The Famous Kitchen
54 Sembawang Road
Hong Heng Mansions,
T: 6257 1843
Kudos to the kind folks of HGW & The Famous Kitchen for inviting me to the table.
For those of us without our personal iron horse or carriage, finding our way to this hidden find is quite an adventure in itself. Nonetheless, uniformed personnel who presently (or have in the past) serve at Nee Soon Camp, have no excuse not to know this place, for it isn’t far from the cross junction of the main entrance.A nice cozy open seating in the front with billboard beers is enticing for liquid diet guzzlers. With a pretty extensive Tzechar menu, with some brow raising seafood select makes for a good chill out spot.
Another full height banner showcasing a host of Teochew porridge luncheon menu is another head turner, warranting me to render a double-take.
Before I digress too much, this session was intended a preview for the upcoming lunar festivities, otherwise better known as Chinese New Year – CNY for short. Be advised that what you’re about to find out, could cause your heart to race and make advanced reservations. So I’ll disclaim that I’ll bear no responsibility for the outcome.
Pen Cai 盆菜 (Cantonese call it Poon-Choi) – the name is minimalist, but in truth; is a very laborious & elaborate dish, given its wealth of ingredients, different methods of preparation, requiring 3 full days to put together in a tub. Hence, the physical appearance alone is the epitome of the auspicious connotation it bears. In this rendition, you will find; braised duck, Chinese shiitake mushrooms, sundried scallops, sundried oysters, abalone, fresh prawns, fish maw, Chinese fa-cai 发财, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, daikon radish, taro cubes etc.
(Pictured is the large order designed for 10pax, but likely to feed a hungry football team)
* Only available with 3 working days advanced order
Grouper with Sour Vegetable in Spicy Sour Sauce – this is an innovation inspired by the north-eastern mainland Chinese dish. Marketing understands the local palate & preference for sea catches over farmed fresh water catches; redefined the concoction of the sauce to compliment the fresh sea catches. There are several fish breeds for selection, for different consumer preferences & budget scale.
Signature Crystal Chicken – first and foremost, free range chicken is quite a rare find these days, not to mention the size is good for 8~10pax. A light herbal fragrance that underlies the sauce drizzle, with the meat juicy tender. The meat comes off the bones whole, and most important, not flaking. I’d recommend to try the in-house chili blend for dips, served with this dish.
Lobster on Rice Vermicelli – this is not a common find, and if found, they are few and far between. I wasn’t quite sure how I was to tackle this dish, but as the saying goes “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”. The lobster is cut into manageable portion, so it’s not a feat to consume with merely chopsticks. The lobster meat is cooked nicely that it comes of the crust effortless, light bounce to the bite, crumbles to lesser chunks, all with a natural sweet after taste. As for the vermicelli, it’s not too wet nor dry. Nice texture to the bite – not mushy nor crunchy. And the bisque soaked portion at the base is sheer goodness.
Salt Baked Flower Crab – these trophies are not small. If measured elbow to elbow, each is almost the length of a 10 inch mobile tablet. The chef dissects them evenly so each shall have an equal portion. I shall not divulge the arduous secrets to how this trophy comes about, but I know you’ll be coming back for more.
* Flower crab inventory is finest on Mondays and Fridays. Be advised to order in advance, if you’re dining any day in between
Black Pepper Crab – this is by far, one of the most potent BPC that I’ve come across. It starts out fragrant and tasty, and as you gain access to the meats underneath the crust, you reap the rewards of juicy bouncy pepper laced meat. But be warned, the spice factor kicks in with a feisty after-burn.
KL Style Dark Fried Thick Noodles – this is also sometimes known as KL Hokkien Noodles. In my opinion, this has just set the benchmark on my charts, for this dish found locally. The springy tenderness of the thick noodles likened to that of Silver Needle Noodles (better known as Mee-tai-mak or 老鼠粉). The dark wicked sauce looks intimidating, but is packed with mild sweetness and a light salted after taste, and the Wok-hei is omnipresent.
Mango Pudding – this isn’t the typical you’ll find in confection outlets. There’s a strong familiar sweet fragrance, reminds me much of the Thai “elephant tusk” mangoes, while the texture has a light jello jiggle in every scoop. Random bits of the mango is in there. The evaporated milk helps to give it a little fuller flavor.
Ice Jelly – this is not the typical you’ll find elsewhere, wholly in-house mix. The jelly is light and easy to scoop, frolicking in almost pure Calamondin lime juice, accompanied with 2 slices of apricot. I’m not much of a lime person, so I can’t quite attest if its 100% natural sweetness. But I’ll say it’s certainly refreshing and I wouldn’t mind having a 2nd helping.
Apart from the Pen Cai & desserts, I’d say that beer goes well with the list of highlights that I’ve mentioned.
I anticipate that the patronage will be overwhelming over the CNY period, so, plan and make reservations early to avoid disappointing your gastronomic call.