Kok Sen – Rustic Cantonese Cuisine
Keef and I did not get off our cab knowing that we couldn’t secure a table a few nights ago and ended up eating at 136 Hong Kong Street Fish Head Steamboat – so this is like killing two birds with one stone when finally I was able to eat Yusheng at Kok Sen last night! My only fear is that Yap and I may end up waiting a long time for our food…
Kok Sen has been operating in one of these pre-war shophouses along Keong Saik Road for as long as I can remember and I am not young. It has a ranking of 182 out of 2,552 restaurants in tripadvisor! Keong Saik Road has a bad reputation (a.k.a. red light district in the old days) so respectable ladies do not like to go there. Times have changed and these streets have been cleaned up by the anti-vice.
Kok Sen serves authentic Cantonese cuisine in unpretentious decor that is easy on our wallets and none of the dress code nonsense. Many diners’ tastebuds have become more sophisticated but overall rating in terms of food, pricing and service, I have no complaints dining here. It is still one of my favourite cze char places in Singapore.
Yap, let’s Lou Hei to our good luck this Year of the Water Snake! Lol… I like to tease and use my friend’s surname as pun for “yes” (yup). Yap yap yap…
The prawns in Big Prawns Crispy Noodles are bigger than big! The noodles are deep-fried first then laid onto a deep plate topped with a delicious starchy, spicy gravy hinting pounded dried shrimps (hae bee hiam). To each his own, I prefer hor fun noodles (featured below) to crispy noodles. Yap has never been to this restaurant before and he said he liked the gravy in this dish he’ll be back for more.
Spinach cooked in rich stock and simmered with salted duck eggs and century eggs. Whole cloves of garlic had been deep-fried to bring out a slight nutty flavour sans the sulphuric taste when eaten. A lot of diners call this 3-egg spinach (sometimes they use kow kei leaves instead) but I could only detect 2 types of eggs here… no traces of hen egg.
Deep-fried pieces of chopped fish head stewed in fermented black beans sauce and thick bitter gourd slices. The combination of the salty and spicy flavour with very good wok hei (breath of wok) is to die for. This is a very authentic Cantonese item and so far, only chefs from this dialect group could grasp the technique of cooking this dish well.
The Kow Kei (a.k.a. Goji Berry or Wolfberries) Leaves Soup Keef and I had was not tasty. I wonder if it was the lack of MSG or salt. Nonetheless, Goji plants are troublesome to prepare at home as they have thorns, so I will still order this dish for the sake of good eyesight (TCM said so) rather than taste, whenever I feel there’s a need for my tired “computer-glued” eyes.
Minced Pork Omelet is not the specialty here. However, it is a very common cze char item. I ordered this when Keef and I ate here. Since there was only the two of us, we couldn’t order a lot of dishes so I combined pork and eggs (both my favourite food) to satisfy my gluttony.
I only get to eat chopped fish head pieces with adults. My children, although already in their 20s (still small kids in my eyes) do not appreciate the bony meatless bits. Featured here is the same dish I had with Yap, Deep-fried Fish Head stewed in Fermented Black Bean Sauce with Bitter Gourd. Warning – Do not talk when eating fish head!
Ah… This Stir-fried Kailan with Roast Pork came after 45 minutes of waiting on a week day evening. We were so hungry and devoured it as soon as it was laid on the table! Seong said the wait was worth it.
虾酱鸡 phonetically sounds like Har Cheong Kai in Cantonese is Chicken pieces (bone in) marinated with Fermented Chinese Fine Shrimp Sauce (Har Cheong 虾酱 see my recipe here bottom of page) and Ginger Juice, coated in corn or tapioca flour before deep-frying to golden crisp. One has to be careful with balancing and applying the right amount of Har Cheong used – too much and the dish becomes overly salty and too little will find the chicken lacking in shrimpy fragrance.
Squid or as we locals call it Sotong is my all-time favourite seafood. Sambal Sotong whenever available on any restaurant’s menu will definitely make it to my order list. What defines a good sambal sotong dish? Firstly, the sotong must not be overcooked or they will end up rubbery in texture. Secondly, the sambal must not be overpowering in terms of heat and spices so one can still savour the “sea” in the squid. Kok Sen passed my test.
Big Prawns Hor Fun (same as Big Prawns Crispy Noodles featured above). The spicy starchy gravy is laced with egg ribbons and hints of dried shrimp. The slippery smooth textured hor fun (flat rice noodles) has very good wok hei on every occasion that I ordered.
If a hungry man is an angry man… Seong has defied that. We had to wait 45 minutes as mentioned earlier for our first course. No peanuts or pickles were served. We thrived on beer and coke while waiting.
Squeezing lime over the Har Cheong Kai will cut down the dish’s saltiness and further whet your appetite!
You know we will visit Kok Sen again and again and again, unless of course the chefs go on strike.
Kok Sen Coffee Shop
Address: 30 Keong Saik Road
Transit: Outram Park
Opening Hours: Lunch: 11.30am – 2.30pm, Dinner: 6.00pm – 10.30pm (Closed on Mon)