In my quest to get more in touch with my Hokkien roots, I’m grateful to my makan kakis — restaurateur Violet Oon and theatre actor aka Broadway Beng, Sebastian Tan — for pointing me in the right direction, starting with deep-fried snacks steeped in handmade Hokkien tradition. If you love Ngoh Hiang (five-spice pork rolls wrapped in bean curd skin.), Liver Rolls and the like, here are two tempting options.
1. Try This: China Street Fritters, from $3 per plate of bee hoon with four types of snacks.
This is a stall that culinary doyenne Violet Oon started visiting back when she was a professional food writer in 1974. The Hokkien snack stall is a family business that used to operate out of China Street in the 1950s and moved to China Square in the 1970s. These days, China Street Fritters is run by the affable second-generation Ng Brothers at a stall in Maxwell Food Centre. Many have been bowled over by the traditional flavour of the fritters and the richness of the delicacies, made by hand, according to the same recipes that have been passed down through the generations.
What’s especially good here: Guang Chiang, traditional pink Hokkien sausage made from lean pork and flour paste, enhanced by deep-fried flat fish, which gives the sausage a delightful umami. The Ngoh Hiang, filled with tender minced pork, good quality five-spice powder, wrapped in bean curd skin, steamed, then deep-fried till crackly. Liver Rolls, starring cubes of cooked liver, chives and slivers of pork fat. The Egg Slice (Gua Nerng), eggs beaten with flour, lard and other flavourings, steamed, sliced and then pan-fried till firm. Lastly, the Fried Bee Hoon is a dish Violet especially loves. It's fragrant and tasty despite being just simply fried with soya sauce and bean sprouts. Dip everything in the silky, sweet starchy sauce striated with slivers of egg threads, plus the sweet, runny chilli sauce.
Stall 64, Maxwell Road Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur St, S069184. Tel: 9239-6464. Open daily except Mon, noon-8pm.
2. Or that: Old Chong Pang 老忠邦五香虾饼, from $5 per plate with five types of snacks.
This popular stall in the north has been frying up Hokkien snacks since 1986. Old Chong Pang is owned by a friendly husband-and-wife team — and they just happen to be theatre guy Sebastian Tan’s uncle and aunt! Interestingly, just like the owners of China Street Fritters, they are also Ngs. Their stall sees a steady stream of dinner time customers. Here, you’ll find the usual handmade favourites like Ngoh Hiang, Liver Roll, Sausage and Egg Slice, along with Tau Kwa, Fish Balls and Century Egg with Ginger. There are other goodies, too. Like prawn rolls, shredded yam fritters, and two types of prawn fritters.
Fried bee hoon with bean sprouts is also served here at Old Chong Pang, along with a sweet, runny chilli sauce.
What Old Chong Pang has going for it is its sheer variety of choices available (about 20 types of dishes) and the deliciously briny Prawn Fritters — one is similar to a small pancake studded with tiny shrimp, and the other option is a huge, crisp, yet fluffy explosion of batter embedded with crunchy prawns.
Another must-try here is the Stewed Soy Sauce Pork. Tasty morsels gleaned from a pig’s head — lean meat framed by layers of fat, gelatinous skin, crunchy cartilaginous slices of ears — are slow braised in soy sauce till tender and go well with the bee hoon, which soaks up all the fats and juices deliciously. Add all the other crunchy deep-fried elements and you get a multi-textured, satisfying, albeit calorific sampling of Hokkien street food culture.
#01-166, Chong Pang Market & Food Centre,104 Yishun Ring Rd, S760104. Open daily except Mon, 6pm-10pm.