Have you heard of steamboat being served at a hawker centre? I haven’t! Imagine my “excitement” when I heard about Ah Pang Steamboat Seafood that’s been around at Mei Ling Market and Food Centre for the past 24 years! Sometimes I feel like I live under a rock.
If you noticed, I used quotation marks. The reason is because I wasn’t looking forward to the steamboat experience at all. Why? The weather is crazily hot these days. “How am I going to enjoy having steamboat at a hawker centre?” I thought to myself as I walked through the familiar neighbourhood of Mei Ling Street— I spent my weekends here with my grandparents growing up.’
I arrived at Mei Ling Food Centre and it was a Monday. As I approached the second floor where the food centre was located via the escalator, I noticed that at least 90% of the stalls were closed— it was so quiet that you’d hear a pin drop.
Ah Pang Steamboat Seafood occupies two hawker stalls. I noticed that the zi char dishes on the signboard had their prices taped up. “We only sell steamboat now after my father retired,” said the stall owner. There were four other tables apart from ours in the empty hawker centre. With high ceilings, lots of fans, and the natural breeze blowing from the unobstructed surroundings, I wasn’t feeling hot at all!
What I tried at Ah Pang Steamboat Seafood
The minimum order at Ah Pang Steamboat Seafood is the 2 Pax Steamboat Set (S$32). For hawker standards, I felt that the price was a little on the high side. Technically, you’re paying about S$16 for one person. You are given a choice of either pork, beef or chicken for the set.
The 2 Pax Steamboat Set consisted of a hot pot atop a portable stove filled with chicken stock, a plate of sliced pork which I had chosen, four large prawns, nine pieces of sliced fish (yes, I actually counted), xiao bai cai, cabbage, two eggs, a plate containing sausages, two pieces of cuttlefish, three button mushrooms, three fishballs, three fish dumplings, two meatballs, and a dollop of pork.
As my dining partner and I were busy adding ingredients to the boiling stock, I swiftly picked up the huge prawn with my chopsticks. It was fresh and boasted a bright red hue, and the meat was firm and naturally sweet— I was off to a good start.
The pork slices were springy and tender at the same time. It reminded me of venison meat that I ate several times before at other zi char places, which I was told is actually pork with loads of tenderiser added— can anyone tell me am I eating actual venison or tenderised pork if I order venison outside? Let me know in the comments please!
The homemade chilli was fragrant and had a fiery spice that would definitely entice chilli enthusiasts. It was a really good accompaniment to all of the steamboat ingredients.
The fish dumplings were chewy and very tasty despite their size— too bad there were only three pieces. The meatballs and fishballs were also decent and pretty standard in my opinion, nothing to find fault with.
The fish slices were transparent, and had a shiny outlook to them before we dunked them into the boiling broth to cook. My dining partner took a bite first and said, “the fish tastes funny.” I was worried that the fish might have gone rancid, and proceeded to try it myself.
It had the familiar muddy taste of freshwater fish, which I experienced while consuming whole steamed fish at wedding banquets in the past— anyone has had similar encounters? In a nutshell, the fish was a letdown in comparison to the other ingredients.
Ah Pang Steamboat Seafood is located at a well-ventilated and ideal hawker centre which has a high ceiling. It was a pleasant experience having steamboat over here as things seem to slow down a notch, which is a plus point for me in terms of ambience— despite the fact that it’s a hawker centre.
The soup was rather bland and quite honestly, I can cook up a better stock. Dennis, the stall owner, told me that no MSG is being used, but agreed with me that perhaps the stock wasn’t boiled long enough. He also shared that he has notified his fish supplier about the muddy fish taste.
With Dennis’s positive attitude, I’m sure that there will be a vast improvement when I visit them again in the future, hopefully.
Expected damage: S$16 – S$20 per pax
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