From the family of JUMBO Group of Restaurants, Zui Yu Xuan Teochew Cuisine is a brand new dining concept at Far East Square, serving options for anyone who still wants to enjoy traditional Teochew dishes amidst the fast-evolving world of culinary fusions and variations. You may have heard of or visited their sister restaurant, Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine at Keng Lee Road. These two dining concepts form part of Zui (醉) Teochew Cuisine, honouring one of Singapore’s biggest Chinese dialect groups in their food preparation and cooking style.
Teochew cuisine depends on the freshness of ingredients to bring out ‘clean’ flavours and it often focuses on cooking methods that use less oil. Sauces play a solid supporting role for flavour enhancement but more often than not, a good Teochew dish can hold its own under the care of an experienced chef.
You can look forward to a few popular dishes in Zui Yu Xuan that you had tasted in Chui Huay Lim, and hopefully, discover several more gems in this new kid on the block at Amoy Street.
The Cold Crab ($12 per 100g), as a cold appetiser, looks extremely neat in its scarlet glory on a small rectangular plate. It is eaten more for the roe than its flesh. You can choose two dips – one of it is a kumquat mix that tastes delicately sweet and the other is a tantalising mixture of garlic, chilli and vinegar. The latter goes well with all the dishes that follow after this crab. It is a very effective and amazing all-purpose sauce.
Braised Duck with Beancurd ($18 per portion; $32 for half; $60 for whole) is perfect for Teochew porridge. I would pour the braised sauce liberally over rice porridge should I had a bowl with me then. Deep Fried ‘Ngoh Hiang’ ($13 per portion) and Deep Fried Prawn Balls ($22 per portion) retain ample meat juices beneath the veneer of deep-fried skins. The prawn balls are made with actual succulent prawns. Deep Fried Home-made ‘Puning’ Beancurd ($12 per portion) is often likened to stinky beancurd but I think it is way less redolent. The ‘skin’ is deep fried to a crispy, crumbly texture that encloses the soft beancurd that melts in your mouth. It takes an acquired taste to enjoy this dish but it is definitely worth trying for a provincial taste.
Probably the highlight of my night, Geoduck Clam Blanched with Superior Broth ($16.80 per 100g) is packed with umaminess in every iota of its being. The superior broth is cooked with pork bones over eight hours. Geoduck (pronounced as ‘gooey-duck’) clams are large saltwater clams found in the Pacific, known for their sweetness of the ocean. As what the name suggests, the clams are blanched with the boiling broth for only a few seconds to obtain optimal firmness without being overcooked.
Sea cucumber generally has no taste but they sure can absorb flavours from other ingredients very well. I seldom eat them because I find cooked sea cucumber ‘slimey’ but Zui Yu Xuan’s Crispy Sea Cucumber with Shiitake Mushroom with Abalone Sauce ($24 per portion) is unique. What the restaurant does is to fry the cooked sea cucumber (without a coat of flour) to create a crispy skin, while retaining the flavours of the mushrooms and abalone sauce within. I love the interesting texture of this dish.
The Australian Lobster Wok Baked with Fermented Bean and Garlic Teochew Style ($23.80 per 100g) is unfortunately too tough. The garlic flavour is also overpowering the taste of lobster.
Teochew ‘Puning’ Fermented Bean Chicken ($22 for half; $40 for whole) is tender and moist. I like food to lean on the savoury and salty side so the fermented bean sauce is a welcomed condiment in my books.
Many of our popular hawker dishes come from Teochew cuisine and oyster omelette is one of them. Teochew Oyster Omelette ‘Gooey Style’ ($13 per portion) is pan fried until it has a flat crispy layer. Beneath the unassuming layer lies a chockful of fresh oyster and savoury flour goo. I crave for ‘orh luak’ for a few days after eating this dish. There are cheaper alternatives in a hawker centre but the restaurant has done it marvellously well.
A big pot of Pomfret and Rice Boiled Teochew Style with Dried Shrimp and Crispy Rice ($108 per portion) should be a comfort food for any Teochew ‘nang’. However, I find the slices of pomfret a little fishy and the boiled rice monotonous. Magic happens when you add Dried Shrimps and Crispy Rice to the bowl of porridge. To create Crispy Rice, ‘leftover’ rice is left to dry completely before being fried. The Dried Shrimps are so good, they make good snacks if not used in a dish. These fried bits add flavour and texture to an otherwise run-of-the-mill dish.
The Wok Fried ‘Kway Teow’ with Diced ‘Kai Lan’ and Preserved Radish ($18 for small; $27 for medium’; $36 for large) contains the smokey flavours of ‘wok hei’ and I like the crunchiness of ‘kai lan’ (Chinese broccoli) and ‘cai poh’ (preserved radish). The ‘kway teow’ is in a lighter colour than its Hokkien counterparts but just as delectable.
The sweet endings to the meal make a happy ending indeed. Teochew ‘Tau Suan’ with Gingko Nuts ($5.20) is not an ordinary ‘tau suan’. The soup contains refreshing citrus notes from mandarin oranges that are peeled and zested daily. Dressed with a dash of shallot oil and a slice of pumpkin, Yam Paste with Pumpkin and Gingko Nuts ($5.20) is smooth and acceptably sweet. As for Teochew Glutinous Rice Balls ($5), we were told that they no longer serve peanut rice balls but only black sesame rice balls… just in case any guest has a peanut allergy. The sweet ginger broth contains white fungus too.
The restaurant is set in a heritage building with a beautiful courtyard. Operating two storeys high, Zui Yu Xuan has six private rooms on the second floor to cater to business meetings and closed-door functions. There is a karaoke system in every private room and after checking with the staff, they assured that the walls are pretty soundproof. I like the décor of the place, from embroidered lotus flowers to ancient Chinese suits.
Zui Yu Xuan Teochew Cuisine
130/131 Amoy Street (Far East Squarel) Singapore 049959
Tel: +65 6788 3637
11.30am – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm
You may be interested in…
–Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine, ION Orchard: How Did It Ever Win a Michelin Star?!
–Paradise Teochew, Vivocity: (Hor) Fun Teochew Classics and Unique Creations
–Thai Village, Singapore Indoor Stadium: Thai-Teochew Restaurant Since 1991, Keeping Up with the Times
–Reevaluating Dim Sum Classics Part II: East Ocean Teochew Restaurant 东海潮州酒家, Ngee Ann City Singapore
Written by Cheang Shwu Peng.