We’ve already got our go-to pineapple bun (bo lo bao) and egg tart joint in Holland Village and Takashimaya. You probably know it, it’s Tai Cheong Bakery. Even Tim Ho Wan and Mak Noodles have branched over to our sunny shores. And now another Hong Kong eatery has joined the ranks.
This time, the 50-year-old import stems from a joint venture between Tsui Wah Holdings and Jumbo Group. Because it’d be selfish to keep moreish mood-lifting fare to ourselves, we’re giving you a lowdown of what you can expect at Tsui Wah’s first Southeast Asian offshoot.
For the uninitiated, “cha chaan teng” refers to a teahouse serving Cantonese and Western-influenced dishes at affordable prices. Basically fuss-free fast food. Six chefs and operation staff have been flown in from Hong Kong to train the local crew, so we were pretty psyched for a taste of the real deal.
We begin by whetting our appetites with a tart borscht and thick fluffy toast on the side ($5.50). The stew is cooked using diced up tomato, cabbage, onion, carrot, celery and beef chunks. There’s something inexplicably homely about dunking buttered white bread into a bowl of tangy goodness.
Almost as deceptively simple is the king prawns in XO sauce, served with tossed noodles ($11). Succulent scarlet king prawns, dusted with shrimp roe, on a bed of supple and springy noodles, it’s a Hong Kong-style staple.
Another plate of noodles that lives up to the hype is the Kagoshima-style pork cartilage in fish soup with mixian ($8.50). The meat is stewed for at least four hours to achieve a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and the thick full-bodied broth is packed with flavour.
The signature lamb chop curry with steamed rice was probably one of the pricier dishes at $29. But you get what you pay for and in this case, it’s a lamb rack fresh from Australia. Seared yet slightly pinkish down the middle. The mashed potato tucked underneath adds a boost of creaminess to the aromatic pool of gravy. Mildly spicy and with a hint of sweetness, the dish is reminiscent of Japanese curry. For $1.20, you can swap rice for deep-fried mini buns or for $2, opt for roti bread.
A visit to Tsui Wah wouldn’t be complete without the classic crispy bun drizzled with condensed milk ($4). Each freshly baked pillowy-soft bun is toasted to achieve a golden brown crust. It goes best with warm Hong Kong-style milk tea ($3.50) served in the iconic blue porcelain cups and stirred until frothy. The tea is brewed using premium Ceylon tea leaves and made with condensed milk instead of granulated sugar for a smoother mouthfeel.
Another traditional drink is the almond milk with egg white ($7). The snowy white whipped and steamed concoction comes piping hot and the first sip is like being enveloped in a warm hug. No, we’re not being dramatic. It’s the kind of drink we’ll daydream about on rainy days to come, although the smell does take some getting used to. If you’re gearing up for a night out, there are house pour red and white as well as several beers to knock back.
With a sitting capacity that accommodates more than 140, including an alfresco area, is it overly optimistic to hope that the queue won’t get too intense?
Location: 3A River Valley Road, Clarke Quay, #01-03, Singapore 179020. Opening hours: 11am-11pm daily. Website: www.facebook.com/TsuiwahSingapore
This article was first published in Her World Online.