Friday, October 24, 2008

Cze Char: Siang Hee, Zion Road, Singapore

with office colleagues

I found out about this Cze Char place from the a recommendation by mienmienmien at the ieat forum. One of the elders of the forum Wacow invited me to join the makan gang for a session at 2:30pm. Dr. Ieat was joining the lunch, and would be free only after closing the morning session of his clinic. Lunch at 2:30 is too late, would have died of starvation...and I gotta be back at work.

So I became the Advanced Party for the Makan Gang...and descended on Siang Hee with 4 of my office colleagues. The place was almost full when we arrived.

We proceeded to order the recommended dishes...the menu, hung on the wall...

ahem...we ordered almost everything on the menu, except for the fish dishes...which comprised of two orders of deep fried ter ka (it was so good that after the first one, everyone on the table agreed to do a second), one Marmite pork ribs, one Mongolian pork ribs, one House Special tofu, one pumpkin prawns, and some vegetable...a plate of French beans.

First the piece de resistance: the Deep Fried Pork Knuckle.

This dish deserved its we settled down to order...wacow smsed me "mien says pork leg is a must eat".

What seemed like a whole pork leg was served...the bone whole, and the meat de-boned and chopped up to rough pieces. Unlike German pork knuckle, which usually features a cut with a smaller bone (thibia?), and more meat, this had a huge bone (femur?) and less meaty.

Deep fried to perfection...very crisp skin...with a tingling small layer of fat greasy taste or feel. Very well done. The thin, crisp skin disintegrates with a crackling at every bite...sometimes the German Schweinshaxe can have crackling which can tend to be a bit tough, but this Chinese style "Ter Kar" was deep fried in very hot fat which renders everything keropok crispy. Superb. Agreeing with me, one of my colleagues - known as GT-R, by the car he drives, proclaimed immediately on his first bite, "WAH fantastic man!"...he had recently returned to Singapore after a 18 month stint in Hong Kong. Even HKG food cannot compare. "Boh beh chau".

The meat was tender, and not greasy. Collagen clung to some bits, and made the pork extremely tasty and nice on the palate. One of my other colleagues remarked that it is not as porky taste as some he had eaten. His remark reminded me of the lechon in the Philippines which had such a strong pork odour that I could not stomach it..I guess he was referring to that type of pork. This pork had a good pork flavour, but not overpowering and being pork lovers, it was a beautiful scent.

A chilli dipping sauce which taste distinctly quite Thai was the perfect accompaniment, as it provided the tang, and bite to the meat.

The Pumpkin Prawns was also outstanding.

As there were 5 of us, 5 huge succulent prawns were smothered in a thick pumpkin sauce which clung to the crustaceans like paste. The lovely sauce contained slices of red cut chilli which provided the oomph...I think the sauce is very special.

The prawns themselves were very fresh, and crunchy to the bite. No sea fragrance was detected, but no complaints...sweet, tasty.

Two styles of pork ribs were offered, and we ate both...the Marmite ribs was recommended by mien.

I had imagined the dish to be marmite...and had near nightmares last night about ordering it...Marmite is high in purine, and threatens to increase uric acid in the blood which may lead to gout. My uric acid levels are high, though I am asymptomatic of the disease...prevention is better than cure. When we arrived, I threw caution to the wind, and ordered it.

It was superb. The pork was slight crisp on the outside, but remained tender, and was covered marmite sauce, which was kind of brown instead of black. A sprinkling of sesami seed provided visual interest.

Next up to be devoured, we had the Mongolian Pork Rib.

This was recommended by our friendly server, who spoke Mandarin, Hokkien and English...and maybe a few more languages and dialects.

In comparison to the marmite, the pork seemed to be fried almost crisp...not quite super crisp like the one I blogged about in the Beo Crescent post, but it was almost. There was no soft, tender core like that found in the marmite. As a result, the dish tasted completely different, notwithstanding the different sauce. We couldn't quite make out what was in the sauce. It was tasty, but we all thought it to be a lesser dish than its marmite sibbling.

The House Tofu was also quite outstanding.

Pieces of very tender, fragrant tofu, with one side coated with spinach was served under a thick gooey sauce with straw mushrooms, carrots and bitter gourd. I don't normally like bitter gourd, but this one was neither bitter nor unpleasant. Very nice dish.

To make sure we have some balance to the protein and fat heavy meal, we also had a plate of fried french beans.

The beans turned out quite special as well. Each strand was rendered nearly crispy, and the insides still kind of medium raw...and crunchy. The wok must have been super duper hot, and the beans seared at high heat, tossed quickly and removed with immaculate timing, so it is not overcooked, and served with some crispy bits. We could not quite make out what the crispy bits were...quite possibly either shredded squid. But it was tasty.

This Cze Char store is highly recommended...very good dishes. Reasonably priced. Chef - shown in his kitchen with red a genius. Chap in blue in foreground is our server.

For completeness...the owner came to check our satisfaction, as would a Michelin I grabbed a shot of her.

Siang Hee
89 Zion Road

Photonote: easy time...usual equipment. Plenty of was a cloudy day, but more than sufficient for f/8 shooting. No experiments with raw processing...:-)
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