For an affordable meal that’ll satisfy cravings for everyone at the table, nothing beats a variety of hearty tze char dishes. In an unpretentious setting, service is warm and you’re free to dress comfortably and be slightly rowdy with the supper gang.
Even for people residing on the opposite end of the island, here are 7 tze char spots that are totally worth making the hour-long train journey for. We’re just jealous of the residents who get to stroll from their neighbourhoods to such amazing food on the regular…
Innovation seems to be the name of the game for Happy Village Restaurant, with next-level tze char dishes that are equal parts eye-catching and mouth-watering.
The signature Happy Village Chicken ($20 for a whole chicken, call ahead to order) perches an entire chook upright on a metal stand.
This allows the juices to slowly seep through the bird before hungry diners tear through it themselves, carnivore-style.
Fans of salted egg yolk and mayonnaise salad prawn balls, the fluorescent-hued Orange-flavoured Crispy Prawn Balls ($20) will blow your mind. Although I was initially apprehensive, the refreshing citrus notes complemented the usual heaviness of deep-fried prawns coated in cream.
For a superbly succulent pork dish, get the Happy Village Pork Ribs ($16). Slathered in a sticky sweet sauce with a sprinkling of corn flakes, it’s guaranteed to strike a chord with meat lovers of all ages.
Address: 81 Jalan Malu-Malu, Singapore 769689
Opening hours: 10.30AM – 2.30PM, 5PM – 11PM daily
Telephone: 6555 1018
With a cramped ordering counter at the corner a small neighbourhood kopitiam, YCC Kitchen is a blink-and-you-miss-it treasure find. Their menu has an extensive selection of different meat, seafood and noodle dishes, but we opted for their unique appetisers.
The crispy fried Custard Fish Skin ($10) was glazed with a golden, buttery sauce that was downright addictive. The Golden Sands Chicken ($9) had a delicious batter and is probably a surefire hit with kids.
Although it resembles a squashed Christmas fruit cake, the Fried Tofu with XO Sauce ($10) actually tasted fab. With a colourful array of chopped up ingredients embedded within, each comforting bite reminds you of grandma’s cooking.
Address: 688 Woodlands Drive 75, Singapore 730688
Opening hours: 5PM – 2AM daily
Telephone: 6464 7103
Opened since 1994, 1036 Live Seafood has stood the test of time with their quality ingredients and skillful culinary techniques. The signatures are Black Pepper Crab as well as Chilli Crab (market price), although the smaller seafood dishes are just as fresh and tantalising.
The Steamed Mussels ($12 for 300g) had a great bite to them, and were simmered in an aromatic soy sauce blend with plenty of minced garlic.
Squid gets an oriental kick with the Fried Calamari with Thai Sauce ($8). Their house-made Thai chilli sauce is sweet and tangy with just the right amount of heat.
Address: 1036 Sembawang Rd, Singapore 758504
Opening hours: 11.30AM – 12AM daily
Telephone: 6555 1277
This hip and modern neighbourhood kopitiam houses an absolute gem of a tze char stall, serving up premium seafood that rivals that of high-class restaurants. We were blown away by their Salted Egg Crab ($35), uber-fresh with great hunks of succulent meat.
Salted egg yolk, although commonplace, is hard to execute well. Some are overly salty, while others lack the egg yolk essence completely. Huat Seafood Restaurant nails it, and will have the entire dinner gang mopping up every last drop with their chewy golden Mantou Buns ($3 for six).
As a bonus, they have a special Deep Fried Salted Egg Hor Fun ($10). Despite the name, it isn’t the soupy hor fun noodle dish you’re used to. They’re intensely salted egg yolk-flavoured and would be perfect to tabao home and munch on as a TV snack.
Address: 120 Canberra Crescent, #01-01 Food Paradise, Singapore 750120
Opening hours: 11AM – 11AM daily
The communal-style dishes at Wong Chiew are traditional kampung classics that the entire family will love.
Their signature must-try is the Bucket Kampung Chicken ($14.50 for half a chicken), tender and juicy meat that is steamed in a piquant ginger gravy. The sauce also contains chicken fat that’s been rendered down, naturally giving it an extra oomph.
A nourishing choice is Claypot Prawn with Wine ($18), featuring six massive prawns stewed in rice wine and a potent medley of Chinese herbs. Expect to find wolfberries, dang gui, and wood ear fungus (aka 木耳).
Fans of herbal soup will find this a real treat, but beware: there’s a significant taste of wine that will leave mildly bitter notes on your palate.
Address: 19 Sembawang Rd, Singapore 779075
Opening hours: 12PM – 12AM
Telephone: 6456 6838
With a heritage stemming from 1967, Chye Lye’s legendary Curry Fish Head ($28) has throngs of loyal fans throughout the island, and for good reason!
They strategically use red snapper, which has a firmer meat that adds texture to the curry broth. It comes with generous servings of eggplant, tau kua and lady’s fingers, which all remain deliciously springy rather than overcooked and mushy.
To spice things up, we also tried the Kung Pow Fried Frogs Legs ($12 for 2 frogs). The meat had a firm bite to it, and was flavoured by a mixture of caramelised soy sauce, dried red chilli and cashew nuts. Feeling adventurous? We dare you to try the Black Pepper Ostrich Meat ($15). Exotic as it sounds, it tastes most similar to beef, albeit leaner and easier to chew through.
Address: 1 Jalan Legundi, Singapore 759263
Opening hours: Tue to Sun 11AM – 10PM | Closed on Mon
Telephone: 6257 1396
A master at his craft, the roast meats from Sum’s Kitchen are a cut above the rest.
The sumptuous Roast Duck ($10) is tender and moist without any gamey taste. Coupled with the refreshing homemade sweet and sour dip, it’s appetising til the very last bite. There’s also very little fat underneath the crackling skin, which is a huge plus for me.
Be sure to try out their homemade Crispy Tofu ($8), deep-fried and filled with minced pieces of assorted veggies.
Their Char Siew Pork ($8) is unlike any version you’ve had from the typical hawker centres and food courts. The glistening slabs are so thick and moreish that you’ll be awestruck from the very first bite. Trust us, this is one plateful of goodness that will be emptied out in a flash.
Address: 5 Jalan Legundi, Singapore 759269
Opening hours: Wed to Mon 12PM – 2.30PM, 5 – 9.30PM | Closed on Tue
Telephone: 6757 2118
Be it the freshest seafood catches or eye-catching creations like an entire roast chicken on a stick, tze char restaurants seem to be a hit for every occasion. It’s the perfect place for a cozy, simple meal with the fam, but can also impress foreign friends who undoubtedly marvel at our vibrant food culture.
Discover new tze char haunts and never miss out on any food happenings in the area by staying tuned to the Kampung Sembawang Facebook Page.
They also dole out regular tidbits of info about the community’s people, history, activities and more. You’ll find interesting facts about the northern town that you never knew before!
This post was brought to you by Sembawang Town Council.
Photography by Clement Lee.
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