Roast meats in Chinatown
I recently revisited People's Park Food Centre in Chinatown.
Today, it is known for a string of mala hotpot stalls, a smattering of yong tau foo stalls, and a bunch of outlets offering roast meats.
I descended on three of the latter with my yardstick.
People's Park Food Centre
32, New Market Road
#01-1016A, 10.30am to 6.30pm, open daily
Although they still draw a line of customers every day, I think people visit more out of habit and familiarity rather than anything else.
I have savoured and loved its fare since the 80s but have sadly watched this old icon - which has had many famous disciples set up equally popular stalls around the island - quietly fade away.
Over its 80-odd years of existence, it has had changes in management and chefs, and the shine has dulled of late.
To be fair, the roast duck is still chunky and rather wistfully gamey. The serving comes sitting beautifully over steamed rice with a simply cooked black soya sauce. But the char siew looks too reddish pink and is nothing like I remember it as.
Overall, this old name is still notches above many stalls in Singapore, but it is not quite the same anymore.
SEE SEAN RICE STALL
#01-1026, 10am to 6pm, closed on Wednesday
The char siew and roast pork are winners among their customers.
The roast pork is soft enough, with a crackling that is thin and lightly crispy and crunchy. The char siew comes chunky and not so fatty.
The stall looks the most unappealing of the lot, but it has a steady line of customers.
The roast duck will appeal to those who do not compare Cantonese roast ducks to the Beijing or Peking versions.
It is nicely roasted and the skin is not crispy, like Cantonese roast ducks should be - moist yet distinctly roasted with a slight aroma of gaminess.
ZHEN ZHU FANG ROASTED DELIGHTS
#01-1099, 9am to 9pm, ad hoc closure days
A hawker from Ipoh, Malaysia, once told me about this cranky Hong Kong chef. The hawker said: "He'll yell if you give confusing orders."
I think the chef's anger says something about the passion behind his food.
The roast duck, char siew and roast pork platter look uninspired but the quality is something else.
The char siew is softly firm and not too sweet, although it is well-marinated and roasted.
The roast duck is moist and a little gamey, which I liked, and the roast pork was moist with a wonderfully dry and crispy skin.
The best part is the crunchy and well-sauced noodles served with a scoop of crispy lard.
I was hooked.
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates Asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.