If there’s ONE place that I am allowed to visit when I’m back in Singapore, I would go to Tan Chin Lee Sea-Fresh Restaurant for my comfort food fix. Whilst M craves for hawker food when he’s back, I go gaga over the prospect of having as many cereal prawns as my belly would have it, and in my opinion, Tan Chin Lee serves up some of the best cereal prawns in town.
To many people, Tan Chin Lee is unfortunately located in Tuas, and housed in a rather old-fashioned two-storey building. What I love about this is that the restaurant gets rather quiet in the evening (it serves a lunch crowd) which makes for a conducive place for dinner. Also, I get to dress in my sloppiest clothes and my ‘wet market’ slippers, my favourite attire to welcome a meal of comfort food. In all honesty, Tan Chin Lee is very much like a restaurant version of a zi char stall, I don’t deny this. But at super affordable prices, with good food aplenty and air-conditioned, this has turned into one of my favourite restaurants to visit.
There are a number of dishes that we ALWAYS order – venison with spring onions and ginger on a sizzling hot plate, cereal prawns (but of course!), a platter of hei cho (kinda like prawn balls) and dough fritters stuffed with sotong and sambal kangkong. If we have a bigger appetite, or if we are strong in numbers, we never leave chilli crayfish and fried mantou out of the equation.
I’m sure most of you have tasted all these dishes at some restaurant or zi char stall at some point in time, the standard is usually the same everywhere for these ubiquitous dishes, but I just love the way they do it here at Tan Chin Lee for the very reasons mentioned at the top of this entry. Tan Chin Lee also never ever disappointed me with the good quality of such common foods. Special mention should be given to the cereal prawns. These folks give generous heaps of deep fried egg strands tangled with cereal and curry leaves in the most beautiful and concerted love triangle, which to me are the real stars because I LOVE to eat bowls of rice with them. I find that many places either make the cereal mix too salty, or too sweet (possibly with too much instant cereal added…), but Tan Chin Lee gets it right with deep fried egg strands as the dominatrix in this dish!
The sambal kangkong is perfectly stir-fried with the right amount of heat (although you can dictate this, and whenever we want the chef to load up or go easy on the chilli, somehow he gets it right too!) and a lot less oily than what you would find at many eateries.
I always loved dough fritters stuffed with sotong since I was a kid, and again, it isn’t oily here at Tan Chin Lee. I’m not a big fan of hei cho anywhere though, my parents are, so I can’t give any fair comments here.
The venison on a hot plate is also a winner, I find that a good venison-to-veggies ratio is given here (you know how some places smother venison with veggies to make the serving look bigger…). The venison is always suitably flavoured and very tender, although this dish could do with a little less oil.
The chilli crayfish (sorry, no pictures as there were too few of us to order it) is absolutely gorgeous too; good, succulent, meaty crayfish at laughably affordable prices with extremely generous heaps of the perfect chilli sauce to go with fried mantou. No one says no to licking the plate clean here.
Ahhhh….I just ignited my craving again, I think I need to say goodbye to Singapore properly with more food from Tan Chin Lee. And I say, if you’re ever in the area of Tuas, drop by for a visit for good comfort food at a no-sweat (literally and figuratively) affordable price!
Tan Chin Lee Sea-Fresh Restaurant is located at:
71 Pioneer Rd #02-06, Singapore 639591