Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha – Amazing Bak Kut Teh (If You Like The Peppery Bak Kut Teh)

Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha is an old and famous bak kut teh restaurant in Singapore.

Bak kuh teh is a soup made from simmering pork ribs for many hours with various spices.  It directly translates to “meat bone tea” (rou gu cha 肉骨茶).  There is also more than one version; there is the Teochew version that is very peppery and has more garlic in it, there is the Hokkien version which is darker because of soy sauce and has a more herbal flavor and there are also other versions in Malaysia particularly in the Klang Valley, but I’ve never been there so I can’t really comment on what the difference is with their bak kuh teh.  Most people have a strong preference for one kind versus the others; I prefer the Teochew version as I love the peppery flavor.

The restaurant is located off Keppel Road on the ground floor of this residential building.  There isn’t too much décor to the place as it’s kind of a coffee shop setting, but it’s not rundown and it’s clean.  The service was fast and efficient and my server was nice as well.  I’m not sure how good or not good their English is, but the menu is totally translated into English and they give you a paper checklist, so you just check off what you want.

I found this video of the restaurant which you can see here.

Stewed Peanuts:

I love boiled peanuts; I never understood why they aren’t more popular in the US.  Anyhow, these are stewed in a lu wei 鹵味 sauce, which is a braising technique uses a master stock that is constantly re-used (i.e. they keep filling it up).  The peanuts were very soft and had a nice flavor from the lu wei sauce which was slightly sweet and salty.  These were a nice condiment.  8.25/10

Salted Cabbage:

This is called kiam chye in Teochew I believe. It’s diced up salted that cabbage has been boiled.  It’s a bit salty and sweet.  It’s a nice condiment as well. 8/10

Bak Kut Teh:

They serve the Teochew style bak kut teh here, which is peppery (think black pepper not like spicy pepper) that I really like.  However, some people find it too peppery, so not everyone may like this as much as I do.  The broth is very light, not oily or heavy at all and has a great flavor that you can only get by simmering bones for hours.  The ribs were quite tender and tasted good although I did sort of mess up because I forgot to ask them for long ribs (chang gu 長骨) as it’s not on the menu and you have to specially ask for it, but the ribs were still nice anyhow.  They give you a you tiao (fried crueller) and a dark soy sauce with cut up chili in it.  The you tiao wasn’t very good because it wasn’t fresh, so it was a bit soggy.  I liked the dark soy sauce with chili in it, but I tried not to use it too much since I thought it overpowers the soup a bit.  Overall, I really enjoyed this a lot as it’s the type of thing I could eat every day and be totally happy.  Fyi, there are free re-fills of soup.  9/10

Ter Kah:

Ter kah are pigs feet braised in a lu wei sauce.  Here you have the option of getting the lean or fatty kind.  Since it was pretty early in the morning I decided to get the lean version. The lean version is much less collagen-y / fatty and had more meat as opposed to collagen.  The meat was nicely tender and I like the lu wei sauce which was a bit sweet and salty.  This was a nice accompaniment to the bak kuh teh, it would’ve been really good with some rice, but I was going to other places that day so I didn’t want to fill up on rice.  Overall, this was quite good and I’d get it again.  8.5/10

I’m not a bak kut teh or ter kah expert, so it’s totally possible there are better places that this (and please tell me if you know them), but I really enjoyed my meal here and this was one of my most satisfying meals this trip along with Sin Huat and Nam Sing.

7 Keppel Road
#01-05/07 Tanjong Pagar Complex
Phone: 6222 9610

Lao Fu Zi Fried Kway Teow – Very Good Char Kway Teow At Old Airport Road Food Centre

So this was another place I ate at Old Airport Road Food Centre.  This stall is pretty well known for its char kway teowChar kway teow is one of the most famous hawker dishes in Singapore and Malaysia. It is made from flat rice noodles (he fen) stir-fried with soy sauce, chilli, shrimp, bean sprouts, chives, egg, Chinese sausage and sometimes cockles.  The traditional places use pork fat to fry it and put in crispy bits of pork lard.  However because of health concerns a decent amount of places in Singapore don’t use lard anymore or only use it on request (I generally prefer it with lard).  If you’ve never had it before it is similar to beef chow fun, but a bit sweeter.

This stall is one of two well-known char kway teow stalls at Old Airport Road (Dong Ji being the other).  It has a constant line, so be prepared to wait a bit.  They have several sizes, but we got the smallest version because we were eating at so many places.

Char Kway Teow:

I described what char kway teow is made out of earlier, but the real key to good char kway teow is someone who really knows how to stir fry it well.  In Chinese cooking wok hei is when you stir fry food at a very high temperature and effectively smoke the food.  The flavor is amazing and it is definitely one of my favorite aspects of Chinese food done properly.  Experience seems to be one of the key things to learning how to create good wok hei, so it’s really a matter of finding a talented and experienced chef to get wok hei correct.  Anyhow, the version here was very good; it had good wok hei and nice flavor.  It was a bit on the sweet side and I don’t think they used lard because there weren’t any crispy bits and it was on the lighter side for char kway teow.  They did use cockles which I liked as the cockles were good and fresh tasting, not fishy at all.  Overall, while it was probably not the best char kway teow I’ve ever had in Singapore, it was certainly a very good and certainly above average rendition.  8.75/10

If you’re at Old Airport Road Food Centre this is a place worth checking out.

Old Airport Road Food Centre, Stall #01-12
51 Old Airport Road
Tel: 83334828

Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee – Does This Famous Hokkien Mee Live Up To The Hype? Yes, Yes It Does

Nam Sing maybe the most famous or certainly one of the most famous Hokkien mee places in Singapore and it is also considered by many to be the best.  It’s located at Old Airport Road Food Centre, which also happens to be considered one of the most famous and best hawker centers in Singapore.  I’d never been to Old Airport Road Food Centre, so I was excited to go there.  Fourseasons from chowhound was meeting me there later that day to go try a bunch of the places.  I got there early and went to Nam Sing by myself since I heard the line can get really bad (I think I was actually the first plate he served that day).

Now Hokkien mee can mean different things in different places.  There is the Malaysian style one, which is what you see in the US.  That one is thick yellow noodles in a thick dark soy sauce with pork, squid, fish cake and crispy pieces of fried pork fat (there’s also a Malaysian soup-y version that I’ve only heard of, but never tried).  Then there is the Singapore version which does not use dark soy sauce and instead is in a semi-clear gravy with yellow noodles, bee hoon (rice vermicelli), shrimp, pork, squid and crispy pieces of fried pork fat.  And to make this more confusing there is a dry version and a wet version meaning one has a lot of gravy and the other doesn’t.  Anyhow, Nam Sing is famous for the dry version.

I didn’t talk too much with the chef or the guys working there and it’s a hawker center so it’s kind of quick service anyhow, but they do speak very good English, so if you don’t speak Chinese you’ll be fine.

Hokkien Mee:

So as I explained earlier this is yellow noodles and thin bee hoon (white rice vermicelli) stir fried in a clear sauce.  However, unlike other places they don’t use any pork or pork lard, it’s simply a prawn and ikan bilis (anchovy) based gravy.  It also has shrimp and squid in it as well.  Also, instead of the sambal chili paste they normally give you, here they just give you soy sauce with cut up chili in it and a lime.  It’s not the prettiest dish in the world, but oh man it was really good.  The gravy has a wonderful savory flavor, the noodles were perfectly cooked and al dente and it had some nice wok hei (the smoky flavor you get from cooking in a hot wok) as well.  The gravy was really addictive.  I thought that not having the sambal chili paste was going to be a letdown, but you can really taste the flavors a lot better with the soy sauce and chilis, which I liked.  One other thing is that this is lighter than normal since it doesn’t have any pork or pork lard in it, which I also liked.  This is probably the best Hokkien mee I’ve ever had.  Now I will caveat that with the fact that I hugely prefer the Singaporean version over the Malaysian version.  If I wasn’t about to stuff myself with a bunch of other food at Old Airport Road I probably would’ve gotten a second plate.  9/10

I’ll be posting several more posts about Old Airport Road Food Centre (it’s kind of gross how much I ate there), but I definitely recommend coming to Old Airport Road and if you do you must try this place.

Old Airport Road Food Centre, Stall #01-32
51 Old Airport Road
Phone: 64405340

Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake – Old School Tasty Mi Chiam Kueh (Peanut Pancake)

Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake is a stall at Tanglin Halt Market that specializes in mi chiam kueh (mian qian gao), which are pancakes with various fillings that I believe are Hokkien (southern Fujian) in origin.  However, this stall is specifically famous for their peanut mee chiam kueh.

Tanglin Halt Market is a very local hawker center where you will see no foreigners at all.  When I told the cab driver I wanted to go there he told me in his Singlish “wah you really must like the local taste lah, not for foreigners lah, why you want to go there?”, I explained that I was going to try the mi chiam kueh at Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake and to which he responded that it was very good and that he used to live right next to Tanglin Halt Market and used to get these all the time.  I felt pretty good after that that I was in for a treat.

Anyhow, the hawker center has two parts to it and I actually ended up in the wrong part at first and was searching for stall 16 for probably 10-15 minutes before I found it.  It’s located in the part that has a wet market connected to it and is one long strip of hawker stalls as opposed to the other part which is like a bunch of clusters of stalls.

There is an old husband and wife couple who run the stall with the husband doing the cooking and the wife doing prep work and serving customers.  The old lady was really nice and sweet.  I don’t know whether they speak English or not, but everything is translated into English so you shouldn’t have any problems either way.

I found this video of the stall, which you can see here.  It’s cool because you can really tell how much pride they take in their work when you listen to him talk; he talks about how he does his prep work and how he is really happy to see his customers come back.

Here’s what I got:

Peanut Pancake (Hua Sheng Mian Qian Gao):

I’ve only had this once before at the place at Maxwell Road Center and it was so long ago that I don’t even really remember what it was like, so this was effectively like my first time trying it.  It’s a pancake that he fills with a mixture of ground roasted peanuts and sugar and then folds it over and cuts up.  The interesting thing about the dough is that he uses a yeast culture instead of the usual baking soda, which gives it a different texture.  I found the texture of the dough to be more gummy than I was expecting (it’s not like an American pancake or breadlike at all), but it was good and mine was pretty warm and fresh, which definitely makes a difference.  The peanut and sugar mixture is really good, they roast their own peanuts (he says he takes a day off to do prep work such as roasting peanuts) and you can really taste the difference.  The peanuts are crunchy, flavorful and sweet without being overly sweet.  They also give you a lot and I was eating the left over ground peanuts out of the bag because they were so good.  Overall, I thought this was pretty good and I’d definitely come back.  8.5/10

Yam Pancake (Yu Ni Mian Qian Gao):

This was the same dough, but it was enclosed and looks exactly like a Japanese imagawayaki that you find in Japan and Taiwan (I grew up eating imagawayaki).  However, again the dough was more gummy than bready.  This was not as good because it had been sitting around longer and when it cools down the dough gets harder and doesn’t taste nearly as good as the fresher warm peanut pancake I had.  The sweet yam filling was pretty good though as it wasn’t too sweet and had good flavor.  This was decent, but nothing special.  7.75/10 (this probably could’ve been a lot better if it was fresh)

I enjoyed coming here as the peanut pancake was very tasty and this is the type of place that I’m sure will not exist in 10 years and you won’t have people making this the old school way where make everything from scratch.  I’d recommend coming and trying it out before it’s gone.

Also, they are open 5am to 11am and closed on Mondays and Fridays (I came here at 8am to make sure I didn’t miss it).

Tanglin Halt Market – Stall 16
48 Tanglin Halt Road
Phone: 97123653

Fu Zhou Cuisine – Excellent Dumplings and Good Fujian Snacks

As a preface to this post, here’s a short lesson on the demographics of Chinatown. China is a huge place and has many different provinces with dialects as unintelligible to each other as English and Spanish. Manhattan’s Chinatown primarily has two different types of Chinese people: Cantonese people from Guangdong province and Fujian people mainly the city of Fuzhou in the Fujian province. Originally Manhattan’s Chinatown like most other Chinatown’s in North America was almost solely Cantonese, but overtime it’s slowly being taken over by Fujian people, which is quite unique among Chinatowns. The heart of the Fujian part of Chinatown is on Eldridge Street and parts of East Broadway.

Fu Zhou Cuisine is a typical Fujian restaurant on Eldridge in that it is a hole-in-the-wall that serves cheap Fujian xiao chi (literally translates to “small eats”). These restaurants line Eldridge and East Broadway and they all serve fairly similar dishes such as fish balls, noodles and dumplings among other things.

I’ve tried several of these places and generally have been a little underwhelmed by them, but I happened to try Fu Zhou Cuisine recently and decided it was definitely worth noting. The restaurant has about zero décor as it’s just a bunch of tables with an open kitchen. While there isn’t much service since you order at the counter and then sit down, one of the ladies who runs the place is really nice. This is a pleasant surprise because at most of these Fujian places the people are very gruff and the atmosphere is sort of serious even if you speak Chinese.

They’ve totally translated the menu into English, so you will have no issues with language. I’ve included a picture of the menu, the one dish that is not translated says yu tang, which means fish soup.

Here’s what we got:

Wheat Noodles with Peanut Sauce (Ban Mian): This is a very typical Fujian xiao chi dish. It’s a simple dish consisting of peanut sauce, soy sauce and diced scallions over wheat noodles. It tastes similar to sesame noodles you may have tried before. It’s a pretty tasty dish assuming you like peanut sauce. 7.5/10

Dumplings (Shui Jiao): This is why most people come here. These are steamed dumplings stuffed with pork and scallions and served with a semi sweet chili soy sauce. These are made very well, the skins are excellent not too thick or thin and the pork and scallion stuffing is quite flavorful and I like the sweet sauce they give you. These are some of the best dumplings in Chinatown. 8.5/10

Fish Balls (Yu Wan): Fujian fishballs are unique in that they stuff them with pork. The version here is pretty decent as they didn’t have the commercial rubbery texture that you get from factory made fish balls. However, the flavor is a little more bland than really good fishballs, which I think is a function of how Fujian fishballs are made rather than Fu Zhou Cuisine’s fishballs being lesser quality. Overall, these are pretty decent, but not amazing. 7.25/10

Wonton Soup (Bian Rou): The Fujian refer to these very thin delicate wontons as bian rou, which means “flat meat” in Chinese. It’s wontons with very thin skins in a light soup. There is a Fujian dish where they pound pork until it becomes very thin and use that as the wonton wrappers and I’m honestly not sure if these are them or not as the wrappers are very delicate and the name would suggest they are, but I should ask them next time. Anyhow, the wontons here are really good, they really delicate and tasty, but the soup has been inconsistent as it can be too salty. Overall, it’s worth trying if you’re there. 7.75/10 (8.5/10 for wontons, 7.25/10 for the soup, could’ve been a higher rating if the soup was a little less salty)

Overall, this is a place worth checking out if you happen to be in Chinatown and want some dumplings as these are definitely some of the best dumplings in Chinatown.

118 Eldridge St (between Grand St & Broome St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 625-2532