Nestled in the old red light district known as Keong Saik Road, is a famous and well known shop/restaurant known for their Cze Char named Kok Sen. Those who are unfamiliar with this term “cze char”, it is essentially a term to mean “stir-fry” but it denotes simple food that comes out from a piping hot wok but loaded with tons of flavours.
One of my directors brought 6 of us there for lunch one day and yes, this place is good for large groups because you want to try out as many dishes as possible! So…here are a couple of ‘must try’!
1. Big Prawn Hor Fun
This is a must try! The sauce is a spicy concoction that is so delicious and the hor fun (large flat rice noodles) has that right amount of wok taste (wok hei to the rest of us)! It’s lightly ‘burnt’ and this is like Chilli Crab meets hor fun. There is so much sauce that you might be tempted to order a bowl of rice just to slurp up the sauce without looking like a mad person.
Colleagues said that it was a bit too spicy and the funny thing is that I brought my parents here the next day for lunch and they said that same thing. I admit that it was fiery enough to trigger my nose but…I felt that it was just the right level of spice. And is that a hint of belachan that I taste?
Small – S$16
Medium – S$32
Large – S$48
2. Claypot Yong Tau Fu
There are only 3-4 types of yong tau fu in this claypot – brinjal with seafood paste, chilli with seafood paste, tofu with seafood paste and the seafood paste ball. I love the accompanying sauce, the seafood paste is really soft and it’s not too fried. Again, that claypot ‘taste’ was evident and yes…you probably are not regretting that bowl of rice because this goes into that mixture from the hor fun. But it’s all good. The sauces mix well.
I understand that the paste is a mixture of squid and prawn, which is minced and made by the restaurant themselves! It does taste that way because there is no paste that you can buy from the markets that are that tasty minus the bounce.
Ok, so moving on from the must-trys to the can-trys…
Steamed minced pork with salted fish
What surprised me about this dish was that the sauce was dark but it was not as salty as I thought it would be (especially when there’s salted fish in it!). The pork was really well minced and I couldn’t detect any hard bits from tendons or what nots. My only displeasure was that I was busy picking out the sliced ginger from within the steamed pork. Mind you, I did not move this into the ‘can-try’ list simply because of the ginger. The big prawn hor fun has more ginger than this dish! This dish is not wow. It lies in the category of homecooked comfort food.
Kai Lan with Roast Pork
Seems like a bit of a waste to stir fry vegetables with perfectly good roast pork with crackling and all. However, if you’ve eaten other dishes where roast pork is used, you’ll understand why this is a good pairing. The kai lan was super crunchy and the roast pork gave it a savoury and slightly smoky taste. It’s really well stir fried veg and one of my colleagues said that this could be a one-dish meal accompanied with rice.
Sorry but I didn’t get the chance to take a photo of this because at the time, I felt that it looked like an ordinary chicken dish. Tastes like it too. But…they told us that this particular chicken dish is only available on Fridays and the weekends. It’s tender and the skin is really crispy…but I reckon that it’s not the dish that will make you go back there ONLY on a weekend for it.
I have gone back there with my parents as mentioned earlier and the verdict is this: the food is really delicious. The not-so-good points were that some of the food had a bit too much salt in it and possibly a lot of MSG as the parents were very thirsty after lunch despite us drinking barley during the meal.
Also, be prepared to spend around $15-$20/pax. Nonetheless, I will go back again for the big prawn hor fun. Too good to be missed! Moreover, the whole Keong Saik area is now a bit of a hip hangout with a few boutique hotels around which makes it a fun area to just roam around.
Kok Sen Restaurant
30-32 Keong Saik Road
Lunch: 12 – 2.30pm
Dinner: 5 – 11pm