Hunting Down Chaoshan Yufan in Singapore
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Hunting Down Chaoshan Yufan in Singapore

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Chaoshan Yufan (Yellow Croaker)

That might look your everyday fish found at local Teochew places, but I assure you that this took quite a bit of effort to hunt down. See, I was watching an episode of Flavorful Origins on Netflix that explained yufan: seafood boiled in seawater by Chaoshan fishermen. And despite the huge Teochew population in Singapore, this is not easy to find, as there is only one facility that processes fish this way now, according to a video that Channel 8 did, and it wasn’t clear where they distributed to. There is one guy up at Mayflower Market in Ang Mo Kio who sells it, but it’s more of a market stall than a restaurant.

Fortunately, I found that Heng Heng Bak Kut Teh (107 Owen Road, 6292-4913) serves it on Sunday mornings. What’s interesting is that even some of the staff didn’t know what I meant when I asked for yufan, as they incorrectly suggested the steamed fish in the refrigerator. Only after I realized that it was listed on the menu as shuyu, or cooked fish, did they point me to the yellow croakers on the counter at room temperature (the menu also featured pei tor rabbitfish and grey mullet, but they didn’t have those today).

I loved it. It was briny, but not salty, and there was a bit of fat in the fish that made it rich without being overwhelming. It was so delicately savory that it was almost like eating oysters on the half shell; indeed, the sour soybean chili mixture on the side was like a vinaigrette that provided the occasional contrast when needed. I really need to find out which other shops carry these (presumably some of the Teochew porridge places, but I’ll need to be careful not to end up with the steamed fish that is usually on display). This was awesome.

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