Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cze Char: Two Chefs, Commonwealth Crescent, Singapore

with family

Cze Char - or cook, fry in Hokkien is the staple local cuisine, most akin to home cooked food. Typically these small business are found in coffee shops, or hawker centres, and usually, though not always specializing in seafood. Each dish is cooked to order, just like home. Many cooks practice their culinary skills over super hot fires. Kerosene used as fuel, vapourised and mixed with compressed air, then injected via 6, 8, or 12 a jet engine, can reach extremely high temperatures. Food needed then to be cooked quickly, stir fried as it were and tossed as it were. If the chef's hand were a little slow, the food would burn. This requires great strength on the part of the chef, and indeed many are large, strong men. The wok imparts a fragrance known to cognicenti as wok hei - Cantonese for the breath of the wok.

The subject of our sojourn today is Two the name suggests, opened by 2 cooks...brothers as I understand it. Situated at the old Ubin Seafood, which was a frequent haunt of the family some 10 years ago, this little coffeeshop is a corner lot, with dining space al fresco.

We started with the sambal kankong, a standard dish. This is a standard offering, and usually if the kankong is not too old, the dish would be nice. This one was ok, about average.

Next up was enokitake (golden needle mushroom) with home made tofu, in a delightful sauce.

This was excellent. The mushroom complements the sauce very well. Biting into the tofu gently, the skin will give way, and out bursts the smooth creamy tofu inside. The smooth, brown sauce was delightful, well balanced. The enokitake providing crunch and counterpoint. Kin described the tofu texture was perfect - good aroma, smooth, creamy and extremely pleasant.

Next, was their signature butter pork ribs. An innocent sounding name, the dish was extremely interesting.

Looks are extremely deceiving. What looks like a yellow powder turned out to milk powder fried with butter. Very creamy. The milky taste goes well to the palate. Curry leaves temper the richness of the taste.

Certainly deserving to be their signature. The pork ribs were different, in fact they were not ribs, but boneless slices of pork cutlet. The pork was deep fried, with a kind of crunch on the surface, and complements very well with the unusual butter fried mikk. The cut chosen was not at greasy or fat, but the meat was tender, juicy and indeed very tasty. This was a creative dish, and a winner in my books.

Next we had a great dish. The favourite of the family. They called this Satay Prawns. But they were not grilled, and were not served with typical satay peanut sauce.

Huge succulent prawns were skewered (hence the name satay?) battered in a tempura like breaded flour, and then deep fried. The presentation was enticing. The dish remained amazing as it was not greasy at all, and the crust was super crisp.

The prawns were very fresh, and shelled except for the bit on the tail, and the head. Freshness of prawns are easy to determine...prawns with intact heads. These prawns were very fresh, could have been live prawns. It tasted of the sea, another tell tale sign of great prawns. This dish was a great hit. Crunchy prawns, sweet, excellent.

Two Chefs Eating House
116 Commonwealth Drive

Photo note: This was a clear bright day. So shooting was easy. Shot with the Canon 1Dmk3 with 17-40 f/4L. Handheld, auto white balance. Shooting at ISO640, I was able to handhold at f/8. Better depth of field.

I decided to leave the pictures in higher resolution - 800 pixels wide to show the texture of the food to great effect.

More pictures from an earlier dinner with SJX and Horolographer. The following night shots were shot handheld, auto white balance of the 1Dmk3 gets the flourescent lighting well.

Venison with spring onions and ginger. Another great dish. Very tender meat.

Honey chicken with almond nuts. Beautiful dish. Excellent. The honey blended with the chicken, contrasts with crunchy almond. The flavours blended superbly.

Tong Kwee Prawns. Recommended by colleague Joyce. This hits the spot again with fresh prawns, and an interesting herbal soup which was refreshing.

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