Rather than call this the 5 Best Zi Char in Singapore, these are 5 of my favourite ‘zhu chao’ places – each already very popular for their wok-fried dishes.
Zi Char (or Cze Char) is the kind of food that can warm your heart, especially when you dine with your entire family and friends over dinner, each ordering their favourite dish of hor fun, kang kong and har cheong kai. My family used to order zi char only during special occasions, and we usually frequent Hillman and Pok Kee (which is sadly gone).
Fatty Weng, Lai Huat, Sum Kee, Hong Kong Street Chun Kee, Ka-Soh, Hong Sheng, JB Ah Meng, Le Chasseur, Joo Hing and Sin Hoi Sai are some of those that continue to be the choice of many Singaporeans – many of which have decades of history and stand through the test of time. (Read: What Is Your Must Have Zi Char Dish?)
I specially picked these 5 Zi Char places, also because they each have a stand-out signature dish, quite unseen anywhere or where others fail to replicate as well.
Kok Sen Restaurant
No 30-32 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089137
Opening Hours: Lunch: 11.30am – 2.30pm, Dinner: 6.00pm – 10.30pm (Closed on Mon)
This Cantonese-style restaurant’s most famous dish is its Big Prawn Bee Hoon, costing a pricey $15 for a seemingly humble zi char place. Yes, 15 bucks for hae mee! But quoting L’Oreal, it is worth it, and I have been ordering it almost every single time I come.
My tip is to share the bowl with a friend as it is quite heavy in taste (actually most of the other dishes tend to be richer and saltier as well). Plus, you should leave some space for other dishes like the awesome Claypot Yong Tau Fu, which is quickly sold out by the evening. (Read: Kok Sen Restaurant (Keong Siak Street))
Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant
Boon Hwa Food Centre, 43 Jalan Besar (opposite Sim Lim Tower)
Opening Hours: 5:30pm-3am (closed on every first Wed of the month)
Every table orders the chao tar bee hoon (burnt vermicelli) at Yong Kee. This crispy vermicelli ($5) is a must try at Yong Kee located within a coffeeshop along Jalan Besar Road. You might have seen this dish before in Malaysia, but it is definitely uncommon here. The wait of 20 minutes was long, but it was worth every minute.
Arriving like a round pancake, the beehoon was crusty on the outside layer, yet moist and flavoursome on the inside where the bee hoon had soaked up the rich stock. (Read: Yong Kee Seafood (Jalan Besar))
Two Chefs Eating Place
Blk 116 Commonwealth Crescent, #01-129 Singapore 140116, Tel: +65 6472 5361
Opening Hours: 5pm-11:30pm (Mon), 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5pm- 11:30pm (Tues-Sun), Closed last Mon of the month
Two Chefs describes themselves as “high class dishes at zi char prices”. Hmmm. The dish that everyone talks about is the Butter Pork Ribs ($8/$12/$16) which is pork chop (no ribs) covered with a specially made powdery butter.
The pork cubes are indeed quite tender (can’t complain because I always get tough pork in Singapore), covered in this snowy white textured, sweet tasting butter power which takes four hours to prepare. It tastes like dried up condensed milk, while the traces of curry leave add a hint of fragrance. The dish used to be much better though, recently the power got clumpy.
Keng Eng Kee Seafood
124 Bukit Merah Lane 1 (next to Alexandra Food Village) Singapore 150124, Tel: +65 6272 1038
Opening Hours: 11:00am-2:00pm, 5:00pm-11:00pm Daily
Keng Eng Kee is one of those Zi Char places that actually have good service (no grumpy aunties) – prompt (in fact too prompt my dishes arrived in minutes) and friendly. The originality of the dishes is quite mixed. Owner Mr Liew is Malaysian who learnt his craft from his Hainanese father-in-law, and serves mainly Cantonese styled dishes.
The eatery frequently introduce new dishes such as Thai style Claypot Chicken, and Royal Stew Pork Ribs, but it is the Mingzhu Roll ($9 for 6 pieces) that look overly elaborate and creative. It is fried tau pork stuffed with a variety of ingredients – salted egg yolk, prawn, ham, mushrooms and parsley served with a sweet cream sauce. Customers like to order the ‘Moonlight Horfun’ where an egg yolk is crack in the middle of wok-fried rice noodles.
232 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, Singapore 560233 Tel: +65 6285 6762
Opening Hours: 4:30pm – 11:30pm (Reservations needed, except weekends when you have to queue)
Service is almost atrocious but people still come in droves to queue during the weekends. After about an hour wait, we finally got a table. Quickly order the crabs because they may run out (yah, that sounds ridiculous for a crab place).
For their Crab Bee Hoon served in claypot, I am prepared to overlook all the trouble. The soup is richly flavoursome with a multi-layered creamy taste, and that is also when you can savour the sweetness of the crab meat. If you want more, just request to ‘jia tang’ – add beehoon with soup for a price without the crabs.
So what are some of your favourite zi char places and must-have signature dish?
Other Related Entries
What Is Your Must Have Zi Char Dish?
Time To Award Singapore Hawkers Their Own “Michelin Stars”
One Ocean Seafood (Toa Payoh Industrial Park)
Kok Sen Restaurant (Keong Siak Street)
Red House Seafood Restaurant (Prinsep Street)