I've discovered the secret to loving Putien's Heng Hwa cuisine (I know, I know, I'm a little slow on the uptake but better late than never, I say!)! It's their proprietory chilli sauce, a blend of the sour, salty, sweet and one kind of stomach-churning spicy. Like the fairy dust that makes Tinkerbell fly, this wonderful concoction is the magic that makes the their so-very-delicate, almost bland, fare come alive. I'd eaten at Putien years ago before I'd started this blog and couldn't understand the fandom. I'm Teochew, and love the typically delicate Teochew fare, but even I was seriously underwhelmed by how insipid Heng Hwa cuisine was. BUT this chilli sauce alone is a game-changer. It totally changed my perception of Heng Hwa cuisine, and I can't wait to return to Putien. And like the perfect LBD, it's so versatile, you can add it to just about everything. Yes, really, everything.
A signature here, the Fried Heng Hwa Bee Hoon ($8.90 for small) is the ideal base to set up the chilli. Laden with miniaturized seafood like clams and prawns, mushrooms, pork belly strips, beancurd and crunchy greens, the plain-ish noodles blossomed into a bright punchy mee with copious lashings of the chilli sauce.
The other signature Heng Hwa noodles, the Putien Lor Mee ($9.50) was also laced with pork belly, prawns and clams, but braised in a lusciously thick but mellow pork-based broth. This also got a much needed punch from the chilli sauce.
In contrast, the Homemade Beancurd ($9.90), with silky egg beancurd logs with black mushrooms, carrots and sugar snap peas and smothered in a velvety oyster sauce gravy didn't quite need the chilli. But, it was still lovely when spiced with it.
Ditto for the Stir Fried Chestnut ($13.90) with straw mushrooms and pork slices. The luscious nutty gravy was tasty enough on its own, but definitely lifted a notch by the robust chilli sauce.
A childhood staple, the Deep Fried Tenggiri Fish ($4.90 per pc), was elevated by that tangy salty homemade dip.
The Crispy Pork Ribs ($16.90), the Heng Hwa version of Cantonese sweet & sour pork, is distinguished with the addition of crunchy water chestnuts.
The Heng Hwa version of the Hokkien kong bak bao, the Shredded Meat with Buns ($3.90 per pc) of pork strips stir fried with caramelized onions, complemented by deep fried golden sesame-d buns, was about the only dish that rendered the chilli sauce redundant. Rich and flavoursome, the pork buns were totally scrumptious.
Reminiscent of the Cantonese sweet and sour pork, the Putien-Style Century Egg ($5.90), encrusted in a thin batter, fried and then tossed in a piquant sweet and sour sauce was a mind-changer. I usually shy away from century egg (can't stand the smell), but I was surprised by how much I liked this. The Putien treatment of century egg was really quite awesome, and I'd definitely order this again.
The appetizers of Seaweed-laced Peanuts were extremely helpful in quelling our hunger pangs.
For pickles, this Pickles didn't taste very pickle-ly (this sounds so Dr Suess, doesn't it?). This had a faint tang, but were still savoury and sweet in a delicate way.
1 Harbourfront Walk
Tel: 6376 9358
Open weekdays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 10pm for dinner;
Weekends from 11.30am to 4.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 10pm for dinner