May 3, 2009
By Thng Lay Teen
Sometimes when I feel like eating char siew chicken ($2 with rice) at a chap chye png (mixed economy rice) stall in Whampoa, I get there early before it is sold out. It is easy to see why this dish is a bestseller.
The chicken tastes like well-made char siew, without being too sweet or salty. The skin is crispy, yet the meat is tender and juicy. Apparently, the chicken is marinated with turmeric powder and other spices before being coated with rice flour and then deep-fried.
It is cooked with homemade char siew sauce with sugar, five-spice powder and oyster sauce until the gravy slowly dries up. By then, the flavours are fully absorbed into the meat.
The char siew ($2 with rice), which is just as good, is prepared almost the same way except that the slabs of fresh pork are put into the gravy and left to cook slowly until the flavours are infused into the meat.
The chicken curry ($2 with rice) and braised pork belly ($2 with any vegetable and rice) are also worth checking out. Ms Carol Sim, who runs the stall with husband Chua Ban Guan, both 47, cooks the curry from scratch using her homemade paste. There is just a hint of spiciness in the gravy, which is slightly thick.
What makes it a notch above average is that fresh chicken and fresh coconut milk are used. A little Carnation milk is added to make the gravy smooth.
I was surprised to find out how simply the pork belly is braised. The meat is parboiled before being left to cook in soya sauce with whole skinless garlic cloves and ginger for about 45 minutes till the meat turns soft. Despite its dark colour, the gravy is not salty because quality soya sauce is used.
Business here is so good that new batches of food are constantly being whipped up and nothing is really left languishing long enough to get stone-cold.
ZAN JI MIXED VEG RICE
Block 90 Whampoa Drive, 01-67
Open: 11am to 10pm daily
Rating: *** 1/2