Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hidden Hawker Gems - The Original Nan Xiang Chicken Rice

Seriously, when you talk about the best char siew places in Singapore, you should avoid fine dining restaurants. Instead, look for authentic hawkers using old school methods for their classic roasting goodness.

And before discovering this, my only other two "go to" char siew stalls are Foong Kee and Fu Shi. The former is as classic as it gets, and the latter, a newer entry that has similar traits to the KL's Ming Kee which I still hold as the gold standard for char siew.

Recently, I was brought to Nan Xiang at Tanjong Katong and I was surprised that it was a stall that I have walked past countless times on the way to Eng's Noodles place. Little did I realise that this would be a stall that would hold so much history.

This original Nan Xiang Chicken Rice is not to be mistaken for both the Novena outlet, nor the Whampoa market stall. Both are just using the same name, but not the original recipes and techniques.

This Katong Nan Xiang is helmed by Mr. Moh, who started this shop way back in 1967. Which means, it is a half a century old eatery. Mr Moh is Hainanese, and I have been informed his chicken rice is one of the best ones around too. I did not get to savour this though as I was more focused on his roast meats for that day.

Classic Roast Meats

Despite being Hainanese, his roast platter is akin to the old school Cantonese style that is rather hard to find these days. The sio bak or roast pork belly, the roast duck and the main highlight, the char siew are all superbly handled here.

For one, the pork used for the sio bak and char siew has a rich layer of fat that has been nicely preserved with the porcine juices powering the natural sweet flavours of the meats. And that marinate is simply delicious.

It has a nice, greasy balance of sweet and savoury and a flavourful intensity that is sorely lacking in most char siew places these days. And this includes high class restaurants which simply cannot find that magic formula in getting this lor, or braising liquid/sauce, just right.

The char siew has such a tasty glaze, but it does not reach the almost burnt nature of either Foong Kee or Fu Shu. More similar to Fatty Cheong but way better in terms of flavour and texture.

As for the roast duck, it has a nice aromatic skin and fat and the duck meat is roasted just about right. Not too dry and just enough bite to give you a good deal of pleasure as you go through that protein.

The sio bak has a good crackling. Not necessarily the best, but still crispy despite it being cold for some time. But it is the meat and that layer of fat that will steal you away from the crackling. It's rare for a sio bak to be enjoyed more for the meat than the skin, but this is something to savoured here, for sure.

It is understandable why there is a perpetual queue here during lunchtime. I reckon most of the lunchtime crowd is oblivious to the history and pedigree of this stall. Perhaps, it is because they lack the media savy to go on Facebook and Instagram to promote themselves.

As such, this is the real deal. The other Nan Xiangs are not the real McCoy. Mr Moh and his fifty year old cooking is what should be properly recognised and appreciated. Hopefully, the general public will also take heed.

Nan Xiang Chicken Rice
271 Tanjong Katong Road

No comments:

Post a Comment