Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ: Delectable Sambal Recipe Since 1982 Helmed By 2nd-Gen Owner At Yishun Park Hawker Centre

Sambal has slowly but surely been etched into our culture as most Singaporeans love spicy food. With a delicious mix of chilli peppers, shrimp paste, fish sauce as well as a plethora of spices and seasonings, I cannot resist this aromatic chilli sauce albeit my low spice tolerance.

While some are predominantly sweet, while others are spicier, a distinct flavour is quintessential for good sambal. When my brother told me about Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ, I was slightly surprised by their limited menu. My brother spoke great things about this, and do note that he’s a nonchalant eater.

Curious to see how good their sambal actually is, I headed down to Yishun Park Hawker Centre.

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Zhi Jie, the current second-generation owner of this outlet, shared with me how his parents were one of the first few shops that started selling hotplate sambal BBQ foods. He left his corporate job at a bank to help his mother out when he realised how difficult it was to manage it all on her own.

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His sambal recipe is a family secret, started off from his father who picked up the skill whilst working at a factory in Penang. From there, his mother improvised and tweaked the recipe to make it their own. Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ also gets their seafood daily from a reliable supplier, to ensure its freshness and quality.

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After speaking with Zhi Jie, I was pretty hyped up to try their offerings, to see if it was really as good as it has been portrayed to me. The first item I had was their Sambal Sotong (S$12 for small, S$15 for medium). When it arrived, the aroma of sambal hit me and my eyes watered.

The portion was so generous for a small serving. It was insanely fragrant that my mouth started watering too and I just had to try it pronto.

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It was delectable indeed. The sambal does pack a fiery punch, that’s for sure. But despite its spiciness, there were multiple layers to the sambal which made it so addictive. While the heat from the sambal lingered, it wasn’t that overwhelming as there was a subtle sweetness that helped mellow it slightly.

Have it with the chinchalok and lime, which provided a tinge of saltiness and tanginess. It aided in cutting through the spice for a refreshing touch, as well as an additional dimension of flavour.

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The sotong was so fresh, with a springy yet soft texture and a sweet aftertaste. The chewy texture complemented the smooth caramelised onions mixture that came with it.

The caramelised onions added more sweetness to the dish to counteract the spiciness, and it also went amazing with my rice on the side.

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With that, I had high expectations for their Sambal Stingray (S$12 for small, S$15 for medium, S$18 for large). I lifted the metal cover off to unveil the beauty, slathered in the same sambal sauce that I have raved enough about. It was huge for S$15, thick and fleshy, unlike most places which are often sadly thin and flat.

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Although it was chunky, the flesh was perfectly cooked on the grill. Succulent and moist with a neutral flavour, it absorbed the sambal well and turned it into a mouthful of fiery goodness. Whilst the meat was tender and flaky, the fins had a nice crisp to them.

I also liked that it was easy to remove, which made the eating experience all the more enjoyable.

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We also got the Sambal Lala (S$10 for small, S$12 for medium, S$15 for large). The clams were plump and well coated with the same sambal sauce. This dish was slightly fainter in colour, which I was secretly pleased about as all the heat was getting too much for me.

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Thankfully, this was indeed less spicy as compared to the prior two dishes. Perhaps due to the presence of the shell, the sweet and juicy flesh was studded with sambal paste instead of being thoroughly coated. I also appreciated that the texture was bouncy for a nice bite.

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The last dish we got was their sambal kang kong (S$7 for small, S$9 for medium), which had a distinct garlicky fragrance.

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I liked how it was well-cooked, soft at the leaves but firm in the stem. It was not mushy and one-dimensional like how most places do it. The earthiness of the vegetables was masked by the flavourful sambal, which was surprisingly not that spicy. However, this may be me being immune to the spiciness by this point.

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Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ definitely did not leave me disappointed. If anything, it left me impressed with the versatility of their sambal. Whether it was the seafood, vegetables or even just with plain rice, it was flavourful and went well together.

This ticked off all boxes of good sambal, and I finally understood the hype behind it. I must admit after four sambal dishes, it got one-dimensional and I just wanted to taste something different. Nonetheless, they are great at what they do. If you are craving some fresh seafood with punchy sambal, head over to Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ. You have my word that they will satisfy your cravings for sure.

Expected Damage: S$7 – S$15 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 5 / 5

Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ

51 Yishun Avenue 11, Yishun Park Hawker Center, #01-39, Singapore 768867

Our Rating 5/5

Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ

51 Yishun Avenue 11, Yishun Park Hawker Center, #01-39, Singapore 768867

Telephone: +65 8201 4400
Operating Hours: 11.30am - 10pm (Daily)
Telephone: +65 8201 4400

Operating Hours: 11.30am - 10pm (Daily)