Hokkiens form a large part of the dialect group in Singapore. I believe, with the Teochews, Hokkiens form up to 70%+ of the Chinese population here. As a result, the lingua franca in Singapore when speaking dialect is most usually Hokkien.
The cuisine is also follows suit, though being in the South East Asia, our infuences from the region with hot, spicy food is apparent, many of the origins of the cuisine is derived from old recipes from China.
Beng Hiang is one such old guardian of authentic Hokkien cuisine here. Their restaurant in Amoy Street (Amoy is a dialect of the Fujian Province, where Hokkiens are from).
We ordered a typical Hokkien meal for lunch one Saturday...as we have done countless of times before.
Starters: Fish Maw Soup
This is a thick (thickened usually with tapioca) soup, with deep fried, dried fish maw, scallop shreads, crab meat. Tasty and hearty soup. Today's serving was let down by the use of frozen crab, which tasted flat and dull, instead of being sweet, fat and rich that fresh crab will provide. But nonetheless, still tasty.
Hae Choe is another typical dish.
Filled with minced prawns, sometimes crab meat, and filled with finely diced chestnuts, radish and other vegetables, then deep fried, the hae choe is another Hokkien favourite. This version served by Beng Hiang is excellent. The rich savoury, and juicy tender insides are encased in a crunchy, crispy skin. Great texture contrasts, as well as a very beautiful taste.
The way vegetables are done in Hokkien are also simple:
Simply flash fried in a hot wok with garlic, the dou miao is soft, rich, silky. There is a slight sweet/salty aftertaste with just a tinge of bitterness to round up the vegetable. Complements very wel with the slightly salty, dried fish, which also provides umami power and flavour. Excellent vegetable dish.
Beng Hiang is also famous for their Khong Bak Pau:
Pork belly is stewed in a black sauce for hours...tens of hours to render them soft, super tender. The pork absorbs the braising liquid for hours and becomes especially flavourful. The steamed dumplings are light and fluffly, and served together, sometimes is a slice of heaven. Sinfully fat and cholesterol laden...note layer of oil, from rendered fat, on which the pork sits on. But wonderful on the palate. Sweet and salty all at once. The immense umami of the rich pork is irresistable. Very very good. But my favourite is actually served by Westlake Restaurant which I reviewed here. Westlake's version is a bit saltier (negative for me), but the braising liquid is much more flavourful and packs more taste triggers...edges out Beng Hiang's very good rendition. Close, but edge goes to Westlake.
But the Hokkien Char is par excellence.
The sauce, brown, thick, rich, fullfilling coats every strand of noodle. The seafood is reasonably fresh...if I nitpicked, I would have wanted fresher and crunchier prawns, fresher fish and cuttlefish...but as it stands this dish is excellent. Really good. The sauce is outstanding, and powers the dish very well.
One of the best to be found in Singapore. Reminiscent of the old Hokkien restaurants I used to eat in Penang.
Overall, this is a treasure for Hokkiens. Beng Hiang holds up traditional values well. The restaurant is large enough to be the venues of large celebrations, like traditional Chinese weddings with ease. During a typicaly lunch, it gets fairly busy.
Beng Hiang Restaurant
112 - 116 Amoy Street
Tel: (65) 6221 6695
Fax: (65) 6220 2906
Mon - Sun
Lunch 11:30am - 2:30pm (last order)
Dinner 6:00pm - 9:30pm (last order)