Zi Char Zingers

Zi Char Zingers

Zi char eateries are quite literally operating in every corner in sunny Singapore, so it is quite the task to weed out the stellar stalls from the subpar ones. Here are a few of the superb standouts.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

While the title for the best dish of the night was hotly contested, the Crispy Fish With Chef Joel’s Red Curry Sauce emerged victorious. At $38++ for a whole barramundi, this is a great trade deal in the history of trade deals. Plus, you get sick shots for the ‘gram. @enjoyeatinghouse has actually taken the effort to fillet the fish, and then make the skeleton presentable enough to be the centrepiece of dinner tables.

However, the presentation is only merely the tip of the iceberg of impressiveness when it comes to this Crispy Fish. Like all the other fish served, it is delivered to the restaurant daily for maximal freshness, and the texture of the flesh was proof positive. It’s firm and pleasantly flaky, breaking apart with minimal effort from either your fork or your teeth. The batter was of optimal thickness, but was otherwise as expected of a decent batter coating.

Chef Joel’s Red Curry Sauce is stunningly sublime, and that sauce was what curried favour in our hearts & our tongues. The nyonya inspired curry possessed everything expected of an excellent rendition: spice, lemongrass notes, and a whole lotta coconut milk for that all important richness. Chef Joel’s Red Curry turned that redolent richness up to eleven, and every marvellous mouthful was creamy, spicy, herby & and about as rich as Elon Musk. The curry doesn’t really flow due to the weight & thickness of it, and it’s a thick gravy that coats everything. The only downside of this was that there wasn’t enough of that curry for our liking, and we were scraping the plate clean for just another bit of the red curry.

With fish dishes this good at Enjoy Eating House, the only fishy business here is good business. And business is a boomin’ with sensational offerings like this. Thank you for your hospitality, @enjoyeatinghouse & @burpple!

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The carb of the night was @enjoyeatinghouse Silky Egg Seafood Crispy Hor Fun ($38++ for a large portion), and it was so utterly unctuous that they could’ve served up the hor fun alone and I would’ve been a satisfied man. Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated that I got to sample their other dishes, but the hor fun was a whole lotta fun.⠀

Each flat rice noodle is fried till it turns crispy like a cracker, and that’s the claim to fame of this dish. Other places just garnish their rendition with a few ribbons of crispy hor fun, but Enjoy goes through the painstaking process of frying it all. Said crispy noodles are then drowned in a deluge of dummy thicc egg sauce, and absolutely decked out with an abundance of pork slices, prawns, fish, squid & shiitake mushrooms for a whopper of a meal.⠀

The simple egg sauce was supremely sapid, and it flavoured every component of this dish more than adequately. However, the sauce does make the crispy hor fun go soggy pretty quickly, so you gotta hurry with those photos. I still enjoyed the softened hor fun though, as there was still a little bit of crisp that made for an engaging textural contrast. The fresh & well cooked pork & seafood were simply the icing on the cake, or in this case, the proteins on the carbs.⠀

Once again, thank you for hosting us @enjoyeatinghouse & @burpple!

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And now we get to @sambaesg signature: rice bowls. Sambae’s Sotong Rice Bowl is very affordably priced at $7.50 a serve, and the utter deliciousness bowled me right over.⠀

All the delectable & desirable qualities of the sambal chili that I expounded upon in my previous review is turned up to eleven here. I recall Chef Noel informing me that he does tweak the sambal slightly to differentiate the sotong from the stingray, and this one is different alright. It’s thicker in consistency, and I’m dead certain its sweeter than the one on the stingray.⠀

That additional sweetness is perfect on the felicitously fresh squid rings, complementing the mild brininess & sweetness of the ocean fresh squid. Each & every ring had the trademark perfect bite of a stunningly fresh squid: bouncy & snappy at first bite before turning tender upon further mastication. The combo of spicy, salty & sweet from the scintillating sambal and the delightful chew from the squid was a marriage made in food heaven.⠀

The steamed Japanese short grain rice was completely undressed, but the onsen egg did help to lubricate it a little despite lacking a runny yolk. The shaved pickles on the side were perfect as a palate cleanser, but it might be for the best if those zesty pickles were swapped for a serving of sambal kangkong. That way, the rice would be adequately saucy due to the salty, runny sauce that naturally accompanies the stirfried veggie.⠀

In all honesty, the rice being under-sauced is a bit of a nitpick, because this sensational sambal sotong rice bowl is worthy of being anybody’s bae.⠀

Thanks for having us, @sambaesg!

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@sambaesg is the hot new thing on the block with Chef Noel at the helm (and the grill). He’s another member of the young hawker generation, and he’s dishing out hot stuff in the form of his homemade sambal chili. The twist here is that he’s taken classic bbq sharing staples like sambal stingray, sambal sotong (squid) and sambal clams and turned it into individual serve ricebowls.⠀

Of course, Sambae still does sharing portions of these classics, and this hefty nineteen dollar portion of Sambae Stingray is quite the stunner. Two fat fillets of stingray are utterly smothered in Sambae’s signature sambal and grilled on banana leaves. That’s it, it’s as simple as ABC. Despite the process being incredibly simple, this spicy stingray is rather complex.⠀

While the sambal was a little more watery than I was expecting, it was still undeniably umami. I’m convinced that seafood stock & lots of fish bones went into the making of this scintillating sambal along with the usual suspects of chili padi & belachan paste. The slightly spicy sambal was intensely savoury, with a delectable depth to the saltiness. There’s also a little sweetness to it, an unusual but very welcome variation to the normal sambal.⠀

Grilling the slabs of stingray on the banana leaf imparts a stronger smokiness to the fish, in addition to the sweet, heady aroma of banana leaf perfuming the fantastic fish. The flesh was, as expected, marvellously moist and every chunk of stingray was positively glistening with all that moisture. The perfectly grilled stingray is slightly briny, and is the perfect canvas for the sambal to turn into an edible work of art. This one’s for you, Steve Irwin. That’s right, the streets don’t forget.⠀

I’d like to thank @sambaesg for setting up this tasting for my friend & I, this was truly a culinary gem to enjoy!⠀

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@jiayueneatinghse is more well known for their creamy salted egg zichar dishes, but their stellar sweet & sour pork deserves just as much acclaim. While it’s exorbitantly expensive for a single portion of a zichar staple at $12 a plate, the quantity & quality justify the precious price tag.

First, let’s talk quality. The cut of pork used is lusciously layered with fat, and some pieces did get overwhelming fatty. As we all know very well by now, fat equals flavour, and this was no exception. The pork was seasoned simply, but it was enough, and it was coated in an immensely light batter that gave this sweet & sour pork its cracking crunchiness.⠀

The sweet & sour sauce does get cloyingly saccharine after the halfway mark, but mix it up with that perfectly piquant pork and the plain rice and you’ll be fine. The tastefully thick sweet & sour sauce doesn’t look like it’s out in force, but a little goes a real long way here, as the overpowering sweetness of the sauce gets moderated by the rice. The egg, while perfectly fried with an egg-splosively liquid yolk, felt unnecessary with an unneeded creaminess. I would’ve far preferred a small serving of plain fried vegetables, or even spicy sambal kangkong, to combat the hedonistic richness of this dish.⠀

At Jia Yuen, you do get what you pay for. Top dollar gets you top quality zichar, and I could foresee myself dropping in every now and then for a serving of zichar zingers.

The biggest reason why I’ve come to rely on @fuleegroup for a fuss free zichar dinner is this dish: their sweet & sour pork ($10 nett for a regular serving). Arguably the best sweet & sour pork in Singapore, change my mind. No seriously, if you’re a restaurant serving sweet & sour pork feel free to change my mind anytime. Just send it, bro.⠀

So, why am I so infatuated with this particular rendition of my all time favourite dish? Firstly, the cuts of pork used are felicitously fatty, with the perfect ratio of fat to meat in every porky piece. Secondly, it’s tremendously tender & tasty thanks to a marvellous marination process, and it doesn’t offer much resistance when you assault it with your teeth. Thirdly, the batter coating the meat is thin and delightfully crispy, maintaining said crispiness even when doused with that tastefully tangy sweet & sour sauce.⠀

Finally, the stellar, sapid & sumptuous sweet & sour sauce. It’s tantalisingly sweet, subtly yet mouthwateringly sour, tastefully thick, and stunningly savoury. The pork is perfect as it is, but this sauce boosts it into utterly unforgettable territory. For just ten bucks, you’d be extremely hard pressed to find a better, more piquant plate of pork than this in Singapore.

Mother’s Day is tomorrow, so y’all better have your dinner plans laid out & ready. If you’ve taken the high IQ plan of heading to one of @fuleegroup thirteen outlets islandwide, you can definitely look forward to these delightful Double Flavour Prawns which are exclusive to Set B.⠀

The prawns are gargantuan in size, yet they are impeccably fresh with the prerequisite snapback on each bite to prove it. The crustaceans are de-shelled, dusted in a light coat of batter and deep fried to prawn-y perfection. The sauce, which seems to be a combo of black pepper sauce & salted egg yolk sauce, is undeniably umami with a little kick of heat from the pepper, and the thick, deeply salty unctuousness of the salted egg sauce.⠀

Admittedly, the sauce is definitely more salted egg yolk than black pepper, but that’s a good thing. The subtly sweet, scintillatingly salty and luscious texture of the puréed salted egg yolks are most definitely why this dish is a winner of a dinner, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have this sauce amply coating an array of massive prawns.⠀

For the final time for now, thanks the hospitality, @fuleegroup & @esth3r_esth3r!

Fish makes you smarter. So this Mother’s Day, make the galaxy brain, 300 IQ play of bringing momma to @fuleegroup to indulge in either Mother’s Day Set A or B. Both sets include this terrific Tiger Grouper fish that’s steamed with garlic in soy sauce. It’s a simple dish, but it’s quite unbeatable.⠀

The felicitously fresh fish is undoubtedly the most crucial component of this dish, for if the fish were any less fresh this would’ve been rather lacklustre. The firm, flaky & moist fish possesses a clean, mild sweetness that’s a perfect pairing with the salty soy sauce. Of course, nobody can live without garlic unless you’re a vampire, and the crushed garlic supplies the fish with all of its addictive yet unquantifiable qualities, making it a true treasure of the seas.⠀

Don’t hesitate any longer, get smart & bring mom for some palate pampering at any of Fu Lee’s outlets islandwide.⠀

Thanks for having me, @fuleegroup & @esth3r_esth3r!

@fuleegroup Thai Style Fried Pig’s Trotter is exclusive to Mother’s Day Set B ($208 nett for dine in, $188 nett takeaway), and it’s a pretty compelling reason to be extravagant & lavish your mom with love. Plus it’s pretty massive, so you’re definitely getting more than your money’s worth.⠀

The titanic trotter is (sorta) sous vide before getting deep fried to impart lots of delicious colour, and more importantly, to transform the jiggly, gelatinous skin into a remarkably crispy rind. Titillating sweet, mildly spicy & sour Thai sauce is ladled all over the deep fried trotter, and garnished with a Thai green mango salad mix before arriving at your table to impress.⠀

The charmingly crisp & light rind absorbs the sapid sauce very easily, so you gotta eat it quickly to capture the crunch. Below the thin rind is a luscious layer of decently rendered fat, which joins forces with the tasty Thai sauce to amply lubricate the entirety of this dish. The meat gets delightfully juicier & tender the deeper and closer to the bone you get, and every bite is a delight.⠀

Well folks, this is an excellent way of thanking your moms for putting up with all your nonsense over the years. So don’t hesitate, treat your first lady right at any of Fu Lee’s thirteen outlets all over Singapore this Mother’s Day!⠀

I really appreciate you hosting me, @fuleegroup & @esth3r_esth3r!⠀

The chicken is a delight to eat with the beancurd, but what if I told you that there was an even better way to savour this? That’s right, Fu Lee has thought of everything, and the Sausage (preserved Chinese sausage) & Silver Fish Fried Rice is also on both set menus. Each fluffy oil slicked grain of rice is inundated with a delightful amount of wok hei, and is streaked with strips of omelette. The crunchy, salty silver fish as well as the chunks of lup cheong provide the satisfying saltiness that flavours this fantastic fried rice.⠀

Thanks for having me, @fuleegroup & @esth3r_esth3r!

The curiously christened Volcano Home Made Beancurd, which is a component of both @fuleegroup Mother’s Day set meals, isn’t quite as violent as its name would lead you to believe. Logs of silky smooth & strikingly soft egg tofu are deep fried and topped with the volcano part of the dish, chicken strips stir fried with doubanjiang (spicy bean paste) and dried chilies. The tender chicken is comprehensively coated in the thick umami, sapid sauce, and it tastes a lot like kung pao chicken.

Forgot to book a swanky restaurant for momma on Mother’s Day this Sunday? All the usual spots full to the rafters with folks celebrating their moms this Sunday? No problem, people. @fuleegroup has got you covered with THIRTEEN (yes, ONE THREE) outlets islandwide, and they have two sets, one for a gathering of 4-5 people at $108 nett, and at $98 nett for takeaways. The one I have the privilege of reviewing is the baller Set B, which will feed about 6-8 people for $208 nett, or $188 if you decide to do a takeaway.⠀

This dish is a bonafide Mother’s Day exclusive ladies & gentlemen. Yes, this here FuLee Platter is exclusive to Set B due to the intense labour of love involved in it’s construction. These lil sandwich triangles you see here are an intricate construction of squid paste, ham, egg and seaweed coated with a soda biscuit batter & deep fried to golden brown glory. These are the most sublime sandwiches you’ll ever find in Singapore, believe me folks.⠀

It’s most definitely a labour of love, as there are thirteen steps to make a single portion of this lovingly layered treat. The tremendously thin & stunningly crunchy batter gives way to a delightfully chewy layer of sotong (squid), which in turn conceals a core of egg (possibly omelette), ham & seaweed which enhances the salty satisfaction of this perfectly deep fried love triangle. In short, it’s undoubtedly umami & it’s an awesome appetiser.⠀

Top that deep fried deliciousness off with sliced squid and drizzled in a scintillatingly sour & spicy Thai inspired abalone flavoured sauce, and you’ve got a dish that starts to express the gratitude you’ve got for the number one woman in your life.⠀

Thanks for inviting me over, @esth3r_esth3r & @fuleegroup!

Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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