Teochew cuisine in Singapore is mainly a variation of the older generation of Teochew chefs that came with the diaspora. Some of the original tastes were changed because of the ingredients or to suit local tastes. Very seldom you get true Chaoshan cuisine that is from the old country.
Daniu Teochew Seafood Restaurant 大牛潮汕海鲜 is a new Teochew restaurant at Kampong Bahru which opened around the end of 2020. Chef Owner Daniel “Daniu” Zhang, a native of 澄海 Denghai that migrated here since 13, attempts to bring authentic 汕头 Swatow cuisine to Singapore after spending many years selling and servicing professional coffee machines.
The dinner comprised of some of the Teochew classics – familiar dishes but some had a different spin on the Singaporean Teochew.
生腌红膏蟹 Marinated raw female mud crab
The first two items that were served are categorically known as 潮汕毒药 “Poisons of Teochew”. These are typically raw and live seafood marinated in a special garlic vinegar sauce, chilli, ginger, white wine and raw pickled ingredients. The last time I ate this in Swatow, I got food poisoning – that’s why it is referred as poison.
It was different from how my mom did “kiam how” 咸蚧 (腌咸蟹) when I was young, which she only used chilli, garlic and soy sauce. Here, it was closer to the old country style, which is like a much saltier version of Korean ganjang gejang.
The Sri Lankan crab was expertly prepared, we loved everything about the marinated raw crab, in particular the sauce which complemented the crab roe so well. Served with “sng ni chou” 蒜泥醋 (white vinegar with chopped garlic and chilli).
生腌血蚶 Marinated raw cockles
All cockles are clams, but not all clams are cockled. And because of pollution in the nearby waters, these are very hard to get raw in Singapore. Recently, I have been having a lot of blood cockles. But they were mainly cooked ones. It was like playing with roulette with the raw versions. Daniu has shelled and removed all the skirtings (which are the gills and organs) leaving only the main foot of the cockles. Crunchy and briny, it was full of nostalgia.
冷膏蟹 Cold moulting crab
It looked simple, like a boiled crab served cold. But Teochew cold crabs only use moulting crab. When the crab sheds its shell, it will shed away its gills, sacs, guts etc, and replaced with a new set which is really fatty and creamy when cooked. The shell is soft, edible and has high nutritional value. In Japan, this type of crab is regarded as the “king of crabs”. Served with a sweet and sticky “gek you” 桔油 (tangerine sauce).
猪脚冻 Pig trotter jelly
When they brought out their 猪脚冻 pig trotter jelly, we were surprised how much it looked like how mom would do it. They don’t use soy sauce here to cook the pork as they want to preserve the natural flavour of the pork and herbs. And they don’t use five spice as well. Very traditional home cooked flavours.
潮州蚝烙 Teochew oyster omelette
Fresh fat briny oysters encased in an omelette that had the ultimate balance of soft gluey-ness and crisp (from the incorporated potato/tapioca starch), it was everyone in the party gave the thumbs up to this oyster omelette.
Full-on wokhei, further enhanced by the fish sauce dip, which is how they serve it in the old country, instead of the usual chili sauce.
潮州卤鹅 Teochew braised goose
The secret to Daniu’s signature braised goose lies in the braised sauce. The imported Hungarian frozen goose are braised for hours and soaked in more than 10 different kinds Chinese herbs and spices. Each slice of the braised goose is well-soaked with the flavoursome braised sauce. However the Hungarian goose did not do justice to the braising liquid. It was quite tough and dry.
手工猪肉丸 Handmade pork meatballs
There aren’t many Teochew restaurants in Singapore that can boast that they actually make their own beef and pork balls. The actual process used to be very laborious as it involves pounding a slab of meat with two metal batons till it becomes a smooth paste. Of course these days, the metal batons were for tourist demonstrations, everything else is replaced by machines.
Daniu’s highly raved handmade pork meatballs. Each meatball is made fresh from scratch daily by using fresh pork meat. It had a moist, bouncy and flavoursome texture in every bite.
豆豉酸梅蒸鳗鱼 River eel steamed with fermented black beans and sour plums
Because my sister does not take preserved mustard 咸菜, Daniel suggested we do it their signature steamed river eel with fermented black beans instead, taking the whole eel instead of a portion. When it was served, I was shocked as it was coiled up like a snake! We had two tables that night, and one eel was perfectly cooked, with the flavours all working hard on the muddy river eel. The other eel was “lou go”, how we Teochew described fish that has got injury and affected the texture of the fish.
砂锅龙虾粥 Claypot lobster porridge
Served with chunks of fresh succulent and firm lobster meat, this dish is served in a claypot with bits of ginger to bring out the delicate flavours and sweetness of the lobster.
The porridge was the highlight, as the lobster became the accompaniment. You can’t go wrong with two rock lobsters to one pot of porridge. I really liked the fried shallots that they have made, very fragrant and crispy.
粉丝蒜蓉蒸竹蛏 Bamboo clams steamed with mung bean noodles and minced garlic
We were supposed to have roasted pigeons but they could not get the shipment in time. They had a shipment of fresh bamboo clams, and we ordered one a piece.
Competently executed, the clams were crunchy and full of umami. But we didn’t understand why the vermicelli was placed under the clams instead of on top of the clams.
铁脯清炒芥兰 Sautéed Hong Kong kailan with dried flounder
铁脯 “ti pou” is a quintessential ingredient for Teochews as we put them in porridge, crushed them and put in dumplings for that salty, umami tastes – natural MSG. It is made from dried flounder, and the bests are from Tai O in Hong Kong, and Shanwei in Chaoshan area. And the sautéed kailan with dried flounder was the classic Teochew dish that featured this ingredient. Daniu’s version was absolutely delicious with the wokhei and the strangely satisfying ti pou pieces.
潮州白果芋泥 Teochew yam paste with ginkgo nuts
And finally, the dessert that spells Teochew all over it. “Orhnee” 芋泥 in the local dialect is a sweet yam paste dessert that Daniu has kept the tradition with added fried shallots and chives oil and bits of water chestnut.
Not too sweet, like all folks say about good desserts, and really smooth and creamy, this is definitely one of the top three orhnee in Singapore. And the water chestnut, this was the first time I had this.
The simple restaurant has reached a spot in my favourite Teochew restaurants in Singapore; they are not as polished as San Shu Gong, but the service was much better.
With the Covid gone and gatherings are back in full force in Singapore, I foresee, without a doubt, that Daniu will experience very busy days coming up. Reservation (and pre-booking for the key dishes) are highly recommended.
Daniu Teochew Seafood 大牛潮汕海鲜
61 Kampong Bahru Rd, Singapore 169368
Tel : +65 6677 6725
Visited Apr 2023
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