Cze Char 煮炒 (Street Restaurants) – Hong Kong Street Chun Tat Kee
Cze Char 煮炒 (Zi Char) is best described as home-style cooked food one can get at reasonable price in modest usually Kopitiam (Asian coffee shop) set-up. One can get restaurant quality meals on a shoestring budget if you know where to go. Menu of a cze char “restaurant” in most kopitiams are the same but the taste can be heaven and earth apart (let’s not go into hell)!
Hong Kong Street is a very common name when it comes to cze char stalls that serves mainly Cantonese home-style cooking even if they offer dishes of other Chinese dialect origin for example the Teochew Steam Fish or Fried Hokkien Mee.
There are not many cze char stalls near our house, therefore, to find a good cze char is like looking for needle in a haystack. We frequent Boon Tong Kee Balestier, a famous Singapore Chicken Rice stall now elevated a class higher to become a local family restaurant, and often while waiting for a cab ride back home, we would see a crowded cze char stall across the road, next to another famous Chinese Herbal Dessert shop selling Kwai Ling Ko. After many subliminal sightings, we decided to give it a go!
We did not ask the 小妹 (little sister, a friendly term used on lady waiting staff) what’s their signature dishes. Instead, we studied the pictorial menu and pointed out those that seduced our vision. We decided on rice instead of noodles as our staple and from there stemmed the direction of how we ordered our accompanying dishes. The first dish that caught my eye was Salted Fish Steamed Pork Patty. This classic Cantonese home-cooked favourite had a meaty chew in every bite and that’s good – goes to show the pork patty was unadulterated with cornstarch or flour. The steaming broth from the meat was rich in taste, contributed by the salted fish and ginger slices, which I gladly scooped and drizzled onto my plain rice.
Next we had Yau Mak, a seasonal vegetable stir-fried in Fu Yee with ginger and red chill strips. Fu Yee (pungent fermented beancurd squares) is the main seasoning for the vegetables. It is salty and creamy at the same time. The vegetables remained crisp when served and the level of saltiness from the fu yee was slightly under.
Unlike those served in Kok Sen, the Har Cheong Kai was battered style deep-fried chicken wings. Equally yummy in taste but here the texture was crispier. Seong and Valerie liked this dish very much. See my recipe below 😀
The star of the table was Assam Fish Head Curry. The freshness of the fish, crunchy texture of the ladies fingers and onions, tender eggplants and tangy gravy could not be faulted at all… except I would prefer no starch to be added into the gravy. Check out my own home-style recipe here.
Our overall dining experience was value for money.
We would come again if I can convince Valerie the roaches have moved.
Meanwhile, I satisfy her cravings for Har Cheong Kai with the recipe below:
Har Cheong Kai
1kg Chicken (bone in better, can use chicken wings or whole legs – cut into chunky pieces)
1 teaspoon Sugar.
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil.
1 teaspoon Hua Tiao Chiew or Mei Kwei Lo, optional (Chinese wine).
1 tablespoon Ginger Juice (extracted from grated fresh ginger, discard pulp).
2 tablespoons Fine Shrimp Sauce (Har Cheong – 虾酱 from Hong Kong Style).
2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour.
1 tablespoons Rice Flour.
Groundnut Oil for Deep-frying.
Small limes when serving.
1. Wash chicken pieces and pat dry with paper kitchen towels thoroughly.
2. Put the rest of the ingredients to the chicken and mix well.
3. Keep aside for at least 60 minutes and up to 12 hours in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before frying.
4. Heat oil in wok and when it is very hot, add the chicken pieces (divide into a few batches so that oil temperature is maintained). Once the chicken pieces are seared, lower heat to medium and continue to deep-fry for about 5 minutes.
5. Remove chicken pieces with a perforated ladle and drain on paper kitchen towels.
6. Deep-fry the remaining batches. Keep aside till needed or proceed to the next step.
7. Turn heat up on high and when oil is very hot, deep-fry the chicken pieces a second time until the skin blister to a crisp golden brown. Place on oil absorbent towels to drain oil completely.
7. Serve immediately with small limes.
Note: If you are cooking for a party, you can deep-fry the chicken a day ahead and keep the food in the fridge. Bring them out to room temperature a few hours ahead of time and do the second frying on Method at step 7 just before serving.
Warning for those not accustomed to shrimp sauce: Some have liken it to smelly socks before cooking. Your house will be pungent and neighbours may dump rubbish at your doorstep. To solve the problem, put a bowl of crushed lemon slices and water near the wok, turn on your stove exhaust, open your main door when frying and invite neighbours to partake the wings 😀
Hong Kong Street Chun Tat Kee
Address: 412 Balestier Road
Phone:(+65) 6254 5768
Transit: Before Balestier Plaza
Happy frying 🙂