When friends ask me what’s a must-eat cuisine in Singapore, I’d say zi char (tze char). Cooked with a lot of love, the Chinese cooking mixed with culinary twists from other cultures has united many people over a hearty meal.
There are so many zi char joints in Singapore, and you may have your favourite one. Here are our top eight picks for the best zi char restaurants in Singapore!
1. New Ubin Seafood
To kickstart our zi char list, we have New Ubin Seafood, which is a bit different from the usual zi char restaurant. Just the fact that it’s at CHIJMES should tell you there’s a little twist. But fret not, the food quality is top notch, as evidenced by its Michelin Bib Gourmand, awarded in 2017.
It features zi char fare with a fusion twist, from Italian to French influences. The US Ribeye is a tender, melt-in-your-mouth steak that is cooked just nice, not too raw or overcooked, and comes with a smokey fragrance. Some of the other worthy mentions are their Hei Zhor, Hong Kong Kailan with Crispy Seaweed, Hokkien Mee Special and Black Ink Squid Curry.
Address: 30 Victoria Street #02-01B/C, Singapore 187996
Opening Hours: Daily, 11am–3pm, 5:30–10:30pm
2. Uncle Leong Seafood
There’s no putting together a zi char list without mentioning Uncle Leong Seafood. Loved by Singaporeans young and old, this zi char joint has remained one of the most popular places in Singapore to get your wok-hei fix.
For some of the best crab you can get in Singapore, check out their variety of fresh crabs cooked in different styles: the Shimmering Sand Crab, which features a sinful and buttery cream sauce and crispy oats, and of course, Chilli Crab and the ever popular Black Pepper Crab.
The Salted Egg Lotus Root comes impeccably fried, crispy to the bite and oozing with the flavour of salted egg. They also have other fantastic dishes like the Pumpkin Butter Prawns, Guinness Pork Ribs and Treasure Box Beancurd. Uncle Leong is definitely a restaurant you should check out if you’re looking for a great zi char spot.
Address: 83 Punggol Central, #B1-21 Waterway Point, Singapore 828761
Opening Hours: Daily, 11am–10.30pm
3. Two Chefs Eating Place
I’m sure you’ve seen a picture of Two Chefs’ famous Butter Pork Ribs on Instagram or on Facebook before. The powdery snow-like butter bits are scattered on sticky pork cubes, which are tender and juicy. Of course, the powdery condensed milk butter is what caught our attention, and for good reason. It takes close to four hours to prepare and its creamy sweetness complements the savoury pork cubes so well.
We also recommend their Vegetable with Egg, Salted Egg and Century Egg, which is a staple at every zi char stall, but we especially like Two Chefs’ version with an addictive soup base and scrambled eggs.
Address: 116 Commonwealth Crescent, #01-129, Singapore 140116
Opening Hours: Daily, 11:30am–2:30pm, 5–11:30pm
4. JB Ah Meng
It’s no secret that Malaysian zi char is in a league of its own. That’s why Singaporeans rejoiced when Ipoh chef Wang Feng opened JB Ah Meng in Geylang in 2013, which has since hosted the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain.
The JB San Lou Mee Hoon is one of its unique creations. Bee hoon noodles are fried to a crisp and a fragrant crust surrounding a moist centre soaks up all the broth. Another star dish is the White Pepper Crab, which was almost incorporated into Anthony Bourdain’s food market in New York, except that Chef Wang refused as he simply wanted to serve the locals. Don’t leave without trying their Fried Garlic Chilli Clams, which feature plump and fresh clams stir fried in garlic and chilli – perfect for eating with white rice!
Address: 534 Geylang Rd, Singapore 389490
Opening Hours: Daily, 5:30pm–2:30am
5. Melben Seafood
Though by no means the most affordable on this list, Melben Seafood definitely serves up some luxurious crab. Tucked away in a coffee shop in Ang Mo Kio, it’s hot and open-air, but hey, that’s where authentic zi char lies, right? When you walk into the shop, you’ll see its walls adorned with crab shells, and that’s a clue to what it’s known for.
Melben is famed for its claypot crab bee hoon soup, and for good reason. The soup is incredibly milky and sweet with the umami of seafood and huge chunks of juicy crab. However, to enjoy this dish, you might have to wait for up to 45 minutes. Also recommended are the mantou to dip in chilli crab sauce and Har Cheong Kai. Of course, don’t leave without ordering at least one crab dish, because it’s just heavenly.
Address: 232 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, St 22, #01-1222, Singapore 560232
Opening Hours: Daily, 5–10:30pm
6. Chuan Kee Seafood
This unassuming zi char stall at Lower Delta Road sure packs a punch. Again, it’s housed in a coffee shop, but it’s so popular that there are tables in the carpark area. The signature Lotus Leaf Duck is their most famous dish, and it’s often sold out extremely quickly. But fret not, even if you don’t get a chance to try it, there’s plenty of other food to try at Chuan Kee.
They serve a solid Nyonya Assam Fish Head for those who like to eat fish to the last bone, sweet and sticky Coffee Pork Ribs, as well as a soft and silky Homemade Tofu. For quality zi char fare with a suitable ambience to boot, visit Chuan Kee Seafood and experience it yourself!
Address: 1091A Lower Delta Rd, Singapore 169207
Opening Hours: 10am–10pm from Sun to Wed, 10am–2am from Thur to Sat
7. Kok Sen Restaurant
Zi char connoisseurs would know Kok Sen Restaurant for its amazing Big Prawn dishes, such as Big Prawn Hor Fun and Big Prawn Bee Hoon. The latter comes with thick vermicelli and a flavoursome soup, while the former comes with pieces of hor fun in a thick and starchy brown gravy full of wok-hei goodness.
Its other star dishes are not to be missed too. The Har Cheong Kai comes in cubes instead of the usual mid-joint wings, which is an interesting take on the well-loved zi char classic. Their Claypot Yong Tau Foo is also fantastic with a unique brown sauce that’s soaked up by various yong tau foo pieces of vegetables and seafood.
Address: 30 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089137
Opening Hours: 12–2pm, 5–11pm from Tues to Sun, Mon closed
8. Orchid Live Seafood Restaurant
The restaurant’s name is almost synonymous with its most famous dish, the Signature Lobster Porridge. It comes with huge chunks of fresh lobster right out of the tank, along with a dark mustard coloured soup – that’s when you know you’ll get a rich taste of lobster. However, it’s not a gooey type of porridge, as the rice grains are still mostly intact with a thinner broth.
The Steven Chicken, named after the founder of Orchid Live, is also a stunner with a crispy fried crust soaked in a special marinade. For diehard crab lovers, check out the Teochew Cold Crab, served with vinegar and plum sauce for that extra kick. Open it, and you’ll see hunks of creamy roe to fulfil every seafood craving of yours!
Address: 16 Jln Kelulut, Singapore 809033
Opening Hours: 11am–2:30pm, 5–10pm