I brought my colleagues, Rachel and Ansel to Paya Lebar Square to have an early lunch consisting of Chinese “hamburgers” at Qin Ji Rougamo. Just 3 months ago, I was blown away by these delicious pastry-like buns with fillings at Jiang’s Noodle House.
Apparently, this eatery offers 6 different kinds of fillings in their buns. I was pleasantly surprised that they also serve sour and spicy sweet potato noodles and cold noodles skin.
These were the exact dishes that sparked my interest with Chinese regional cuisine when I had visited Harbin, China a few years back.
What I tried at Qin Ji Rougamo
The first dish we tried was the Cold Noodles Skin 西安大凉皮 (S$6.50). The bowl consisted of a bed of cold noodles, Japanese cucumber strips, bean sprouts and tofu cubes served in a reddish gravy.
The noodles reminded me of kway teow with a chewy consistency. Upon giving the bowl a good toss, the flat strips of dough had taken on a reddish-orange hue coupled with specks of chilli flakes coming from the sauce.
The Cold Noodles Skin had subtle tangy notes and the spice level was bearable for the 3 of us.
The numbing sensation coming from the Sichuan peppercorns intensified by the mouthful as I slurped the noodles up. The cucumber strips and bean sprouts not only gave a crunchy texture, but also mellowed down the richness of the spices with its hint of freshness.
I was impressed that the tofu cubes had tons of flavour jam-packed into its tiny sponge-like body.
We then moved on to the Cumin Pork Rougamo (S$5.80). The filling consisted of pork chunks with slices of red onion and green capsicum encased in a flaky bun.
You’ll be greeted with the earthy taste of the cumin which is really fragrant and goes well with the sliced red onions and green peppers. The flaky bun mimicked the texture of roti prata without the oily mess.
We proceeded to the next flavour, the Black Pepper Beef Rougamo (S$5.90).
The bun was stuffed with slices of beef smothered in black pepper sauce, sliced onions and green peppers.
With every bite I took, the bits of coarse black pepper took my taste buds on a wild roller coaster ride with its peppery punches of heat.
Barely taking a breather from the pepper bun, my senses were awakened yet again from the Ma La Chicken (S$7.50). Even before I dived into this dish, I was already intimidated by its appearance.
The bowl consisted of chicken slices steeped in a red-hot gravy accompanied by pieces of dried chilli, sesame seeds, chickpeas, and topped with fresh coriander.
I didn’t know where to begin when I tried the meat— there were a thousand sensations happening all at once. Almost immediately, the numbness and heat from the spices and chilli oil started taking precedence over everything else.
My nose started to run and my forehead started to sweat a little. As I ate more, I started getting accustomed to the spiciness.
I began to appreciate the acidity of the vinegar which gave some brightness to the dish and it gelled really well with the fresh coriander leaves.
The nutty notes coming from the sesame seeds and the crispy miniature round chickpeas were an added bonus which took it up a notch.
Our last dish was the Sour & Spicy (Sweet Potato Noodle) With Minced Pork (S$8.80).
The loaded bowl contained a generous serving of minced pork, mustard vegetables, crispy chickpeas, bean sprouts, sweet potato noodles and coriander leaves.
The noodles were addictively chewy and became a mini workout in my mouth. The silky transparent strands were nuanced by the sour and spicy flavours of the broth.
The mustard vegetables added extra depths of tanginess which worked hand-in-hand with the savoury minced meat. Overall, it was a well-balanced bowl of yumminess.
Dining at Qin Ji Rougamo was like watching a movie in an IMAX theatre. Besides heightening my senses, the food also sent me on a little adventure. It was never a dull moment as each dish had its own unique characteristic.
If Paya Lebar is a little far off your radar, you’ll be glad to know that they also have branches at Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar and Alexandra Road.
Expected damage: S$5.50 – S$17 per pax
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