Last Updated: December 29, 2017
As most foodies will tell you, some of the best food places need to be sussed out. Not always easily found, unearthing these food gems is an accomplishment in itself.
Hidden within Toa Payoh Industrial Park, Teochew Big Brother (潮州大兄) serves braised duck and hearty steamboats. Boasting natural flavours and healthy Teochew cuisine, this stall also offers a unique dish that has quite a jaw-dropping name: Herbal Ox Pizzle Soup.
Even though the stall serves Teochew cuisine, founder Randy Chan actually doesn’t speak the dialect. Having moved here from Hong Kong over 20 years ago, he puts his love for cooking to good use at his Teochew cuisine stall.
Most of his repeat customers are friends and friends of friends, especially for the pricier dishes. Because he prepares the dishes fresh for the diners, the stall only takes bookings for the steamboat sets.
But let’s talk about the exciting dishes the stall offers. Perhaps the most eye-catching would be the Herbal Ox Pizzle Soup. Also known as Ox Penis Soup (牛鞭), this exotic soup came with a hefty price tag; at $30 for a bowl, this is definitely not something you’d have every day.
If you’re sharing the meal with a larger group, it’s also served as steamboat. A small portion for three to four people would set you back $80, while a larger portion for four to six diners costs $150.
Unlike most stalls in China that sell the ox penis as a braised or roasted dish, Randy’s stall is the only one that serves it as a soup. Expensive as the soup is, it’s chockful of traditional Chinese herbs and high in collagen. Impressively, the flavourful soup doesn’t contain any MSG either, so you can be assured that you’re getting the full health benefits.
After getting past the initial discomfort of the fact that it’s ox penis soup, I found that the meat itself was soft and gelatinous, close to that of sea cucumber. If I didn’t know it was ox penis, I would probably just assume it was some form of innards.
The meat was quite gamey after chewing, here’s when then herbal soup helped balanced the taste. Word of advice: if you dislike innards, the ox penis might not be to your liking. But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
The other ingredients in the soup include dang gui, huai shan, bei qi, wolfberries and longans. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, these are all “heaty” ingredients, which will boost blood flow.
My favourite was the huai shan, or Chinese yam. Slightly crunchy with a subtly sweet finish, it was fresh and light on the palate. The huai shan helped to undercut the gelatinous and thick texture of the ox penis in the soup, which got quite filling after a while.
We enjoyed this soup as a steamboat, and added more ingredients to sop up the broth. For $40, we had a sizeable portion of cow liver, shabu beef, vegetables and mushrooms to go along with the steamboat.
Cow liver is usually too tough, but Randy prepares the liver with a special house recipe that makes it a delectable treat. I enjoyed how it was chewier than pig liver, with a more gamey flavour.
Yet the liver still retained a creamy texture that lingered at the back of my throat with an earthy flavour.
The thin slices of shabu beef were slightly sweet and tender, especially after a brief swish in the pot. The different beef textures made for a flavourful mouthful.
The addition of the vegetables helped to sweeten the gamey herbal soup, and the cabbage added a delightful crunch too. All the ingredients came together to create more complex flavours in the pot.
Another dish that the stall is famous for is the Teochew Braised Duck ($36 for the whole duck). Served with the duck head as well, this braised duck is, in fact, healthier than many of the other variants.
The sauce is less salty and more watery than other braised duck dishes I’ve had, and it is made without any MSG at all. That explains why the dish was a lot less drying than expected!
The braised duck is cooked and served without deboning, although owner and chef Randy Chan does accommodate customer requests for deboning. He explained that this method of cooking helps to keep the flavour in the duck meat, and the duck meat was indeed fragrant and flavourful.
The duck meat was soft and succulent, while the fatty layer almost melted in my mouth. The meat also fell off the bone easily, which made gnawing the bones clean an easy task.
With the high-quality ingredients used in the freshly-prepared dishes, it’s not hard to see why many of Randy’s customers return to the stall for their meals. The comfortable and homely ambience of the coffeeshop also makes it a good spot to chill with friends and family, and maybe knock back a few post-meal beers.
If you’re adventurous enough for a taste of the Ox Penis Soup, you’ll want to call in to make a booking beforehand. And if you’re lucky, you just might even catch his daughter, Apple Chan who starred in Ah Boys To Men 4, spending some quality time with him!
Expected Damage: $30 – $50 per pax