Thursday, February 02, 2012

Zi Yean Restaurant (with Paleo tips)

Last Sunday, we went to Zi Yean Restaurant for my father's catch-up dinner with his old classmates. Zi Yean Resturant is a little Cantonese restaurant with an adjoining cafe in the Redhill area. According to their website, the restaurant has been around since 1980, and their head chef Mr Fok Wing Tin has had many years' cooking experience in China.

Paleo tips: What you decide to eat at Chinese restaurants will depend on how strict you are, and whether you think you have to eat to please your hosts or guests. But if you are a super-strict Paleo'er, you will not find very much that you can eat.

Paleo tips: At Chinese restaurants, tidbits are usually served before the real courses begin. Most of the time you get peanuts (no pun intended) and/or pickles. They are meant to be nibbled on while waiting for everyone to arrive, while deciding on what to order, and while waiting for the ordered dishes to arrive.

The Zi Yean Prosperity Salmon Yu Sheng had a large mound of fresh looking vegetables in the middle and was surrounded by generous portions of other ingredients. The raw salmon was sliced very thinly and was moderately fresh.

Paleo tips: You can find more information on the composition of yu sheng here.

My guess is that the Braised Superior Shark's Fin & Dumpling in Golden Bisque got its colour from pureed pumpkin, although I could not really taste any pumpkin. The soup was mild and delicious, and contained strands of shark's fin. The dumpling was the kick, with thin soft skin and a big fresh juicy prawn in the middle.

Paleo tips: Lots of kinds of Chinese soups are thickened with corn starch. Corn starch is a starch from the endosperm of corn and is commonly used in Chinese cooking. I do not think it will kill unless you are very strictly grain free. If you want something that has not been thickened, ask for clear soup. Avoiding the dumpling skin is more important as it is probably made from wheat flour.

The Beancurd Pouch with Dried Oyster and Black Moss topped with Fish Roe was an exotic looking dish that everyone was eager to dig into. All of the dried oysters resting on top of the black moss looked large and plump. Mine tasted moderately rehydrated but needed more rehydration with some gravy.

Three slices of mushroom supported the base of the beancurd pouch from the inside, and it was further stuffed with a ball of black moss. Unfortunately, the beancurd itself tasted a little stale. The part of the dish that I enjoyed most was the strand of kai lan.

Paleo tips: The gravy for this dish was also thickened with corn starch.

Patin fish is a type of freshwater catfish, and is also known as Temerloh and Pangasius. It is supposed to be a juicy fish without the scent of mud. The Deep Fried Patin Fish sure was meaty and the plate I was given had big chunks of pure flesh. As reported, there was no muddy taste. The meat was a bit dry however, and I had to spoon more gravy on the flesh.

No one was touching the head, so I took it and ate the small pockets of tender flesh at its cheeks.

Paleo tips: If you look closely, the top of the fish is not breaded but has probably only been dusted with flour. The bottom looked more heavily covered with flour for crunchiness. It is hard to completely avoid the breaded bits of breaded fish, unless there are big chunks of fish meat underneath the skin, like with this fish. The gravy most probably contained soya sauce.

When I saw the whole of the Braised Empire Chicken Stuffed with Chestnut, I actually thought that it was foil-wrapped herbal chicken.

My bowl contained a drumstick, and its meat slid off the bone and was tender. It tasted a little like herbal chicken, just less herbal-ish. As my father was getting full, he passed me his bowl of breast meat, which was in comparison quite dry.

Paleo tips: The gravy for this dish was thickened with corn starch, otherwise this is real pure chicken.

I passed my bowl of Stir-Fried Dual Grain Brown Rice with Mixed Wax Meat & Sausage to my mother, who said that it tasted quite good even though they used brown rice. I did not see any waxed meat or sausage in there, but no complaints from my mother.

Paleo tips: Waxed meat is a method of meat preservation that is useful where there are no refridgerators to store fresh meat. Contrary to its name, wax is not at all used on the meat. The ingredients used in making wax meat include sugar, soy sauce and Chinese wine.

My father's friend enjoyed the Cream of Red Bean with Glutinous Ball enough to eat my bowl as well.

Paleo tips: If you have never eaten this before, I recommend you try it. I have never met anyone who did not like the glutinous rice ball with its black sesame filling. The whole dessert is slightly sweet, of course, but I think it is worth trying.

People who have eaten at Zi Yean usually recommend their pai gu wang (pork ribs) and prawn paste chicken. If we do return, I think we will try that instead. Otherwise, there is a lot of room for improvement at Zi Yean Restaurant in terms of food and service.

Zi Yean Restaurant
Blk 56 Lengkok Bahru #01-443
Singapore 150056
Tel: 6474 0911 (air-con); 6471 0253 (non air-con)

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