There is a part of me which cannot believe I found and ate more than 10 different Pao Fan 泡饭 in Singapore (and in turn put on a kg or two). (“You mean there are so many?”)
“Pao” 泡 means “submerging”, while “fan” 饭 refers to rice. Some restaurants called this “Poached Rice” and it is gaining traction in many Chinese restaurants and zi char eateries.
No, NOT porridge by the way.
Pao Fan is not to be confused with the usual porridge, say Lobster porridge. In terms of the cooking process, porridge is cooked using rice grains simmered in water or stock; while for Pao Fan the rice grains are first steamed then drenched in the broth.
Some restaurant’s broth tend to be on the lighter side in line with Teochew style of cooking in Singapore. Nevertheless, I feel that the base should still be flavourful and tasty to contrast with the plain rice.
The other component not to be overlooked is the addition of crispy rice, to add that element of varied textures. Some restaurants do it dramatically and with flair; and some just pour it in without us diners catching that moment on the phone.
Here are 10 places to find Pao Fan 泡饭 in Singapore:
JUMBO Seafood – ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn, #04-09/10, Singapore 238801
Tel: +65 6737 3435
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm Last Order 2pm, Dinner 5:30pm – 10pm Last Order 9:15pm (Mon – Fri)
11:30am – 10pm Last Order 9:15pm (Sat, Sun, PH)
While JUMBO Seafood is known for its live crab dishes and signatures, not many people may know that they have actually two lavish Pao Fan options.
The two renditions are the King Prawns and Fragrant Rice in Rich Seafood Broth ($38) and Live Boston Lobster and Fragrant Rice in Rich Seafood ($78).
Both are served with piping hot broth topped with crispy rice grains which sizzle when added to the pot.
I had the King Prawns version, and enjoyed the umami-rich prawn broth rendered by simmering prawn shells for several hours.
There were some undertones that actually me of lobster bisque soup, that special seafood twang that made me want to have this again.
The contrast of both crispy and fluffy jasmine rice was also sumptuously-enjoyable.
1 Maju Ave, #02-01 MyVillage, Singapore 556679
Tel: +65 6634 2998
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm (Mon – Sun)
This Chinese restaurant is helmed by acclaimed head Chef Tony Wong, who spearheaded well-known Michelin-starred Cantonese Restaurant Lei Garden.
The dishes are created through three main criteria – freshness, fragrance and flavour.
A must-order is the Pao Fan dish of Crispy Rice with Crab in Superior Soup ($55). Keep your eyes peeled (or phone cameras focused for a video) for the crackling of the golden fried rice crisps when they are tossed into the porridge.
This made a very comforting dish, warming to the belly, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sweetness of the seafood absorbed within the grains and stock.
There are also the Clam, or Prawn & Clams versions. East Bistro 東小馆 (myVillage)
YUN NANS – Westgate
3 Gateway Drive #03-07 Westgate Singapore 608532
Tel: +65 6970 9891
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon – Fri), 11am – 10pm (Sat – Sun)
YUN NANS – Jewel
Jewel Changi Airport, #02-217 Singapore 819666
Tel: +65 6908 3677
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon – Fri), 11am – 10pm (Sat – Sun)
YUN NAN’s Golden Poached Rice with Seafood in Prawn Broth ($18.80) aka Pao Fan is a newly included dish, of poached rice along with fresh seafood such as clams and prawns, cooked in YUN NAN’s signature prawn broth.
The dish is then topped with crispy rice pops.
What I found was the broth had both the sweetness and freshness of the seafood, but didn’t go overly rich. There was quite a bit of rice given, so I won’t say this is a broth-heavy dish.
Other than the flavours of the broth, its strength was the crunchiness of the rice pops, which added a good interplay of textures. YUN NANS (Westgate)
117 Frankel Avenue, Singapore 458232
Tel: +65 6610 9233
Opening Hours: 11am – 3pm, 5pm – 11pm (Mon – Thurs), 10am – 3pm, 5pm – 12am (Fri, Sat), 10am – 11pm (Sun)
So I went all the way to SHAO which is near Siglap, and the modern restaurant offers Teochew cuisine, roast meats and seafood.
I liked the vibes there, very homely and good for small family meals.
Shao’s Pao Fan comes in a couple of styles – sliced fish ($28, $48), sliced grouper ($36, $56), sliced pomfret fish ($38, $58), oyster claypot ($28, $46), and mixed seafood ($32, $52). The portions are good for 2 to 6 pax.
Comparatively, the Pao Fan’s broth was on the lighter side, but it came piping hot and so was very comforting. Proportion of soup to rice was on the higher side, so good for those who would love a second or third helping.
While there were some crunchy bits, I thought that the rice would have a fluffier crisp.
I ordered the mixed seafood, and prawns and oysters were fresh-tasting.
Tong Kian Coffee Shop – T.K Kitchen
Blk 37 Teban Gardens Road, 01-303, Singapore 600037
Tel: +65 8330 7554
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm, 4pm – 10pm (Mon – Sun)
Zi Char eatery T.K Kitchen got into the radar due to its Flower Crab Seafood Pao Fan being heavily promoted on social media. I mean, it is $38 NETT.
Where to find at this price?
Other than the stock being prepared using old mother’s hen, the ‘secret’ formula is with the rice.
Through many times of experimentation, they decided to switch from normal plain white rice to egg fried rice for that added fragrance and wok hei.
I thought that the soup had a certain level of sweetness to it as well, though it wasn’t as rich as I would have initially imagined it to be (perhaps also because I heard so much about this place. Expectations, expectations.)
If I got a little suggestion, I thought that some work could have been put on the crispy rice, to better differentiate the textures.
Other than Flower Crab Seafood Pao Fan, there is also a Ginseng Chicken Pao Fan available. TK Kitchen is also looking into expanding their Pao Fan range.
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039799
Tel: +65 6434 5286
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 6:30pm – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun)
Summer Pavilion is a 1-Michelin star restaurant located at the The Ritz-Carlton.
Executive Chinese Chef Cheung Siu Kong helms the kitchen and aims to excite palates with a repertoire of exquisite, contemporary Cantonese cuisine.
Compared to other Pao Fan here which are more meant for group servings, this Poached Rice and Lobster Meat ($25) is meant for an individual portion.
This delicate dish contained rice of dual textures (part crispy), topped with chunky lobster meat, and superior stock poured into the bowl upon serving.
The play on the different textures of rice was perfectly balanced against the richness of the seafood and the clear, light stock. One of the must-orders at Summer Pavilion. Summer Pavilion (Ritz-Carlton, The Millenia Singapore)
Famous Treasure Chinese Restaurant
13 Stamford Road, #02-28 Capitol Singapore, Singapore 178905
Tel: +65 6881 6668
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 3pm, 6pm – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun)
Famous Treasure hidden on the second level of Capitol Singapore (previously called “Capital Piazza”) serves up “Nanyang Fare” which celebrates cuisines of the Teochew, Hokkien, and Cantonese groups.
I initially wanted to order the Poached Rice with Seafood ($30, $40, $60), until the waitress informed me that the Poached Rice with Lobster was on 50% due to their 2nd anniversary. (Lucky me, as the dish worked out to be slightly more than $50 in the end for 600 grams of lobster.)
The soup was flavourful but not too rich or salty; and lobster meat was sweet and chunky. Area to improve: the rice was actually not that crispy.
132 Amoy Street, Singapore 049961 (located within Far East Square)
Opening Hours: 11am – 3pm (Mon – Fri), Closed Sat – Sun
Chao Ting 潮亭 located at Far East Square is probably the first Pao Fan specialty store to offer this dish in individual portions.
There are three types of Pao Fan offered at Chao Ting – King Prawn Pao Fan ($11), Sliced Fish Pao Fan ($9) and Fried Fish Pao Fan ($9).
Each bowl is topped off with fresh coriander, spring onions, fried shallots, fried egg floss and golden crispy rice – which differentiates this from the usual porridge.
The broth is slow-cooked with whole prawns, pork, chicken and fish bones for over five hours daily.
While looking light, it was nevertheless flavourful and had a peppery slant to this – not as strong as Bak Kut Teh but delicate and still appetising. Chao Ting 潮亭 (Far East Square)
Paradise Teochew – VivoCity
1 Harbourfront Walk VivoCity #01-53. Singapore 098585
Tel: +65 6221 0159
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm Last Order 2:30pm, 6pm – 10:30pm Last Order 10pm (Mon – Fri)
10:30am – 3:30pm Last Order 3pm, 6pm – 10:30pm Last Order 10pm (Sat – Sun, PH)
This is the Teochew arm of the Paradise Group, emphasising on natural flavours, light seasonings and fresh ingredients in the preparation of dishes.
Paradise Teochew offers a Poached Crispy Rice with Crab Meat in Seafood Broth ($26), only available at the VivoCity outlet.
The dish is served with crab meat, prawn and scallops in a light and flavourful broth boiled using fried flounder fish and dish soup.
Red House Seafood – Grand Copthorne Waterfront
Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel (Level 2), 392 Havelock Rd, Singapore 169663
Tel: +65 6735 7666
Opening Hours: 12pm – 2:30pm Last Order 2pm, 5pm – 10pm Last Order 9:30pm (Mon – Sun)
One of the highlight dishes at Red House Seafood is the Alaskan King Crab Meat Pao Fan which features the sweetest of crabs from the North Sea and prized for its succulent meat.
It now comes in a version with a fish collagen broth from ÁO Broth, made fresh in small batches and slow cooked for more than eight hours using garoupa fish bones, chicken and pork. Limited period till end Oct 2020 though.
Also available is the Lobster Pao Fan ($88++) with superior broth which is slow-cooked with pork bones, fish bones and lala for eight hours.
Upon serving, crispy rice is added for that finishing touch. Red House Seafood (Grand Copthorne Waterfront)
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