Hungry Wok – This Zichar Joint Serves Up Rare and Affordable Dishes!
We normally see zichar places run by laojiao middle-aged or elderly uncles and aunties who have many years of experience in the business. But at Block 73 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, it is a very different sight. On weekends, you will see young lads helping out at a zichar stall instead! Welcome to Hungry Wok, a two-month-old zichar joint opened by five professionals in their late twenties. The father of one of the founding partners, Andreas Koh, opened a zichar stall in Toa Payoh when Andreas was 16 years old. However, due to the lack of manpower, the stall could not be sustained and eventually shut down. When Andreas grew older, he became interested in reopening that zichar business his father started 13 years ago. So, with the help of his four closest friends and the fantastic Malaysian chef who worked at his father’s zichar stall previously, Andreas set up Hungry Wok, a zichar joint catered towards the younger generation. Hungry Wok serves up a mix of comforting and creative stir-fried fare.
The philosophy of Hungry Wok can be summed up in their Chinese name: Wok Hei. For those unfamiliar with ‘wok hei’, the term refers to that amazing charred aroma that is achieved when stir-frying dishes under intense heat. Andreas tells us that his head chef firmly believes that wok hei is the basic building block of zichar. Thus, Hungry Wok prides itself on delivering quality zichar rich in wok hei at reasonable prices.
We started with a secret dish that is not on the menu — Hungry Wok Prawns ($16). This was my personal favourite as the dish itself was entirely unique. I have never seen hot-plate, Nyonya-style prawns in zichar before! What’s more, Hungry Wok Prawns was an accidental dish! A fickle customer once came in and asked for a dish that was dry, fragrant and spicy all at once. The head chef then whipped up the dish using his handmade, Indonesian-style paste and fresh prawns. It quickly became popular among residents, and Hungry Wok Prawns was born! The spicy, thick zhap is very shiok, as the distinctive fragrance of lemongrass and hot-plate charredness really works up one’s appetite. You will find yourself scooping gravy onto your rice repeatedly! The fully-shelled prawns were excellent as well. Large and succulent, the fresh sea prawns are purchased everyday. As they are saltwater prawns, the flesh is meatier and sweeter in taste.
The Mongolian Crispy Chicken with Special Sauce ($8) came highly recommended. We were informed that the paste that goes into making the special sauce is partly derived from that of Hungry Wok Prawns. The chicken chunks are fried before being drenched in the signature sauce. I thought it looked like Sweet and Sour Pork at first glance! The chicken chunks were on the tougher side, while their size was akin to that of popcorn chicken. The special sauce, which was quite sweet with a distinct whiff of ketchup, was very enjoyable.
The server recommended the Abalone Mushroom w/ Spinach ($12), but we all agreed that this was the weakest dish of all. Don’t get me wrong, the dish was well-cooked but it lacked the special oomph of the earlier dishes. The soft spinach and slippery abalone mushroom were perfect, but the typical tasting gravy made it seem like the kind of normal dish you can get at any zichar.
Andreas later informed us that we missed trying their signature Emperor Steamed Fish. The head chef learnt this mysterious recipe in an obscure Malaysian village, so you probably cannot find this anywhere else in Singapore! Hungry Wok insists on only using red garoupa that’s carefully cooked over charcoal fire. Customers have given feedback that the taste is unlike any other, with most putting the flavour in between Assam and Tom Yam. I guess this means we have to make a second trip to Hungry Wok to try their best-selling Emperor Steamed Fish!
Address: Blk 73, Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, #01-585, Singapore 310073
Opening Hours: 1030am to 230pm and 5pm to 11pm on Weekdays. 130pm to 11pm on Weekends.
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.
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