Even if I've visited Singapore twice already, I still consider it as a place na masayang balik-balikan. Aside from its beautiful tourist attractions and iconic shopping district, one thing I love about the place is its food. You can never go wrong with Singaporean cuisine! It's *so* flavorful and filling at the same time. One of my favorite memories from my last trip was actually checking out different Zi Char eateries. ICYDK, in Hokkien, the term Zi Char means to "cook and fry." In Singapore, it's a popular cooking style that's influenced by home-cooked food from different races and cultures across the country. The meals are cooked to order and you can even see some being served in stalls all over the city.
If you feel like trying Zi Char yourself, well good news! You can actually recreate some of their dishes in the comfort of your own home. Keep reading for some unique (and not to mention, easy!) Zi Char recipes that you'll absolutely love.
Zi Char Recipe: Coffee Pork Ribs
- 600 grams of sliced pork loin
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- A pinch of white pepper
- 4 to 6 tablespooons cornstarch
- 200 ml water
- 50 to 100 grams of sugar
- 25 grams honey
- 2 teaspoons (or more as desired) instant coffee powder
- 75 grams tomato ketchup
- 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
- A few slices of cucumber (optional)
- Slice pork at a diagonal into small pieces.
- Place the sliced pork in a bowl. Add baking soda, five spice powder, salt, oyster sauce, sesame oil, egg, white pepper, and cornstarch to marinate. Add a splash of water and massage the meat using your hands to absorb the marinade. Carefully add a little bit of water as needed to keep the marinade moist but not watery.
- Place the mixture in the refrigerator to marinate overnight or for at least six hours.
- Prepare the coffee sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.
- Heat up a wok with a generous amount of cooking oil and deep fry the pork pieces in the hot oil for a few minutes until they turn golden. Drain out excess oil and set aside.
- In the same pan, heat the prepared coffee sauce until it becomes bubbly.
- Place the deep-fried pork and allow the coffee sauce to fully coat the meat.
- Transfer to a serving plate, and garnish with roasted sesame seeds and some sliced cucumbers, if desired.
Zi Char Recipe: Cereal Prawns
- Eight to nine pieces of medium to large-sized prawns (head removed, butterflied)
- Oil for deep frying
- Three pieces of siling labuyo, sliced lengthwise with stem
- A handful of curry leaves or Asian basil leaves
- 30 to 50 grams of butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 egg white, beaten
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 50 grams cornflakes, crushed
- 1 tablespoon milk powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon chicken powder
- Heat up some cooking oil in a wok for deep frying the prawns.
- In a clean bowl, place the prawns and coat them in beaten egg white.
- Add in all-purpose flour and cornstarch and mix until it forms a light batter. Deep fry the prawns until golden, drain excess oil using a metal strainer and set it aside.
- After frying the prawns, combine all the ingredients for the cereal mixture in another bowl. Set aside. In the same pan, melt butter and heat until foamy. Add in 1 beaten egg and stir briskly in the pan with chopsticks to achieve long golden strands.
- Add in the sliced chillies, and curry or Asian basil leaves. Stir fry until fragrant.
- Add in the combined cereal mixture and toast for two to three minutes.
- Lastly, add in prawns and stir to ensure all the prawns are well coated with the cereals.
Zi Char Recipe: Seafood White Bee Hoon
- 400 grams of Bee Hoon, pre-soaked in cold water until soft, and then strained
- 12 pieces of medium-sized prawns (remove shell and devein, but keep their heads)
- 250 grams of squid, skinned and sliced
- 500 grams of clams, pre-boiled (reserve clam stock)
- 6 stalks of chye sim or pechay, chopped into one-inch pieces
- 4 eggs
- 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 liter of chicken stock, prepared with reserved prawn heads slightly cooked in oil
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Fish sauce to taste
- A handful of chopped chicharon
- A handful of chopped cilantro
- Siling labuyo
- Light soy sauce
- Sambal chili
- Make three portions of Bee Hoon by forming three big balls of noodles with your hands.
- Heat up a wok with some oil and add in the pre-soaked Bee Hoon. Leave for a few minutes until golden or slightly charred then turn over. Drizzle some more oil if needed. Remove from the wok and set aside in a plate or bowl.
- Season prawns and squid with salt, sesame oil, and white pepper. Set aside.
- Heat up the wok with some oil. Add in beaten eggs. Stir around the pan and cook until the egg forms golden brown threads.
- Add in the minced garlic and cook for a few seconds. Add in stock and bring to a slight simmer.
- Add in the pre-soaked Bee Hoon, prawns, clams, and squid.
- Add in the chye sim or pechay.
- As the Bee Hoon cooks, add in stock as necessary.
- Season with more fish sauce and white pepper to taste, if needed.
- Transfer to a plate and top with chopped chicharon and chopped cilantro if desired.
- Serve with calamansi, siling labuyo, light soy sauce, and sambal chili.
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