Sunday, 18 March 2018

Yang Ji 194 Garlic Steamed Fish Head. Singapore Hawker Gems in Chinatown 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Buddy had been raving about the "garlic steamed fish head" at Yang Ji 194 in the Green Zone of Chinatown Complex Food Centre (stall #02-057) for a long time. This is yet another old school Canto style zhi char which Chinatown is well known for.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Yang Ji 194 operates the "night shift" at Chinatown Complex, opening at 5:30pm and closes at 10:00pm. I rarely hang around Chinatown after 4:00pm as I want to get out of the business district before the office workers get off work. I am afraid of crowds 😱

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Chef Huang De Ming 黄德明 does all the cooking in the kitchen, helped by his wife in ingredient preparation, and son in managing orders and serving. The little stall is extremely busy with many regulars.

Every couple of minutes, a huge tongue of orange flame leaps into the air, stretching to lick the ceiling in the tiny kitchen. The fireworks excite me but Chef Huang was nonchalant, oblivious to his own artistry.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Chef Huang is most proud of his "garlic steamed fish head". There are over a dozen stalls in Chinatown selling steamed Song fish head but Yang Ji is the only one serving it topped with caramelised garlic.

Chef Huang came to Singapore from Shunde Guangdong, through Hong Kong in 1947. His "garlic steamed fish head" is his adaptation of the dish from HK. Chef Huang's stall was at Lavender Street before he came to Chinatown Complex 7 years ago. He has a huge following, so it is best to call ☎ 9742 9712 before coming or come early.

Chinatown Complex has a few Canto zhi char stalls like this but they are all of the same vintage and all have no successors. I fear the good things that we enjoy today, may fade away when the old chefs like Huang hang up their aprons.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Our much anticipated "garlic steamed fish head". The steamed half Song fish head was smothered with a brown "woolly" blanket of caramelised garlic. It was dressed with fried old ginger, chopped spring onion, cilantro, cut chili pepper, soy sauce and aromatic oil.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Steaming the fried garlic took away much of the pungent taste of caramelised garlic, leaving just a gentle umami flavour.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

The mild umami taste of caramelised garlic complemented the sweetness and subtle earthiness of the thick slab of tender juicy Song fish meat.

The blend of flavours won Yang Ji 194 lots of fans, who crowd the little stall hidden away in Chinatown's Green Zone.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Another dish to order at Yang Ji 194 is Chef Huang's sliced beef in fermented black bean sauce.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

The thin slices of extra tender beef were smothered in a sauce of fermented black bean, onion, chili pepper, ginger etc which mild savoury taste complemented (rather than overwhelmed) the beefy sweetness of the beef.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Another quintessential Canto dish, chicken with fermented bean sauce. Not very photogenic, but this dish is delicious.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

The mildly savoury fermented bean sauce complemented the natural flavours of the bitter gourd and chicken. The soft crunchy bitter gourd had a bit of natural bitter taste which went well with the salty black bean paste. The chicken was surprisingly tender and juicy, and I was able to taste the natural chicky sweetness.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

You can't come to a Canto zhi char stall and not have a serving of ku lou yok 咕噜肉 (the ubiquitous sweet & sour pork is arguably the most well known, most travelled Chinese dish in the world 😄 ).

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

The chunks of pork encased in batter were fried to a golden brown crisp. Served enveloped in a mild savoury sweet sauce that allowed us to taste the juicy pork's natural sweetness. Comes with plenty of juicy crunch in the capsicum, onion, cucumber etc. Chef Huang's rendition of this Canto classic is one of the best that I have tasted.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Chef Huang does even simple greens very well.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

His fried kang kong is especially memorable. The greens were meticulously cleaned by Mrs. Huang. The vegetable is stir fried with a sauce made by blending fermented tofu with belacan. It had layers of mild savouriness which went perfectly with the crunchy kang kong.

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Nice view above Smith Street while we were having our dinner.

🎀 Of course, this nook in Chinatown Complex's Green Zone is a popular hangout/ hideout as there are a few imported and craft beer stalls here. I can't comment on wine, but zhi char and beer..... can lah! Cheers! 🍻

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

👉 Hidden away in the venerable Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Yang Ji is a gem to lovers of old school Canto zhi char. Must Try dishes are Chef Huang De Ming's signature Garlic Steamed Fish Head, ku lou yok, beef with fermented bean sauce, chicken with fermented bean sauce, and fried kang kong. I would be back for Yang Ji's other dishes.

Directory of stalls in the Yellow Zone 👈 click
Directory of stalls in the Green Zone 👈 click
Directory of stalls in the Red Zone 👈 click
Directory of stalls in the Blue Zone 👈 click

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

Restaurant name: Yang Ji 194 Garlic Steam Fish Head 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头
Address: Blk 335, Smith Street #02-057, Chinatown Food Complex, Singapore 050335 (Green Zone)     
GPS: 1°16'57.7"N 103°50'34.4"E | 1.282705, 103.842889  
Waze: Chinatown Complex  
Tel: +65 9742 9712
Hours: 5:30pm to 10:00pm (Thurs off)

Non Halal

Date visited: 18 Mar 2018

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