- Add: 276 Race Course Rd (Extra 1 Eating House)
- Opening Hours: 11 am – 930pm (closed on every 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month)
I have always thought that Putien was a rip-off for the simple Heng Hua fare they serve. This was confirmed recently when I was introduced by a true-blue Heng Hua friend (JL) to an authentic 兴化 zhi-char place at Race Course Road.
Situated at the intersection of Perumal Rd and Race Course Rd, 兴化家乡煮炒 dishes out true blue Heng Hua cuisine at prices that are less than half of what Pu Tien charges. Granted, the choices are more limited and the dishes not as ‘extravagant’, but I was assured by JL that these were 正宗的兴化佳肴. Food that is flavoured by the natural sweetness of the clams and other forms of seafood (common feature of 莆田 cuisine due to their proximity to the coast), not the artificial MSG-laden nonsense that is typical of most other zhi-char stores. And I trust her on this one since she has paid a visit to her 故乡in 莆田 （福建省) and had the opportunity to taste the real stuff there! In all, I would say K.F Seetoh summarized the Heng Hua food served at this run-down coffee shop real well: “The flavours are simple, clean and the only hint of a desperate background comes in the presentation…they simply pour and push the food off the wok onto the plate, roughly garnish it, and it heads for your table. ”
We ordered 4 dishes for a grand total of $21. More than enough to fill us to the brim. This was a far cry from the $87 (for 4 pax) I paid just a week before at Putien. I wouldn’t pay a premium for excessive presentation (unless I am hosting), just give me the real authentic deal – anytime.
We started off with Vongole Clams a.k.a Lala- $7. Really fresh lalas were used and they were cooked in a spicy broth (a slight variation to suit local palettes apparently). The gravy goes really well with the bee hoon (drizzled loads of it).
Next up, we had the famous Heng Hua Bee Hoon – $3.50 (yes! no kidding!) Enough to feed 2 hungry ladies. This bee hoon dish was made famous by Putien and to be very honest, the ones served there are tastier and have more granish. However, I find it a little too ‘commercialized’ and overpowering. However, if you are looking for a healthier, 家乡味道 of it, the version served at this outlet would fit the bill. Plus, you could have double servings of it and still pay lesser than what you would be doing at Putien.
The next dish was a surprise. Horse Mackerel Fish (马鲛鱼) – $3/piece is a slight variation of the Batang Fish. Very lightly salted and fried till a crispy golden brown, the fish retained its sweetness within its fleshy white interior. A really simple dish that works wonders.
The last dish that we ate (slightly controversial) was the Red Mushroom Tofu Soup – $7. A soup that only true Heng Huas will know of. The uncle serving us was so excited that two young gals actually had the audacity to order AND slurp on these reddish-brown broth that he couldn’t stop chatting in Heng Hua dialect with JL. He said he knew at least one of us was of Heng Hua origin because normal Singaporeans would have given that soup a miss when loading up the order list. I knew at once that I was at the right place with the right eating partner. My only gripes about this dish was the amount of sand/soil that come along with it due to the minute gills on the puny mushrooms (hard to wash it clean). It isn’t a particularly tasty or wow dish but it does have some ‘health benefits’: 补血 – or so I learnt.
Will head back there to try the Lor Mee (looks delish!) and probably ask my Heng Hua uncle and aunt along too.