East Bistro: Sizzling Porridge
By KF Seetoh - Monday, Sep 07, 2015
I don’t know how they come up with a name like “pao fan” or sizzling rice (just like they do Bomb Alaska which may not mean a desert these days), but it makes sense when you see how it’s done. Tony Wong toiled in the Lei Garden kitchens for over two decades before he decided to walk his own path “ My boss scaled down his business here and wanted to post me back to Hong Kong” said this HK born Singaporean, “ but my life and family is now here, so I had to go my own.” He took all his dim sum skills and unique Hong Kong flavours into this one year old place and didn’t look back. Despite his knowledge about the Singapore palate, “There are no sambal in the kitchen except in the sambal kangkong and the only other spicy dish is the mala chicken.” Skip it , I tell you.
Back to that Sizzling Porridge. As Cantonese as he appears to sound and be, Tony is Teochew at heart, hence this Teochew rice porridge dish. Soft grainy rice is set in superior stock he says “is done restaurant style using hours of boiling and a lot of ingredients with no MSG”. Then another bowl of dry fluffy “overnight” fried rice is baked and deep fried, till it’s like rice crispies. They serve the porridge (in covered claypot) and the crispies separately and at table-side, they lift the lid and pour the hot rice crispies in and then…. Shheeeeessssshh!!, and explosion of sorts. The smokey charred rice and superior stock aroma and smoke has a radius of one meter and demands that you give in and immediately devour, before the crisps is engulfed and softened somewhat. It’s like having sapo fan porridge with the roasty rice bits on top. I suggest you order the prawn version with a layer of orange prawn essence, but the plain version isn’t that far off either.
Next, the dim sum. What would you expect from a dim sum chef formerly from Lei Garden? Yep, all the attendant necessary details like soft smooth gummy skin for ha kao and “waterproof” soup pockets in his xiao long bao. His “famous and popular” lor pak ko or steamed radish cake is not as mind blowing as I thought. A couple of versions I know, at least, ranks way higher. Then he brings out a plate of Mongolia pork ribs. I know a lot of places get his cloyingly sweet and too sour- it just annoys whatever effort is taken to render the pork ribs. Tony uses soft bone ribs (full of soft meat and cartilage goodness) in a reddish sauce that’s more obvious with umami than a sweet and sour accent. I also like his crispy chicken, a classic but he does it with a thin coat of batter and sesame seeds.
Then, he brings out a couple of surprises. It doesn’t sound much when we ordered the salted egg yok custard bao and the mushroom char siew bao. His bao skin is one of the softest and fluffiest I’ve had in a long time and the custard was oozy woozy milky rich and gently salty. But I fell over for the mushroom cha siew bao. It came looking like a giant shitake and had moist chopped cha siew inside. I leave you to ask him how he does this amazing mushroom bao. Tip: be friendly and speak Teochew or Cantonese.
10 Jalan Tampang (opp Sembawang Shopping Cte)
Weekdays 11am-10pm/ Weekends 9am-10pm
Close on Tuesdays.