The last time I was here, I was really impressed with how they have modernised Teochew cuisine into something that resembled fine dining. Since then they have grown in fame and popularity, a table was so hard to come by.
I grew up in 333 Geylang so I was very familiar with this infamous neighbourhood. There’s a couple of Michelin Plates and Bib Gourmand eateries among the multitude of eateries along this main thoroughfare, so San Shu Gong is among good companies which make parking a nightmare around here.
The “Private Dinner”
The initial plan was to operate it as a “private dining” concept, San Shu Gong is now operating as a normal restaurant. We got the 6pm table – they have 2 seatings, 6pm and 8pm – so we were reminded to return the table by 8pm. Unfortunately, as with all Chinese banquet, we only managed to start at 6.30pm
- Braised Whole Chicken Stuffed with Pig’s Stomach in Peppery Soup 胡椒猪肚鸡汤
- Salted Yellow Roe Crab 生腌膏蟹
- Teochew Cold Yellow Roe Crab 潮州冻蟹
- Cold Mullet 冻乌鱼
- Salt Baked Chicken 盐焗鸡
- Wok-fried Kailan with Dried Sole 大地鱼芥兰
- Fresh Oyster “Pao Fan” Boiled with Rice in Superior Broth 蚝仔泡饭
- Teochew Dessert 潮州糖水
- Deep-fried Red Bean Pancake 豆沙锅饼
Braised Whole Chicken Stuffed with Pig’s Stomach in Peppery Soup 胡椒猪肚鸡汤
We started with a signature dish that required advance booking. The chicken is stuffed with slices of pig’s stomach and ginkgo nuts, and the whole chicken is stewed in a peppery, sticky stock made from boiling an obscene amount of chicken and pork bones with pepper and other secret ingredient.
The chicken was presented in a claypot that was reheated at table side. Once the soup was boiling, the chicken was cut open to reveal all the goodness inside its stomach.
The soup was sticky with collagen from boiling all those ingredients together. There’s a strong peppery taste that reminded me of pig’s stomach pepper soup, but it also had the umami that would only come from shellfish. I am pretty sure there’s some dried whelk or similar dried mollusc in the stock, but they would not reveal the secret.
Salted Yellow Roe Crab 生腌膏蟹
We used to do this at home when I was a toddler. But it got harder and harder to get live crabs without fear of pathogens, so we gave up. The Teochew version of ganjang gejang (marinated crab), this was believed to be the original inspiration. The difference is the type of crab used – the Teochew would use the mud crab, and the Koreans would use the swimmer crab. But in both version, we let the soy sauce does its magic to transform the sweet crab meat into something even more spectacular. This crab did not disappoint and came with the quintessential white vinegar and garlic chilli 蒜泥醋
Teochew Cold Yellow Roe Crab 潮州冻蟹
And no Teochew meal can go without the cold crab 冻蟹. Special crabs are selected to make this crab, not just any crab from the market. The proper way to do it is to get crab that is just about to moult.
Teochew Cold Crabs are made with crabs filled with “Gor”. “Gor” has been mixed up with “Neng” or crab roes, which are the eggs of crabs found in both male and female, or “Bau”, which is the semen of male crabs. “Gor” is the liver of moulting crabs, which are storing the extra fats to help them moult. So think of it like foie gras of crab. You can only eat this in restaurants as they pay the best prices for these and then you pay the premium.
Cold Mullet 冻乌鱼
And also no Teochew meal can go without fish rice 鱼饭, and often it would be the cold mullet. 魚飯 Chilled steamed fish is a Teochew specialty. In the coastal areas of Chaoshan are several fishing areas, and when fish that are of less economical value are caught, they are turned into “fish rice”. And mullet is only fish dish in Chinese cuisine that is served cold, and best eaten with Puning bean paste 普寧豆醬. The mullet we had that evening was not in its prime condition (not fatty enough), so it was quite disappointing.
Salt Baked Chicken 盐焗鸡
The presentation of the salt baked chicken (prior order required, an off-menu item) was quite nice. Not to be confused with Suzhou’s “Beggar’s Chicken” 叫花鸡, this style was similar to the famous (now closed) Heong Kee Salt Baked Chicken that we used to buy as a child.
The herbal taste of this version was quite pronounced, and it was definitely much wetter than the Heong Kee’s version (which we had to fight among the young ones to have the sauce over our rice). I could not say it was not nice, but neither could I say it was. It was one of those dishes that you grew up with a taste so familiar that you could not adjust to another one that was different.
Wok-fried Kailan with Dried Sole 大地鱼芥兰
The dried sole is a very simple yet flavourful ingredient that is often used in Teochew cooking, but the ones we get locally were not so good presentation wise (quite dark and crumply). I used to buy them from Hong Kong whenever I was there. They got theirs from Swatow (homonym with the Teochew dialect of the town, the old name for Shantou 汕头). Hence this dish is now 3x more expensive than outside. Frankly, I don’t think it tasted any different from dried sole from Malaysia; I would say that kailan from Hong Kong would taste different though.
Fresh Oyster “Pao Fan” Boiled with Rice in Superior Broth 蚝仔泡饭
This next course reminded me of what used to be my supper comfort food in Hong Kong. Every Teochew (they called it Chiuchow) restaurant in Hong Kong will have oyster minced pork boiled rice 蚝仔肉碎粥 in their menu. Incorporated into the flavourful broth was dried sole fish which gave it the savouriness and umami. I would loved for them to add some of those sole fish in the previous course into this porridge to complete the flavour and texture. Instead, they added shredded shiitake mushroom and puffed rice. And no minced pork in this one too.
Teochew Dessert 潮州糖水
They are served individually but we ordered a few of each to share among ourselves, which incurred the wrath of the waitresses to bring us more empty bowls. Steamed Yam Paste with Gingko Nuts & Pumpkin 金瓜白果芋泥 (R) and Teochew “Tau Suan” with Gingko Nuts & Flour Fritter 油条福果豆爽 were both very good; they have kept the standard from last time I was here, but the portions were smaller.
Deep-fried Red Bean Pancake 豆沙锅饼
They replaced the pancake with puffed pastry with a really thin layer of red bean paste filling; this dessert was first introduced in Singapore as a dessert in a lot of wedding banquets in the 80s, and it disappeared for some time and was replaced with something that is easier to prepare and leave aside like red bean paste soup.
I move this restaurant down from fine dining to good eats, as they cannot be in the same categories as Shisen Hanten or 藝 yì by Jereme Leung. We booked the first seating, and promptly at 7.30pm, they started to rush us even though we were only four courses into the dinner. While it was the case that they had mentioned about the timing during booking, the restaurant should also accommodate the situation when everyone has not finished their food. They were not apologetic, saying that if we wanted to take our time, we should book the 8pm slot instead. I am pretty sure we would be rushed at 9.30pm because they wanted to knock off at 10pm, but of course I am assuming.
Quite disappointed by this mad rush, which ruined what would have been a wonderful evening given the quality of the food.
San Shu Gong 三叔公
135 Geylang Rd #01-01, Singapore 389226
Tel : +65 6741 0344
Visited Feb 2023