With numerous zi char options scattered throughout Singapore, it’s likely that each of us has a few beloved personal favourites, just as I do. So, how would the highest-rated zi char spot measure up when matched with our individual taste preferences? The logical approach was to experience it firsthand. This led me to Chuan Kee Seafood located at 1091A Lower Delta Road, the result of my investigative efforts.
Let’s recap my criteria, shall we? No restaurants (just stalls), a minimum of 150 Google reviews, and a minimum rating of 4.2 stars.
Chuan Kee Seafood has 2 branches, with the other one located at Toa Payoh Lorong 7. But it was this outlet which received a total of 1,043 reviews, and earned 4.2 stars out of 5 on Google reviews.
It was situated smack in the middle of an open-air carpark within the Maple industrial estate, really convenient for nearby workers to drop by for a quick lunch.
I was greeted by several tanks containing live seafood like oysters, lobsters, geoduck and much more. But my aim was just to order their normal dishes.
Chuan Kee Seafood commences operations at 12pm, and I found myself amidst the bustling lunchtime rush as the industrial kopitiam rapidly filled to capacity.
Reviews were mixed, with recent comments that the quality had dropped. Others said prices were reasonable and portions were huge.
What I tried at Chuan Kee Seafood
The menu thoughtfully presents prices both before and after GST. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to learn that the Cheese Pork Ribs (S$12.96) was unavailable due to the absence of cheese sauce. Instead, I opted for the Coffee Pork Ribs (S$12.96) as an alternative choice.
The pork ribs were adorned with a luscious, deep-brown layer of sticky coffee sauce, dusted with a sprinkle of white sesame seeds. Once the dish was placed in front of us, the captivating scent of coffee began to waft through the surrounding air.
I proceeded to pick up the small mound of alfalfa sprouts and carrot shreds by the side and paired it together with the meat. The raw vegetables contributed a refreshing element, effectively balancing out the richness of the pork ribs.
The sauce began with a candied sweetness followed by a hint of bitterness (from the coffee) slowly catching up at the end of each bite. The meat was as soft as a marshmallow, requiring minimal effort to enjoy each forkful— a strong start!
I looked through the list of signature dishes and went for the Si Fang Tou Fu (S$12.96) next. A slight amusement arose as I noticed the Chinese characters for ‘Si Fang‘ which means private house— emphasising its status as the house signature.
The ‘skin’ on the rectangular piece of tofu had a dark green layer and was topped with fried mini anchovies, a mixture of white and regular shimeiji mushrooms and drenched in a shiny, golden gravy.
The broth possessed the same consistency as a bowl of fish maw soup; lightly savoury and starchy.
The beancurd, as it turned out, was egg tofu, skilfully fried to yield a delicate layer of armour that guarded the velvety, custard-like centre. Fragments of chopped seaweed merged into a lovely green topping, offering subtle bursts of oceanic essence.
I was amazed at the small but mighty pieces of fried mini anchovies which exuded robust notes of savouriness.
The magic happened when I combined all 5 elements in a solitary mouthful. The earthiness of the mushrooms along with the other 4 ingredients each played a distinct role in crafting a unique harmony of flavours which impressed me.
I had to double check with the service staff if they had sent the right order when the Moonlight Hor Fun (S$7.56) arrived.
Somehow the ‘moon’ (cracked raw egg) had gone into hiding and all I saw was a dish of hor fun served with pork slices, prawns, sotong, green veggies and onion strips. I also noticed that the colour of the dish was somewhat paler than what I’m accustomed to seeing.
We gave the hor fun a good toss, loosening everything up and awakening all the hidden ingredients that had been hibernating in between the large strips of noodles.
The hor fun exhibited a smooth and slightly creamy texture, suggesting that it had been combined with egg prior to it being served. It was somewhat disappointing that the interactive element was missing, as I had anticipated personally mixing it for an enhanced dining experience.
Wok hei wise, it was alright although I wish that it could have been slightly stronger.
The pork slices were nice and soft while the sotong wasn’t rubbery and cooked just right. However, that being said, the prawn’s slightly stale texture indicated that they might have been frozen rather than sourced fresh.
We concluded our meal with the Salted Fish Brinjal Claypot (S$9.72) which consisted of pieces of fried eggplant doused in a dark sauce and served with minced pork, black mushroom bits and spring onion.
I had expected it to be served in a traditional claypot, but to my surprise, they used a small shiny metal wok, gently simmering over a small flame.
The eggplant pieces were initially fried until their skins achieved a delightful char, and then they were braised until they became incredibly soft. If I had chosen to scoop out the flesh with a spoon, it would have effortlessly transformed into a silky puree.
The sauce was enriched with the savoury essence of taucheo, complemented by a gentle spice from the added red chilli bits. The minced pork and mushrooms provided a delightful contrast in texture to the tender eggplants. The subtle flame beneath the wok also helped to keep the dish warm, enhancing the experience.
Every dish I tried at Chuan Kee Seafood was above average. But does it deserve its high rating on Google reviews? All I can say is there’s potential for improvement, and I wouldn’t make a special trip here solely to fulfil my zi char cravings.
For those who are regulars here or intend to visit in the near future, do let me know your honest thoughts in the comments.
Expected damage: S$4.50 – S$15 per pax
Order Delivery: foodpanda
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