Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee – The East Village Branch has the Best Claypot Rice
Mention Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee and you will probably think of the springy egg noodles with devilish chilli sauce. After they moved out of their original outlet in Dunman Food Centre, many wanton mee stalls of the same name have sprouted all over Singapore. There are so many different stories as to which is the real Eng’s and what really happened.
In this article, we are not going to talk about any of the above. After all, it’s their own messy feud. Neither am I going to rave about how good their wanton mee is since many of you already know. Instead, let me bring your attention to this particular Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee in East Village. Not only do they sell the popular Eng’s wanton noodles, they have something special on their menu —claypot rice.
For those who have been following my food journey closely, you will realize that I seldom visit a place more than twice unless it is really good. But I found myself going to East Village so often in the past one month just to eat their claypot rice.
This is the only outlet under Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee that serves claypot rice. Well, this is because the stall is owned by the ex-chef of Geylang Claypot Rice, Chong Hoi Ching. Known as Ah Ching, the talented 50-year-old cook came from Ipoh and started his first job as a cook’s assistant in an eatery. He was lucky enough to be taught the craft of claypot rice by an old master. He remained as the head chef in Geylang for more than 10 years before starting his own business in Toa Payoh, before moving to Bedok South. Last November, he settled at East Village in Simpang Bedok.
Ah Ching secured the franchise from the son of Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee and that is why he has to use the Eng’s signboard. While most diners visit this outlet for wanton mee during lunch, Ah Ching’s claypot rice is the star during dinner time.
Those who have been a fan of Geylang Claypot Rice will recall how smoky and tasty the rice was. Not sure if it is a “psychological thing” but I feel that the standard is not as good anymore. Loyal supporters of Ah Ching’s claypot rice will remember how good it tasted. With 20 years of experience in cooking claypot rice, Ah Ching knows exactly what’s needed to produce an excellent pot of rice — intensity of fire, choice of ingredients, and type of rice and pot used.
The cooking of claypot rice is a slow process that requires a lot of patience, especially when the rice grains are cooked from scratch. Ah Ching insists on using old grains which he will soak and dry manually in the kitchen. In comparison, new rice grains are sticky as they aren’t fully dried. However, old rice grains turn out beautifully as the grains are not sticky and are distinctly separate. The texture of rice is great, and the dish looks better too.
An average waiting time of 20 minutes is expected. The rice has to be cooked on a stove first before getting the pot is transferred onto hot coals — a crucial step in ensuring that the rice at the bottom of the claypot doesn’t turn black and instead, a glorious toasty brown. While boiling the rice grains over a gas stove till it dries up, Ah Ching adds the ingredients and his secret sauce into the pot. He then transfers the pot into a charcoal stove and let it cook for at least 25 minutes.
According to Ah Ching, the hardest part of charcoal cooking is heat control. He has to control the temperature of the fire by manually tilting the claypot in different angles so that the rice at the bottom gets evenly cooked. No peeping is allowed, because once he opens the lid, the temperature in the claypot will drop and that will affect the texture and cooking process.
The ingredients that make up the claypot look ordinary enough — rice, chicken, Chinese sausages and salted fish. But behind the simplicity of these ingredients is a world of practice and preparation. The chicken thigh meat is well marinated and super tender and flavourful. The Chinese sausages are a little disappointing for now, but Ah Ching is trying to bring in good quality liver sausages to replace it. I hope this will happen soon.
As steam in the pot cooks the ingredients, the rice absorbs all the luscious juices and aroma that are being released. Once the lid was lifted, an irresistible whiff of smokiness hit our senses. Ah Ching presses the salted fish and minced chicken against the pot of rice, mixes it well, and adds the savoury soy sauce in.
The rice is top-notch. It was firm, and evenly cooked. The texture was excellent, especially when enhanced with dark soy sauce and lard. The charred crust at the bottom gave the entire dish that characteristic smoky flavour. The aroma was intoxicating. I am sure you’ll like it! You can pair your claypot rice with either sambal chilli, or the devilish chilli sauce from Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee. The claypot rice costs $7 (small), $13 (medium) and $23 (large).
They also offer a host of side dishes such as bean curd skin rolls ($8 small, $12 large), prawn paste chicken ($8 small, $12 large), onion omelette ($7), vegetables ($7 small, $9 large), steamed soup ($4) and more.
Of course, while waiting for your claypot rice, you can first enjoy a plate of Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee. Somehow, I find the char siew here to be fattier than the one at their original outlet. If you have been to the Tanjong Katong outlet, you will realize that the char siew is the traditional old school kind which is lean, dry, and bright red in colour. But over here, Ah Ching uses tender and fatty char siew. Even the dumplings here are different. They’re meatier and juicier.
Patience is needed to evenly cook the rice grains and create a charred crust at the bottom. I know we have previously covered Yew Chuan Claypot Rice in Golden Mile Food Centre. In my opinion, this is better than Yew Chuan. Because the meat was more tender and flavourful, and the crust at the bottom was crispy and smoky, but not bitter. On top of all that, Ah Ching takes great care in choosing, seasoning, and maintaining the claypots that he uses. The amount of effort that goes into the steaming of every fragrant pot of rice is indeed very commendable. What a memorable pot of rice!
Eng's Char Siew Wantan Mee
Address: 430 Upper Changi Road, #01-09 East Village, Singapore 487048
Phone: 9868 0934
Opening Hours: 8am to 10pm daily
MissTamChiak.com paid its own meal at the stall featured here. This is NOT an advertorial.
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