[Singapore] Soysauce chicken from ๐— ๐—ฎ ๐—Ÿ๐—ถ ๐—ฌ๐—ฎ ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—–๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐—ป, Chinatown Food Complex

I know Cantonese chef, Maria Siew Pui Yin (่งไฝฉ่‹ฑ), since her Sin Nam Thong (ๆ–ฐๅ—ๅ”) days back in the early 90s. Back then, she rejuvenated an old dim sum parlour, Nam Thong Pau (Est. 1926) run by her father into a small, bright outfit called Sin Nam Thong, specialising in roast meats (crisp-skinned roast pork, char siew BBQ pork, roast suckling pig), Cantonese noodle stir-fries, and her soysauce chicken. Her shop had the best plate lunch with roast meats then. Especially popular was her tasty soysauce chicken, with an addictive sweet-savoury soysauce-rose wine-herbal dressing. It literally burst with flavours. Maria Siew also used capons (which in Chinese is translated into โ€œvirgin chickenโ€) which yielded meatier, tastier flesh.

Maria Siew bore a striking resemblance to HK actress, Maria Cordero, who heard about her cooking prowess and made a concerted effort to dine at Sin Nam Thong during one of her visits to Singapore. The two became close friends and there was even a large poster-sized picture of the two of them adorning the wall behind the cash counter in Sin Nam Thong.

In fact, Singaporeโ€™s first Michelin-starred hawker, Mr Chan Hon Meng, worked for Maria Siew at Sin Nam Tong then, until she closed her restaurant in the mid-2000s as the construction of the MRTโ€™s Downtown Line threw barricades right in front of her shop, severely affecting the pedestrian traffic there. Many businesses were affected by the construction but, for me, the biggest loss which I felt was the closure of Sin Nam Thong. It was the end of an era. In its original incarnation as Nam Thong Pau, it used to open at 4am to cater to working-class labourers/coolies who started their day very early. Golf ball-sized steamed siew mai were served - none of those dainty, little HK-influenced ones. Their customers, mostly those doing menial labour, seeked big, robust breakfasts to start their day.

Anyway, Maria Siew made a comeback after a 10-year-hiatus and re-appeared at the Chinatown Food Complex - ironically, her stallโ€™s just a few yards away from her former protegeโ€™s Liao Fan HK Soysauce Chicken Rice & Noodles [Singapore] World's Cheapest 1-Michelin-star eatery: ๐—›๐—ž ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐˜†๐—ฎ ๐—ฆ๐—ฎ๐˜‚๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—–๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ฅ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ & ๐—ก๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—ฑ๐—น๐—ฒ๐˜€, as Chan Hon Meng aka Hawker Chan hit the big-time ever since he became one of the first two hawkers in Singapore had to gain a Michelin-star in the first edition of the Singapore Red Guide in 2016. 2- to 3-hour long queues were common at his stall in the early days of the Michelin announcement. The craze has tapered off somewhat, but one still faces long queues for Michelin-starred soysauce chicken-on-rice which is, frankly, not much different from Maria Siewโ€™s - and sheโ€™s the one who taught Hawker Chan how to cook!

Maria Siewโ€™s stall display is pretty similar to Hawker Chanโ€™s, with rows of soysauce chicken.

Maria hasnโ€™t lost an iota of her skill when I was there a few weeks back - her soysauce chicken was as good as I remembered. Tender pieces of chicken, slathered in her inimitable sauce, slightly sweeter than most other placesโ€™.

But my favourite dish there is her soy-braised tofu, where you get the smoothest, softest tofu ever, which provided a perfect foil to the strong flavours of Mariaโ€™s signature soy-caramel sauce. I also ordered some poached chicken livers besides the tofu, but the earthy flavours of the (slightly overcooked) livers did not fare as well.

We also ordered a plate of Chinese broccoli , topped with oyster sauce and golden-fried shallots. It wasnโ€™t very good - the vegetables were fibrous and tasted slightly bitter. Not recommended.

Overall, it was a really good meal. Iโ€™d come back again & again (& again!) for her soy-braised tofu.

Address
Ma Li Ya Virgin Chicken (็‘ชไฟไบž่™•ๅฅณ้›ž)
Blk 335, Smith Street, #02-189, Chinatown Food Complex, Singapore 050335
Opening hours: 7.30am-4.30pm Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun.

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Need to hurry, looks like Maria Siew is looking forward to sell her business eventually since her kids would not take over her business.

As usual thanks @klyeoh for the excellent post, especially the historical context.

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I would be very sad indeed if no one in her family carries on the business. I wished that, 20-30 years ago, Iโ€™d taken photos of the old place and her food, but it was something that wasnโ€™t done back then.

Was the food different in the old place?

Her formula is on sale now and it is not cheap.

Absolutely. Back then, it was a proper Chinese noodle house, with a range of roast meats (and her amazing soysauce chicken) thrown in. Quite often, we ordered her fried wat tan hor fun and yee fu mein. Sometimes, weโ€™d opt for a la carte Cantonese dishes to go with rice, and weโ€™d have a plate of crisp-skinned roast pork and char siew as well.

Iโ€™d been there for a proper Chinese dinner as well, where we ordered a whole roasted suckling pig. Back then, Maria Siew usually sat behind the cash counter or else came out to chat with her regular customers. She was the consummate hostess then, well-coiffed and immaculately-dressed. No resemblance to what sheโ€™s doing now - cooking herself behind the counter in a hawker stall.

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Does she do that anymore? If not, where do you recommend to order such a pig?
(We love roasted suckling pig!)

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Not anymore, unfortunately. Roast suckling pigs can be had from Imperial Treasure in Great World City, Jade Palace in Forum or Crystal Jade Palace in Ngee Ann City.
But one of my Singaporean uncles LOVE the one served at CRC Restaurant in Penang. He got 4 of his Singaporean friends to come try it in Penang last month. They liked it do much, they went back the next evening for another suckling pig. I didnโ€™t go back with them the second time - Iโ€™m on Crestor! :joy::joy::joy:

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Thanks so much. Will definitely go there if we visit Penang again. Simply canโ€™t resist a good pig!

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CRCโ€™s roast suckling pig.

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Thanks for the photos. That was paradise! We ate a few times in Hong Kong, at Kamโ€™s Roast Goose and Xin Dau Ji (photo below), and is still looking forward for the perfect pig. I can see the skin of CRC pig glittered, looks delicious already.

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