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.

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Home & Food Taste Test -

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.

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