Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shao at Jurong East - The Perfect Char Siew

Traditionally, the most authentic and best tasting char siew are made in Apollo roasters, and the mere thought of using a conventional oven to make this popular BBQ pork dish is unthinkable.

Yet, one resourceful chef has managed to not only make a char siew using a combi oven with incredible results, he has also managed to surpass almost everyone else in this field of expertise.

And no, Shao is not found in some fancy fusion, jazz lounge type of Chinese fine dining establishment. Instead, Chef Petric Tan's Hong Kong roasts are found in a humble coffeeshop out in the far west.

Petric has a classic training and has worked in many known fine dining places from The Lighthouse to Hyatt, and when you sit down to have a chat with this energetic veteran, there is a sense that there is an immense passion within him when it comes to food and cooking.

In fact, he seems more engaged in talking about his previous fish and chips concept, and he hopes to bring it back in some form or another in the near future. Regardless of his western ambitions, I need to seriously rave about his Chinese roasts, for they are quite amazingly created despite the use of conventional cooking equipment.

HK Roasts

He does not use premium pork like Kurobuta or similar, instead he settles on standard shoulder and belly cuts. To his credit, I tasted both cuts and was surprised to find that I enjoyed the leaner cut as much as the pork belly.

Take a look at my pictures and you will see the perfect caramelisation and glaze on each and every piece. And he does not take any Malaysian shortcuts when it comes to his glossy glaze, it is fully infused with the classic combination of herbs, spices and condiments. Every piece of the protein has a magnificent and robust flavour of the marinate, and the texture is equally tantalising on both the leaner and fattier cuts.

The char is also note perfect, the burnt bits just ideally bittersweet without going overboard, and conversely, Petric shows enough gumption to bring the charring right to the edge. The taste is also the holy grail of char siew sauces, a robust savoriness coupled with an intoxicating sweetness. This char siew is indeed, one for the ages. And made using the combi oven!

Sio Bak

His sio bak is also pretty admirable, though not on the same ecstatic high as the char siew. Then again, for an oven roasted rendition, it is already superior to almost every fine dining restaurant's take on it. The crispy skin still retains it's crisp and crackling integrity and is seasoned well, though it could be bettered with a stronger marinate.

The meat is just about right, as there is enough flavour in every piece and the tenderness cannot be faulted either. And true to tradition, there are seven visible layers embedded within each piece. Elsewhere, if you order a platter, you may want to try the roast duck and soya chicken as well, but with less stellar results.

I had the duck and found it slightly underwhelming, and that is more due to the somewhat bland taste of the meat than anything else. The skin was also not as alluring as other places like Siang Yuen or Ming Mun, and neither was it as aromatically crisp. Though there is a strong herbal taste due to the use of Chinese tang kuei or angelica.

Prices are definitely more than affordable, and as I have reiterated many times here and on my social media feeds, the best HK roasts are never found in hotel restaurants or chain franchises. They are found in artisanal joints like Shao here.

The char siew itself has so much potential and deserves a wider audience than the regular kopitiam crowd. And indeed, it should also serve as an eye opener to the juvenile tastebuds that are easily swayed by sugary pork. The heavenly intoxication of each piece of char siew is bound to make you go for one more extra bite, like I did.

Until something better comes along, this is indeed the best char siew for The Silver Chef.

Shao
130 Jurong Gateway Road
BGAIN 130 Eating House

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