Amidst the hype about cafes and Korean dessert spots, zi char is something that never dies out. Zi char meals tie us down and bring us closer to home. And so, with much love, I’ve compiled 20 great places for zi char around Singapore.
Zi char holds a great significance in our local food culture and this warm and hearty meal never fails to invoke nostalgia. Best of all? It is extremely wallet-friendly, which is great for groups from all walks of life. Zi char sure brings vibrancy to the mundane hawker fare with families and friends sharing quality time over good food. So go on, feast away!
1. 8 Crabs
Personally, I’ve always preferred to eat crab at home, as I can take my time to enjoy cracking open each piece in a comfortable and relaxed setting. It was with great delight that I discovered 8 Crabs, an award-winning crab and seafood delivery service in Singapore.
Specialising in crabs— specifically wild-caught Sri Lankan crabs, which are air-flown in daily for maximum freshness, and are cooked and delivered within an hour— 8 Crabs also dishes out other delectable zi char favourites, such as assam fish head curry and cereal prawns, so that you and your loved ones can dig into a true smorgasbord of local delights from the comforts of your own home.
Sri Lankan crabs are known for being meatier, larger and tastier, and 8 Crabs’ Award-Winning XXL Chilli Crab (S$139.90) lived up to its expectations the minute I cracked it open.
The chilli crab was so huge that I had problems lifting up the pincer with one hand. Not even joking! Biting into the crab’s flesh was incredibly satisfying, and I appreciated how the meat was noticeably plump, firm, juicy and tender— and thankfully was not as watery or mushy as other crabs I’ve had.
As for the chilli crab gravy, it was fantastically addictive, and I loved dipping the Fried Man Tou (S$6 for 5 pieces) in it. Those who cannot handle their spice will be glad to know that 8 Crabs’ gravy was more savoury than spicy, with a rich and aromatic depth of flavour that made me want to eat the gravy as it was.
On the off chance that your crab isn’t up to your satisfaction, 8 Crabs even does a 1-for-1 replacement guarantee! To be eligible for this, be sure to contact them within an hour of receiving your order with photos and/or videos of your crab.
If you’re dining as a family, be sure to order 8 Crabs’ other zi char offerings as well. In particular, I enjoyed the Assam Fish Head (S$35.90) for its piquant and sour gravy, which went well with the Signature Fried Rice with Lup Cheong and Ebiko (S$28 for regular, S$45 for large).
Adventurous foodies should try its Zebra Mantis Shrimp (S$20 per piece for regular, S$30 per piece for large), with each mantis shrimp ranging from 100g to 300g, depending on the size you got. It comes in several flavours, such as Steamed with Egg White, Steamed with Vermicelli, Stir Fried in Salt and Pepper, Ma La and Sambal.
I also loved the Premium Steamed Hokkaido Royal Scallops (Live) with Vermicelli (S$58 for 6 pieces) for its fresh and succulent Hokkaido scallops, and don’t forget to order the Signature Yam Paste with Gingko Nuts (S$32) to end the meal off on a sweet note.
Do note that the Zebra Mantis Shrimp is a seasonal item and prices will vary, so look out for it on 8 Crabs’ website!
At Hao Kee Seafood Deluxe, it’s not the fancy dishes like chilli crab or cereal prawns that are the show-stealer. It is, in fact, their humble Chao Tah Bee Hoon (S$7 for small, S$13 for medium, S$19 for large) that won our bellies and our hearts.
Break into its pancake-like charred exterior and a generous cluster of squid, prawns and fish cakes will be revealed in front of you. Strong fragrant flavours of wok hei aside, you will also be able to savour its subtle natural sweetness from the use of fresh seafood, alongside bites saltiness with the addition of chunky lard bits.
For a match made in heaven, pair your plate of bee hoon with their Curry Fish Head (S$25). Served with tau pok (beancurd puffs), an assortment of vegetables and a meaty fillet of fish, the rich creamy curry is just the perfect gravy to top off your bite of Chao Tah Bee Hoon for that extra kick of spice and oomph.
Blk 806, Woodlands Street 81 Singapore, Singapore 730806
+65 8688 1382
Daily: 11am – 11pm
For a full vegetarian zi char feast, Zhenyi Veggie Place (真一素食坊) is the eatery to be. Bask in the comforts of a fully air-conditioned environment as you savour unconventional vegetarian dishes such as meatless Ginger Duck (S$9 for small, S$15 for large) and Sweet & Sour Pork (S$9 for small, S$15 for large).
Filled with deep earthy flavours, their Bak Kut Teh (S$8 for small, S$16 for medium) is a familiar and comforting delight full of assorted mushrooms, mock meat, tofu skin and tau pok. Without the use of pork, the broth has a clean medicinal taste that will warm your body with every sip taken.
Elsewhere, their plate of Cereal Veggie Prawn (S$11 for small, S$19 for large) is a zi char staple that will surprise you with its generous amount of cereal bits. A stellar combination of sweet and savoury, the mock prawn has a nice bite similar to that of fish cake, firm yet chewy at the same time.
128 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, #01-1853, Singapore 560128
+65 6456 3307
Daily: 10am – 10pm
If you have been craving for Authentic Thai-Chinese dishes served in the district of Yaowarat— the Chinatown of Bangkok, you will be in for a treat at Yaowarat Seafood.
Here, the selection exceeds most Thai restaurants, with an array of seafood, meat, rice and noodles dishes similar to that of a conventional zi char eatery. Kick start your meal with appetite-whetting Mango Salad (S$9.90). Refreshing and fruity, this is the perfect dish that will get you all ready for what’s to come next.
Despite being a seafood restaurant, Yaowarat Seafood sure knows how to handle their meat as seen from their Deep Fried Garlic Pork (S$12.90). Bite into the pork ribs and you will be able to feel the fusion of fats and lean meat disintegrating in your mouth. Although crunchy and crisp on the outside, the pork is tender and juicy inside— a delightful dish to go with a cup of icy cold beer.
Never leave Yaowarat Seafood without trying their Yaowarat XO Treasure Pot (S$78 for 600g crab, S$108 for 900g XL Lobster). Swimming alongside a whole Sri Lankan Crab in the milky broth are prawns, Venus clams and squid, served piping hot in a clay pot.
With a robust and rich broth, succulent seafood and slurp-worthy noodles. What more can you ask for?
5. Lam’s Garden (former Chef Lam 65)
Previously known as Chef Lam 65, the stall was renamed to Lam’s Garden after it moved out from its former premise in Golden Mile Food Centre.
Newly situated at ARC 380, this is my go-to zi char stall when it comes to big group sharing portions at wallet-friendly prices as dishes at the new Lam’s Garden remain as scrumptious and mouth-watering as I remembered them to be.
Here, the highlight has got to be Chef Lam’s famous “Twin Peaks”, the Seafood Crispy Noodle (S$6.50 for single, S$12 for sharing) which comes in two sizes—a single tower for the individual portion and duo towers for sharing. Carefully destroy the towers and you will get to feast on crispy sheng mian dipped in a velvety vicious seafood sauce studded with fresh seafood like prawns, fish slices and sweet clams.
While its famed Fish Head Steamboat is no longer available due to the relocation to a food court, be sure to try its Curry Fish Head (S$28), which is one of its signature dishes.
Since the practice at Lam’s Garden always has been cook-to-order, you definitely have to exercise a little bit of patience especially when it comes to weekends. But for the quality and price of their food, trust me, it will be worth it.
6. Dai Lou (大佬)
Located at Punggol, Dai Lou is known for its traditional zi char selections. Some of the popular dishes are the famous Dai Lou’s Money Bag (S$53.90), and Honey Milk Pork Cubes (S$13 for small, S$18 for medium, S$23 for large).
Dai Lou’s Money Bag was inspired by Louisianian cuisine where a pot is filled with the crab shell, prawns, mussels, clams and crab meat. Dai Lou has created two variations of said Money Bag to cater to various preferences.
On the other hand, the Honey Milk Pork Cubes is the talk of all diners. Dai Lou tenderises the meat in both milk and honey before it is deep-fried and stir-fried. Every bite exudes juicy sweetness that is just pure delight.
7 Chui Xiang Kitchen (醉香小厨)
Chui Xiang Kitchen is a small Chinese zi char joint along the short Casuarina food stretch. It was formerly located at Commonwealth but has since moved to Thomson.
Here, the Salted Egg Crab ($48), Marmite Pork Ribs (S$16) and Live Lobster Porridge (S$38) are all nicely executed dishes that are a must-try. The Live Lobster Porridge, in particular, uses a really delicious, rich seafood stock that had me sweeping the bowl for the last remnants of porridge.
That being said, Live Lobster Porridge is not an everyday affair, so my favourite item would be their humble Beef Hor Fun (S$12). The beef slices are tender, the dark stewed sauce which drenched the kway teow noodles is savoury and meaty. Sometimes, I consider having this hor fun for all my three meals in a day.
126 Casuarina Road, Singapore 579514
+65 6458 4567
Daily: 11am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 10.30pm
8. Hong Kong Street Zhen Ji (香港街珍记)
You’d think that Hong Kong Street Zhen Ji’s rather plain-looking Sam Lau (Sliced Fish) Hor Fun (S$6.50 for small, $16 for big) would be bland, but in reality, it’s superbly fragrant.
The chefs at Hong Kong Street Zhen Ji have some good techniques because their Sam Lau Hor Fun exudes a rich, smoky wok hei that adds flavour and depth to the noodle dish.
The stall’s other accompanying dishes are equally as great too!
Blk 158 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, #01-590, Singapore 560158
+65 6453 8484
Daily: 11am – 2.30pm & 4.30pm – 10pm
Originally located at Commonwealth, Two Chefs Eating Place has another branch at Sin Ming too which occupies an entire kopitiam‘s space, so it can accommodate quite a number of hungry families at once.
If you can only try one item at Two Chefs Eating Place, it’s got to be their Butter Pork Ribs (S$10 for small, S$14 for medium, S$18 for large) which are salty, soft and juicy in the centre. Covered in sweet milk powder, this is a dish with a melange of texture and flavours that just gets me every time I order it.
Two Chefs Eating Place
116 Commonwealth Crescent, #01-129, Singapore 140116
+65 6472 5361
Daily: 11:30am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 10.45pm
Two Chefs Sin Ming
Blk 410A Sin Ming Avenue, #01-01, Singapore 571410
+65 6451 3812
Daily: 11.15am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 10.15pm
No guesswork is needed to figure out what Hualong Fishhead Steamboat‘s speciality is.
With 13 locations in Singapore, including Ang Mo Kio, Serangoon, Bukit Batok and Hougang, this zi char joint serves up a delightfully savoury Grouper Charcoal Fishhead Steamboat (price ranges from S$34.50 for small to S$52.80 for big, depending on outlet).
I love the soup stock, which has a very slight herbal flavour, and the addition of chunks of yam and grouper in the broth really add a satisfying bite.
Also worth trying are their Wok-Fried White Bee Hoon (S$6.50 for small, S$9.80 for medium, S$15.80 for large, S$20.80 for XL) and Crispy Salted Egg Calamari (S$15.80 for small, S$20.80 for medium, S$25.80 for large), two great accompanying dishes to go with your fish head steamboat!
11. Siang Hee Seafood
Why pay S$30++ in restaurants when you can get equally good pork knuckles at S$19? Situated opposite the busy famous food centre— Chomp Chomp, Siang Hee Seafood is a good alternative to avoid the crowd and have a hearty meal without all the waiting time.
This Deep Fried Pork Knuckle (S$19) got me squirming in my seat and I can safely say this was worth every single cent—the best way to spend S$19. The crispy skin enveloped layers of juicy, well-seasoned, and extremely tender meat, and this is definitely a must-try.
Other than the insanely good pork knuckle, the Pumpkin Tempura Prawns (minimum S$12 for 4 pieces) are heavenly as well. The rich and creamy sauce partnered with the juicy and chewy meat perfectly, trust me, you will only end up craving for more.
Don’t pass on the Spinach With Mushroom (S$12 for small, S$15 for medium, S$20 for large), that was one of our favourites as well. The mushrooms were really fresh and juicy, and the dish was just well seasoned in general.
49A Serangoon Garden Way, Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre, Singapore 555945
+65 9736 4067
Daily: 11.30pm – 9.30pm, Closed on alternate Mon
12. Ban Leong Wah Hoe
Ban Leong Wah Hoe has been around for a long time and established itself as a trusted zi char spot for those who live along Thomson and Yio Chu Kang. I live in the area, so I always head to Ban Leong Wah Hoe when I’m craving some good old Chinese dishes.
Their crab dishes feature big, hulking Sri Lankan crabs for a price tag more reasonable than other zi char and seafood places. I love their chilli crab gravy, which is thick and eggy, and perfect with their crispy golden-brown mantou.
Other pretty yummy items include their tasty Prawn Paste Chicken (S$8 for small) and XO Fried Rice (S$6 for small), which all hit the spot when I’m craving Singaporean flavours.
13. Kam Jia Zhuang Seafood
Kam Jia Zhuang Seafood can be quite empty on weekdays but don’t let this fool you because they serve one of the best zi char ever! However, do note that it can get crowded on weekends and when it’s full, the waiting time is really really long.
Their signature dishes include the Deep Fried Chrysanthemum Grouper (S$32) and Deep Fried Prawn Ball With Pumpkin and Butter Sauce (S$16.80 for small, S$25.80 for medium, S$33.80 for large) which are must-gets.
The fish is dipped in Thai-style sweet and sour sauce served with a generous portion of mango salad. Seasoned to perfection, this dish will surely tingle at your taste buds.
The prawn ball has a thick flavourful sauce that complemented the juicy meat and crunchy crust so well, it had me reaching for more. We had this a couple of times actually and it is always just as good!
202 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, Singapore 560202
+65 9151 6798
Daily: 1pm – 10.15pm, Closed on alternate Tue
14. Yeo Keng Nam Chicken Rice
Known for authentic and delicious chicken rice, Yeo Keng Nam Chicken Rice never fails to bring a hint of nostalgia. A small cosy spot tucked away at the end of Braddell Heights Estate, this place is always bustling with business.
Yeo Keng Nam has a zi char menu, which also has one of the widest varieties out of all the places. The Nonya Curry Fish Head (S$28.50) definitely deserves a mention. My favourite dishes have got to be the Chinese Spinach With Assorted Eggs (S$13.50 for small, S$26.80 for large), Salted Egg Sotong (S$13.50 for small, S$26.80 for large), and the Hainanese Pork Chop (S$12.30 for small, S$24.50 for large).
I especially liked the broth of the Chinese spinach as the assorted eggs provided texture and a strong punch of fragrance that made the dish so tasty. Out of the many dishes we’ve tried, the only disappointment was the Herbal Drunken Prawns (S$17.80 for small, S$35.80 for large) that really lacked flavour. No doubt the soup was well-seasoned, unfortunately, the prawns were bland and tasteless.
The Cereal Prawns (S$17.80 for small, S$35.80 for large) proved to be a way better option. Extremely generous with the proportion of salted egg and flour coating, this deep-fried seafood dish will surely satisfy your taste buds, a must-get for salted egg fans.
15. Kelly Jie Seafood (former Mellben Seafood)
Kelly Jie Seafood is always bustling with business no matter the day, so I would definitely recommend making a reservation before coming down. Otherwise, do it the Singaporean kiasu (fear of losing out) way and make sure to get someone to come down early and chope seats to beat the dinner crowd.
This little seafood restaurant is a place we frequent, and I can safely say that consistency is there as they never fail to serve up a perfect meal for us.
The star of the night was the Claypot Crab Thick Bee Hoon Soup (seasonal prices). Gosh, this is really the best way to have your crab. The soup is unbelievably flavourful and so very addictive, don’t be surprised if you see people finishing up this gigantic bowl. In fact, we always order an extra serving of soup and noodles because it is simply that heavenly!
Amongst all the other different ways to have your crab here at Kelly Jie Seafood, this is certainly our favourite. If this doesn’t interest you in the least bit, then the Black Pepper Crab (seasonal prices) and Salted Egg Crab (seasonal prices) are pretty good alternatives.
We also particularly liked the Homemade Beancurd With Assorted Mushrooms (S$20.70) for its perfect mix of textures and flavours. With just the right amount of mushrooms, tofu and pork floss, this dish was simple yet delicious.
Famous for its Mee Tai Mak (noodle made with rice flour, commonly known as rat noodles or silver needle noodles), 136 Hong Kong Street Fish Head Steamboat also boasts a pretty good zi char menu that has the best value-for-money dishes.
Needless to say, the Special Braised “Mee Tai Ba” In Claypot (S$8) is a must-try and it sure did not disappoint. It featured chewy noodles drenched in a thick, well-seasoned gravy that could do with a little more meat but was delicious nonetheless.
That aside, my favourite dish of the night was the Pork Ribs With Salted Egg (S$16).
Once again, the salted egg dish left a major salted egg fan like me feeling extremely satisfied. Perfectly seasoned coating and tender ribs, I have no complaints at all.
1 Upper Aljunied Lane, #01-02, Singapore 360001
+65 6285 1017
Sun to Fri: 10.30am – 2.30pm & 5pm – 10.30pm
Sat: 4.30pm – 10.30pm
17. Yang Ming Seafood
Stepping into Yang Ming Seafood’s Ubi outlet felt like I was transported to Malaysia, with large fish tanks lining the storefront despite it being located in a kopitiam.
With a breezy and spacious dining area with newly-installed fairy lights, it really makes for a chill yet indulgent zi char experience with the family. Plus point for being located in an industrial building with tons of parking! Do note that Yang Ming Seafood also has another outlet in Bishan.
If you’re up for crabs, be sure to try Yang Ming Seafood’s Claypot Crab w/ Thick Bee Hoon (seasonal price) and Andrew Lobster (S$98 for 2 pieces & $S147 for 3 pieces), the latter of which comes with large lobsters on top of slippery chee cheong fun. Though pricey, my personal favourite was the Pig’s Stomach Chicken Soup (S$68, pre-order only), which came with a peppery herbal broth that warmed my entire body.
71 Ubi Crescent, Excalibur Centre, Singapore 408571
+65 8028 2230
Daily: 11.30am – 2pm & 4.30pm – 10.30pm
Keng Eng Kee Seafood is a titan in the zi char field, and they’re most known for one dish: Signature Moonlight Horfun (S$7.80 for small, S$12.80 for medium, S$19.80 for large), which is supremely smoky, savoury and filled with wokhei.
Also affectionately known as KEK Seafood by its regulars, this family-run zi char restaurant has been around since the 1970s. Its Coffee Pork Ribs (S$15.80 for small, S$22.80 for medium, S$32.80 for large) will be a great hit with the family, and if you’re up for seafood, be sure to try its Chilli Crab (seasonal price), which goes hand-in-hand with Steamed Bun (S$1.80).
This zi char restaurant has been featured on plenty of places, including Netflix’s Street Food Asia in Episode 8, as well as Anthony Bourdain: Part Unknown’s Season 10!
19. Hua Yu Wee
Time stands still at Hua Yu Wee, which is one of the last few seafood restaurants standing along Upper East Coast Road.
You’ve probably seen it if you drove by— yes, it’s that seafood restaurant located within an old-school heritage bungalow. In fact, it was even branded as a landmark in the Bedok Heritage Trail in 2016!
Hua Yu Wee is known for its seafood, such as the Ketchup with Chilli Crab (seasonal price) and Butter Crayfish (S$29.96 for small, S$59.92 for large). To accompany your seafood feast, you can order its Coffee Ribs (S$12.90 for small) and Sambal Kang Kong (S$10.70 for small).
Be sure to make a reservation in advance, as Hua Yu Wee is typically packed!
20. Jiak Modern Tsechar
Given the wide array of dishes you’d expect to find at a zi char restaurant, it’s understandably hard to locate a halal zi char joint, but halal-certified Jiak Modern Tzechar never fails to disappoint.
Located at Hillview Rise, Jiak aims to redefine local zi char classics with a modern twist. Expect to find familiar favourites like the Signature Curry Fish Head (S$22), as well as zhng-ed dishes like Slipper Lobster Black Bee Hoon (S$22 for small, S$32 for medium) and Creamy Buttermilk Lala (S$12 for small, S$18 for medium).
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