Gone are the days when we’ll need to cross the border into Johor Bahru for lok lok, or dip skewered foods, to boil in a steamboat. While there are a handful of lok lok places popping up in Singapore, Zao Lek Lok Lok sets itself apart with a vast variety of dipping sauces, along with a manned barbecue and deep fried station.
Offering a lok lok buffet ($24 nett/pax), Zao Lek Lok Lok has recently also expanded into an ala carte menu, and is serving beers on its premises.
Patrons can now enjoy evenings of jolly eating and drinking at the Paya Lebar Kovan Community Club to reminisce the good ol’ early days of Singapore.
The original Malaysian version of lok lok sees random customers all sharing one common pot, but here in Singapore, each table gets their own pot so don’t worry about the germs.
Up to six soup flavours are available on its menu, which includes chicken, Ma La, Tom Yum, Laksa, Bak Kut Teh, and Satay (additional $4). Being lovers of spicy foods, we chose Ma La for our first soup base and Bak Kut Teh for the second, as it is quite uncommonly seen as a broth for steamboat.
I’d suggest not drinking the soups as they are saltier and more concentrated – more to flavour and season the food while they cook rather than for drinking.
A wide selection of skewered vegetables, meats and seafood were displayed and kept fresh in the fridges. As with eating at any buffet, grab a tray and feel free to go crazy with piling up your plate (but finish it too lah, don’t waste food).
Some of our favourites were the smoked duck, bacon wrapped Enoki mushrooms, mantous (buns) and vegetables wrapped in beancurd skin.
Once you’re satisfied with what’s on your tray, you may choose to cook your picks in three ways — to boil in the individual steamboat, bbq or deep fry. If you’re not sure which methods of cooking would be better, just leave it in the hands of the friendly staff and they will recommend the most appropriate method for your ingredients.
From the looks of how our ingredients were sorted, raw meats and seafood are mostly fired up and barbecued for that smoky, bold taste.
While items like mantou, bacon with Enoki mushrooms, chicken heart and long beans are covered in a home-made batter before being tossed in hot oil.
We unanimously agreed that deep-frying these blander foods was the best option as it became crispy with every bite, as well as being more flavourful after being powdered over with seasoning and chilli. Almost like having tempura on a stick.
Lok lok is all about unashamedly dipping the foods into the sauces, licking every bit up even if it drips onto your fingers. At Zao Lek Lok Lok, you’ll find tubs of sauces like Thai Green Chilli Sauce, Chilli Crab Sauce, Fresh Hainanese Chilli, Sambal Chilli, Sweat Bean Paste, Dark Soy Chilli & Garlic, and Sweet & Spicy Thai Sauce.
The owner Adrian, told us that the main sauces are catered to the likings of the masses. For example, the Chilli Crab Sauce is available as it’s a popular local dish in Singapore.
While the Chilli Crab sauce slants towards being sweet rather than spicy and slightly more viscous, the deep fried bite-sized mantous were great when paired in this classic fashion.
There’s also fruit lok lok, for the healthier eaters, or if you’d like to end the meal with assorted fruits. Essentially, cut up apples, papaya and watermelon among others are neatly skewered to enjoy conveniently. You may like to drizzle the fruits with sweet rojak sauce, or eat it on its own. Whichever way you prefer.
If you have a sweet tooth, and would like to cool down from the heat, four flavours of ice creams are included in the buffet too.
Do look out for promotions that are going on its Facebook page, and extra touches that Zao Lek Lok Lok provides for an enjoyable lok lok experience with your friends. It’s pretty affordable and a throwback to good ol’ days, so do come visit Zao Lek Lok Lok.
Expected damage: $2.50 for 3 sticks – $24/pax