food

20 delicious zi char in Singapore that won’t hurt your wallet

Last Updated: August 8, 2021

Written by Wani

Amidst the hype about cafes and Korean dessert spots, zi char is something that never dies out zi char meals tie us down and bring us closer to home. And so, with much love, I’ve compiled 20 great places for zi char around Singapore.

Zi char holds a great significance in our local food culture and this warm and hearty meal never fails to invoke nostalgia. Best of all? It is extremely wallet-friendly, which is great for groups from all walks of life. Zi char sure brings vibrancy to the mundane hawker fare with families and friends sharing quality time over good food. So go on, feast away!

1. Hao Kee Seafood Deluxe

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With our office located within the premises of Toa Payoh, Hao Kee Seafood Deluxe is a familiar zi char stall that my colleagues and I often frequent after work. 

Hao Kee 1

At Hao Kee Seafood Deluxe, it’s not the fancy dishes like chilli crab or cereal prawns that are the show-stealer. It is, in fact, their humble Chao Tah Bee Hoon (S$18 for large, S$6.50 for single) that won our bellies and our hearts. 

Break into its pancake-like charred exterior and a generous cluster of squid, prawns and fish cakes will be revealed in front of you. Strong fragrant flavours of wok hei aside, you will also be able to savour its subtle natural sweetness from the use of fresh seafood, alongside bites saltiness with the addition of chunky lard bits.

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For a match made in heaven, pair your plate of bee hoon with their Curry Fish Head (S$24). Served with tau pok (beancurd puffs), an assortment of vegetables and a meaty fillet of fish, the rich creamy curry is just the perfect gravy to top off your bite of Chao Tah Bee Hoon for that extra kick of spice and oomph

203 Toa Payoh North, #01-1097, Singapore 310203
+65 8688 1382
Wed to Mon: 11am – 2pm & 5pm – 10.30pm
Closed on Tue

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2. Zhenyi Veggie Place (真一素食坊)

Zhenyi Veggie Place Singapore 1

For a full vegetarian zi char feast, Zhenyi Veggie Place (真一素食坊) is the eatery to be. Bask the comforts of a fully air-conditioned environment as you savour unconventional vegetarian dishes such as meatless Ginger Duck (S$10.40) and Sweet & Sour Pork (S$10.40).

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Filled with deep earthy flavours, their Bak Kut Teh (S$16 for medium) is a familiar and comforting delight full of assorted mushrooms, mock meat, tofu skin and tau pok. Without the use of pork, the broth has a clean medicinal taste that will warm your body with every sip taken. 

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Elsewhere, their plate of Cereal Veggie Prawn (S$10 for regular, S$18 for large) is a zi char staple that will surprise you with its generous amount of cereal bits. A stellar combination of sweet and savoury, the mock prawn has a nice bite similar to that of fish cake, firm yet chewy at the same time. 

128 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, Singapore 560128
+65 6456 3307
Daily: 10am – 10pm

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3. Yaowarat Seafood

If you have been craving for Authentic Thai-Chinese dishes served in the district of Yaowarat—the Chinatown of Bangkok, you will be in for a treat at Yaowarat Seafood.

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Here, the selection exceeds most Thai restaurants, with an array of seafood, meat, rice and noodles dishes similar to that of a conventional zi char eatery. Kick start your meal with appetite-whetting Thai Mango Salad (S$9.90). Refreshing and fruity, this is the perfect dish that will get you all ready for what’s to come next.

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Despite being a seafood restaurant, Yaowarat Seafood sure knows how to handle their meat as seen from their Deep Fried Garlic Pork (S$12.90). Bite into the pork ribs and you will be able to feel the fusion of fats and lean meat disintegrating in your mouth. Although crunchy and crisp on the outside, the pork is tender and juicy inside—a delightful dish to go with a cup of icy cold beer.

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Never leave Yaowarat Seafood without trying their Crab Yaowarat XO Treasure Pot (S$98). Swimming alongside a whole Sri Lankan Crab in the milky broth are prawns, Venus clams and squid, served piping hot in a clay pot. 

With a robust and rich broth, succulent seafood and slurp-worthy noodles. What more can you ask for? 

27 Teck Chye Terrace, Singapore 545729
+65 6858 5988
Daily: 11am- 3pm & 5pm – 9.30pm

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4. Lam’s Garden (former Chef Lam 65

Previously known as Chef Lam 65, the stall was renamed to Lam’s Garden after it moved out from its former premise in Golden Mile Food Centre into City Gate at Beach Road. My go-to zi char stall when it comes to big group sharing portions at wallet-friendly prices, dishes at the new Lam’s Garden remain as scrumptious and mouth-watering as I remembered them to be. 

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Here, the highlight has got to be Chef Lam’s famous “Twin Peaks”, the Seafood Crispy Noodle (S$6 for single, S$10 for sharing) which comes in two sizes—a single tower for the individual portion and duo towers for sharing. Carefully destroy the towers and you will get to feast in crispy sheng mian dipped in a velvety vicious seafood sauce studded with fresh seafood like prawns, fish slices and sweet clams. 

On rainy days, the Fish Head Steamboat (from S$25) will make for the ideal option. Choose your preferred types of fish from a selection of red grouper, red snapper and batang fish. 

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The result from hours of boiling, the soup has an unmistakable aroma of dried fishbone, an element that provides the broth with its signature sweetness and depth in flavour. There’s no need to worry about pungent fishy aftertaste as the eatery uses both old and blue ginger to get rid of any lingering unpleasant brininess. 

Since the practice at Lam’s Garden always has been cook-to-order, you definitely have to exercise a little bit of patience especially when it comes to weekends. But for the quality and price of their food, trust me, it will be worth it. 

371 Beach Road, City Gate, #02-29, Singapore 199597
+65 9638 6387
Daily: 11.45am – 2.15pm & 5.20pm – 8.30pm

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5. Dai Lou (大佬)

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Located at Punggol, Dai Lou is known for its traditional zi char selections. Some of the popular dishes are the famous Dai Lou’s Money Bag (S$50.90), and Honey Pork Cubes (S$10 for small, S$15 for medium, S$20 for large).

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Dai Lou’s Money Bag was inspired by Louisianian cuisine where a pot is filled with the crab shell, prawns, mussels, clams and crab meat. Dai Lou has created two variations of said Money Bag to cater to various preferences.

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On the other hand, the Honey Pork Cubes is the talk of all diners. Dai Lou tenderises the meat in both milk and honey before it is deep-fried and stir-fried. Every bite exudes juicy sweetness that is just pure delight. 

11 Northshore Drive, Marina Country Club, #01-0R, Singapore 828670
+65 6920 7494
Daily: 12pm – 2am

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6. Chui Xiang Kitchen (醉香小厨)

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Chui Xiang Kitchen is a small Chinese zi char joint along the short Casuarina food stretch. It was formerly located at Commonwealth but has since moved to Thomson.

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Here, the Salted Egg Crab ($45), Marmite Pork Ribs (S$14) and Lobster Porridge (S$33) are all nicely executed dishes that are a must-try. The Lobster Porridge, in particular, uses a really delicious, rich seafood stock that had me sweeping the bowl for the last remnants of porridge.

That being said, Lobster Porridge is not an everyday affair, so my favourite item would be their humble Beef Hor Fun (S$12). The beef slices are tender, the dark stewed sauce which drenched the kway teow noodles is savoury and meaty. Sometimes, I consider having this hor fun for all my three meals in a day.

126 Casuarina Road, Singapore 579514
+65 6458 4567
Daily: 11am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 10.30pm

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7. Hong Yun Seafood (鸿运)

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Hong Yun Seafood is a reliable place for zi char—not too pricey and the food has a pretty good standard too. I’ve tried Hong Yun more than once because it’s located near our office, and it didn’t disappoint.

Its specialities are the White Bee Hoon (from S$16), Garlic Pork (S$8 for small, S$12 for medium, S$16 for large) and Pork Floss With Brinjal (S$20). Being averse to brinjal, I obviously didn’t go for the last of the three dishes, but I can vouch for the first two.

Hong Yun cooks up a rather tasty White Bee Hoon with the right amount of bite to each strand, though their version tends towards the drier side. Their Garlic Pork, contrary to its charred appearance, was actually tender and soft on the inside. Similar to popcorn pork, with a mild garlic flavour to it.

Block 124, Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #01-459, Singapore 310124
+65 8463 8011
Daily: 11am – 1.45pm & 4pm – 10.15pm

8. Hong Kong Street Zhen Ji (香港街珍记)

I know many Hong Kong Street Zhen Ji branches exist, but they’re not all born equal. Between the two found in Ang Mo Kio, the one at Avenue 5 definitely takes the cake in terms of the standard of their food.

You’d think that their rather plain-looking Sam Lau (Sliced Fish) Hor Fun (S$6 for small) would be bland, but in reality, it’s superbly fragrant. The chefs at Hong Kong Street Zhen Ji have some good techniques because their Sam Lau Hor Fun exudes a rich, smoky wok hei that added flavour and depth to the noodle dish.

The stall’s other accompanying dishes are equally as great too!

Blk 158 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, #01-590, Singapore 560158
+65 6453 8484
Daily: 11am – 10.45pm

9. Two Chefs Eating Place

Originally located at Commonwealth, Two Chefs Eating Place has another branch at Sin Ming too which occupies an entire kopitiam‘s space, so it can accommodate quite a number of hungry families at once.

If you can only try one item at Two Chefs Eating Place, it’s got to be their Butter Pork Ribs (S$10 for small, S$14 for medium, S$18 for large) which is salty, soft and juicy in the centre. Covered in sweet milk powder, this is a dish with a melange of texture and flavours that just gets me every time I order it. 

Two Chefs Eating Place
116 Commonwealth Crescent, #01-129, Singapore 140116
+65 6472 5361
Daily: 11:30am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 11.30pm (Daily)

Two Chefs Sin Ming
Blk 410A Sin Ming Avenue, #01-01, Singapore 571410
+65 6451 3812
Daily: 11.15am – 2.15pm & 5pm – 11.15pm
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10. Hualong Fishhead Steamboat

No guesswork is needed to figure out what Hualong Fishhead Steamboat‘s speciality is. Located in Ang Mo Kio, the zi char joint serves up a delightfully savoury Grouper Charcoal Fishhead Steamboat ( S$28.80 for small, S$38.80 for medium, S$48.80 for large).

I love the soup stock, which has a very slight herbal flavour, and the addition of chunks of yam and grouper in the broth really add a satisfying bite.

Also worth trying are their Wok-Fried White Bee Hoon (S$6.50 for small, S$9 for medium, S$12/S$18 for large) and Crispy Salted Egg Calamari (S$15 for small, S$20 for medium, S$25 for large), two great accompanying dishes to go with your fish head steamboat!

347 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, #01-2142, Singapore 560347
+65 6457 2275
Mon to Fri: 4.30pm – 10.45pm
Sat & Sun: 12pm – 2pm & 4.30pm – 10.45pm

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11. Siang Hee Seafood

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Why pay S$30++ in restaurants when you can get equally good pork knuckles at S$18? Situated opposite the busy famous food centre—Chomp Chomp, Siang Hee Seafood is a good alternative to avoid the crowd and have a hearty meal without all the waiting time.

This Deep Fried Pork Knuckle (S$15 – S$18) got me squirming in my seat and I can safely say this was worth every single cent—the best way to spend S$18. The crispy skin enveloped layers of juicy, well-seasoned, and extremely tender meat, and this is definitely a must-try.

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Other than the insanely good pork knuckle, the Pumpkin Tempura Prawns (S$12 for small, S$15 for medium, S$18 for large) are heavenly as well. The rich and creamy sauce partnered with the juicy and chewy meat perfectly, trust me, you will only end up craving for more.

Don’t pass on the Spinach With Mushroom (S$10 for small, S$12 for medium, S$15 for large), that was one of our favourites as well. The mushrooms were really fresh and juicy, and the dish was just well seasoned in general.

49A Serangoon Garden Way, Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre, Singapore 555945
+65 9736 4067
Daily: 12pm – 10pm

12. Ban Leong Wah Hoe

Ban Leong Wah Hoe has been around for a long time and established itself as a trusted zi char spot for those who live along Thomson and Yio Chu Kang. I live in the area, so I always head to Ban Leong Wah Hoe when I’m craving some good old Chinese dishes.

Their crab dishes feature big, hulking Sri Lankan crabs for a price tag more reasonable than other zi char and seafood places. I love their chilli crab gravy, which is thick and eggy, and perfect with their crispy golden-brown mantou.

Other pretty yummy items include their tasty Prawn Paste Chicken (S$8) and Fried Mee Sua (S$12), which all hit the spot when I’m craving Singaporean flavours.

122 Casuarina Road, Singapore 579510
+65 6452 2824
Sat to Thu: 11am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 11pm
Fri: 11am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 12am
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13. Kam Jia Zhuang Seafood

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Kam Jia Zhuang Seafood can be quite empty on weekdays but don’t let this fool you because they serve one of the best zi char ever! However, do note that it can get crowded on weekends and when it’s full, the waiting time is really really long.

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Their signature dishes include the Chrysanthemum Fried Garoupa (S$30) and Deep Fried Prawn Ball With Pumpkin and Butter Sauce (S$16 for small, S$24 for medium, S$32 for large) which are must-gets.

The fish is dipped in Thai-style sweet and sour sauce served with a generous portion of mango salad. Seasoned to perfection, this dish will surely tingle at your taste buds.

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The prawn ball has a thick flavourful sauce that complemented the juicy meat and crunchy crust so well, it had me reaching for more. We had this a couple of times actually and it is always just as good!

202 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, Singapore 560202
+65 9151 6798
Daily: 11.30am – 10.30pm

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14Yeo Keng Nam Chicken Rice

Known for authentic and delicious chicken rice, Yeo Keng Nam Chicken Rice never fails to bring a hint of nostalgia. A small cosy spot tucked away at the end of Braddell Heights Estate, this place is always bustling with business.

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Yeo Keng Nam has a zi char menu, which also has one of the widest varieties out of all the places. The Nonya Curry Fish Head (S$25.50) definitely deserves a mention. My favourite dishes have got to be the Chinese Spinach With Assorted Eggs (S$12 for small, S$24 for large), Salted Egg Sotong (S$12 for small, S$24 for large), and the Hainanese Pork Chop (S$11 for small, S$22 for large).

I especially liked the broth of the Chinese spinach as the assorted eggs provided texture and a strong punch of fragrance that made the dish so tasty. Out of the many dishes we’ve tried, the only disappointment was the Herbal Drunken Prawns (S$16 for small, S$32 for large) that really lacked flavour. No doubt the soup was well-seasoned, unfortunately, the prawns were bland and tasteless.

The Cereal Prawns (S$16 for small, S$32 for large) proved to be a way better option. Extremely generous with the proportion of salted egg and flour coating, this deep-fried seafood dish will surely satisfy your taste buds, a must-get for salted egg fans.

8 Braddell Road, Singapore 359898
+65 6285 4153
Daily: 10.30am – 10pm

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15. Kelly Jie Seafood (former Mellben Seafood)

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Kelly Jie Seafood is always bustling with business no matter the day, I would definitely recommend making a reservation before coming down. Otherwise, do it the Singaporean kiasu (fear of losing out) way and make sure to get someone to come down early and chope seats to beat the dinner crowd.

This little seafood restaurant is a place we frequent, and I can safely say that consistency is there as they never fail to serve up a perfect meal for us.

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The star of the night was the Claypot Crab Bee Hoon Soup (seasonal prices). Gosh, this is really the best way to have your crab. The soup is unbelievably flavourful and so very addictive, don’t be surprised if you see people finishing up this gigantic bowl. In fact, we always order an extra serving of soup and noodles because it is simply that heavenly!

Amongst all the other different ways to have your crab here at Kelly Jie Seafood, this is certainly our favourite. If this doesn’t interest you in the least bit, then the Black Pepper Crab (seasonal prices) and Salted Egg Crab (seasonal prices) are pretty good alternatives.

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We also particularly liked the Homemade Beancurd With Assorted Mushrooms (S$20) for its perfect mix of textures and flavours. With just the right amount of mushrooms, tofu and pork floss, this dish was simple yet delicious. 

Chope Reservations

211 Toa Payoh Lorong 8, #01-11/15, Singapore 310211
+65 6353 3120
Daily: 12pm – 2.30pm & 5.30pm – 10.30pm

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16. 136 Hong Kong Street Fish Head Steamboat

Famous for its Mee Tai Mak (noodle made with rice flour, commonly known as rat noodles or silver needle noodles), 136 Hong Kong Street Fish Head Steamboat also boasts a pretty good zi char menu that had the best value-for-money dishes.

Needless to say, the Special Braised “Mee Tai Ba” In Claypot (S$5 for small, S48 for medium, S$10 for large) is a must-try and it sure did not disappoint. It featured chewy noodles drenched in a thick, well-seasoned gravy that could do with a little more meat but was delicious nonetheless.

That aside, my favourite dish of the night was the Pork Ribs With Salted Egg (S$10 for small, S$15 for medium, S$20 for large).

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Once again, the salted egg dish left a major salted egg fan like me feeling extremely satisfied. Perfectly seasoned coating and tender ribs, I have no complaints at all.

1 Upper Aljunied Lane, #01-02, Singapore 360001
+65 6285 1017
Sun to Fri: 10.30am – 2pm & 5pm – 10.30pm
Sat: 4.30pm – 10.30pm

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17. Julia BBQ

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 If you are like me and have a thing for noodles drowning in gravy, then the Crayfish Bee Hoon (seasonal price) from Julia BBQ is something you cannot miss out on.

The crayfish was fresh and chewy, and the fragrant gravy complimented it perfectly. The Prawn Roll (S$10 for small, S$12 for medium, S$15 or large) also deserves a mention.

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The BBQ Stingray (S$10 for small, S$12 for medium, S$15 for large) is a must-order at zi char outings and this one was pretty awesome. Slightly different from the usual stingray, the seasoning was stronger on acidity and may not appeal to everyone. I personally enjoyed it because it really tingled my taste buds, but for the rest who preferred more spice and a thicker sauce, this dish did not do it for them.

Like the stingray, the Sambal Kang Kong (S$6 for small, S$8 for medium, S$10 for large) was more sour than spicy and again I was the only one who loved it. I’m definitely not complaining though because this means I get to eat their portions, greedy as charged.

49A Serangoon Garden Way, #01-23, Singapore 555944
+65 8493 1288
Daily: 11am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 10pm

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18. Fushan Seafood

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Fushan Seafood can get pretty busy at night but the food was worth the wait. As usual, we ordered spinach, pork ribs and prawns.

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Crispy and filled with rich fragrance from the salted egg, the Salted Egg Prawn Balls (S$16 for small, S$22 for medium, S$30 for large) is undeniably one of the best dishes here at Fushan Seafood. 

I would also definitely recommend the Spinach With Assorted Eggs (S$8 for medium, S$16 for large) for its tasty soup! The one here isn’t so heavy on the eggs unlike the ones we tried at other restaurants and we adored the refreshing broth. Fushan’s pretty much matches up to the one we had at Yeo Keng Nam Chicken Rice.

Blk 21 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, #01-298, Singapore 310021
+65 6252 2858
Daily: 3pm – 12.30am

19. Chuan Kee Seafood (泉记海鲜)

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Headed to Chuan Kee Seafood (泉记海鲜) for their Signature Lotus Leaf Duck (S$28) but to our disappointment, it was sold out. We even considered heading somewhere else but the super friendly auntie recommended some dishes. I’m glad we stayed because they all turned out to be really delicious!

We went on a weekday night and it wasn’t crowded at all, so we didn’t have to wait too long for our dishes to be served. They also do delivery services and the auntie mentioned that the duck usually sells out before dinner time.

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We decided to be adventurous and try the Coffee Pork Ribs (S$12). I was very surprised at how well the strong and distinct coffee taste blended with the texture of the meat but it was a tad bit too sweet for my liking. 

The Si Fang Tofu (S$12) had a nice thick sauce and bits of meat provided a good texture. The Salted Egg Fried Fish Skin (S$6) is perfect if you want something light but we would have liked it better with more salted egg. Still, it is a nice and crispy option to go along with the other dishes. 

Blk 19 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, #01-264, Singapore 310019
+65 9866 8939
Daily: 12pm – 11pm

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20. Hwa Seafood Restaurant

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Hwa Seafood is another of my favourite zi char spots located in Tagore Lane. My top orders when I’m there are their Spinach With Triple Egg (S$16), Prawn Paste Chicken (S$12), and Hokkien Mee (S$14)

The Prawn Paste Chicken is fragrant, crispy and really distinct in its prawn paste flavour whilst the Spinach With Triple Egg is soft and soupy, and the three types of egg add different textures to each mouthful.

Hwa Seafood’s Hokkien Mee is not done white and yellow Singapore-style. Rather, the yellow noodles are done Malaysian style in thick, syrupy dark sauce. If you’re someone who likes thick gravy, please don’t skip out on this delightful plate of noodles.

9 Tagore Lane, #01-02, Singapore 787472
+65 6452 0918
Daily: 11.30am – 10pm
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