Nan Hwa Chong Fish-Head Steamboat Corner
Nan Hwa Chong hawker stall cum restaurant has been in business since 1927 and has been a culinary success for close to a century. Housed in an atmospheric colonial shophouse and occupying a prime location on the corner of North Bridge Road and Jalan Sultan (beside Alsagoff Arab School and across the road from the Textile Centre), Nan Hwa Chong has been serving up authentic, traditional fish soup steam boat for three generations to date.
The laid back, old world kopi tiam setting in the historic Arab Street vicinity makes Nan Hwa Chong a uniquely Singapore dining experience for the whole family.
I ordered its signature fish head with a couple of other side dishes and I must say, it was not worth the hype. The fish head was overly seasoned on the salty side and the soup tasted as though someone poured a bag of MSG into it. I literally had to order a drink to cleanse my taste buds.
With my saliva tasting like saltwater, I went for the pork and chicken dishes. They were surprisingly mild and delightful, with the prawn-paste chicken crunching and popping in my mouth in exuberance. The meat melted gently away from the bone as the fragrance of the marinade permeates through the damage that the soup did.
For a place that specialises in seafood, it truly disappoints but when it comes to everything else, they come together brilliantly. I hold the opinion that opening a second shop should not dilute the quality of the food here that much. I am sure that if they are able to recreate how their signature dish tasted like from before, I would definitely be a part of the weekly horde.
The steamboat itself is quite good, soup is tasty, ingredients are fresh. You can also get the experience of having a traditional charcoal steamboat for a meal here for a reasonable price. However, my favourite items are the tze char dishes, the prawn paste chicken and the stir fried vegetables. They are of quite a high standard, albeit being slightly expensive compared to what you would get at a coffee shop. On a side note, the steamboat soup is laden with MSG which may make you feel thirsty after the meal.
The ambience is very noisy and the lack of proper ventilation of the smoke from the charcoal steamboat means that the place can be rather smoky, and is not the most conducive place for a nice quiet meal. Overall, the eatery is of an average standard
Upon entering the very old-fashioned establishment, the first thing you will notice is the heat. That is to be expected from the mass amount of charcoal fired steam boats being made, as well as the sheer amount of people waiting to slurp the delicious soup. Every time I've been there, I've had the 'pleasure' of being seated next to the charcoal pit, where you can see fearless men firing tons of charcoal to be used in the steam boats. Traditional methods dictate the use of charcoal, which apparently gives a smokier flavour due to the heat dispersion and kindle used. And boy do Singaporeans love queuing for tradition.
We ordered the Pomfert fish head steam boat (duh), some Sweet and Sour pork, Oyster Sauce Baby Kai Lan and a Prawn Omelette. Pretty standard Zhi Char dishes yea. Then the fun part started- the wait. Somewhere between waiting and sweating, I started to ponder about philosophy and the existentialism of living. With a bit more time, I would have given Aristotle a run for his money in this humid coffee shop while eating fish head steam boat. It took about 20 mins for the first dish to arrive, and a total of 40 mins till the fish head steam boat reached the table.
Regardless of the wait, the fish head steam boat -was- one of the best fish head steam boat I've had in my life. Credit mostly goes to the soup with its well flavoured broth and generous portions of Pomfert slices. The standard stars of fish head soup were all present: sour plum, yam, salted fish and the soup stock was done a lot more flavourful than most places. The price was reasonable too, a 4 person serving was about $30 a pot? Whereas elsewhere you will easily hit $40 for lesser portions.
Other than the sweltering heat and ridiculous, life changing wait, the Fish head Steam boat is really good. Just don't go during dinner hours, try like 3pm or something for a fish head high tea.
This steamboat restaurant is usually extremely crowded(as expected with its delectable food). Do make a prior reservation to secure a table.
Featuring its light and mild-tasting soup simmered to perfection, Nan Hwa Chong Steamboat Corner is indeed worth visiting.
I have to say that the soup is what truly stands out here. There are numerous fish-head steamboats out there, but most of their soups are bland and too salty. The broth is perfect, delicious and not salty, and I do believe that it itself is worth the price of the meal. A definite must try.
The soup is simply amazing. The complexity of flavor is phenomenal and comes from a copious amount of kiam he (salted fish) in the broth which tastes like an entire ocean of sea creatures was boiled alive. If there was any MSG, it must have been minimal because I don’t get that thirsty feeling even after drinking two whole pots of soup (refills are free).
Die die must try.