Hougang is known to be a Teochew enclave, harking back to the old Kangkar wharf days (now a part of Sengkang) where the old Teochew community once thrived in a fishery business. They were known for their unique south Chinese cuisine. But today, ironically, that identity is beginning to thin out. Any and everyone can live there in the shiny and bright new blocks that dot the residential estate. You’ll be hard pressed to find good Teochew fare in the area. Many such restaurants are located in the city area today. But Peng’s Catering (a restaurant too), holds the fort and kept the faith in this sleepy lane off Upper Serangoon Road in the heart of Hougang area.
The place is unassuming and makes you want to just focus on the food where their kitchen had been churning out for decades. First off the bat was the stir fried Chai Po Kway Teow ($12). They also offer the crispy fried version but that’s for folks who like crispy things. This stir fried version forces you to look at the bits of and textures they introduced to the soft and smooth kway teow- from dried shrimps, garlic, chopped long beans, chives and kalian. A symphony of flavoured flecks that emcompass the well fried fish sauce accented noodles. I love this one. Then the liver roll ($10) slid over and it made me stare at the well stuffed cross section- the liver, pork, greens, carrots etc.. all looked right back at us, encased in a thin, crispy bean skin, totally beckoning. Dip that into a the plum sauce, chomp down, and it’s another Teochew sensation in the palate.
Next up was the Braised Duck ($12). Traditionally, this is done with goose but fresh supplies are not easily available in Singapore so many such restaurants resort to duck. They sliced it against the grain, so, like how old Chinese cleaver masters can. It’s stacked upwards atop a few chunks of tofu, like a little sliced braised duck monument, slathered over with the thick braised soy sauce. The gaminess was so well contained in those thin slices and the complementing tofu chunks completed this yet another Teochew culinary icon. The other star dish not to miss, is the Oyster Omelet ($12). Such restaurants do not do this hawker style- with starched eggs. Peng’s round and fried egg frittata (soft inside) version is doused with a thick seafood sauce and topped with juicy oysters. It felt so good to be having these sensations in Singapore’s Teochew haven. We tore next into the Steamed Threadfin Tail (market price) done in taucheo or fermented soy bean paste. This one trip us over. I sensed they over steamed the fish this time, and did not tamper and calm the salty sauce with other condiments and seasoning.
But just as we were sulking, the redeemer came in the form of the Orn Nee($5 per portion) or yam paste. This was one of the best I’ve had in recent memory. It was thick and creamy and a whiff of umami was hiding in the sweet paste, topped with soft pumpkin and gingko nuts. At meal’s end, I realised we had not even combed through ten percent of their menu, which calls for another session back there.
Peng’s Restaurant and Catering
30, Lor 1, Realty Park, off Upper Serangoon Road
11am-2pm/ 5.30pm-10pm daily
Tel: 6289 6975