Pots of Prosperity
Pen cai symbolises good fortune and is a Chinese New Year must-have, with its rich and sumptuous heap of seafood, meat and veggies. These 11 impressed the Simply Her team.
1 PARK PALACE AUSPICIOUS HARVEST PEN CAI WITH NOURISHING PIG TROTTERS $298 (six pax) and $488 (10 pax), from Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, tel: 6432-5543. Available from Jan 14 to Feb 14. 20 Ingredients Abalone, sea cucumber, prawns, fresh scallops, dried scallops, roast duck, roast pork, suckling pig’s trotter, soya sauce chicken, Tianjin cabbage, lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, bai ling zhi mushrooms, nameko mushrooms, broccoli, black fungus, ginkgo nuts, beancurd sheets, radish and sea perch fillet. The Taste A clear winner, with almost all ingredients done to perfection, like the fresh scallops, thick yet tender sea cucumber chunks, and the large, chewy abalone. What won us over were the succulent, well-braised pig’s trotters and creamy slices of sea perch. The flavourful, slightly sweet broth had the right consistency and wasn’t too salty.
2 WAH LOK LONGEVITY POON CHOY
$415.16 (six pax) and $671.96 (10 pax), from Carlton Hotel, 76 Bras Basah Road, tel: 6349-1292. Available from Jan 20 to Feb 14.
13 Ingredients Baby abalone, scallops, sea cucumber, dried oysters, roast duck, panfried prawns, pork shank, fishballs, shiitake mushrooms, black moss, Tianjin cabbage, radish and yam.
The Taste This had one of the best broths – thick and full of seafood flavour. Stacked right at the top so they wouldn’t be drenched by the moist ingredients, the crunchy and fragrant fried prawns were the tastiest. The fresh scallops, soft sea cucumber, and sweet cabbage were exceptional and well-received.
3 SUMMER PAVILION PEN CAI
$421.20 (four pax) and $842.40 (eight pax), from The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Ave, tel: 6434-5286. Available from Jan 15 to Feb 14.
12 Ingredients Abalone, fish maw, fresh scallops, sea cucumber, shiitake mushrooms, dried scallops, black moss, seasonal vegetables, sea perch, roast pork, roast duck and goose web.
The Taste Some found it a bit too salty, but the smooth, thick sauce was undoubtedly tasty and enhanced the black moss and meats. While we liked the soft, fragrant mushrooms and sweet, crunchy cabbage, the real highlight was the fresh sea perch, which wasn’t fishy. 4 MAJESTIC DELUXE TREASURES CLAYPOT $321 (six pax, add $53.50 for each additional pax), from Majestic Restaurant, New Majestic Hotel, 31 Bukit Pasoh Road, tel: 6511-4718. Available from Jan 14 to Feb 14. 13 Ingredients Abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber, prawns, mussels, shiitake mushrooms, dried scallops, fishballs, pork tendon, mid-joint chicken wings, fresh beancurd rolls, yam and Tianjin cabbage. The Taste This wins the most unusual pen cai award. The yellowish broth had a subtle curry flavour that made us do a double take, and then grew on us – we could also taste the sweetness of the cabbage in it. The big, fat and firm steamed prawns were our fave ingredient. Also nice were the juicy fish maw and crunchy scallops. 5 SUMMER PALACE PEN CAI $688 (six to 10 pax, includes complimentary salmon yu sheng), from Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Road, tel: 6725-3239. Available from Jan 6-30. 16 Ingredients Abalone, baby abalone, sea cucumber, dried scallops, top shell, dried oysters, fish maw, black moss, roast duck, pork leg, prawns, shiitake mushrooms, soya sauce chicken, cabbage, beancurd gluten and turnip. The Taste The seafood shone through in the broth – the chewy baby abalone, especially, tasted like it’d been freshly hauled from the ocean. What confused us was the texture of the ingredients – while some, like the succulent mushrooms, were perfectly cooked, others, like the pork and prawns, were notably dry. 6 JIANG-NAN CHUN PEN CAI (BIG BOWL FEAST) $372.36 (six pax) and $532.86 (10 pax), from Four Seasons Hotel, 190 Orchard Boulevard, tel: 6831-7220. Available from Jan 8 to Feb 14. 18 Ingredients Abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber, dried oysters, dried scallops, prawns, soya sauce chicken, roast pork, roast duck, pork tenderloin, preserved pork, shiitake mushrooms, pig’s trotter, radish, black moss, fishcakes, gluten and yam. The Taste We liked the light, home-cooked taste of the broth, which was palatable. We zoomed in on the tasty, tender pieces of roast pork and the not-too-hard chunks of sea cucumber. The bland dried scallops and soggy prawns, we weren’t so keen on.
7 MAN FU YUAN DELUXE TREASURE POT $425.86 (ve pax) and $661.26 (eight pax), from Intercontinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road, tel: 6825-1059. Available from Dec 27 to Feb 14. 27 Ingredients Baby abalone, sea cucumber, shark’s fin, fish maw, goose web, pig’s trotter, prawns, scallops, dried oysters, shiitake mushrooms, fishballs, sea moss, radish, beancurd skin, roast duck, Chinese sausage, liver sausage, black fungus, yam, cabbage, braised chicken wings, sea kelp, eel, wolfberries, marinated squid, lingzhi mushrooms and Boston lobster. The Taste This packed in the most ingredients – 27. And it’s quite a trend-setter too, being the only one with Boston lobster, certainly not a common pen cai ingredient. The sour, slightly fishy taste of the broth, thanks to the lobster, had us on the fence – some avoided it while others couldn’t get enough of it. But we all agreed that the fresh scallops had a nice bite and the roast pork, though not the most tender, was rich and robust in flavour. We would have asked to omit the shark’s fin though. 8 XIN CUISINE XIN’S TRADITIONAL PEN CAI $286.76 (four to six pax) and $393.76 (10-12 pax), from Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium, 317 Outram Road, tel: 6731-7173. Available from Jan 2 to Feb 14. 17 Ingredients Abalone, fish maw, dried oysters, fresh scallops, jellyfish, prawns, sea cucumber, roast duck, roast pork, Chinese sausage, bamboo pith, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, radish, sea moss, sea whelk and wolfberries. The Taste The strong hit of vinegar in the broth made us cringe, but the roast meats really stood out. The duck was tender, nicely tinged with smoky flavour, while some testers declared the lean pork belly the best they’d sampled out of the 11 pots. All pen cai require advance orders of one to three days; check with the hotels for more information. All prices are nett for takeaway orders. 9 WAN HAO DELUXE ABALONE PENCAI $393.76 (six pax) and $629.16 (10 pax, add $64.20 for each additional pax), from Singapore Marriott Hotel, 320 Orchard Road, tel: 6831-4708. Available from Jan 1 to Feb 14. 16 Ingredients Abalone, dried scallops, sea cucumber, fish maw, dried oysters, mushrooms, prawns, roast pork belly, roast duck, fried fish meat, cabbage, black moss, mustard greens, radish, yam and fried beancurd sheets. The Taste The seafood was well prepped and tasty – the sea cucumber was soft, the fish maw was tasty and the dried scallops, flavourful. The roast duck was tender and had just the right gamey flavour. But we were disappointed by the surprisingly thin gravy, which had an overpowering radish flavour. 10 SHANG PALACE ABUNDANCE TREASURE POT $361.66 (eight pax, includes an $88 dining voucher), from Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road, tel: 6213-4473. Available from Jan 7 to 30. 16 Ingredients Fried fish maw, abalone, top shell, sea snails, prawns, dried scallops, sea cucumber, goose web, mushrooms, roast pork, soya sauce chicken, turnip, yam, lotus root, black moss and stewed duck. The Taste The most sumptuous-looking, and it tasted good, too. The soft, jelly-like sea cucumber was the best out of all the pots; also good were the pork belly, succulent chicken and firm steamed prawns. The light, veggie-flavoured broth was delicious to slurp up, too. The only weak link was the duck, which was a tad too rare. 11 LI BAI DOUBLE TREASURES FORTUNE POT $393.76 (six pax), from Sheraton Towers Singapore Hotel, 39 Scotts Road, tel: 6839-5623. Available from Jan 13 to Feb 14. 19 Ingredients Abalone, pork leg, goose web, pork tendon, pork belly, fish maw, sea cucumber, fishballs, Chinese sausage, dried oysters, dried scallops, fresh scallops, roast chicken, roast duck, prawns, radish, dried beancurd skin, yam and mushrooms. The Taste All the ingredients hit the mark, especially the plump mushrooms, well-flavoured sea cucumber, crunchy prawns, and savoury roast pork belly. But the overly salty, too-thick gravy had a distinct taste of mushrooms, which some found overpowering. Best with a bowl of rice to tone down the strong flavour.