Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Belachan Mountain!

If there's one thing Singaporeans love, its chili. This innocuous spice is just EVERYWHERE. In fact, You'd be pretty hard pressed to find a dish without chili in it or served on the side. Every soup or bowl of noodles comes with a little dish of chili in vinegar or soya sauce. Mashed chili and garlic is served with chicken rice, duck rice, in fact pretty much anything with rice. It's tossed into stir-fries, preserved in oil, made into sauces and pastes. Everything you can think of! I'm fearing going back to New Zealand and looking for the chili and not having it at hand at all times!!

This restaurant tonight, Old Lai Huat Seafood Restaurant, has received rave reviews from newspapers and magazines all over the island.

It's set out in traditional street style, with wonky tables and plastic chairs. You can just make out the owner's wife sitting at the plastic-covered table in the middle preparing dishes for the night.

Old Lai Huat!

The menu features mostly seafood (duh) with a few standard fare Chinese style dishes thrown in for good measure. Fried rice and noodles, as well as meat and vegetable dishes are available here.

Our first dish out - Sambal Kang Kong. Kang Kong is a crunchy, leafy vegetable similar to spinach. Here it is often stir-fried with sambal paste, as above. This one rated well on Mel's "crunchiness scale" and had that delicious sweet-spicy taste of sambal.

Spicy fried chicken wings. Mmm fried goodness!

This homemade fried tofu dish was very queer indeed. The tofu, cut into sticks and deep fried as usual was actually mashed up inside. Some of the others at the table identified TWO different types of tofu mashed up together inside these crunchy morsels. The texture was very strange indeed.

Black pepper mini-lobsters! While there was not so much meat in these (really, just a small version of the normal lobster!), the meat was sweet and the black pepper really set the flavours off. The shell was also coated in the sticky black pepper sauce - perfect for licking!

The autopsy shot. :D

The star of the night: Belachan Fish! So what is Belachan Fish? Actually, what is Belachan? I had to wikipedia this to be honest. Belachan is shrimp paste, made by grinding fermented dried fish. Here on the fish, we see it combined with plenty of dried chili and fried before being loaded onto a deep fried pomfret.

The overall effect was amazing! The pomfret, a bottom-dweller with very soft white meat, was deep fried til super crispy and the fried belachan chili mix coated the entire thing. The fish was still soft and tender underneath the crispy skin. The flavour of the belachan was very intense. Not fishy, not shrimpy, slightly sweet and spicy at the same time, it has a very unique flavour. After being fried, it was also very crunchy and crumbly and paired beautifully with the crunchy/soft fish.

There was so much of it, we combined with rice to make a crunchy, delicious concoction!

Here's the aftermath:

Not a scrap left - the bones were so crunchy that even the head and tail were taken care of in due course! True Asians not wasting anything :D

Looking forward to the next eating adventure with Eileen's friends and their wide palates and deep stomachs! Hint: dish at the next outing is coated in (one of) my favourite ingredients ever! Stay tuned!!


  1. It's crayfish! Not mini lobsters, hahaha!

  2. ZOMG Belacan is my most super favourite thing ever! If you've ever had sambal before (if you haven't already, you definitely will in Singapore..), belcan is a key ingredient in it. Sambal eggplant is to die for, and so is nasi lemak (quite literally, I'm pretty certain if you ate enough of both, the cholesterol in the coconut cream will kill you!)

  3. Hey May-Lee,

    Thanks for the comment! Yeah, loving the belacan, loving the sambal!! It's such a unique flavour to the region and the only description I can find to suit is "umami".

    Nasi lemak have not had yet. Still to come... :D