They’ve gone from dingy hole in the wall to a comfy, contemporary, casual eatery. But the food is consistently good and reasonably priced. Let’s hope over expansion and the Michelin star have not brought the standard down and the price up.
Henghua Cuisine 兴化
Before Putien Kitchener opened its store, Singaporean did not have a clear understanding of Heng Hua cuisine. Heng Hua cuisine originates from Putian, Fujian in China, but unlike the traditional Hokkien dishes found in Singapore, they are more similar to Teochew food in that it is light and flavourful.
Prominent Henghua personalities included Ng Teng Fong (yes, that guy that the hospital was named after), Mochtar Riady (founder of the Lippo Group), Ng Eng Hen (MOD Singapore), and last but not least, Moses Lim (aka Tan Ah Teck).
One of the star of Putien is their homemade chili sauce that is really fresh and spicy. It goes great with everything and they sell it by the jar.
一品醉蚶 Drunken Cockles
The drunken cockles topped with the sharp taste of garlic and wine marinade makes a good start to a meal. But due to the supply, the cockles we had that day were really small. It would be better with Thai cockles, which are much larger, however are not imported to Singapore on a regular basis. Still the first hit of the day.
水晶猪蹄冻 Cold Pork Trotters Jelly
This is where the Teochew and Henghua cooking influenced one another. Chaozhou region and Henghua region are very close to each other geographically, so there was a lot of shared heritage, like use of seafood. The aspic from Henghua has a strong five spice flavour, which Teochew uses a simpler braising liquid.
Putien’s version wasn’t too outstanding as the jelly was made with agar-agar, I suspect, and not from the natural collagen from the boiling the pig trotter. It stayed solid in room temperature, a tell-tale sign of agar-agar. A miss.
虾苗拌头水紫菜 Seaweed with Mini Shrimps Dressed with Sauce
The level of freshness and crunchiness in this seaweed dish is pretty much unparalleled. Just one bite of 虾苗拌头水紫菜 Seaweed with Mini Shrimps Dressed with Sauce and you’ll know for sure that it’s no ordinary seaweed. Imported from the South China Sea region, the seaweed used in this dish is top-grade and has to be specifically 15 cm-long (no more, no less). What’s different about the seaweed is that they are harvested within 30 days after cultivation (first harvest), and not what you would commonly find in the market.
The serving has shrunk over time, the portion we had was really pathetic – so a hit and miss, hit for the taste, miss for the portion.
九转粉肠 Braised Pig Intestine
Even if you are repelled by innards, 九转粉肠 Braised Pig Intestine will have you change your mind about them. The 12 inch-long intestines are tirelessly and meticulously washed, looped, cooked, extended, selected and braised to perfection with the brand’s 12-spice house sauce. The resulting springy texture makes it rather enjoyable (even for someone who usually avoids innards), and the intestines are devoid of any heavy ‘porky’ scent, tasting almost like a cross between ham or sausage.
Definitely a hit.
药膳竹筒虾 Bamboo Herbal Prawn
The extremely fresh and sweet bamboo herb prawns make an excellently choice after their signature croaker fish was unavailable that day. The prawns were cooked a la minute, and retained the crunch and sweetness. The deliciousness was all in the prawn head. The first time I had this dish as in Prince restaurant in Selegie, but they used the bamboo container to steam the prawns in rice wine. Here, it is just a container for the herbal broth that is used to blanch the prawns in.
For the freshness of the prawns, a hit.
一品海蛎煎 PUTIEN Crispy Oysters
Another common ingredient between Teochew and Henghua, both cuisines have similar oyster omelette. Teochew version uses more potato starch to form the crispy base with chewy insides, Henghua version is like Teochew 耗爽, a dish that has been lost in Singapore. Very crispy, umami in every bite, a hit.
铁板香煎活鳗鱼 Pan-fried Live Eel on Hot Plate
This is a seasonal dish, a bold attempt to cooking eel. Pan frying the eel makes the soft bones in eels to harden and give it a rather uncomfortable texture even though the bones are not going to get stuck in your throat. To be eaten with their sweet and hot sauce, I still think it’s a miss as it was dry and very unilateral in flavour.
参芭水莲 Sambal White Water Snowflakes
Whitewater snowflake is a type of water-grown green vegetable not easily available and is imported from Taiwan. It has a crisp texture and is stir-fried with sambal, creating a veggie dish that was refreshing and salivating. A hit.
黄金荷叶包 Shredded Pork with Sesame Bun
The Chinese taco, it’s a very simple dish but made more worthy of the Michelin status with deep fried buns coated with fragrant sesame, and a delicious caramelised onion with pork strips stirred fried in their secret sauce. Take a bun, which has been conveniently opened in the middle, and then stuffed it with the juliennes of goodness. Yummy in every bite. For an extra kit, dump in a copious amount of their homemade chilli. A hit.
芋香鸭 Deep-fried Duck with Yam
Supposedly one of their signature dish, I find this rendition a rather disappointing one. While the yam was soft and moist, the outer skin was hard and oily. It was an unappetising brown. A miss.
莆田荔枝肉 PUTIEN Sweet & Sour Pork with Lychees
A classic Henghua dish, the sweet and sour pork. They have executed the dish very well, a feat given that every Chinese mother can churn out a version. The pork used was the fatty part with soft bones called the 梅花肉. Right amount of batter and smothered with the tight amount of sauce. Additional crunch and sweet from canned lychee – brilliant. A hit.
莆田卤面 PUTIEN Lor Mee
This is the dish that put Putien on the culinary map.
One of their best-selling main courses, the 莆田卤面 PUTIEN Lor Mee is brimming with premium ingredients that are at the same time, light on the palate. Featuring silky, al dente noodles with mushrooms, pork belly, prawns, clams and scallops, this dish also features their very own rich and creamy pork broth.
The broth for the lor mee is tasty from the lard and shallots, with a sticky, decadent mouth feel. the noodles are loaded with clams and pork belly
The Putien Story
Starting off as a no-frills ‘coffee shop style’ eatery back in 2000, their flagship outlet at Kitchener Road was where it all began. The brand now boasts 25 outlets across Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taiwan.
Nothing is more rewarding than being recognised and awarded the 2016 Michelin Guide Singapore one star (which they have retained ever since). This is probably the best endorsement and an acknowledgement of their culinary skills and exceptional service standards.
Putien restaurant does not just serve good food, it serves hospitality with a human touch. We were there for lunch and there was a big tour group from China in the restaurant. One of them was celebrating birthday. The Putien staffs gathered around the tables and formed a choir with Putien’s own version of birthday song. Did I mention that the price had not gone up ridiculously? Highly recommended despite the lack of parking space (valet available), and awkward location.
Putien Kitchener Road
127 Kitchener Road,
Tel : +65 6295 6358
Michelin Singapore guide 1 Star – 2016-2018