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Friyay!: What to eat

Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew (top) and Hainanese Curry Rice (above) from British Hainan.
Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew (above) and Hainanese Curry Rice from British Hainan.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO
Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew (top) and Hainanese Curry Rice (above) from British Hainan.
Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew and Hainanese Curry Rice (above) from British Hainan.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO
Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew (top) and Hainanese Curry Rice (above) from British Hainan.
Handmade U-mian (left) and Mee Hoon Kueh from Zhen Porridge & Handmade Noodle.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO
Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew (top) and Hainanese Curry Rice (above) from British Hainan.
Hong Kong Style Porridge from Zhen Porridge & Handmade Noodle.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

PURVIS STREET

BRITISH HAINAN

Fans of casual home-dining eatery British Hainan will be pleased to know that it has a new outlet in Purvis Street, which used to be part of a Hainanese enclave.

It serves a selection of signature favourites from its sister outlets in Carpmael Road and Kallang Way.

The top dish is Hainanese Curry Rice ($15.80+), which comes with generous portions of chap chye, braised pork belly and crispy pork chop doused in a thick housemade curry that is packed with spices. The accompanying plain rice is a tad too mushy, though.

Hainanese Pork Chop ($14.90+) is not made with traditional biscuit crumbs. Owner Frederick Puah says it is difficult to get cream crackers with the pale, near-white colour, like those used by his father who worked as a cook for the British during colonial times.

Instead, the 64-year-old uses breadcrumbs, which result in pork chops with an ultra-crispy exterior, similar to well-made Japanese tonkatsu.

Australian pork shoulder is marinated overnight in sesame oil, salt, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce. The meat is seared before it is dipped in batter, coated with breadcrumbs and fried to order.

To let his customers enjoy the crispy crust, Mr Puah covers the pork chop only partially with gravy.

He is particularly proud of his Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew ($29.90+). The gravy is naturally thickened with Japanese sweet potatoes, which are steamed with skins on and then blended with olive oil and butter.

The oxtail is slow-cooked for up to seven hours over low heat. Each piece holds its shape when plated, but is fork-tender. While I find the oxtail's odour too overpowering, Mr Puah says most of his regular customers like the strong flavour.

The stew, cooked with fresh tomatoes and tomato puree, is tangy.

Hainanese Chap Chye ($10+) - a simple combination of fried white cabbage, ground dried prawn, wood ear mushroom and dried beancurd sticks - has the nostalgic taste of grandma's cooking.

Prawn Cakes ($12+) are housemade and the bouncy prawn filling goes well with the crispy exterior.

Accompany your meal with Hainan Brew Black Coffee ($4+), which is made with coffee powder from Batu Pahat in Johor. The beans are roasted the traditional way with butter and sugar. The resulting coffee has no trace of bitterness.

Seats are limited - 38 indoors and six outdoors - so it is best to make reservations. Also, be prepared to wait for your food as the eatery is facing teething manpower issues.

WHERE British Hainan, 23 Purvis Street MRT City Hall OPEN 11am to 3pm; 6 to 10pm daily; closed on Tuesdays TEL 6977-9711/9633-8122


BEDOK NORTH

ZHEN PORRIDGE & HANDMADE NOODLE

Unlike many stalls which serve factory-supplied handmade noodles, the noodles at Zhen Porridge & Handmade Noodle in Bedok North are made from scratch in-house daily.

Stall owner Chong Hong Chun, who is from Ipoh, prepares a fresh batch of dough daily, using a pasta-maker to roll out the dough and cut the noodles to order.

The star dish is not on the menu, but regulars know to order the Handmade U-mian. For $3.50, you get a choice of either marinated minced pork collar or shredded chicken meat. The noodles, which are cooked al dente, come with an egg.

Madam Chong, 62, insists on using young spinach, which is tender but costlier than standard spinach. She switched to spinach from cai xin about 10 years ago, after a trip home to Ipoh. There, she noticed that ban mian stalls used spinach in their soups.

Her broth is flavoursome and sweet from the use of premium-grade whole ikan bilis and pork and chicken bones, which are simmered for three hours.

She fries deboned ikan bilis of the same grade to use as a topping. Premium-grade ikan bilis are cleaner and have a lower salt content.

Another must-try is Mee Hoon Kueh ($3.50). While the ingredients for the soup are the same as the U-mian's, the jagged squares of hand-torn noodles offer a different texture and mouthfeel. They are tender yet chewy.

The glistening squares are so smooth, it is difficult to grip them with chopsticks.

The stall also serves Hong Kong Style Porridge ($4.30, right) and Pork Porridge ($3.50). Each bowl comes with an egg. Add a century egg for 50 cents.

WHERE Zhen Porridge & Handmade Noodle, 01-142, Block 123 Bedok North Street 2 MRT Tanah Merah OPEN 7.15am to 7pm daily

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2021, with the headline 'Friyay!: What to eat'. Subscribe