I'm one of those cynical ones who believe that all renovation contractors are crooks. Maybe it's because, in my line of work, I've heard more than my fair share of slipshod, defective and incomplete work done by contractors who are dishonest and unreliable. Basically, they're out to make a buck they didn't earn. Which is why, when we were sourcing for renovation contractors, we sought out word-of-mouth recommendations from our friends. No one would be able to give you an in-depth, honest, tried-and-tested review than someone who's actually experienced renovation works with the contractor. Favourable recommendations were rare, with most commenting that they hated their gawdawful contractors. The worst of the horror stories were those resulting in contentious legal disputes with their ex-contractors. In the end, we had to seek out friends of friends just to get 2 recommendations from people who didn't end up hating their contractors.
So, we met up with our friends for dinner at Beng Hiang, to get the low-down on their recommended contractor. Turns out that most of us have grown up eating at Beng Hiang. Beng Hiang's not mind-blowing, and standards have slowly but surely fallen over the years, but its unrefined food has got this comfortingly homestyled flavor to it that's really appealing. Coupled with a liberal dose of nostalgia and you've got yourselves a full-house most of the time. Bear in mind that most of their diners are people who have eaten here all their lives, which is what makes for such die-hard fans and the consequent rave reviews of this place. If you're a newbie to this old-school place, take such rave reviews with a dash of managed expectations, because the fare here is a mixed bag of hits and misses.
The Spiced Sausage, or ngoh hiang, and Fried Prawn Ball, or hae zhou, are mainstay appetizers ($16 for medium) here. These aren't the best of the lot, but they're relatively decent, with crisp exteriors and moist insides. Thing is, though, they are laced with coriander throughout the rolls.
Coriander notwithstanding, I didn't like that the mince of the ngoh hiang was pulverised, and lacked that meaty, hand-chopped texture that makes for a great bite.
The Fish Maw Thick Soup with Crabmeat ($38 for medium), is pretty good, and little wonder why it's a signature must-try here. Thick, eggy, and loaded with ingredients. Even if frozen, and not freshly shredded, crabmeat is used, the seafood is devoid of any fishy smell or taste.
The Sambal Fried Ti Wang Miao ($14 for medium), or emperor spinach, was commendable. A nice coating of spicy flavoursome sambal, sauteed with crunchy yet soft greens that are extremely toothsome.
A lot of diners swear by the Crispy Roast Chicken ($28), but I beg to differ. It's got that traditional taste of the yesteryears, but the chicken, especially the breast meat, was dry and lacking in flavour.
The Kong Ba Bao ($16 for small) is another one of the must-trys here as well. Thoroughly braised till meltingly soft, and intensely flavoured, this was paired with soft fluffy steamed sandwich buns to balance the rich heady robustness of the pork belly.
The Braised Duck with Sea Cucumber in Claypot ($35 for small) is a totally underrated dish. Not many people order this but it's a total must-try. The duck was braised to a fork-tender texture, and the lusciously rich gravy is wonderful slathered over steaming hot white rice. Sea cucumber and Chinese black mushrooms lend texture and help soak up extra awesomesauce gravy.
The Oyster Omelette ($20 for medium) was quite simply, awesome. Crisp where it needed to be, with the perfect balance of flour and eggs, and loaded generously with fresh plump oysters. A liberal dousing of spicy sambal kicked up the already delicious dish a notch.
The Traditional Hokkien Noodles ($12 for medium), another signature here, passes muster, so long as you don't compare it to the KL Hokkien mee version. The flat egg noodles are smooth, fried in a rich and flavourful stock seasoned with black soy, and chunked up with plentiful fresh prawns, pork slices, julienned cabbage for sweetness, and beansprouts for a refreshing crunch.
As per S.O.P., Beng's Hiang's complimentary Chinese dessert-of-the-day, stewed beancurd skin with barley. This was warm and light, a nice counter to the richness of Hokkien style.
Beng Hiang Restaurant
112-116 Amoy Street
Tel: 6221 6695
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and 6pm to 9.30pm for dinner