Last Updated: November 3, 2020
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the presence of fried food trumps whatever diet you’re on. That said, there are only a few items that warrant one falling off the low-carb-only wagon. For me, all the kale juice in the world goes out the window for the sinful pleasure of oyster cakes. I know what it sounds like, and no it’s not some kind of bundt made of oysters because that’s just blasphemous on all counts.
Instead, this puff is a fritter stuffed with minced meat, oyster, cilantro, and then deep-fried until they take on a bronzed golden hue. Hailing from Fuzhou, these tantalising saucers of bliss were brought over Chinese immigrants, and, honestly, we can’t thank them enough.
It goes by many names: “oyster meat puff”, “ Fuzhou oyster cake” and perhaps the most endearing of all, “U.F.O oyster cake”. You would think that an oyster cake by any other name would taste as good, but you’ll know that in any culinary expedition there could only be one “U.F.O” to lead the fleet.
So here are three places that I have thrown down the gauntlet for this showdown: Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake, Fuzhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake, and Teochew Meat Puff.
A stall that needs no introduction and a stalwart at Maxwell Food Centre, Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake comes decorated with accolades—the storefront adorned with newspaper cuttings, photographs, and behind the counter, an auntie that drops those fritters with experienced ease. At S$2 a piece, these are the kind of prices you won’t expect to find at a tourist-friendly hawker centre.
These fritters came slightly bigger than the palms of normal-sized hands and are warm to the touch. Also, only a monster will let these go cold. There’s no doubt in my mind why Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake has enjoyed roaring success all these years—a thin crispy batter, chock-full savoury minced meat that is enough to make anyone swoon, though it does veer a little too close to that ‘too salty’ frontier.
The liberal use of cilantro also gives this oyster cake quite the herbaceous kick that slices through all fried goodness.
The oyster inside is a little more ‘fun-sized’ than what you’d expect, but it delivers the right amount of fun for S$2. In fact, I strongly urge you to buy your fill when you’re there and eat till your heart’s content.
Let Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake be the benchmark for all other oyster cakes you do try because if it doesn’t taste as good as this, it’s not worth the calories.
Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake: 1 Kadayanallur Street, Maxwell Food Centre, #01-05, Singapore 069184 | Tel: +65 9344 1296 | Opening Hours: 9am – 8pm (Mon to Sat), Closed on Sun | Facebook
Yes, it is a little scandalous, nay, sacrilegious that they deign to call this ‘Teochew’ when these fritters are clearly from Fuzhou. Well, it turns out that the owner changed it to ‘Teochew’ solely for the reason that he is Teochew and nothing else. So, to the keyboard warriors, please gently delete that caustic remark you were about to hit enter on.
You might know of Teochew Meat Puff when they’ve come into your orbit from their many appearances at pasar malams and snaking queues. No longer the lone satellite flittering about, Teochew Meat Puff has now landed in Woodlands with a brick and mortar stall at Woodlands Industrial Park E9 @Wave 9.
You know I’m going to say it, but these oyster cakes are indeed quite far, far away. In my voyage to the North to said Teochew Meat Puff, I made sure that I didn’t waste the expedition. Apart from the usual Oyster Meat Puff (S$3.50), I bagged the Scallop Meat Puff (S$4) and Prawn Meat Puff (S$3.50) as well. Though, for this showdown, we shall only look at the Oyster Meat Puff.
The rest are for, well, it’s for me, okay, Janet.
The Oyster Meat Puff was quite the asteroid, at least twice the size of Maxwell’s Fuzhou Oyster Cake—it seems like buying three was one too many. Here, the batter is airy and pillowy, though slightly greasier and blander. Perhaps, due to the colossal nature of this oyster cake, there some bits of undercooked, cakey batter that definitely did not earn it any brownie points.
However, the amount of minced meat is staggering and would be a satisfying lunch for anybody. Not to be nitpicky, but I would have liked the meat to be seasoned better for that extra oomph. The oysters were plump and aplenty (Two! What a joy!) but sadly overshadowed by the lacklustre batter and meat.
Nevertheless, you have to give Teochew Meat Puff props for the sheer size of those fried mounds and the variety they offer.
Teochew Meat Puff: 71 Woodlands Industrial Park E9, #01-09 Wave 9, Singapore 757048| Tel: +65 9879 9874 | Opening Hours: 10am – 8pm (Daily) | Facebook
Located in Jalan Berseh Food Centre, Fuzhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake is where most people make a beeline. Things at this stall seem to operate on a different plane altogether. Getting my hands on those oyster cakes from previous stalls was an easy feat, but at Fuzhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake, I had to wait a hefty forty minutes.
You’ll spot Mdm Poh, the lady boss of the stall, sweating over a large wok of oil with delicious oyster cakes turning from a lemony yellow to a sun-tanned bronze. Her husband serves as front-of-house, taking down orders and informing customers that it’ll be a wait while simultaneously dishing out a buzzer for the patient.
Fuzhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake (S$2.30) seems to be the Goldilocks in this space odyssey. In between the size of Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake and Teochew Meatpuff, this one fits rather comfortably in my hand and came brandished with whitebait.
Unlike the flimsy coating of Maxwell or the cakey batter of Teochew Meat Puff, Fuzhou Poh Hwa was light, airy and oh-so flavourful. If you must know, Mdm Poh uses soybean powder she grounds herself for that extra touch of umami, while her batter consists of a mix of three different flours—it’s no ordinary oyster cake this one.
The minced meat was well-seasoned just like Maxwell’s, but I detected a splash of Hua Tiao wine for that alluring fragrance and bounce. The oyster was plump and juicy, snug in between bunches of Chinese celery (Aha, no cilantro) and springy tiger prawn curls.
The wait was worth it.
Fuzhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake: 166 Jalan Besar, Jalan Berseh Food Centre, #02-34, Singapore 208877 | Tel: +65 8112 5286 | Opening Hours: 10am to 6pm (Wed to Mon), Closed on Tues | Facebook
If you’ve read till here, I’m sure the answer is as clear as the stars: Fuzhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake takes the literal cake. Indeed, a bite of their oyster fritters was out of this world, and after having a taste, it’s hard to come back down to earth to the hoi polloi of the oyster cake kind.
Everything from the batter, the perfect oyster, and the minced meat were so terrifyingly good; I’m filled with dread and on the brink of an existential crisis should this rare street food ever disappear.
I shall leave with the last space-related pun since you’ve so graciously allowed me to go on and on with nary a pause. In the words of Spock, my only hope for these oyster cakes is that they might live long and prosper in our hawker universe.