Zi Char Singaporean food is home-cooked wok-fried food that is like hawker street flavors in a kopitiam setting. It’s an array of creative dishes influenced by Malay, Indian and Peranakan flavors usually served in hearty family sharing style portions. Zi Char kitchens are known for their signature noodle, vegetable stir-fry and seafood specialties.
Keng Eng Kee is one of the top Zi Char eateries in Singapore known for its dishes made from recipes spanning three generations. We tried KEK food in World Street Food here in Manila, but I haven’t really tried their signature dishes and eatery in Singapore.
We were so excited to try KEK’s Zi Char food in Manila!
About Keng Eng Kee
Keng Eng Kee Seafood (KEK) originated from an immigrant couple who came from Hainan Island, armed with the determination to eke out a life of their own in Singapore. Skilled in the culinary arts, Low Peck Yah and Koh Yok Jong started their life in Singapore by selling Hainanese Chicken Rice before creating KEK, focusing on the ‘zi char’ cuisine in the 1970s. The couple then passed their wok over to their daughter and her Malaysian-born husband, who expanded the menu, adding Southeast Asian Influences.
Over the years, they stayed true to their values of diligence, hard work and commitment. The Liew family are all seasoned professionals who have worked in kitchens since their formative years.
Continuing the family legacy, KEK is now helmed by the three third-generation siblings, under the close supervision of their father:
• Wayne Liew, Executive Chef
• Paul Liew, Head of Business Operation
• Geraldine Liew, Head of Service Operations
Awards and features:
• Awarded Michelin Plate 2016-2019
• Featured on the food documentary series “Street Food” on Netflix, which features staple street food from some of the world’s most colorful cities. KEK was chosen as a representative of Singapore’s mainstay dish, the Chili Crab.
• Featured on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Singapore Episode (2017)
• Ranked #1 in Top 100 Hawkers 2018 by Burpple Singapore
• Ranked 28th on the World Street Food Congress 2017
• Listed in 2018 Ctrip Gourmet List Destination
• Visited by more than 70 chefs and industry players for an impromptu supper session in June 2019 when many renowned international chefs were in Singapore for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards
• Chosen as venue where Eric Ripert of LE Bernardin, American Express Icon Award Winner Jose Andres and Paul from KEK celebrated Bourdain Day on 25 June 2019
KENG ENG KEE SEAFOOD
Blk 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1 (Alexandra Village), #01-136, Singapore 150124
Zi Char Experience in Manila
We never liked liver… until this dish. Using the first generation grandmother’s liver recipe cooked in claypot with oyster, duck marinate seasoned with salt and pepper, ginger and onions.
Best to mix it with rice to absorb all the flavors of the sauce and enjoy this comforting dish. Sarap!
The flat rice noodles were served with Chinese sausage, crispy pork lard, squid and topped with egg yolk, bringing the aroma of the wok they were fried in.
Mix the egg yolk in the center before spreading it throughout the noodles to add more creaminess, like an Asian carbonara version.
Best eaten with a bit of the lard, sausage, smoke flavor and a nice coating of oil on the rice noodles.
Ribs were served deboned with a slight crunch on the outside and tender juicy meat inside then coated with coffee (with no bitterness), apple jam and honey glazed around the sesame-sprinkled meat.
The boys would have loved this! This tasted better in Manila because our pork is fresher than Singapore’s.
Salted Egg Prawn
Real Singapore salted egg sauce freshly made from a blend of curry leaves, evaporated milk for the creaminess, fish sauce and bird’s eye chili.
The sauce, balanced with the curry leaves, was so good (not made from powder) and would go best on fried seafood.
Thanks to the Singapore Tourism Board and the Asian Culinary Exchange by Angelo Comsti for introducing Zi Char food culture in Manila.
Can’t wait to go back to Singapore to try out the Zi Char eateries like:
• New Station Snack Bar – #05-95 Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road
Located in Far East Plaza and a lunchtime favorite among the office works on Orchard Road.
• Chin Chin Eating House – Beach Road Shop Houses, 19 Purvis Street
They’re known for serving both Chicken Rice and Zi Char, so it’s the best of both worlds! Just take a train to Bugis MRT or City Hall MRT and walk to this restaurant at Purvis St.
• New Ubin Seafood – Chijmes #02-01, 30 Victoria St.
They have a highly innovative menu with influences from India, France, Italy and more. They are also a Bib Gourmand winner.
• Hong Kong (HK) Street Zhen Ji (can be found at many locations)
They can be found in many places all over Singapore; the original chef founder gave his blessings to his disciples to open their own eateries and bring good food to the people.
Chili Crab with Buns
The quintessential specialty seafood dish of Singapore served with the authentic sweet, sour and spicy sauces that you’d love to swipe clean with the mantou buns.
The mud crabs were fresh from Manila, served with Authentic Singapore Chili Crab sauce. Simut sarap!
Congratulations to Keng Eng Kee team, Paul and Wayne Liew, for a very successful KEK restaurant takeover of Your Local in Manila!
We love all the KEK flavors and can’t wait to bring the kids back to Singapore for a Zi Char food trip!
Live an Awesome Life,
Founder, Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our meal was courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.
P.S. Wish they brought their KEK signature dessert to end the meal.