Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant at Outram Road – Gastronomic Ruminations

Since the closure of Ba Yu Ren Jia Restaurant, my parents, friends and I have been seeking alternatives but none came close to the food we used to enjoy. At long last, Poppies from Makansutra’s Forum found Chef Tang De Hai’s new restaurant, Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant, along Outram Road.

 Kou Shui Ji @ $13.40 from Chengdu Restaurant, Outram Road
Chong Qing Kou Shui Ji 重庆口水鸡 @ S$13.40
Mouth Watering / Salivating Chicken with an additional century egg

After the hiatus, how is the food? Chef Tang still serves up my favourite Kou Shui Ji in Singapore! Essentially chilled chunks of poached chicken marinated in a spicy Sichuan peppercorn and chili sauce, accompanied with fresh cucumber chunks and topped with lightly roasted peanuts. This is a MUST-TRY as its the best I’ve had so far in Singapore. We like to add a century egg to this dish because the smooth and slightly gelatinous egg goes very well with the spicy sauce.

Dan Dan Mian @ Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant, Singapore
Sichuan Dan Dan Mian 四川担担面  @ S$5.80

I’ve missed Chef Tang’s Dan Dan Mian so we shared a bowl whilst waiting for the rest of the food to be served. It’s a classic one-dish meal of noodles topped with a spicy Sichuan peppercorn-flavoured minced pork sauce, scallions and chili oil. He still does it as well as I remembered it. The right balance of saltiness and spiciness without being overwhelmingly spicy. This dish was edible even for my sister-in-law who has an extremely low treshold for chili.  

Shui Zhu Yu @ Chengdu Restaurant, Singapore
Shui Zhu Yu 水煮鱼片 @ S$36.80 (large) 

One of my favourite Sichuan dishes, Shui Zhu Yu (loosely translated as “water cooked fish”) looks intimidating to the uninitiated with the copious amount of dried chili and Sichuan peppercorns floating on the surface of a thick layer of chili-infused oil. I miss the waitresses who used to work at Ba Yu Ren Jia as they used to ladle most of the chili oil, dried chili and Sichuan peppercorns into a separate bowl for us. If you’re trying this dish for the first time, drain as much oil as possible from the ingredients as the “heat” is in the chili oil. You can always add more chili oil to increase the spice factor to suit your taste and tolerance.

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Ma Yi Shang Shu 蚂蚁上树 @ S$8.80
Stewed Mung Bean Vermicelli with Minced Pork in Spicy Bean Sauce (Literal name: Ants Climbing up a Tree)

This is also one of my favourite dishes! It’s next to impossible to find a place in Singapore that serves a decent version of it and many do not even serve it at all.

The name of this dish is intriguing as the literal translation means “ants climbing up a tree”. The reason for the interesting name is because when one picks up some mung bean vermicelli with a pair of chopsticks, the minced pork that clings to the vermicelli threads resemble (with a healthy dose of imagination) ants climbing up a tree.

Chef Tang makes my favourite Ma Yi Shang Shu in all of Singapore (at least amongst all the restaurants that I’ve tried)! It was excellent though I felt it could do with a little more heat, like how Chef Tang used to burn our tongues! The mung bean vermicelli had been thoroughly infused with the rich flavour of the spicy bean paste. A perfect complement to a bowl of steamed rice. This dish is definitely a MUST-TRY!

Du Zi Ji Bao - Claypot Soup with Chicken and Pig's Stomach
Du Zi Ji Bao 肚子鸡煲 Claypot Chicken Soup @ S$29.80 (large)
with Pig’s Stomach, Pork Trotters, Bamboo Pith, Red Dates & Wolfberries

My dad’s favourite dish by Chef Tang is the Claypot Chicken Soup with Pig’s Stomach, Pork Trotters, Bamboo Pith, Gingko Nuts, Red Dates and Wolfberries. As always they’re very generous with the ingredients and the milky broth was flavoursome. Though I don’t like Pig’s Stomach, thankfully, there isn’t a strong flavour in the tasty soup. This is a Must-Try!

Gan Bian Si Ji Dou @ Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant
Gan Bian Si Ji Dou 干煸四季豆 @ S$16.80 (large)
String Beans Fried with Preserved Mustard Greens & Minced Pork

My brother doesn’t like bittergourd so we had the traditional Gan Bian Si Ji Dou. This dish should be eaten with steamed rice because the black bits of Preserved Mustard Green (aka Sichuan Ya Cai) add a salty flavour with the moist bits of minced pork fully absorbing its saltiness. The beans were well seared on the outside giving a slightly crisp bite to the juicy and sweet beans.

Gan Bian Ku Gua
 Gan Bian Ku Gua 干煸苦瓜
Bitter Gourd fried with Preserved Mustard Greens & Minced Pork 

 

I love bitter gourd so I was thrilled when the guys at my table during my latest visit went with my suggestion to order the bitter gourd version instead. I prefer the bitter gourd version because the slight bitterness of the vegetable mitigates the saltiness of the preserved mustard greens far better than the sweetness of the long beans making it a more palatable dish on its own.

Mapo Tofu @ Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant
Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

Some things don’t change. The Mapo Tofu here was as unsatisfactory as it was when it was served at Ba Yu Ren Jia. A significant factor is because there is simply no Ma 麻, or tongue-numbing quality in this dish, which is a pity because the very name of the dish requires that the diner should feel some amount of tingling sensation on the tongue. To date, I have not had a Mapo Tofu in Singapore that can beat the one served at the now defunct Jin Hang, which is sad as it’s one of my favourite Sichuan dishes. We found out when we were leaving that Chef Tang had not cooked this dish on our last visit. The makankakis who had tried the Mapo Tofu whilst I was away were disappointed as the version they had was much better. We resolved to give the Mapo Tofu another try on our next visit.

Hui Guo Rou @ Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant
Hui Guo Rou 回锅肉 a.k.a. Twice-Cooked Pork

My parents love this dish but we didn’t try it during our previous visit because we simply had too much food. I was glad to be able to try it on my latest visit.

The dish bears this name because the pork belly is first boiled in water, sliced thinly, then roasted over high heat in a wok to give it the sliced pork belly a smoky flavour before the seasoning is added. It’s fairly simple to cook this at home, the trick is to sear the sliced pork belly adequately to render a little fat without overdoing it and causing the thin slices to dry out excessively. The pork slices were a little too dry for our liking, perhaps the person preparing this dish had overcooked the pork.

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Chong Qing La Zi Ji 重庆辣子鸡
Spicy Deep-Fried Chicken
 
Finally, Chef Tang’s pièce de résistance, La Zi Ji, the one dish that never fails to get us downing drinks and thoroughly in awe of his culinary prowess. The deep-fried, bite-sized, juicy morsels of chicken are seasoned with Sichuan peppercorns, chili and salt. Hidden in a mound of dried chili, Sichuan peppercorns, peanuts and fried young ginger slices, diners have to rake through the mound to locate the piquant chicken bits.
The innocent-looking, golden-brown crispy bits of chicken belie their tongue-numbingly fiery nature that builds up as you eat more. Before you know it, you’ll soon be asking the waiter for Soya Bean Milk to help quench the fire on your tongue. In spite of the numbness and slight pain, your hitherto latent inner sado-masochist will have you raking through the mound for more. I especially like the bits of deep-fried chicken skin. Unless you are unable to stomach the spiciness of the dish, chances are you will love it. Far and away, the best many of my Sichuan makankakis and I have ever eaten in Singapore, this is absolutely a MUST-TRY!
 
Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant
243 Outram Road,
Singapore 169045
Phone: +65 6222-5335
 
Operating Hours:
Daily from 5pm to 5am
 
PS: Chef Tang left Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant at the end of March 2012 and is now at Lao Si Chuan Restaurant
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  1. Lao Si Chuan Restaurant at Outram Road - Gastronomic Ruminations - September 7, 2012

    [...] Tang De Hai, my favourite chef for Sichuan food, left Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant at the end of March 2012 to set up Lao Si Chuan Restaurant with his family members. My fellow [...]

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