Be transported back in time when you step into Plum Village, a small Hakka restaurant that’s been around for more than 30 years. Chinese lanterns hang from the walls and you’ll even find a modest library at the back. The food hasn’t changed since the restaurant opened, you’ll find classic Hakka dishes like fried yam balls ($9-$18) and stuffed beancurd ($6-$15). But the star dish here is definitely the salted vegetable with pork ($13.80-$27.60) that’s been stewed for hours ’til perfectly tender.
Helmed by chef Cheung Siu Kong, Summer Pavilion is the only hotel Chinese restaurant to receive a star in the Michelin Guide Singapore 2016. The Cantonese joint offers lunch and dinner sets (from $88), which feature some of Cheung’s signature dishes like barbecued Iberico pork and marinated South African abalone. For dim sum fiends, come during lunch to try creations like the abalone, conpoy and mushroom dumpling in clear broth ($18.80), and pan-fried shredded yam and pumpkin ($5.40).
The restaurant is musty and the decor looks like it hasn’t changed in three decades, but that hasn’t stopped hordes of regulars from filling the tables every night. While it might not look it, Beng Hiang only moved to its new premises in Jurong East in 2015 after spending years at a shophouse along Amoy Street. It’s one of only about two or three surviving Hokkien restaurants in town – and, as you’d expect, the food’s authentic, from the braised pig’s trotters with yam ($38) to fried mee sua ($8-$18) tossed with both fresh and dried prawns. Also not to be missed is the oyster omelette ($12-$28): it’s lighter compared to the ones you’ll find at the hawker centre.
Si Wei Mao Cai
Be warned: dine at Si Wei Mao Cai only if you can take the heat. The dishes here are not kidding when it comes to spice – they’ll leave you dripping in sweat and with a numb tongue. The most fiery of the lot is the Si Wei Langzi catfish ($29) that’s served swimming in chilli oil and Sichuan peppercorns. For something milder, order the duck stewed with potatoes ($26) that have been braised in a slightly spicy brown sauce. If you’re feeling especially brave, try the si wei chilli frog ($26), or frog’s legs stir-fried with both fresh and dried chillies for an intense kick.
Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine
Imperial Treasure opened its first outlet in 2004 at Ngee Ann City. Doesn’t seem that long ago, eh? Especially when you realise the brand now has 30 restaurants across Singapore and Shanghai, with plans to expand to South Korea, Paris and London. The new Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine in ION Orchard is a more refined version of the original, with a spacious main dining hall and six lavish private rooms.
Signature dishes include diced abalone and chicken wrapped in egg white ($25), chilled flower crab ($20/100g) and a platter of sliced duck meat, duck tongue, cuttlefish and beef tripe ($34-$68).
Don’t let the busloads of tourists who have their meals here turn you off – Mooi Chin is legit. Founded in 1935, it’s the oldest Hainanese restaurant in town. Order the Hainanese pork chop ($14), mutton soup ($16) and chicken rice set ($16), all simple dishes that taste as though they were issued out of a home kitchen.
With humble roots as a coffeeshop along Kitchener Road, Putien has come a long way. Specialising in cuisine from the Fujian province of China, the restaurant regularly imports ingredients native from its namesake city, Putian. Try the fried Heng Hwa bee hoon ($8.90) that’s made with sun-dried bee hoon or, when they’re in season, the Duo Tou clams ($20.90) from the Hanjiang district. Despite having ten outlets in Singapore, the quality of the food served at Putien is always consistent, making it a safe bet even for the pickiest of palates.
Red Star Restaurant
Even though it might not dish out the best dumplings in town, Redstar is absolutely worth it. It’s one of the few dim sum spots in town with the authentic pushcart experience and, to match, decor plucked straight out of the ’60s. Aunties will flock to your table, hawking baskets filled with liu sha bao ($4.70) and xiao long bao ($4.50), then stamping your card to track your orders. And ordering way too much is part of the experience here, so check your self-control at the door. Other reliable favourites include char siew sou ($4.50) and oversized har gao ($4.50) stuffed with whole shrimp.