Top 15 Zi Char Places in Singapore
2016-02-18
Zi Char
Zi Char, otherwise known as Chinese home-style food fare, is typically served in a no-frills restaurant or coffee shop. To the Chinese, zi char carries a nostalgic connotation of family reunion around a round table. Here is our top pick on the top 15 zi char places in Singapore we think you should check out.

1. Two Chefs Eating Place

Two Chefs Eating Place
With two outlets at Sin Ming and Commonwealth, Two Chefs Eating Place is one that most of us would think of when it comes to zi char recommendations. Once you are there, you will notice that almost every table has a plate of their signature Butter Pork Ribs ($8 for small, pictured) – tender, succulent fried pork ribs generously coated with sweet condensed milk powder and sprinkled with cabbage. The utilization of milk powder as a batter coating might be strangely unconventional, but it certainly complements well with the fried pork ribs and leaves you hankering for more! Other must-try platters include savory Golden Mushroom Beancurd ($8 for small) and cleanly shucked Drunken Cold Cockles ($6). Image: OpenRice user gninethree

2. Keng Eng Kee

Keng Eng Kee
Endowed with a stellar array of awards, the long-standing Keng Eng Kee is certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to delectable zi char. Imbued with a poetic inclination, the signature dish Moonlight Hor Fun ($5 for small, pictured) is aptly named for its uncanny resemblance to a shimmering river with the raw egg yolk atop noodles representing a full moon. A unique concoction of char kway teow with hor fun sauce, the classic dish is highly sought after due to the impeccable fusion of the smooth noodles, the thick gravy and the harmonious medley of sausage, prawns, and squid. Burst the raw yolk and mix the aftermath thoroughly into the noodles to enjoy a more flavourful meal. Image: OpenRice user chefquak

3. Tong Ah Eating House

 Tong Ah Eating House
Having withstood the turbulent storms of changes for 77 years, the iconic coffee shop, Tong Ah Eating House is acclaimed for its fragrant breakfast set but its zi char is equally as good! Be sure to order the signature dish Coffee Pork Ribs ($10 for small, pictured). Glazed with a thin coat of coffee essence, the coffee pork ribs are then deep fried for a crispy texture that enshrouds the tender interior. For an extra kick of spiciness, opt for the Claypot Fragrance Chicken ($10 for small) – crispy morsels of chicken meat served in a claypot with a generous serving of dried chilli. Image: OpenRice user chewbacca80

4. New Ubin Seafood

New Ubin Seafood
Previously situated at Pulau Ubin when it first opened in 1986, New Ubin Seafood can now be found nestled in the Sin Ming industrial area. It continues to live up to its illustrious reputation through its extensive menu of fresh, authentic seafood as well as … Western-style zi char. It might be unconventional for a seafood zi char joint to offer Western fare but we assure you that you have to give their famous US Angus Rib-Eye Beef Steak ($13 per 100gm, pictured) a try! Served with caramelised onions, potato wedges and (beef fat) fried rice, the premium steak is done medium rare and extremely succulent. Alternatively, if you are craving for more traditional Chinese dishes, get the flavourful Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles ($12 for small) or the addictive Boss Fried Mee Hoon ($8 for small). Image: New Ubin Seafood Facebook Page

5. Hongkong Street Family Restaurant

”Hongkong
Savour one of the best Prawn Paste Chicken (pictured) at this no-frills zi char joint – Hongkong Street Family Restaurant – that offers a plethora of Cantonese dishes at reasonable prices. Suffused with a distinct prawn paste taste, the chicken is then deep fried to perfection, resulting in a crispy crust and juicy, succulent flesh. Drizzle the complimentary lime on top of the meat or dip it into the savoury chilli sauce to achieve a more robust taste. Other must try dishes include Sum Lo Hor Fun and Black Bean Beef Hor Fun. Image: OpenRicer Andtaj

6. Por Kee Eating House

Por Kee Eating House
While Por Kee Eating House might be slightly overpriced compared to the rest, it still manages to attract a constant, relentless throng of patrons because of its savory zi char dishes. Just a bite of their specialty Champagne Pork Ribs ($18) and you will know why they are so well-received! Coated in a gooey dark sauce, the tender ribs are marinated with a tinge of champagne to accentuate its flavour. Another favourite dish among diners includes Homemade Beancurd ($16), which is basically deep fried, silky beancurd served alongside mushrooms and bathed in a thick piquant sauce. Image: OpenRice user thedessertprince

7. Kok Sen Restaurant

”Kok
Sporting a rustic, traditional demeanour, Kok Sen Restaurant is a heritage zi char restaurant tucked along the streets of Keong Saik Road. If you don’t mind compromising on comfort for taste – the restaurant has no air conditioning – then take your seat and place orders for their specialty dish, Claypot Yong Tau Foo ($14, pictured). Featuring an assortment of deep fried yong tau foo ingredients that are stuffed with fish paste and soaked in a thick bean paste gravy, this platter is best enjoyed with a bowl of steaming hot rice. Available only from Fridays to Sundays, the Golden Dragon Chicken ($32) is a sinfully delicious plate of crispy chicken skin marinated with prawn paste. Image: OpenRice user gluttonthatshoots

8. Sin Hoi Sai Eating House

”Sin
If you are searching for a laidback supper place, then you should highly consider Sin Hoi Sai Eating House, whose two outlets at East Coast and Tiong Bahru stay open till 4am and 5am respectively. Satiate your voracious appetite with a wide spectrum of zi char dishes that the restaurant offers, including their innovative Salted Prawns ($28, pictured). Fried with salt, garlic and spring onions, these fresh prawns contain an aromatic piquant garlic taste and are extremely addictive! Of course, you shouldn't leave without sinking your teeth into the tender flesh of their reputable Chilli Crab ($72 for one). Image: OpenRicer pey.yi

9. Eastern House of Seafood Delicacy

Eastern House of Seafood Delicacy
Flanked with a “Eastern House of Seafood” and a “Bak Kut Teh” signboard, Eastern House of Seafood is a herbal bak kut teh joint by day and a zi char restaurant by night. Top recommendations here include Dry Roast Sotong ($15, pictured) – tender and chewy sotong rings that are marinated overnight and topped off with celery and soy sauce. Dip the sotong into the complimentary sambal chilli sauce for a more tangy and savoury taste. Other must-try dishes include their springy Dinosaur Pork Ribs ($16) and Assam Fish ($18). Image: OpenRice user pngtang

10. JB Ah Meng

”JB
Contrary to its name, JB Ah Meng is not situated in JB but along the streets of Geylang. Its name springs from its chefs who are from Johor Bahru as well as dishes inspired from across the causeway. The signature J.B. San Lou Meehoon ($10 for large, pictured) is certainly the epitome of the saying “You cannot judge someone by their appearance” as its nondescript and unappetizing appearance belies a punch of flavour. While you are at it, why not get the bite-sized Salted Egg Prawn Balls ($24 for large), as well as the savoury White Pepper Crabs ($24 for three)? We promise they are well worth the calories. Image: Instagram user chenisekoh

11. Wee’s Family Coffee Shop

 Wee’s Family Coffee Shop
Despite its relatively new opening in 2015, Wee’s Family Coffee Shop has already attracted a stream of patrons. One of the many reasons: Their Handmade Prawn Rolls ($8 for small, pictured) – a fusion of minced pork, prawns, chestnuts, carrots and spring onions wrapped tightly together within the folds of the bean curd skin – is humbly pleasant and delectable. Of course, who can forget about the other classic dishes such as the crunchy fried Salted Egg Prawn Balls ($16), the flavoursome Mushrooms with Bean Curd ($12) and the juicy Prawn Paste Chicken Wings ($8)? Image: OpenRice user Jellylovesfood

12. Café de HK

Café de HK
Confused by the misleading name of the restaurant – Café de HK? This joint actually started out as a café that serves authentic Hong Kong food but has, ever since the owner’s possession of a Singapore citizenship, expanded its menu to include zi char dishes. Tuck into the simmering hot Fragrant Fish Roe Fried Rice ($10, pictured) that gives a popping sensation with its generous topping of crunchy fish roe. If you cannot get enough of the salted egg craze, opt for the Pumpkin Paste & Salted Egg Golden Prawns ($22) – succulent prawns coated with rich salted egg yolk sauce. End your meal with the fluffy soft French Toast ($5.70) that comes with a slab of butter in the middle and sweet syrup. Image: Café de HK Facebook Page

13. Diamond Kitchen

Diamond Kitchen
With two outlets at Marine Parade and Science Park, Diamond Kitchen has a solid and reputable reputation for its fresh seafood and tantalizing Chinese zi char. Slurp down the robust, pleasantly sweet broth of the classic dish Superior Stock Clams Beehoon ($14, pictured) that is strenuously steamed to perfection every day with 10kg of clams. To add on to that, the flavorful, springy bee hoon noodles and the fresh clams accentuate the already impeccable quality of the dish. Other equally illustrious platters that you ought to try include the delightfully tender Champagne Pork Ribs ($14), the tasty Superior Chicken Soup ($20) and the addictive Diamond Gan Xiang Crab (seasonal price). Image: Diamond Kitchen Facebook Page

14. Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant

Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant
Nestled within Shing Boon Hwa Food Centre, the secluded location of Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant might be a huge inconvenience, but we guarantee you it will be worth the trip – and the calories. One step into the restaurant and you will notice that their stellar star dish Crispy Vermicilli ($18 for large, pictured) graces almost every single table. Pan-fried till golden crisp brown, this innovative dish is different from your quintessential bee hoon. Underneath the burnt crunchy crust lay moist and fluffy bee hoon noodles, whose flavour is further accentuated by the garnish of crunchy lard, beansprouts and spring onions. Image: OpenRice user Food Esteem

15. Mellben Seafood Restaurant

Mellben Seafood Restaurant
Despite the atrociously long and tedious waiting time, Mellben Seafood Restaurant still sees drones of patrons flocking over to feast on its fresh crab platters. One shouldn’t leave without tucking into the savoury Fried Crab Bee Hoon in Claypot. Highly praised by frequent diners, this star dish comprises of meaty, sweet crab and silky bee hoon noodles that is marinated in a rich broth. Image: OpenRice user garian
Written by Tan Siew Bee
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Zi Char
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Tan Siew Bee
When Siew Bee is not indulging in a good read, she is either hustling with a group of friends or travelling.
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