Plum Village Restaurant – Staying true to its Hakka roots
I am not a Hakka, but somehow I am a big fan of Hakka food. Especially during Chinese New Year, I always look forward to visiting my aunt who makes very good abacus seeds (算盤子). It is made from yam and flour, cut into abacus-bead shapes, and cooked till soft and chewy. It is then stir fried with minced chicken or pork, dried shrimps, mushrooms and various other vegetables. At one moment, I even tried to find a chef to teach me how to make Abacus beads. Another moment, I was cooking huang jiu ji, a chicken stir-fry with home-made glutinous rice wine and ginger.
Then, I was crazy about hong zao (红槽) which is made by fermenting red yeast and rice, and an indispensable seasoning for Hakka people. It is often used to stir-fry or steam with meat such as Hong Zao Steamed Pork, Hong Zao Chicken, and Hong Zao Pig Tail. Here is my Chicken in Red Glutinous Rice Wine (Hong Zao Ji) recipe.
So when the colleagues decided to treat me to Plum Village Restaurant (梅村酒家) for my farewell lunch, I was all over the moon! It is shameful that I have never tried this hakka restaurant before even though Jalan Leban was my hometown. But nevermind, better late then never!
Staying true to its Hakka roots, Plum Village Restaurant is one of the few authentic Hakka restaurants still standing in Singapore today. Located in the quaint locale of Sembawang Hills along Upper Thomson Road, this restaurant is one of those quaint Chinese restaurants that reeks of nothing but nostalgia. It serves up heart-warming Hakka food prepared by the owner, Mr Lai Fak Nian, who has been cooking for over 30 years.
Plum Village Restaurant offers authentic Hakka dishes such as Salted vegetables with pork (梅菜扣肉, $12.89 small). It takes a long time to prepare this dish. Thick slices of pork belly and preserved vegetables are cooked and served in a dark sauce made up of soy sauce and sugar. For hokkien, we have Kong Ba pao which is more savoury. Hakka’s version of mei cai kou rou is much sweeter. Plum Village’s pork belly is tender, delicate and not too fatty. I can simply finish this with a bowl of rice.
Don’t expect fancy food here because we are talking about traditional Hakka dishes. Hakka Yong Tau Fu (客家酿豆腐，$12 small) stuffed with meat fillings was tasty. These yong tau foo dishes are handmade from scratch, hence it is very labour intensive. The accompanying gravy was thick and savoury.
Plum Village’s Abacus Beads (大埔算盘子，$7 small) is definitely one of the better ones I ever have. The yam is fragrant and every piece of suan pan zi, there is more yam than flour in each piece of suan pan zi. The combination of the hae bi (dried shrimp), mince pork and mushroom really whet my appetite.
I have heard of hong zao chicken, but this is the first time I tried Fried Prawns with Hakka Wine (酒糟虾球，$12 small). Thick red glutinous wine is stir fried with prawns, very palatable!
Last but not least, a huge bowl of Pig Stomach Soup (猪肚汤，$7) to be shared. The soup is not too peppery and the intestine do not have musky taste. Each of us received a free bowl of sweet potato soup for dessert.
Plum Village Restaurant is great for casual family dinners or social gatherings, and dining here will definitely stir up feelings of nostalgia. The pricing is friendly to the pocket, and they truly serve authentic Hakka dish that make me feel at home. The boss is very friendly. Knowing that I am very passionate about Hakka food, he gave me his cookbook for free and invited me to come back again in September when Plum Village celebrates 30 years anniversary!
Plum Village Restaurant
Address: 16 Jalan Leban
Tel: +65 6458 9005
Operating Hours: 11.30am – 2.30pm, 6pm – 10pm daily
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