Fat, Lucky & Quintessentially Singaporean

Hi Makan Kakis,

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…

HEAR:

SEE:

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

 

Chicken Rice to usher in the Rooster Year!

sk3

HEAR:
Click here to listen to this week’s fragrantly fowl episode!

SEE:
This first week of the Chinese New Year, what better way to usher in the Fire Rooster than with a luscious plate of Singapore’s favourite chicken rice? Our intrepid Guru of Gluttony and Makan Maniac behind the Makansutra, KF Seetoh is excited to reveal his die-die-must-try recommendation. Arguably, chicken rice is a subjective thing – everyone has their favourite, but you simply cannot dispute the fame of the Sin Kee name. Seetoh waxes lyrical about the famous stall run by the Leong family in Margaret Drive back in the 70s – anyone else remember it? Sadly it disappeared, then reappeared in Mei Ling Street under the skills of one of the sons, Benson Leong. But then again, that disappeared too. Seetoh chooses not to speculate on the story, although he was pleased to find the other headline-grabbing brother Niven Leong operating his version, called Uncle Chicken in Bedok and that’s where he found Benson helping out briefly. But foodie friends, rejoice, because Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice is back, alive and clucking in Holland Drive!

sk2
Benson Leong, like his brother Niven, with years of training under the watchful eye of his late father, has reopened in a koptiam and within the first week of his stall reopening, Seetoh was there to give the chicken rice a try. Things weren’t quite in fully operational mode then (they are now), but the chicken rice was exactly as Seetoh remembers it back in the good old Margaret Drive days.

sk1
Benson uses BIG birds (over 2kg), so that the cuts of chicken parts are chunky and substantial. He uses a bold hand and with his trusty blade, those thick, juicy chicken breasts get a special “slam & chop” that tenderizes the skin-on meat, flattening it and making it slightly crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth.

As for the rice, this is tried and true, from scratch, quality stuff! The rice is first dry-fried with chicken fat, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, pandan leaf till all the aromatics penetrate the grains, before a sinfully rich chicken stock is added. The result, a gently steamed chicken rice that’s firm to the bite, slightly oily (but not unpleasantly so) and packed with “chickeny” flavour!

The chilli is also on point. Though, watery-looking, it packs a punch with its balanced combination of dried and fresh chillis, garlic, ginger, kalamansi and vinegar. It’s tangy, sharp and spicy with a bite, all at the same time!

So if you’ve been searching for that old Sin Kee taste you’ve yearned for and you want a chicken rice that ticks all the boxes, you’ll find it in the ressurected Sin Kee Famous Cantonese (yes, NOT Hainanese!) Chicken Rice, run by Benson Leong.

You’ll find more details the 2017 edition of Makansutra or online here.

TASTE:
Sin Kee Famous Cantonese Chicken Rice
Blk 40 Holland Drive, Chang Chen Mee Wah Coffeeshop
Open daily: 11am – 8pm

* all photos courtesy of Makansutra.com

Mind-blowing Steam Boat

This week, our Makan Kaki Aun Koh shares with us his mind-blowing experience at a Chinese restaurant he never expected would have such superior steamboat.

If you like dipping raw meats in boiling stock round a communal pot, this isn’t for you, because this steamboat takes that self-serve concept and elevates it to decadent proportions.

First of all, this is a place that requires TWO days’ notice, because of the sheer amount of preparation required and the sheer number of premium, fresh ingredients that need to be sourced. That’s why this is no ordinary steamboat – this is exquisite, special occasion steamboat, that is, admittedly, expensive. However, once you’ve had the experience, you’ll find the $180 per head price tag truly value-for-money. Here’s why:

You get a private room that seats 2-6 people (6 is the max because of the personalised service) AND  a personal chef. After you sit down at the table, you’ll notice a large, empty claypot in front of you. Just as you wonder what you should do next, the chef begins his magic. Using herbs, chicken, Korean Ginseng, stock and wine which he flambes to great effect, your steamboat broth is piping hot and ready for its first tasting within minutes. You’d never believe a broth could be this tasty after such a short time, but it is.

Next, comes a full parade of the freshest, top-quality, premium ingredients, including abalone, lobster, crab, tiger prawns, whole grouper, pork, beef and the most exquisite, hand-made dumplings, all of which the chef will personally cook for you. That’s right, you don’t have to lift a finger except to bring perfectly prepared, perfectly cooked morsels to your mouth!

Just when you think things can’t get any better, at the tail-end of the steamboat feast, the chef places all the lobster and crab shells, the grouper head and other tasty bits he’s been saving back into the broth and adds rice to make an immensely satisfying seafood porridge that gets simmered and reduced till the flavours are intensified. It’s the perfect, comforting end to a near-perfect steamboat meal. You will literally stagger out of the restaurant rubbing your warm belly!

Please, do go try this MIND-BLOWING steamboat experience – it’s worthy of a special occasion, worthy of the price tag! And don’t forget to book in advance!

LISTEN TO THIS WEEK’S STEAMING EPISODE AGAIN!

The Art of Eating Steamboat @ Man Fu Yuan
Intercontinental Hotel
80 Middle Road
Reservations: +65 6338 7600

Want more pictures and details? Read Aun’s steamboat story on his website, Chubby Hubby.

Local Treasured Delicacies at Clifford Pier

Shermay & Denise

Welcome to the very first episode of the up-sized, all-new Makan Kakis! And from our rolling panel of foodie friends & gourmet gurus, we kick things off with Shermay Lee, whose award-winning cookbooks feature recipes from her beloved Grandmother, the late Mrs Lee Chin Koon, who was the author of the famous Mrs Lee’s Cookbook, and was widely recognised as the doyenne of Peranakan cuisine in Singapore.

This week’s recommendation is one very close to Shermay’s heart, especially since it features a carefully curated menu of dishes for the Clifford Pier, created from recipes handed down through generations of her family and most recently, from her late grandmother to her. These are a combination of published and unpublished recipes (grandma’s handwritten notes and all), so it’s exciting to note that you’ll be tasting some very personal family recipes.

These dishes will take you back through years of Singapore’s culinary heritage and give you a taste of local comfort food you remember from the 50s – 80s and perhaps even earlier! Yes, it’s food nostalgia, remembering those yummy dishes Grandma used to cook for you, yet elevated and served in the gorgeously historical Clifford Pier, so it’s no coincidence this special menu launches just in time for our National Day weekend. So onwards, proud Singaporeans,  to the deliciousness!

Lo Gai Yik
Lo Gai Yik

Lo Gai Yik * – a chicken wing and pork stew, but oh, so much more! This is an authentic rendition of that now-hard-to-find poor man’s food, which featured nose-to-tail cooking long before it became a trendy thing. Back then, it was making economical use of the entire animal, especially the cheap cuts others would discard and transforming them into something profoundly delicious. Brace your bellies and imagine chicken wings, fatless, gelatinous pig’s skin, pork belly, pig intestines, dried cuttlefish, tau pok and kangkong, braised for hours in an intense, complex sauce made from a careful balance of hoisin, tau cheo (fermented salty bean paste) & nam yee (red preserved tofu). In Shermay’s grandma’s handwritten notes, she included sea cucumber in the recipe and staying true to its roots, Shermay’s recipe for Clifford Pier also includes soft Korean sea cucumbers that add extra silkiness to the dish and just soak up all the flavours of the sauce. The result is a comforting taste of history – tender meat, a perfectly brown-pink (from the hoisin), salty-sweet, rich in umami gravy and on the palate, a rich, collagen-y mouthfeel. The Lo Gai Yik is served with hot rice, extra hoisin so you can adjust the sweetness to your taste and a chilli sauce that is spicy and tangy to cut through all that richness and balance things out.

Hainanese Kurobuta Pork Chop – a juicy, substantial, quality chop that is encrusted with bashed up soda biscuits (this household cracker was a war-time staple during the colonial era) for crunch, served with fried sliced potatoes with that smoky, “wok hei” flavour and a western-Hainanese soy-ginger gravy, along with onions and peas. It’s all about paying tribute to our Colonial culinary roots and the skilled Hainanese chefs who cooked with their hearts and souls, taking Western dishes and putting their own Asian spin on them.

Nonya Chicken Curry and Roti Jala – an authentic Nonya curry based on Shermay’s own secret blend of spices and based on her grandmother’s original Peranakan recipe. Truth be told, a Nonya curry should taste different from a Malay, Indian or even Chinese-style curry. Yes, it’s lemak, but its flavour is boosted by turmeric and coriander. Best of all, the rich curry is served not with the usual rice or bread, but with Roti Jala – a delicate, lacy, eggy pancake that’s an almost forgotten delicacy and virtually impossible to find, unless you still make it yourself at home. These are freshly-handcrafted with a traditional Roti Jala dispenser.

LISTEN TO THIS WEEK’S MOUTH-WATERING EPISODE!

And these are other wonderful dishes worth trying, that didn’t make it on to our radio show simply because of time constraints:

Ayam Lodeh with Lontong
Ayam Lodeh with Lontong

Ayam Lodeh* – traditional mild, fragrant Malay coconut curry of chicken, long beans, carrots, cabbage, tofu (taukua) and rice cubes (lontong), served with prawn crackers (keropok udang)

Ayam Bali
Ayam Bali

Ayam Bali * – tantalising dish of chicken simmered in a hand-pounded rempah base that creates a perfect and deliberately coarse-textured chilli sauce with the sweet notes of Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis).

Tau You Bak (Kong Ba Bao) – tender, caramelised pork belly slices simmered in a garlicky soy gravy, served with pillowy-soft steamed bread buns (mantou) and a soft-boiled egg with unctuous yolk on the side.

Hainanese Steak – Wok-seared beef fillet in gravy of Worcestershire and soy sauces, served on hot white rice. This a great example of comfort food with that traditional Colonial-Hainanese, east-west flavour!

Colonial Bacon-Wrapped Roast Chicken – Bacon-wrapped chicken marinated with shallots, Chinese wine and soy sauce with potato balls (remember pomme noisettes from the ’80s?) and ginger chicken gravy.

*From unpublished hand-written recipes Shermay Lee inherited from her grandmother, Mrs Lee Chin Koon, which have for the first time ever, been recreated for this limited period.

These eight dishes by Shermay Lee, priced at $23++ each, will be available on top of the restaurant’s all-day dining menu, from 7 August to 7 September 2014.

The Clifford Pier
The Fullerton Bay Hotel
80 Collyer Quay
Singapore 049326
Open: 11.30am to 10.00pm daily
Reservations: (65) 6597 5266/ www.chope.com.sg