SINGAPORE - One night several years ago, my friends and I left a party early and headed straight for the Rangoon Road branch of Whampoa Food Street (Keng) Fish Head Steamboat Restaurant.
Parking here is easier than at the other outlet in Balestier Road and I remember the excellent soup from the fish steamboat and juicy prawn paste chicken.
Fast forward, oh, five years, and I am no longer a zi char newbie.
The prawn paste chicken ($8) is still pretty good, with a crisp crust that makes a happy sound when you bite into it. But the mid-joint wings do not have as much of a kick as the version at Ka-Soh in College Road.
I still like the cloudy, garlicky fish soup but our steamboat ($30) is full of overcooked fish. It is a real pity because the red garoupa comes in generous chunks. They have just been sitting in hot soup for too long and that is a real crime.
Otherwise, the food here is terrific.
Braised pork knuckle ($22), a special on the night I dine there, is luscious. The knuckle is deep fried before a long, slow braise.
Why take the trouble, you wonder. The skin loses its crispness during the braise anyway. But the deep frying adds another layer of flavour, the way browning cubes of beef before stewing produces a more nuanced end result.
There are days and weeks when I cannot bear the thought of eating anything with a thick layer of fat but the knuckle here is not fatty, just gelatinous. Collagen is good for the skin, one of my friends says, in a vain attempt to justify eating more. It is as good a reason as any.