Yi Jia South Village Seafood Restaurant (一家南村海鲜)

Headed down to this bustling zi char place one Sunday evening. Located in a quiet neighborhood deep in the heart of Toa Payoh, this place was quite a pain in the ass to find. We cheated and took a cab from Toa Payoh interchange.

When one visits a place for the sole purpose of eating, obviously one would come with a clear idea of what to eat. I’d done my research and bossed everyone (sorry friends) into ordering what I wanted to try.

Beancurd with Chai Po (家乡自制豆腐), $10 for medium sized serving.

Excessive toppings delight me. There is a poetic beauty in the sight of chai po tumbling down the sides of a fried tofu cuboid. I hope you like my use of imagery. But seriously, if I were a chef trying to create visually appealing dishes, I would never scrimp on toppings. Better to err on the side of excess 🙂

For the uninitiated (shame on you if you’re Singaporean), chai po is radish in its diced and preserved form, a humble dried ingredient which elevates chwee kueh from steamed rice flour to a food of the gods.

The tofu was smooth and silky and was encased in an eggy brown skin imbued with the goodness of wok hei. Consumed fresh out of the wok alongside heaping spoonfuls of chai po, this dish disappeared just as quickly as it appeared on the table. Sometimes it’s the homely dishes which taste the most satisfying.

Honeydew Prawns with Thousand Island Dressing (千岛蜜瓜虾球), $18 for a small serving.

This dish features in every online review there is of this eatery. It’s a beauty, isn’t it? Or maybe I’m just a little too obsessed with the idea of eating out of carved fruits. It was therefore quite disappointing when this dish turned out to look better than it tasted.

I find the name of the dish strange because the melon looked more like a cantaloupe than a honeydew to me… no? That aside, someone had a field day with the Thousand Island. I guess the “when in doubt, top in excess” principle applies only to actual toppings and not sauces.

I had to eat the melon balls in order to taste any hint of melon in this dish.  Quite a pity, since the prawn balls, constructed of minced prawn and coated in crunchy batter, were excellent after I wiped the cloyingly sweet sauce off on my rice.

Strawberry Chicken (草莓酥鸡), $10 for a small portion.

This one, on the other hand, tasted exactly like how it looked: Weird.

Imagine eating a crispy chicken cutlet coated with strawberry-flavored, watered-down condensed milk. Alternatively, go buy yourself a chicken cutlet and alternate each mouthful of chicken with a strawberry Hello Panda. You’ll be able to replicate this dish in your own kitchen (or bedroom, if your snack stash is hidden there like mine is).

Like the prawn balls in the previous dish, the chicken cutlet here was by itself quite outstanding. The batter was crispy and the chicken, succulent. I looked longingly over at another table tucking happily into the same cutlet doused in lemon sauce. Couldn’t help but wish I’d ordered the right fruit.

What I’m trying to say is, some mash-ups just aren’t meant to be. There’s Daniel Henney (yum)… and then there’s Frankenstein. This dish was not a Daniel.

Salted Egg Crab (Wet) (咸蛋炸螃蟹), $34/kg for male crabs & $38/kg for female crabs.

Isn’t it cute how this place discriminates against crab genders? I’m cool with it, since you’re paying $4/kg more for the assurance of (1) roe; and (2) a fleshier crab.

The aunty taking our orders gave us the option of ordering the dry version or wet version of this dish. We decided to be adventurous and order the wet version, ‘cuz we’re daredevils who order STRAWBERRY CHICKEN. #YOLO

Apart from the fact that this dish took forever to arrive (and the poor aunty looked increasingly harassed as we kept telling her to check on our order), the crab was amazing. Not the best salted egg crab I’ve had, but a great version nonetheless. The flesh of the crab was sweet, which, coupled with the rich and creamy salted egg sauce, made for an amazeballs dish. It was enough to placate us for the long wait.

We then proceeded to order mantou (little deep fried buns) to mop up the gravy. That’s the hallmark of good gravy okay.

Overall, there were hits and misses. Given that the misses were due not to a failure in execution but to… experimentation, I’m more than happy to return to Yi Jia South Village Seafood. Prices here are also extremely value-for-money.

Next time though, I’ll stick with the tried and tested.

Yi Jia South Village Seafood Restaurant (一家南村海鲜)
Block 20 Lorong 7 Toa Payoh
Singapore 310021

Tel No.: 6250 6537
Opening hours: 4.30p.m. – 1.00a.m. daily

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