Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Game for biryani at Chop Chop Biryani & Meats

The siew yoke biryani fuses the Persian-Indian rice dish with Cantonese-style roast pork belly.
The siew yoke biryani fuses the Persian-Indian rice dish with Cantonese-style roast pork belly.ST PHOTO: KENNETH GOH

This might sound odd, but I think a bowl of mee rebus should be served with bread to mop up the thick, piquant gravy; and slices of char siew, together with lettuce and mayonnaise, make a very fine burger.

I love experimenting with quirky mishmashes of hawker food.

So when I spotted "siew yoke biryani" sold at Chop Chop Biryani & Meats in Amoy Street Food Centre, I knew it was something right up my alley.

At the month-old stall, nasi biryani is served "Chinese-Indian style", according to owner Gino Goh, 33.

Diners have a choice of pork masala, sambal sotong, braised char siew and salted egg yolk popcorn chicken ($5 to $6) to go with the saffron-hued basmati rice.

Each plate is filled with rice, cabbage thoran, pineapple and cucumber salsa, a runny soft-boiled egg and a papadum.

Naturally, I went for the most eclectic combination of the lot - siew yoke biryani ($5), a cross-cultural marriage of the Persian- Indian rice dish with Cantonese-style roast pork belly.

  • CHOP CHOP BIRYANI & MEATS


    Where: 02-101 Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Street; open: 11am to 3pm (weekdays), closed on weekends; call 8118-0657 or go to www.facebook.com/pg/chopchopamoystreefc

    Rating: 4/5

The meat, which is chopped upon order from a huge slab, is on the firm side and could be juicier. It comes from Mr Goh's friend, who runs a catering business.

Despite being well-studded with cloves, star anise and cardamom, the spiciness of the rice barely packs a punch compared with versions from Indian-Muslim food stalls.

However, the mellow spiciness of the rice allows the saltiness of the roast pork belly to stand out.

The best part of eating the dish is biting into the squares of pork crackling in between spoonfuls of rice.

Mr Goh says the idea of pairing siew yoke with nasi biryani came during a potluck party, where he saw both dishes on the same table.

After three months of experimenting, Mr Goh, who was the head chef at the now-defunct Cafe Nido in Tyrwhitt Road, nailed his recipe for nasi biryani and came up with other creative meat pairings along the way.

Another popular dish is the char siew biryani ($5.50), introduced three weeks ago. It features a dark red, fork-tender slab of pork soft bone that has been braised for four hours in a sweet kicap manis sauce.

There may be no charred edges, but the trade-off is mixing the lean portions of the pork with the melt-in-the-mouth collagen bits.

Don't miss the pork masala biryani ($5). The morsels of meat are tender from being slow-cooked for 12 hours in tomatoes and spices. This results in thick and velvety pork that is more sweet than spicy, and it is a delight.

Mr Goh says he will continue to stretch the boundaries of nasi biryani by introducing other options, such as grilled sambal stingray and fried pork knuckle soon. I cannot wait.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Game for biryani'. Print Edition | Subscribe