike other neon orange sauces I’ve seen, told me there was more culinary magic going on than met the eye. Even after sitting on the table for a good thirty minutes, the dish stayed hot and the sauce did not turn into a gelatinous goop. I appreciated their judicious use of cornstarch, testament to how natural they try to keep the recipe.

To truly enjoy chilli crab, mantou is a must for conveying gravy to mouth. At Roland, you can order the buns either steamed or deep-fried. But chilli crab is already such an indulgent feast, you might as well go all the way with the deep-fried variety, for added taste and textural dimensions. Those buns ($2.40 for four) were dainty and pale, but quite the opposite flavour-wise. The thin, fried crust of the bun was like a crispy candy shell that shattered on contact with teeth, melting away to reveal a soft, fluffy centre. Dipped into chilli crab sauce, the sweet buns drank up the savoury, spicy elixir and released a lovely milkiness that made a wonderfully balanced combination.

As for the crab itself, full marks on freshness, flavour and size. Roland Restaurant usually serves a mix of Sri Lankan crabs and mud crabs, depending on the season – mine were Sri Lankan and perfectly cooked. The naturally sweet crustaceans had a kissed-by-the-wok smokiness, with juicy yet firm pincers, all lovingly bathed in the excellent sauce.

Best of all, the price. They have a current promotion – $78 for two crabs. The waiter warned us they’d be smaller, but on arrival, they were surprisingly substantial and very meaty. “When you do a promotion, customers must not feel like they’ve been cheated. I told my chefs, each serving of two crabs must weigh 1kg or more, then it’s worth it,” said Roland. I couldn’t agree more. At little over 500g per crab, my serving was ample, delicious and great value for money.

There’s always something quite ceremonial and special about sharing a meal of chilli crabs, especially at a stalwart like Roland Restaurant, which calls to mind classic Chinese banqueting halls and childhood family feasts. Eating chilli crabs is such a sensuous experience – you have to be prepared to get hands-on messy, cracking through shells, sucking out hidden morsels from nooks and crannies, sopping up pools of gravy.

By the time I was done, there was probably as much sauce on me as there had been on the crabs. Thank God for piles of napkins and those little finger bowls of calamansi lime tea. Or if you prefer, you can ask for disposable plastic gloves. But where’s the fun in that? It can be such an investment of time and effort, but Roland Restaurant’s chilli crabs are definitely worth getting your hands (and everything else) deliciously dirty for.

TASTE:
Located at Block 89, Marine Parade Central, # 06-750 Singapore 440089.
Opening hours daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and 6 to 10.30pm for dinner.
Call 6440 8205 for reservations or to order takeaway.

2. WOK IN BURGER

For an updated version of chilli crab, American fast food meets local zichar in Wok In Burger’s decadent, deep-fried softshell crab burger with chilli crab sauce and fries. The resturant-within-a-restaurant concept shares the same space as sister eatery Keng Eng Kee (KEK), which has a Michelin plate for its famed zichar dishes, including traditional chilli crab. The brainchild of KEK’s third generation chef Wayne Liew, the chilli softshell crab burger is just one of several zichar dishes presented in burger form at nineteen-month-old Wok In Burger, using the same traditional cooking techniques and flavours found at (almost) fifty-year-old KEK.

Before you eschew this as another hipster food fad, the concept works. Close your eyes and you can imagine it really is traditional chilli crab you’re eating (all the elements are there – crab, sauce, bun), albeit crispier and sans tooth-breaking shells. Served piping hot in an on-brand mini-wok, an entire softshell crab was lightly battered and fried till crisp, then sandwiched between lightly toasted, Planta-smeared sesame seed buns, along with lettuce leaf, shredded cabbage and a slice of tomato. The chilli crab sauce was served warm, in a little container on the side – a touch I appreciated, because who wants cold, soggy deep-fried crab?

They say the sauce can make or break the dish, so that was the first thing I tried before even drizzling it on the burger. My mouth was immediately invaded by the sweetness of the glossy sauce, which had a viscous consistency. With generous ribbons of egg white and flecks of chilli giving off a gentle heat, the sauce was like a high-octane ketchup. Apparently, this is the same chilli crab sauce they use in their zichar kitchen, but I found it too sweet for my liking. However, once I combined it with the softshell crab burger, it started to make perfect sense.

Naturally briny and juicy, the softshell crab was tasty on its own and its light batter was also very well-seasoned. The combined saltiness of the crispy crustacean held up marvellously to the sweetly spicy sauce. The acidity in the sauce also lightened the fatty richness of the deep fried crab, which itself was a study in textures. There was crunch from its batter, snap to its soft shell exterior and tender bite to its firm, moist meat. The burger buns functioned in much the same way traditional mantou do – for maximum surface area to soak up sauce and crab juices. 

Be prepared to get very, very messy. There is absolutely no elegant way of eating a chilli crab burger drenched in sauce, so my advice is to control how much you pour on. And definitely save some for dipping their gloriously crispy fries in. Their deep-fried fingers of potato had an especially salty, crunchy coating, with lots of little jagged edges for the sweet sauce to cling to. Just like with the burger, it was all about that perfect balance between textures and salty-sweet flavours. Surprisingly, both the fries and softshell crab retained their crispness, twenty minutes into their saucy bath, that little pot of eggy gravy holding everything together in its syrupy hug. I must stress, however, that the burger meal is best eaten fresh and hot on the spot. It won’t hold up to a steamy, soggy delivery journey.

It’s been said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I’m glad Chef Wayne didn’t get the memo. Wok In Burger’s chilli soft shell crab burger is a laudable attempt to update a time-honoured zichar classic. This is one extremely filling, indulgent zichar-burger hybrid that’s worth dining-in for and at just $15.80, you can enjoy a chilli crab experience at a fraction of the usual price. Also order traditional chilli crab from KEK, for the best of both worlds. Just remember to bring lots of tissues and wet wipes!

TASTE:
Located at 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-136, Singapore 150124.
Opening hours daily from
11:30am to 2:30pm for lunch, 5pm to 10pm for dinner.
Call 6272 1038
or order via Oddle.
Second outlet located at
JCube #02-08.

 

Jin Hock is Jin Ho (So Good!)

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Our Makan Kaki Annette Tan of FatFuku private dining is back to tell us about one of her Regular Zichar haunts in the East – a place that offers up rather unique dishes, alongside the usual classic Zichar staples like sambal seafood, rice & noodles. Jin Hock Seafood is a very humble stall at the bottom of a block of flats in Chai Chee, but flavour-wise, everything is punchy, full of wok hei, smoky and really delicious. One of the things she likes to order is their Crispy Salted Egg Bitter Gourd (see above). Now, she doesn’t usually eat bitter gourd, but theirs is so good she’ll make an exception at Jin Hock. The key is in the treatment and preparation of the bitter gourd, which is sliced really thin then allowed to dry out a little. They then coat the bitter gourd slices with salted egg and deep fry them till they resemble crisps – SO addictive! Bonus is the curry leaves, red chillis and crunchy ikan billis scattered throughout this dish.

Continue reading “Jin Hock is Jin Ho (So Good!)”

Dempsey Delights, New Ubin Insights

Hello Makan Kakis, meet your new Foodie Friends, a Father & Son duo who are wildly passionate about food, especially since they are the team behind Truly Singaporean Tze Char restaurant brand, New Ubin Seafood, known for not just their take on tasty traditional dishes, but also their innovative twist on Western contemporary dishes – perfect beef and heart attack fried rice, anyone?

SM Pang and his son Alex popped by the Gold 905 studio recently to talk about all things food, working together in a family-run F&B business and of course, share with us some of their personal favourites when it comes to eating out here in Singapore.

By the way, they’ve just opened their newest branch at the Ramada Hotel (Zhongshan Park), serving up the same awesome signatures you know and love. Check it out here.

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Excellent Zichar Favourites in the East

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Hello Makan Kakis, if you’re looking for comfort cooking that hits the spot and wok-breathed delicacies created with punchy flavour & flair, then you’ve got to try this casual Zichar place in the East, where you can bring your own wines or whiskeys. So says our Foodie Friend, co-owner of Asian Tapas Bar, The Wine & Gourmet Friends, William Seah. Wee’s Family Coffee Shop in Bedok Reservoir has been getting rave reviews for their signature Salted Egg Crab, which William has a weakness for. Very rich, very savoury, very tasty sauce paired with succulent and sweet crab meat – what’s not to love? This Zichar restaurant is the family business of another wine consultant friend of William’s, Milton. That’s why if you love to pair your local dishes with alcohol, this is the perfect setting. Wee’s Family Coffee Shop encourages BYOB, no corkage!

Continue reading “Excellent Zichar Favourites in the East”

Heart Attack Fried Rice

Greetings Greedies! Please meet our new Makan Kaki, Jeremmy Chiam! He’s the Chef-Owner of Le Binchotan at Amoy Street, a unique restaurant that combines classical French techniques with fresh Japanese produce and the art of Japanese charcoal grilling. This is a place you can go to for excellent lunches or better yet, unwind after work with a cocktail, sake or whiskey and a really delicious dinner in a super-cool space featuring domed ceilings, wood panelling & looks like an underground bunker.

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So where does a chef like Jeremmy go after a long hard week of service at his restaurant? Our new Makan Kaki is all about creature comforts, kicking back at a down-to-earth, fuss-free eating place with his family. That’s why on Sundays, he heads to New Ubin Seafood for Cze Char – it’s casual and has a varied menu with something for everyone from his parents to his son.

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Johor Bahru Found in Geylang!

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Greetings Greedies, get your guts ready for a veritable Cze Char FEAST at a Geylang institution that is far from unfamiliar. In fact, we’ve covered it before here on the Makan Kakis blog. However it’s SOOO GOOOD that its virtues bear repeating, so here goes…

Michelin Bib Gourmand-mentioned JB Ah Meng is a long-time favourite of chefs not just because it’s conveniently open late (perfect for after-service suppers), but also the food is legitly tasty. Our Makan Kaki Petrina Loh of Morsels, like so many other chefs (including our other foodie friends KF Seetoh, Rishi Naleendra & Chef Daniel Tay), makes a beeline for JB Ah Meng whenever she can with colleagues and friends when she’s in need of her JB Cze Char fix.

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So Good, it Feels Like a SIN (Hoi Sai)!

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This week, our Makan Kaki, Lucha Loco’s Chef Jason Jones returns to tell us where lots of chefs go for dinner. This is usually a very late dinner, in the wee hours, after 1 or 2am, when service at their own restaurants is over, clean-up is complete and they can finally emerge from their kitchens for a bite to eat. Chef Jason’s favourite is local Tiong Bahru seafood zichar institution because it opens from 5pm – 5am (perfect timing!) and of course, the food is up to scratch for professional chefs’ palates.

Continue reading “So Good, it Feels Like a SIN (Hoi Sai)!”