Recently, I have been seeing features on Ah Yen Traditional Fried Pork on social media and it looked incredibly delicious. I am not usually one to gravitate toward battered dishes but this looked too mouth-watering for me to pass on. Positioned in the central Wisma Atria, Ah Yen Traditional Fried Pork is located in Food Republic itself, serving up delicious bowls of noodles and fried pork from Sabah, Malaysia.
Founded in 1940, the original Ah Yen originated from Sandakan — a small town in Sabah. Originally starting off as a small hawker stall in a wet market, the store expanded to other parts of Malaysia, and now they have reached international borders by expanding to Singapore.
Upon reaching, Ah Yen Traditional Fried Pork is not hidden from the eye. The persistent queue was identifiable from afar, and their storefront has a display menu on the TV. On the glass walls, it states “Since 1940s”, at every angle. Clearly, they are proud of their family’s lineage, and their store acts to honour the family legacy.
The owner is the son of Ah Yen, David Lee, who was previously a chef at the now defunct restaurant, Pollen, a famous restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. He now runs the store with his business partner, Chef Ace Tan. Both individuals have been long running business partners since their ambition of Restaurant Ards— a fine-dining restaurant of lofty scales. However, to sustain a project of that scale comes with heaps of difficulty, and the restaurant closed shortly after. Now, the duo has ushered in their spectacular skillsets and are at the forefront of Ah Yen Traditional Fried Pork.
Behind the glass panels shows the preparation of several chefs working at different stations— one works at the front-of-house chopping up fried meat as per order, and another is at the back whipping up noodles from the steaming hot broth. They are very busy but they work systematically to serve up visually pleasing bowls of noodles.
What I tried at Ah Yen Traditional Fried Pork
The ultimate test of whether a battered pork is good or not is when it retains its crispiness in hot broths, so I decided to order something different. Hence, I opted for the a la carte Sandakanan Fried Pork Kuey Teow (S$6.50) and the Sandakanan Fried Pork Rice with Fried Egg (S$7.50). The former has dry and soup options.
For S$7.50, the Sandakanan Fried Pork Rice with Fried Egg was presented simply with a fried egg blanketed over rice, and a large portion of fried pork belly served next to it. These were thinly sliced to perfection. They do not scrimp on the portions of their pork, because they know that it’s the star of the show.
Zooming into the sliced meat, the pork belly was coated rather thinly with its batter. I found out that this is actually typical of a Hakka dish— Hakka fried pork with red fermented beancurd. No wonder it tasted so addictive! The fermented batter had a very distinct and pungent taste and smell to it, comparable to har cheong gai. I personally have never tasted pork that is seasoned like this, so its robust flavour profile came as a surprise to me.
However, its companion tasted of familiarity. Try opting for their chicken rice for its aromatic flavours of sesame, shallots and lard. Topped off by a fried egg, cut into it for a buttery and creamy mouthfeel. Yum!
Try adding their homemade chilli into your dish. Its spicy and tangy flavour profile alleviates the umami-ness of the pork.
I was excited to delve into my next dish, as its soupy base would serve as the ultimate test for fried meats. The Sandakanan Fried Pork Kuey Teow (S$6.50) actually retained a very strong impression in my memory. At first glance, I could see a very generous portion of pork submerged in a rich broth even though I opted for the small version.
It is only normal for fried food to become soggy when you place it in soup. So a word of advice would be to feast on this bowl immediately. As I did, I realised that the pork didn’t lose its crunchy goodness, and remnants of the coating were still in tact. It tasted as succulent as in my previous dish when it was served dry.
The kway teow paired miraculously with the pork. Kway teow is a rice noodle, so you’re assured that there won’t an overpowering explosion of intense flavours. In fact, the noodle choice is a nice alternative as compared to the normal pairing of dry yellow noodles that fried meats are typically paired with.
Although I felt that the broth was slightly salty, it could be because of my personal preference for lighter flavoured broths. Try adding in a small spoonful of their chilli for a spicy kick in the broth!
Overall, I felt that media hype and long queues around Ah Yen Traditional Fried Pork was warranted! I quickly cleaned both bowls after ordering them just because of the addictive flavours that they cooked up.
They also serve up very value-for-money dishes for their set meals, offering several side dishes alongside the mains. I’ll definitely be back to try those, as well as to try out their dry noodles option! I don’t think I’ll ever get enough.
Expected damage: S$6.50 – S$12.50 per pax
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