Makansutra: Hot spot for spicy Szechuan fare
Be prepared for that mouth-numbing sensation when eating at Chuan Wei Fang in Chinatown
Amid the weathered seniors who gather around the People's Park Complex Food Centre, a flock of spice lovers congregate at a particular section - Chuan Wei Fang.
If you come here in the evenings from 6pm, don't expect to find vacant seats in front of these Szechuan specialist hawkers. About two rows of little kitchens scent the air with a thick aroma of mala smells.
From the mala pots, Szechuan barbecue skewers and hot pots to the casual (in attitude, not menu) zi char stalls, the crowds want it all and they easily fill the place.
This is where you come to get cheap street entertainment via crooning ageing buskers and affordable restaurant fare sans the fanfare of a restaurant.
One stall caught my eye, because a few units down that row, another very similar stall has the same name.
But "it is not related to us and its quality is very different", said the boss of this stall that has the Chinese word for "original stall" inked at the top.
There are a mind-blowing 31 dishes on offer at this little stall, and the range is impressive.
The Beggar's Pork was a simple plate of double-cooked, deep-fried pork ribs tossed in red and green chillis with mala spiced oil and - what else - more chilli oil, and it was crispy on the outside.
You either have to love this with beer or tone it down with a bowl of rice, and both hit the spot for me.
The famous Shui Zhu Yue or Sizzling Spicy Fish can be shocking. It came in a family-size bowl, and that thick layer of dried chillis floating atop the oily broth was just daring me to dive in and find the fishy treasures below.
I did, and it was worth the adventure.
The slices of carp were soft and not overly spicy, and the bean sprouts provided a complementary sweet, nutty crunch to the hot and rude shock of this dish.
If you are no pepper hillbilly and fear no chilli, then read on.
The Stir Fried Chicken or Intestines was accompanied by a layer of mala spices with slices of lotus root and potatoes. Again, you can tackle this with rice or cold beer.
Sanity was restored with the Fish in Pickled Vegetable Broth, which was carp slices in kiam chye soup with just a tiny portion of chilli. This was extremely addictive and strangely comforting.
Now, you may gather that this whole meal for six and created a little wallet dent of $59, didn't sound overwhelmingly spicy. That was because I forgot to insist it be cooked "yuan wei" (authentic) for the spice level. So go forth and say "yuan wei".
- Chuan Wei Fang
#01-1040, People's Park Complex Food Centre
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.