If the sight of an ERP gantry strikes fear in your heart, maybe don’t visit Keng Eng Kee Seafood’s third outlet in Punggol.
North-easties have much to be excited about, as the iconic family-run zi char eatery has opened its latest outpost in SAFRA Punggol — a 160-seater restaurant that pays homage to its rich history.
It’s as IG-worthy as it gets, with plenty of uniquely Singaporean icons, from an entrance designed after Punggol’s MRT platform to an expressway tunnel with its signature arrow lighting, old-school bus stop, and yes, the dreaded ERP gantry.
The walls are lined with vibrant murals depicting scenes of children playing at the Dragon Playground, as well as the Peranakan shophouses, evoking nostalgia in diners.
If you’ve already had your fair share of KEK Seafood’s innovative offerings, you can look forward to new SAFRA Punggol-exclusive dishes, like the Grilled Assorted Seafood with KEK Homemade Sauce (S$32.80). This sizzling centerpiece features clams, mushrooms, vermicelli, and fresh, naturally sweet tiger prawns in a peppery and garlic-forward sauce.
After enjoying the seafood, you’re encouraged to soak up all that delectable broth by adding rice, which makes for a really satisfying pao fan of sorts.
Otah lovers are in for a treat, as the Otah Charcoal Fried Dough Fritters with Salad (S$16.80) pairs smoked spicy otah with crisp charcoal you tiao. We highly recommend ordering this to enjoy with beer!
KEK is perhaps best known for their Moonlight Horfun, which has been given a new lease of life through the Sizzling Claypot Moonlight Horfun (S$15.80). Think seafood hor fun in a claypot, dressed with Chinese sausages, prawns, and sliced fish, topped off with two glistening moon-like raw eggs.
This is one of my all-time favourite zi char dishes, but then again, it’s hard to resist smoky and aromatic hor fun in a silky gravy with the added bonus of crispy bits at the bottom. Thank goodness for claypots!
As much as everyone goes crazy for the Coffee Pork Ribs (S$15.80) — it was even mentioned in the 2016 Michelin Guide Singapore — I urge you to order the Marmite Chicken (S$15.80) for a change.
This was one of the best renditions I’d ever tried; the chicken was crisp and fragrant, coated in a sticky sauce that had a good balance of sweet and salty, and I could not stop going back for more.
If you prefer slightly cleaner flavours, the KEK Curry Sliced Pork (S$18.80), which boasts tender slices of pork that are spicier than they look, might be right up your alley.
Despite the Chilli Crabmeat with Fried Buns (from S$40.80) not being a dish I typically go for, I liked that the chilli crab sauce served here was on the tangy side, without being too sweet or cloying.
My dining partner and I were also pleasantly surprised by the Claypot Pig Liver (S$21.80), which sees thick slices of pork liver, ginger, scallions, and onions mixed together with white rice.
The end result? Bold, intense flavours that’ll make you want to polish the entire thing. The liver was soft and tender, without too much of that earthy, metallic taste — even my dining partner and I, both of whom dislike liver, were impressed.
If you’d like to end the meal on a memorable note, order the unique Cereal Hae Bee Hiam Fried Ice Cream (S$8.80 for two pcs), ice cream and hae bee hiam encased in a fried golden brown shell. If you’ve ever eaten chilli oil (like Lao Gan Ma) with vanilla ice cream, this is pretty much the same thing.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of the zi char options at Keng Eng Kee Seafood, and so regardless of what you order, you’re guaranteed to have a great time! Just be sure to order the Marmite Chicken on my behalf, okay?
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Photos by Christabel Tan