Chinese communal dining takes on mod-Sin and Halal twists.

Wok & Tok : Unique Zi Char

Bringing hawker culture back into vogue are some of Singapore's unique zi char dishes.

Join us as we scour through the island for dishes such as har cheong roulade and a huge, hearty slab of US Angus beef steak!

Jiakpalang Eating House | Wok Master | Mari Makan Seafood | New Ubin Seafood – Singapore

Posted by BiTES – The Scoop on Good Eats on Friday, November 3, 2017


Typically found at neighbourhood coffee shops, zi char stalls never fail to greet you with the smoky wok hei of Chinese home-style dishes. While the list of zi char joints is never-ending, here are some of the more unconventional offshoots that have emerged recently.

Wok Master

Located in City Square Mall, Wok Master takes pride in serving local favourites and hearty claypot delights. Decked in marble-topped tables elegant wooden furnishings, this restaurant lets you experience communal dining in comfort.

Just like zi char stalls in the hood, prices here remain affordable. Our favourite dish is the chilli crab ($48 for two), particularly its bath of sweet, eggy and spicy sauce. Perfect to smother deep-fried mantous in.

The curry fish head ($28), simmered in a rich gravy, is chock-full of tomatoes, eggplant, lady’s fingers and long beans that have soaked up all the flavour. If you need a spice respite, go for Wok Master’s premium claypot ($28)—packed with fresh assorted seafood such as fresh prawns, scallops and fish maw.

#02-51/52 City Square Mall, 180 Kitchener Road. Tel: 6835 9096

Jiakpalang Eating House

You’ll be mindblown by Nixon Low’s ingenious creations inspired by modern zi char here. Along with the graffiti and 3D acrylic art that decorate the walls, Jiakpalang‘s menu is a modern tribute to local cuisine and heritage.

Order the har cheong ($13), boneless prawn paste chicken turned into a roulade and served with piquant calamansi mayo. Instead of the usual coffee pork ribs, Jiakpalang offers a succulent charcoal Katarosu pork collar ($16) drizzled in kopi ‘C’ jus. The Ang Ji Kao braised beef cheek ($17) makes a lasting impression; served on a bed of peanut butter mash and roasted nuts, the beef cheek is fall-apart tender from slow-cooking in beef stock and stout.

Also noteworthy are the lunchtime economical rice bowls (from $6.90). The signature sesame soy chicken ($6.90) may look too clean for comfort but packs well-balanced flavours in a myriad of textures. Keep your eyes peeled for seasonal specials such as Nyonya curry chicken and chilli crab rice.

#01-04/06 Fragrance Empire Building, 456 Alexandra Road. Tel: 6266 8511

Mari Makan Seafood

Loosely translated as ‘let’s go eat seafood’, Mari Makan Seafood bridges the cultural gap with Chinese stir-fry dishes that are catered to Muslims. Located in the Tampines heartlands, this Halal-certified zi char stall adapts family recipes and recreates classic dishes in an open-concept kitchen.

Snack on fried fish skin coated with salted egg ($12) or spice up your meal with the sambal stingray ($12-$18)—the fish is served on a banana leaf and generously smeared with house-made signature sambal. If that doesn’t satisfy your seafood cravings, order the seafood platter, which feeds 2 to 3 pax. Blanched in clear stock ($45) or tom yum ($48) is a smorgasbord of clams, half-shell scallops, mussels, oysters, prawns, crayfish and a crab.

There are also individual portions of beef hor fun ($5) and lemon chicken rice ($5), as well as a value set meal which includes three dishes—such as prawn roll and hotplate beancurd—and a soup ($19.80).

Kim San Leng Coffeeshop, 138 Tampines Street 11. Tel: 9688 0848

New Ubin Seafood

Relocated from Sin Ming Industrial Estate, New Ubin Seafood has shifted to Hillview so Westies can now experience their kampong-style dining. Illuminated by warm fairy lights, the 300-seater restaurant caters to both small and big groups in an open-air space. Air-conditioned private rooms are also available.

Before you head straight for the usual zi char fare, let New Ubin Seafood share their take on American, French, Italian and Indian cuisine. For first-timers, look out for the “Great Wall of Ubin” which recommends must-try dishes. You won’t go wrong ordering from that human-size chalkboard.

U.S. black Angus ribeye ($14/100g) is served on a wooden chopping board with wedges on the side. Another hot favourite is the “heart attack” fried rice—flavoured by beef fat (you’ll find crispy bits of it too), seasoned with dark soya sauce and charred to perfection.

Other intriguing offerings include garlic baked Sri Lankan crab ($42), and bakwan kepiting ($15)—a Peranakan-style soup with massive meatballs made from scratch.

Level 6 Canteen, Lam Soon Industrial Building, 63 Hillview Avenue. Tel: 6466 9558