I had the pleasure of growing up with fantastic home-style Cantonese food. And since I found out that the flavours I knew as a kid can be found at Sik Bao Sin, I have to make a trip no matter how far it was from my current home.
Before Sik Bao Sin, there was Sik Wai Sin 食为先. Mr Chia Kok Loong started a tzechar store in a coffeeshop in Geylang in 1968 and later expanded into a shophouse in 287 Geylang Road. There was no menu, and there were only 12 items on the menu, 4 steamed and 8 stir-fry. Mr Chia manned the kitchen with his two teenage sons, Steve and Desmond, while Mrs Chia manned the front of the restaurant.
I used to stay just a block away at 331/333, and some of their Malaysian kitchen staff used to rent our apartment. So when my family went to the restaurant, Mr Chia always had a table for us despite the super long queues in the eighties when Geylang started to gain fame for Singapore’s favourite supper and durian destination. My mom even picked up the recipe for their steamed fish head and minced pork with salted fish. And then we moved away from Geylang as the other night activity that Geylang is famous for became more prominent.
Then, Sik Wai Sin closed in 2014 before I had a chance to go again. Lucky for us, Desmond opened Sik Bao Sin 食饱先 while Steve opened Eat First 食之为先 in East Coast Road. These are the must-order dishes every time we go to Sik Wai Sin.
1/ Steamed “Song” fish head in bean sauce
This was the No. 1 seller in Sik Wai Sin. They would sell a hundred portions of these carp fish head everyday. The carp fish head is always known as 千岛湖鱼头 in China, but we know it as 松鱼头. The fish itself is muddy and fully of bones, and does not make good eating. The fish head, however, has a lot of soft tissues and if done correctly, has almost no bones around the belly. And because of gelatinous texture in the head and the soft and tender flesh around the belly, together with the delicious bean paste sauce, it has been my favourite since I was a kid. I always wondered where the body went to.
2/ Minced pork with salted fish
Their minced pork is different because it is not minced using machine grinder. You can taste the different in terms of texture, which still has some bite in the pork that you would not get from machine-ground meat. And there’s the salted fish used. It is those powdery mackerel salted fish that just melted in your mouth. Perfect with a bowl of steamed rice.
3/ Tofu with prawns
Good sized prawns stir-fry with fried tofu with a wonderful sauce with plenty of wokhei. This has been on the menu and on every table, a favourite among kids. I remembered that the prawns used to be much bigger. These are smaller, but no less tasty.
4/ Stir-fry beef kailan
This is any dish that put Sik Wai Sin on the culinary map. Nothing fancy, simple HK kailan with beef slices. But getting the doneness of beef perfect while retaining the crunch in the kailan, and balanced with the wokhei and oyster sauce are not mean feat. Still wonderful after all these years.
The second-generation owner-chef Desmond Chia makes every dish according to Mr Chia Senior’s recipes for an authentic, nostalgic taste. The menu features only 13 items, all of which except one are from the old menu in Sik Wai Sin. He also cooks other seasonal dishes not on the menu so look out for the specials written on the wall. Highly recommended. Can be really busy on the weekends.
Sik Bao Sin (Desmond’s Creations) 食饱先
592 Geylang Road (Between Lor 34 & 36) Singapore 389531
Tel : +65 6744 3757
Date Visited : Oct 2020
Michelin Singapore 2019 Bib Gourmand