How often do you come across a hawker stall or restaurant in Singapore that sells pork trotter jelly (also known as de kar tang in Teochew)? It’s so rare that you can probably count with one hand. Lao Liang Pork Trotter Jelly & Shark Meat located at Berseh Food Centre is one of the few battle warriors remaining which still practices the laborious task of making this traditional old-school Teochew pork aspic dish.
I headed down on a gloomy Sunday morning around 11am, and was pretty stoked about dining here for the very first time despite passing by this hawker centre countless of times. I began searching for the stall on the second floor, and had to do a double take before my mind registered that it was the stall I was looking for.
The signage of the stall was all written in mandarin, so I could only decipher half of it with my half-past-six Chinese. The stall has been around for the past 50+ years and is operated by an elderly couple.
What I tried at Lao Liang Pork Trotter Jelly & Shark Meat
Presenting the highlight of my visit, the Pork Trotter Jelly (S$5 for small, S$8 for medium, S$10 for large). I ordered the S$5 portion as I was afraid it may not be my cup of tea.
The sheer appearance of it reminded me of terrine, which is a traditional French delicacy involving meats and/or vegetables arranged nicely in a mould, and left to set in aspic. It’s a labour-intensive task and my ex-chef colleagues over at the cold section used to constantly pray that the dish would not appear on our menu for VIPs.
The Pork Trotter Jelly was served with a sprinkling of fresh coriander and ice cubes. I’ve dealt with aspic before and know that they melt very easily under hot conditions. I guess the addition of ice cubes was to prevent that from happening.
As soon as it entered my mouth, the warmth of it started to slightly dissolve the brownish jiggly jelly, releasing a subtle flavour of meat broth. Happening in perfect harmony were the creamy flavours coming from the pork trotter fats and the meat which had absolutely no gamey taste. “Oh wow! This actually tastes pretty yummy.” I thought to myself as I wished that I’d ordered the medium portion instead.
The homemade chilli dip that was served together had a refreshing tangy kick to it, and was spicy in an underwhelming way, allowing you to fully experience the taste of the Pork Trotter Jelly without stealing its limelight.
There was a Guo Zhi Set (S$4 for one pax) which had the usual tau pok, pig’s intestines and all, but I wanted to save my stomach for the shark meat that was to come. I opted for a plain bowl of Kway Chap (S$0.50) which would be the perfect accompaniment to the other dishes.
It was topped with fried shallots and the colour of the broth was a few shades lighter than what I was expecting. What astounded me was the taste as soon as I had my first spoonful. It gave off strong gingery notes, a savoury rendition of ginger soup which is usually served with tang yuan for dessert.
Was it weird? It actually tasted pretty unique and paired really well with the Pork Trotter Jelly chunks— perhaps a better judge would be to order their Guo Zhi Set on my next visit here to see if it really works!
The last on my list was the Shark Meat (S$8 for small, S$10 for medium). The S$5 option was taped up, suggesting that shark meat is costly nowadays (nothing surprising as food costs in general are rising like nobody’s business).
Looking like a plain Jane with just a garnish of fresh coriander on top, it was served cold and there was only a reddish sauce with grounded peanuts on the side. The friendly aunty at the stall reminded me that this sauce was to be eaten with the Shark Meat.
Upon doing some digging, I learnt that the reddish lump was actually made of preserved plums— how interesting!
I tried the Shark Meat on its own, allowing me to fully appreciate the freshness of the flesh which possessed no awful fishy aromas or taste. Some parts of it were slightly rubbery, and other parts, incredibly tender. As with any large fish, the meat was slightly powdery..
Upon giving the plum sauce concoction a good mix, I dunked the meat in giving it a new lease of life and a little personality. The taste of the Shark Meat was enhanced with the nutty and crunchy peanut bits, while the subtle plum flavours delicately played a supporting role in the overall experience— a truly perfect combination!
With stalls like Lao Liang Pig Trotter Jelly & Shark Meat that struggle to maintain Singapore’s hawker heritage, it saddens me to think that such traditional dishes may just be a thing in the past soon.
I feel honoured that I’m given a chance to taste the street foods of Singapore’s past while they’re still around. If you’re curious too, head down to Berseh Food Centre and try these non-conventional hawker foods for yourself— they might just leave you gobsmacked!
Expected damage: S$5 – S$12 per pax