Whampoa Food Street (KENG) – Fish Head Steamboat Restaurant

I have been suffering migraine for the past couple of days. I couldn’t sleep well, tossing on my bed in my darkened room, staring at the ceiling and counting sheep. A clap of thunder broke the silence and I was awakened… Excited, actually! You see, I love the rain. The rumbling sky and lightning promised a good rainfall. I quickly got out of bed and lugged the laptop out to the verandah.

I am recharged! What can I post?

I have quite a lot of materials for blogging, but the perverse browser/internet/wordpress/facebook, whatever the problem frustrated me. I even took a break from BT’s facebook postings (see how it is never my fault? wink wink). After some “watering” I am rehydrated and ready to blog again. I hope the pictures will upload fast enough so as not to dampen (ironical, isn’t it?) my spirit, lol…

Fish Head Steamboats in Singapore are known to have started way back in 1920s. Is fish head steamboat a Singaporean dish (like curry fish head is not an Indian dish) or did this classic Teochew meal originate from Swatow, China? There are many varieties of steamboats but fish head (and especially promfets) is typical of Teochew ethnic. It is traditionally served in a deep aluminium moat-looking dish heated by glowing charcoals (steamboat) with fish head pieces (sometimes inclusive of fish fillet), deep-fried yam cubes, fried ground solefish, nappa cabbage to sweeten the broth, some dried seaweed, ginger and perhaps tofu. A sour plum or two would be added for tang and to whet the appetite even further. Steamboats are usually consumed during Reunion Dinners and CNY. They are especially comforting on rainy days. Used to be eaten on the streets (called ‘da pin lou’ in Cantonese, meaning “hotpot at roadside”), they are now served in high-end restaurants, too.

Ok, my short attention span is waning and I have nothing more to contribute except a juicy gossip. It’s no secret and some diners have speculated… Yes, it is true! Mr. Keng, the owner of this delicious steamboat and cze char place, has two shops and two happy families. Or should I say one big happy family under separate roofs? 😉

The elder wife, Doris, runs the main shop in Balestier Road where I frequent and Sharon, the younger wife is in charge of the Rangoon Road branch. Doris is aware of Mr. Keng’s second family. In fact, she gave them her blessings when Keng asked if he could take Sharon as his second wife. There are many photos in their shops and even on the menus flaunting the happy trio. Don’t ask me if it is legal in Singapore for a man to have two wives (perhaps it’s not official). All I know is that the owners are friendly, that their restaurant (in Balestier, because I haven’t eaten at Rangoon) serves good food and has very efficient service although that can sometimes be a challenge as the restaurant is usually crowded.

Now that the sour plums and gossips have worked up our appetite or at least mine, let’s tuck in!

When you see table settings with mini soup and perforated ladles, you'll know it's steamboat time!

When you see table settings with mini soup and perforated ladles, you’ll know it’s steamboat time!

Standard dipping sauces for steamboats.

Standard dipping sauces for steamboats.

Glow in the dark?  Choosing the right charcoal is important.  The superior quality ones will not give off sooty black smoke.

Glow in the dark?
Choosing the right charcoal is important.
The superior quality ones will not give off sooty black smoke.

Fish head steamboat is actually a one dish meal.

Fish head steamboat is actually a one dish pot meal.

There are a few types of fish to choose from usually promfet or garoupa. Here we have garoupa fish head cut into bite-size pieces, fried yam, nappa cabbage, seaweed, tang orh (a kind of chrysanthemum leaves), etc... etc...

There are a few types of fish to choose from usually promfet or garoupa.
Here we have garoupa fish head cut into bite-size pieces, fried yam, nappa cabbage, seaweed, tang orh (a kind of chrysanthemum leaves), etc… etc…

You don't have to worry about the soup drying up. Have as much as you like because refill is always available.

You don’t have to worry about the soup drying up.
Have as much as you like because refill is always available.
There is a nice scent of “dong kwai” herb to it.

Although the steamboat has many secondary ingredients in it, typical Singaporeans will usually order a couple or more accompanying dishes.

Although the steamboat has many secondary ingredients in it, typical Singaporeans will usually order a couple or more accompanying dishes.

When you see flavoured salt and chilli dip in a Chinese restaurant, know that roasted chicken would be served. Now in a Chinese restaurant, roasted means deep-fried.

When you see flavoured salt and chilli dip in a Chinese restaurant, know that roasted chicken would be served.
Now in a Chinese restaurant, roasted usually means deep-fried.

Roast Chicken with Prawn Crackers. Sorry I didn't see the menu and the bill just state "金雞" I figured as "Gold Chicken".

Roast Chicken with Prawn Crackers. Sorry I didn’t see the menu and the bill just state “金雞” I figured as “Gold Chicken”.

This is quite special because the chicken meat has been skilfully removed from the chicken leaving the whole skin intact. They are then diced and mixed into fresh squid paste and assembled back to look like a "butterflied" poultry.

This is quite special because the chicken meat has been skilfully removed from the chicken leaving the whole skin intact. They are then diced and mixed into fresh squid paste and assembled back to look like a “butterflied” poultry.

The chicken skin is crispy, the "meat" bouncy and succulent.  Dipping it lightly onto the salt and/or chilli sauce gave this dish an extra punch. The prawn crackers is an old fashion way to serve roast chicken dishes and this dish is definitely old school. A lot of places do not serve this dish any more. My friend (who dined with me that night) had never eaten this dish before.

The chicken skin is crispy, the “meat” bouncy and succulent.
Dipping it lightly onto the salt and/or chilli sauce gave this dish an extra punch.
The prawn crackers is an old fashion way to serve roast chicken dishes and this dish is definitely old school.
A lot of places do not serve this dish any more.
My friend (who dined with me that night) had never eaten this dish before.

Sambal Sweet Potato Leaves.

Sambal Sweet Potato Leaves.

Steamboats on a rainy day is comforting.

Steamboat on a rainy day is comforting.

Fish Head Steamboat - S$30 Sweet Potato Leaves - S$8 Chicken - S$22 The rest of the charges were for the Barley Drink, Chinese Tea and Towels.

Fish Head Steamboat – S$30
Sweet Potato Leaves – S$8
Chicken – S$22
The rest of the charges were for Rice, Barley Drink, Chinese Tea and Towels.

In fact, I was supposed to go for dinner there tonight (Tues, 8th Oct 2013) but my girlfriend couldn’t make it last minute after I’ve blocked out this date for her. Yes, if you are reading this please feel guilty about it 😉

Whampoa Keng as I like to call it for short has many delicious dishes. I ate there many times before I took up photography so I did not have photos of the food except for this recent trip. I thought I could capture some tonight and add on to the post. It’s ok, I’ll be going there again. Rainy season is here to stay. Hooray!

Whampoa Food Street (KENG) – Fish Head Steamboat Restaurant
Address: 556 Balestier Road,
Singapore 329872.
Tel: 97694451 (Keng)
91276550 (Doris)

Operating hours: 11am to 11pm

Branch
Address: 116/118 Rangoon Road,
Singapore 218396.
Tel: 90232854 (Sharon)

Best to reserve a table during Weekends and Public Holidays.

Happy eating 😀

See other steamboat posts
136 Hong Kong Street Fish Head Steamboat 香港街魚頭爐
Crystal Jade Korean BBQ Buffet
Irrashaimase いっらしゃいませ
Wanna Lok Lok?

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Comments
16 Responses to “Whampoa Food Street (KENG) – Fish Head Steamboat Restaurant”
  1. laurasmess says:

    It’s been a very long time since I ate a steamboat meal. They’re such a beautiful ritual though… I love the steaming broth, the mini soup ladles and the communal aspect of it. This fish head place looks great. Haha… love the ‘gossip’. Two wives?! He’s lucky that they get along! 🙂 Hope that your migraine has gone by now lovely. I’ve only had one in my life and it was horrible. Crippling, in fact. I’ll definitely bookmark this place for my next visit to Singapore xx

    • Sam Han says:

      Thanks Laura, I am better after popping paracetamol a couple of times. I get them quite frequently due to few reasons (not drinking my coffee on time, msg in food, etc…) Thanks for the kind concern. Really appreciate it!

      This is definitely one place to go for steamboat and we have so many types here. I am so glad you understand the communal aspect of steamboats 😀

  2. daniellajoe says:

    Migraines are not fun, hope you are feeling better. Sometimes it is nice just shutting down the internet and relaxing…your food pictures are always yummy looking 🙂 Sam I did not know you could eat sweet potatoes leaves it looks like spinach..

    • Sam Han says:

      Oh yes, and tapioca leaves too. There’s also bitter gourd vines for stir-frying which I recently found out. Not bitter at all and quite crunchy in texture. My migraine is gone, thank goodness 😀

  3. Sheryl says:

    The prawn crackers look very intriguing. Until I read the caption I thought they were potato chips. 🙂

    • Sam Han says:

      Hi Sheryl, prawn crackers are in dried form and you need to deep fry them in very hot oil till they are bloated and double/triple in size (until the crackers become opaque). There are many flavours like vegetable, fish, lobsters and squid. 😀

  4. Lignum Draco says:

    Glad you’re feeling better. Haven’t had steamboat for a while, so now you got me thinking …

  5. Brilliant pictures of the dishes. Could it just be that this mere expectation of such brilliant cuisine shifted you out of the migraine space?

    Shakti

  6. This got to be one of the best fish head steamboats around. I had pomfret the last time I was there. Fish was fresh. Stock was flavourful. Side dishes were gorgeous too. The roast chicken looks delish there 😀

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