Situated in the quiet neighbourhood of Bedok North, Chin Lee Restaurant is tucked away below a HDB block in a residential area. It is difficult to miss the restaurant’s bright orange and oriental decor, and that made it pretty easy to spot from the main road.
The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, but just a heads up to make a reservation before you make your way down with the fam – I walked in for dinner on a Monday evening and the server informed me that all the seats indoors were reserved!
By 7.30pm, the place was already full and bustling. I casually looked around to see what people had ordered and noticed some similar dishes on every table, so of course, I had to follow suit.
My favourite dish from Chin Lee was undoubtedly their famous Homemade Teochew Prawn Ball, or more commonly known as Hei Zhou ($12), which is basically deep fried prawn balls wrapped in beancurd skin.
Paired with a sweet, dark sauce, it was a match made in heaven.
The Hei Zhou was filled generously with minced meat and prawns, and had delightful bits of gristle in it, making for great texture in each bite. The beancurd skin on the outside was deep fried to a golden brown, and complemented the pillowy filling.
These prawn balls were deliciously addictive, and I found myself battling my dining partner for the last piece on the plate.
Another must-try dish is the Fried Oyster Pancake ($15), a signature dish of Chin Lee’s, served only on weekdays. Chock-full of succulent oysters and crispy egg batter, you can say this tasted like an elevated version of the oyster omelette that you can find just next door at Bedok 85 Market.
The oysters were plump and paired well with the savoury battered bits. Don’t forget to have this together with the tart chilli sauce to mellow out the oiliness of the dish. This dish was so popular, almost every table had an order of it too!
The Homemade Beancurd with Shimeji Mushrooms ($15) was a humble but outstanding dish. The tofu is made fresh in-house, and you can taste the lightness of it in every bite.
The generous amount of brown and white shimeji mushrooms provided good texture in contrast to the soft beancurd, and the sauce was not too savoury in comparison to the other popular Teochew cai po tofu dishes. This was certainly one of the dishes that I enjoyed very much and I wouldn’t mind returning for!
The Fried Vermicelli ($10.50) was full of wok hei and had a wonderful peppery seasoning to the mee sua itself. There were bits of pork belly, prawn and a medley of vegetables in this stir-fried dish, but honestly, I found it a tad bit oily after a couple of bites.
As far as most zi char dishes go, I’m glad this fried mee sua dish did not taste as salty and MSG-laden as the others you would get elsewhere.
An authentic Teochew meal wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t end off with the classic Teochew Yam Paste with Gingko Nut ($3.50). I loved how the natural sweetness and flavour of the yam stood out in the smooth paste.
This subtle sweetness paired well with the soft, mellow ginko nuts, and this dessert was a great way to complete my sumptuous meal at Chin Lee.
For a taste of authentic old-school Teochew dishes right in the heartlands, Chin Lee Restaurant does it right. It is pretty expensive for a neighbourhood dining joint, but would make a great place for birthdays and special occasions, especially among the older generation.
Some must-try dishes include the Hei Zhou, Fried Oyster Pancake, as well as the Homemade Beancurd with Shimeji Mushroom. Or just kaypoh a bit when you’re there to see what everyone else is ordering!
Expected Damage: $20 – $30 per person