Yang Guo Fu 杨国福麻辣烫 which is the world’s largest Mala Tang chain with over 6000 outlets, has arrived in Singapore.
Its first outlet has opened at Paya Lebar SingPost Centre #01-150, and has also launched its flagship eatery within Bugis Village.
The first time I saw (or technically smell) Yang Guo Fu 杨国福 was actually at Sydney Australia (Haymarket), in which the spicy aroma would reach your nose far even before seeing the signboard.
There was typically a line of Asian students lining up in the cold to get that bowl of inexpensive comfort.
From the queue at the Paya Lebar outlet, it would seem like local foodies are very welcoming of this brand and concept.
While Mala Xiang Guo has already won Singaporeans’ hearts (and bellies) with numerous stalls opened in hawker centres and food courts, its similar counterpart Mala Tang 麻辣烫 is less talked about here.
Mala Tang is a hot and spicy Sichuan soupy dish of meat and vegetables, commonly eaten as a street food in Northern parts of China, though its popularity has quickly spread throughout the country.
The dish is categorised by being both ”ma” (numbing) and ”la” (spicy), flavoured with a combination of Sichuan pepper, dried chilli pepper, and other aromatics.
“Tang” refers to “boiling hot” or “cooked in boiling water”.
Accordingly, founder Mr Yang Guofu ‘discovered’ the dish during the 1990s in Harbin, in which the version of Mala Tang then was a fixed dish added with ingredients such as beans sprouts, spinach, bean skin, and kelp.
He learnt the ropes quickly from a popular restaurant, and adopted this DIY mode which has subsequently become well-received all over China.
Mr Yang took over two years to further develop a unique soup base by adding milk and rock sugar to the broth, which turned the traditional Sichuan spicy hot pot into a milky, flavourful soup widely loved by all.
Yes, you can see Mala Tang as a form of choose-your-own-adventure mini hot pot.
Over in Singapore, customers familiar with the Mala Xiang Guo or even Yong Tau Foo style of ordering, will get accustomed this self-service mode of ordering.
You choose the ingredients, pay for the food by weight, choose one of the styles of soups (from three), and inform preferred level of spice.
The good thing is: all ingredients cost $2.88 per 100g – whether it is potato or meat. So you do not have to deliberate, antagonise or calculate too much.
For those of you curious about price, the three bowls that I took average about $20, lower than what I have expected (considering I took more ingredients for the photos).
Step 1: Take a tong and bowl. Select ingredients from more than 60 types of meat, seafood, balls, vegetables, noodles and other speciality offerings. (Due to safe distancing measures, do keep a distance from the next picking customer.)
Step 2: Pay at the counter. All are priced at $2.88 per 100g.
Step 3: Choose from one of the three styles of Spicy Mala Beef Broth, Tomato Broth, or Mala Ban (dry).
Step 4: Tell the staff your preferred level of heat which are spicy, medium spicy or super spicy.
When I tried this overseas, customers were free to pick complimentary toppings of garlic paste, sesame paste, crunchy peanuts and sauces, but due to hygiene and safety, this option is not available for now. Here’s what I had:
Spicy Mala Beef Broth
This is my personal favourite of the three, with the Mala Beef Broth made from brewing premium beef bones, oxtails with various herbs and spices over low heat for 8 hours to make it flavourful and aromatic.
I found its ”wei la” (mild spicy) indeed on the mild side, a notch lower in fieriness when compared to say a Mala Xiang Guo equivalent.
So much so that I would think that the ”zhong la” of medium spiciness should be acceptable to most adult Singaporeans.
Accordingly, Yang Guo Fu’s mala broth generally have a lower starting level of spice, because Mr Yang found that people from ”Dongbei” (North-eastern China) had a different tolerance for spices, and so it was adapted to be soup that diners can finish drinking.
For ingredients, this broth should pair well with meats such as Beef Slices, Mutton Slices, Sliced Chicken, to Cheese Chicken Balls, Pork Fuzhou Balls, Pork Balls with Fillings to the favourites of Luncheon Meat and Instant Noodles.
The Tomato Broth is vegetarian-friendly, non-spicy with a rich tangy taste. Fresh tomatoes are used in the cooking to give sweet and sour flavours to this addictive soup.
There is quite a range of meat-free ingredients such as Green Bamboo Shoots, Black Fungus, Kelp Strips, Large Leaf Lettuce, Lotus Root, Mung Bean Sprouts, You Mai Vegetable, Bean Curd Stick, Broccoli, to Winter Bambo Shoots.
Would also like to highlight the different styles of noodles, including purple, green and orange coloured Spinach, Purple Potato and Carrot Noodles; to Kuan Fen (broad flat noodles) and Longkou Vermicelli (a type of glass noodles).
Tip: For carb lovers try not to add two types of noodles even though it is tempting to, especially some absorbs the soup more which gives it a swampy texture.
The Mala Ban is the dry version, in which the ingredients are first scalded in a special broth before being tossed in a secret-recipe mala sauce.
It is further sprinkled with sesame and crushed peanuts for added fragrance.
Diners can also add the Sesame Dip which helps mellows out the heat from the tongue-numbing spice, while providing that creamy earthiness.
Fun ingredients you can add to the mix include Chicken Cheese Balls, Chicken Black Pepper Sausage, Seafood Tofu, Pork & Mushroom Meatballs, Honey Baked Chicken Ham, Taiwanese Sausages, to even Fried Egg.
You don’t often find Fried Egg in such eatery, do you?
Yang Guo Fu 杨国福 – Singpost Centre
10 Eunos Road 8 #01-150 Singapore 408600
Opening Hours: 12pm – 9pm (Mon – Sun)
Yang Guo Fu 杨国福 – Bugis Village
233 Victoria Street Singapore 188026
Opening Hours: 12pm – 9pm (Mon – Sun)
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with Yang Guo Fu.