There are tonnes of popular Chinese restaurants in Singapore such as Westlake at Farrer Road, Jade Palace Seafood Restaurant at Forum Shopping, Beng Thin at quite a few locations, all serving dialect-specific cuisines that cover a wide breadth of tastes.
But I’ve got to say, my favourite comfort dialect cuisine has to be Teochew, for its clean tasting, home-cooked feel, and they take pride in serving the freshest fish – steamed with pickled Chinese vegetables, tomatoes and sour plums. Chin Lee Restaurant has been around for the longest time, and it’s a family-style restaurant that serves delectable Teochew fare that’s quite authentic, coming from a non-Teochew.
The Fancy Cold Dish (exactly how it’s named in the menu) was pretty fancy. With deep fried fresh prawns served in a high ball glass, jellyfish seasoned with sesame sauce, hae zhorh (prawn balls) fried to an amazing crisp, it felt like a great start to a wedding dinner.
The fried squid is worthy of a special mention as it was tossed in a sweet and sour sauce and yet maintained a crunch from the fragrant batter. All you need is a good bottle or two of beer to wash that down. We had an order of their popular Fish Maw Soup as well that was rather amazing, and extremely generous with the collagen-rich fish maw.
Even with the hae zhorh (prawn balls) in the cold plate, we had a separate order because it was just too delicious. This has got to be one of my favourite dishes here, with the beancurd skin fried to a crispy golden brown, and marinated prawn and pork minced with sweet chestnuts.
A generous slather of the sweet sauce makes it all complete.
A dish that I’ll order at most cze char / Chinese restaurant in Singapore is their home-made beancurd dish. Anything that’s made from scratch, has to be fresh right? Lightly fried on the outside, the tofu skin kept the smooth, silky insides intact and the minced pork sauce with broccoli gave the extra burst of flavour.
One of their Chef’s Gourmet Recommendations, the Coffee Pork Ribs was something I haven’t had before despite being there umpteen times. The tender pork ribs is deep fried and coated with a sweet, yet savoury sauce doused in coffee flavour, and caramelised slivers of fat made every bite succulent and dripping with sweet satisfaction.
A huge swing from the richer, deep fried options was their Steamed Pomfret which is sold at market price. There are other fish varieties to suit your palate as well, but the Teochews seem to love their pomfret a lot, and tend to do it best, steamed.
The pomfret came piping hot and cooked just right to the bite. The fish meat was sweet and submerged within its own juices that cooked the pickled cabbage, sour plums, tomatoes, and mushrooms – there seems like little to no need for other condiments.
I’m sure some light soy sauce was added to enhance the flavour but this dish felt so wholesome and unadulterated for the full freshness of the flavours to emerge.
The mark of a good Teochew restaurant is its Orh Nee (yam paste). And a single portion here is just perfect for the diet-conscious.
Combined with generous splashes of a lard/oil mixture, with steamed pumpkin and yam – this is one traditional dessert that will prepare you for the night ahead of drinking.
The 6 of us spent about S$40 per person for a feast that felt like a wedding dinner. And this is a place that you can come back over and over again with your family and friends, for the sheer affordability and high quality of traditional Teochew cuisine.
Quality of food: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10
Blk 115 Bedok North Road #01-285, 460115
Tel: +65 6449 5454
Hours: Mon to Fri 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10.30pm | Sat & Sun 11.30am to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 10.30pm
PS: Reservations are totally necessary especially on weekends.
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