Fatty Weng Meets the Dr Chef
By KF Seetoh - Friday, Feb 28, 2020
What happens when two makan icons, from different lands, that have never met, get together. One is a household family cze cha name that harks back to the Albert Street hawker days last century (that’s how legendary they are) and the other was in town recently to lead his team for a Sri Lanka food festival at a local hotel. I had this chance to film with and had dinner with the award-winning Dr Chef Publis Silva, who has numerous Sri Lanka national awards including the respectable presidential Deshabandu Award and is also the household name there. Fatty Weng, on the other hand, was one of the original street cze cha names that gave Singapore this family-styled street restaurant culture (note, there are two unrelated Fatty Weng restaurants here. This one has outlets in Bukit Batok and Chinatown, the other being Fatty Weng (Weng Siong), with a restaurant along Bencoolen St.
The black bean fish slices
How can one not love Chilli Crabs
I wanted Chef’s take on our food culture and learn something about Sri Lanka food. We tore into the classics and firm old school cze cha family favourites- that Fatty Weng stood for. First was the all-time no-brainer Sambal Kangkong ($6), with amazing crunchy doneness rolled about with their own made sambal. I swore I detected grains of little crispy lard buried in the sambal. Chef loved it and thought it was very boldly flavoured for a vegetable dish. The Black Bean Fish ($12) slices drew another response, “ I never had fish done this style and was not familiar with fermented black beans (but he and his colleagues cleaned up the whole platter). At this stage, he reminded me that Sri Lanka sambol is very different from our sambal as they don’t use belacan in their version and has lime in it. When the Salted Egg Yolk Prawn ($18) arrived, they were curious and immediately devoured a piece. Again, they never had any salted egg yolk dish done in this manner and Chef lifted his brows upon the first bite. I’ll save his interesting comments for later. Of course they marvelled at our national seafood dish of Chilli Crabs (seasonal price, how can you not love this one) and noted just how different it is from the famed Sri Lanka Curry Crabs. Fatty Weng does it more spicy, heartland style- rich, thick and dense and you mop it up with fried mantou bread. Chef and his team coaxed every morsel of flesh out of that crustacean, after all, they are food experts from where the crabs came from- Sri Lanka. Then came something they liked a lot- the Yam Ring ($16). It was laden with greens and seafood with a crispy yet soft mashed yam ring. The cashew nuts, capsicums mushrooms, carrots, onions and shrimps was like another dish set over the fried yam ring.
One of the better Kang Kong that I’ve had
Dr Chef Publis Silva with second generation owner Chef Derek Lai
The favourite of our guest.. The Yam Ring.
So I had to ask and Chef replied “In Sri Lanka, we cook and eat balanced meals and use very little oils. It is about the herbs and natural spices we use. These dishes today, very flavourful, nice but very oily.”. I sort of agree with him as we are all about flavours and textures. But I’ll take him to a Teochew Muay spread next time- all steamed, boiled, braised and uber healthy, then hear what he says about our range of makan here.
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