Makansutra: Savour the sizzle and aroma of barbecue at Lian Yi
While the menu at the Boon Lay stall is small, the seafood specialities are always fresh and hugely popular
The moment Lian Yi BBQ Seafood opens each workday at 3.30pm, there is almost a non-stop flow of orders flying in.
And in the evenings, that little hawker kitchen becomes a mad house.
Spread fully across the griddle (and wok) are its specialities - barbecue stingray, sambal clams, prawns and squid.
"We used to sell a (bigger) variety of seafood but over the years, my father decided to stick to what we are good at and what customers keep coming back for," said Mr Shaun Lim, all of 32 years young and set to take over his parents' stall at Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village.
The area attracts a huge crowd of locals and Malaysians living near the Causeway.
Mr Lim Choa Hock and his wife, Madam Lim Boon Wan, are lifelong hawkers who once sold anything from yong tau foo to braised duck.
They settled on the barbecue seafood menu more than 30 years ago and there has been no looking back since.
Every order of their best-selling barbecue stingray (from $12) is grilled on a pan and seared over two pieces of banana leaf.
It is served on a sizzling hot plate and goes out fast to customers, piping hot and with a trail of smoky aroma. It is a visual that makes heads turn.
I tried three of the four items on the menu - they were out of clams that day - and the edge they have is the fresh seafood.
The stingray was soft and moist and expertly seared to retain the juices within.
The sambal smeared over it was redolent of spices and aromatics, but it was also easy on the heat from the chilli, which made it easy to devour especially over a bowl of steaming hot rice.
Midway through the meal, a supplier arrived with a stash of freshly caught prawns and I asked if I could have a steamed platter.
They were huge "pak cheok" sea prawns (from $20) and the texture and sweetness came through.
The Lims simply blanched them in seafood stock and served them straight up.
If you ever want to discover how sweet fresh ingredients can be, ask the Lims if any special supplies arrived that very day.
Lastly, the sambal squid (from $10) was perfectly undercooked as it sizzled on the hot plate en route to our table.
Mr Lim really knows how much cooking should be left on the hot plate in order to have the squid soft and roasty.
Mr Shaun Lim, who has been helping out since he was 14, has a diploma in business administration and once ran a string of businesses.
But he has decided to help his folks out because he "owes it to them" and plans to set up a new stall soon and carry the mantle.
Lian Yi BBQ Seafood
221B Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village, #01-161
Opens 3.30pm to 9.30pm, closed on Tuesdays