1. Swatow Garden Seafood

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Swatow Garden Seafood Restaurant, which opened at Serangoon Gardens Country Club in April, is the second outlet under the Swatow brand. The first, Swatow Seafood Restaurant, opened in Toa Payoh in 2010.

Compared with its older sibling, the new restaurant is less cramped as the dining room has a high ceiling and there are two spacious and comfortable private rooms equipped with karaoke systems.

What it lacks, though, are the Friday night Teochew opera performances that the Toa Payoh outlet stages. Its menu, however, is largely similar to the original, except for a few dishes that are unique to the new outlet.

Among them is an original creation thought up by owner Jimi Tan, called Imperial Fried Egg With Duck Meat ($12). It sounds odd, but my initial misgivings that the duck will turn out dry and tough vanish quickly when I bite into the tender shredded meat.

The omelette is delicious and a good alternative for those who are allergic to or do not like oysters. Otherwise, another good option is the restaurant’s signature Crispy Oyster Omelette ($15).

Unlike traditional versions of the dish, in which the oysters are fried with the egg, Swatow serves them separately in a small bowl of savoury-sweet sauce. This allows the chef to get the omelette as crisp as a cracker, which makes this a hit with kids – and many adults too.

Fans of traditional Teochew cooking will be happy to find two old-fashioned dishes among the starters – Chilled Jelly Pork Knuckle ($8) and Teochew Chilled Slice Braised Pig’s Head ($8).

22 Kensington Park Road

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2. Paradise Teochew Restaurant

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Paradise Teochew is not new. The first outlet opened at the Chinese Swimming Club last year.

But it is getting bigger and better.

Its second outlet opened last month on the third floor of Scotts Square, a space previously occupied by Crystal Jade.

One of the dishes that has improved by leaps and bounds is the Braised Sliced Duck (from $18 a portion to $60 for the whole duck).

The restaurant now uses Irish ducks instead of ones from around the region. While the substantial layer of fat under the skin may look daunting to some people, it renders the duck beautifully juicy and flavourful. And it doesn’t feel at all greasy in the mouth, making this the best braised duck in town.

You can get the duck in a combination platter too. The $26 platter comes with braised octopus, sliced pork belly and tofu. The pork belly, which is tender and also not greasy, is a standout too.

Another cold dish worth trying is Chilled Yellow Roe Crab In Teochew Style ($8 for 100g). The crabs, which weigh about 600g each, look small, but are packed with sweet meat and golden roe inside very thin shells.

Make sure you order the Teochew Style Roasted Suckling Pig (now sold at a special price of $178) at least a day ahead. Unlike the Cantonese way, Teochew-style suckling pig is eaten with the crackling and meat together. The crackling here, which is amazingly crispy, makes the dish.

#03-04, Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Square

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3. Joyden Canton Kitchen

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We know its name is a little misleading but trust us, there are some really great Teochew food here.

Instead of focusing on the Cantonese roasts, noodles and congee combination, Joyden interprets Canton as the larger Guangdong province and its menu includes Teochew and Hakka cooking which originate from the area.

A dish worth getting is the Joyden Signature Soy Sauce Chicken ($12 to $32). The sauce used to poach the chicken has a well-balanced blend of sweet and savoury flavours, and the addition of rosewater imparts a subtle fragrance to it.

The chicken itself is cooked perfectly, juicy and tender with skin that is infused with the sauce.

An alternative is the Signature Traditional Hakka Salt Poached Farm Chicken ($17), which has less complicated flavours but is very tasty nonetheless.

It does not have the crisp, yellow skin of true kampung chicken but its firm, tasty flesh is probably among the closest to the free-range chicken you find in Malaysia.

Fish Maw And Prawns With Glass Noodles In Homemade XO Sauce ($18.80) tastes like it is created for local palates.

Those who do not take to spice may prefer the Signature Red Grouper Fillet With White Tofu Steamed In Black Bean Sauce ($16.80).

This is classic Cantonese fare with the salty but aromatic black bean sauce balanced by the bland but smooth tofu.

#02-21, HillV2, 4 Hillview Rise 

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4. The Catch Seafood Restaurant and Bar

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The menu is big, with about 80 dishes that range from interesting appetisers to seafood and meat prepared in both popular and novel ways.

Most interesting is the Deep Fried Cuttlefish With Pepper And Salt ($8), which turns out to be octopus instead. This is more often found in a Spanish restaurant, not a Chinese one.

The tentacles are tender, with a crispy coat of batter providing a contrasting texture, and the aroma of fried chopped garlic and spring onion adds to the appeal.

A refreshing starter is the Chef Marinated Japanese Cucumber ($5), which has julienned cucumber covered with an appetising spicy sauce.

For the main dishes, the Lala Clam Boiled In Chinese Wine ($21) is a good start. It is a simple dish in which its success relies mainly on the sweet juices of the clams. Here, the Chinese wine mixes with the juices to form a delicious broth, with slices of ginger and spring onion to remove any fishiness.

Be sure to try the marble goby (soon hock in Cantonese) steamed Teochew-style, instead of the more common Hong Kong-style with soya sauce. It turns out really nice, with the slightly tangy soup that gets its flavours from salted vegetables and tomatoes, which go very well with the fresh fish. The price is pretty attractive too – $6.80 for 100g.

#01-54/56, Block 106 Clementi Street 12

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5. Huat Kee

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Huat Kee, an established restaurant in Amoy Street, is known for its traditional Teochew dishes. But over the past few years, third-generation owner Lee Chiang Howe has been expanding into the abalone business by investing in farms abroad and packing ready-to-eat abalone that can be served in his restaurant or at home.

They are available canned in brine, or braised and sold in sealed bags to take away. But if you want to dine at the restaurant, there is a current promotion for its eight-head dried South African abalone.

It is braised and comes in a rice and vegetable set for $138 a piece or $78 for half an abalone. The normal price for the whole abalone set is $300.

Dried abalone is more highly prized than fresh or canned ones because the flavour is more intense. The texture is firmer and slightly sticky, which is why good quality dried abalones are described as “candy heart”.

The number of heads refers to the weight of the abalones. Eight heads means eight similar-sized dried abalones weigh a total of 1 kati or 600g.

74 Amoy Street

Text: Wong Ah Yoke/Straits Times