Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ at Yishun Park Hawker Centre is run by the 2nd-generation hawker, Chew Zhi Jie, who is taught by his parents, one of the pioneers in creating the BBQ sambal stingray. Before his father opened his first stall in 1982 at the old Woodlands Food Centre, he did his apprenticeship in Malaysia. His sambal chilli was and still is homemade, as it was not readily available in the 80s. His father was also the first to use hotplates in Singapore because he wanted to serve his stingray hot, and to maintain the temperature of the dish throughout the meal.
To date, due to his parents’ hard work and dedication, the family is running more than 15 stalls islandwide. But under the name of Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ, its first outlet is at Jurong East.
The second outlet at Yishun Park serves his parents’ signature dishes, including the sambal BBQ stingray. Seafood is delivered daily to the stall to ensure freshness. No MSG and no salt are used. Prices range from $7 to $25. Jiao Cai is also offering a new lunch set called the singapore’s first ever stingray rice bowl ($7), suitable for solo eaters, from 11.30am to 4pm daily.
The sambal kangkong ($7) looks different from versions found at other stalls. There is not much red chilli padi but the taste is impressive. It is cooked to perfection to retain its crunchiness, without being mushy. The aromatic homemade sambal chilli goes excellently with the earthy kangkong which has a carbby taste educed from wok hei.
The sambal sotong ($12) is delicious on its own; however, when dipped in chinchalok and lime, the tanginess provides a depth to the dish. Although I find that it is spicier than other dishes, the sotong is fresh, buttery, and soft, unlike bad sotong that can be so rubbery you can used it to tie a ponytail.
The sambal stingray ($15) is meaty and BBQ-ed immaculately. If there is more char and more bold, it would be better but there is already a ‘wok hei’ in this dish (and others). It’s crispy on the surface and very moist inside. The sweet flesh peels off easily from the bone/cartilage.
Their sambal red snapper (market price, $25 for ours) is very fresh, very sweet, and does not have any fishiness. The edges are lined with char, adding a nice smokiness to the dish, while it is cooked for just the right amount of time that it is soft without being flaky.
As you may have noticed, all the items are cooked with sambal and it can get a little monotonous when you order three or more dishes. We found out later that there is an option of using Chew’s mother’s homemade non-spicy sauce from a mixture of 7 different types of sauces to cook the seafood.
On the whole, this is a very satisfying meal and I’ll definitely recommend it to people staying around Yishun and north of Singapore.
Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ
Yishun Park Hawker Center #01-39, 51 Yishun Avenue 11 Singapore 768867
tel: +65 82014400
Decor/Ambience: NA (hawker)
Service: NA (hawker)
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Written by Brandon Tan. He strives to be a honest food writer and hopes to share his reviews to benefit restaurants and customers. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.