Authentic Hakka Yong Tau Foo Restaurant in Singapore

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Editor's note: This post is an April Fool's satire. Do have a laugh. 

The Hakka Yong Tau Foo Inception

"Aut HYTF. Din tonite?"

A fellow Malaysian whom I knew since my NUS days sent me this cryptic SMS a week ago.

Authentic Hakka Yong Tau Fu in Singapore?

There have been many claims to HYTF here but I have been disappointed again and again

I thought my friend had been working in Singapore for so long that he has forgotten what HYTF is really like.

So, my reply was: "Really?"

"Really really. Recently opened. Try. "

Have you seen the movie, Inception?
It began with a thought which expanded into a world of imagined reality. A simple SMS was sufficient to incept a thought to renew the quest for authentic HYTF here.

Still sceptical but "incepted," on the same evening I followed him with some of his friends as he wormed his way through the back alleys of a row of shops in the Sembawang area.

The kitchen was bustling and alive. It looked like a
family-run business alright.
Approaching from the back, the first thing I noticed was something very familiar in HYTF joints in KL: a bustling kitchen with a wok-ful of stuffed pieces being fried. It was the unmistakable HYTF smell of salted fish and fried beancurd.

Out came my camera. Click. Promising. We walked around it and entered from the front. 

The place was bustling...
When we stepped into the busy shop, I thought I was visiting a traditional HYTF restaurant in KL or Klang. There were Carlsberg posters with Cheong Sum ladies and Chinese words with prices scribbled on mahjong papers, clumsily pasted on walls with flaking paint. Workers were busy stuffing the pieces.

Busy hands working at filling up the piles of brinjal & bitter-gourd
HYTF pieces at the counter
I pinched myself. Yes, this was not a dream.

If you have been following my blog, you would have noticed that this is a cooking blog. I talk about my food, not others'. There are exceptions when I am overseas ( check them out here). But I have never reviewed a local eatery. Some of my friends like Ieat are doing a far better job.

But this is different. I could not resist scooping the story before others blogged their reviews or the ST Lifestyle reporters start buzzing in with their photogs. I am sure they will get round to doing that.

But as for now, you will hear my review of this new discovery.

The Stuffed Brinjal came beautifully fried, plated and garnished with spring onions. The savoury thick sauce was a perfect companion. A set of 2 costs S$3. This is considered expensive if you are having this in KL. But oh well, that is a small price to pay to enjoy it here.

Next was the Stuffed Fried Bean Curd or Fu Pok, as they say in Cantonese. They sell it here inverted with the meat stuffed on the skin side. The result is a gloriously crisped experience. They avoided saucing this to keep the crispiness. Thumbs up.

Inverted "Fu Pok"
The Stuffed Tau Kwas were beautifully fried (lead photo). Then before we could start on the Tau Kwas, the plate of Stuffed Bean Curd Skin and Stuffed Red & Green Chillis came. I shot my plate, ate and burped.

Beautifully stuffed and fried: Bean curd skin and Chillies
Last but not least, the Stuffed Bittergourd arrived in a large bowl of clear soup. Made from fish stock, sweet, savoury and with a bitter finish, the broth was fantastic. We ordered some bowls of rice to accompany it.

Meeting the HYTF Boss

It was mandatory to meet the boss. He fought shy of my camera and I spared him of that. He was busy in the kitchen and was happy to be interviewed as along as we allowed him to keep cooking.

Mr Tan at work
Mr Tan hails from Serdang New Village near KL. His family had been running a successful  HYTF restaurant business for many years. He first came here to work as an electrician in search of a better pay about a year ago.

That was when he first noticed that HYTF here is hard to come by, let alone good ones. He shrugged and wondered why no one seemed to be able to do it well here.

"It is easy," he said in his smattering of English and Cantonese. "Just stuff with pork, fish and salted fish. That is all. And be generous with the stuffing."

His face lit up when I told him that I am a Malaysian (actually, I was). He promptly declared that there is a 50% discount for Malaysians.

"You think in ringgit, right? We charge this much because Singaporeans are happy to pay. But for you countrymen, we shall do our business in ringgit."

"Is this offer on all the time?" we could hardly believe what we were hearing.

He paused for a moment. We could tell that he was changing the rules on the fly. He must have imagined his restaurant packed with greedy Malaysians and complaining Singaporeans.

"Er...only from 1st of April till the end of the month. Promotion, promotion.... " he smiled.

"The whole month of April, Mr Tan?"

He sounded rather annoyed, "The month starts with the 1st right? So it is from 1st of April till the end lah!"

That was a more complicated way of putting it but we did not argue further.

"Malaysia boleh! 50%? Really ah, Mr Tan?"

"Really, really!" he replied.

And if this was not a good enough, he asked us to return to our tables. He quickly whipped up a dessert dish. And what came next blew our our minds away.

The Unbelievable Black Truffle Dessert on
creamy egg custard - on the house!
It was a plate of Black Truffle served on a delicate bowl of egg custard.

"If you come in a group of ten, you have this on the house."

"But Mr Tan, isn't this a very pricey dish? Look at the amount of sliced truffle! A bowl of this is many times the cost of our HYTF meal."

He said that it will be so if bought commercially. But this came from somewhere near his Serdang area where black truffle was discovered late last year. It has now become a thriving business and Malaysia is fast becoming a serious exporter of black truffle. In fact, enriched by this, some Hakka businessmen grouped together to start a new Culinary Institution in Serdang to promote the Hakka food tradition.

How exciting! "What is it called, Mr Tan?"  

TRuffles Institution.  

I thought this sounded oddly familiar.


"Really! Really!", Mr Tan replied with a grin.

Hmm, really, really? There is that phrase again.

Authentic HYTF here in Singapore.
50% discount.
Black Truffle dessert on the house.

A Malaysian Institution more premium sounding than the one in S'pore.
And really, really...

This visit was beginning to sound rather odd. Some things were simply too good to be true. It was beginning to feel like a dream, an inception of sorts.

Was I incepted in my friend's dream? Or are you in mine, while I was in his? Which "layer" are you in now?

If you dare, you could try to find this joint.

1, Jalan April Satu
Sembawang Link Area

Tel: 20120401

Before you rush off to Sembawang, consider when this article was posted. And you may want to check out this post.

And we keep dreaming, whether yours in mine, or the other way round. Maybe, just maybe - an authentic HYTF restaurant does exist in Singapore!

Dreams are made of these

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  1. Ya rite, jalan April 1st.

  2. Was very happy till i saw the address! Really, really!

  3. Yes was so happy! I even goggle the address! Hahaha

  4. You're too much, dear food canon.
    Good thing I didnt read every word. Admired your photos and looked for the address.

    Reminds me of the egg one. lol. See u on fri at jln april empat. 745pm, where aut HYTF can really be found.

  5. oiiiiiiii though i thought the signboard looked rather old for a new joint

  6. Hope everyone had fun reading it. And we continue to dream...

  7. Sorry,, can i know where is the shop located at? i can't find any jalan april satu. thnaks :))

  8. Hi. If you read the article carefully, you would have noticed that it was posted on April Fool's Day. :)

  9. And i thought u were talking about Ampang Yong Tau Foo @ Upper Thomson Road which is along Sembawang road :p