Business is competitive in Marine Parade as it’s lined with many shops and eateries. Naturally, you’d want to make what you own stand out. I imagine that’s why Western Empire has monthly specials that change up their mainstay menu.
They have plated dishes like Hickory BBQ Pork Ribs and Kurobuta Pork in previous months. That creates an interesting medley of the usual Western fare alongside a mix-and-match Asian twist. The default menu has 132 items, not including 19 different add-ons. You can still see the Asian influence as fried rice is on the menu, too.
The owner worked at Astons and Collins for 14 years before opening Western Empire in 2019. He didn’t start it alone but with his Malaysian PR friend.
He was doing relatively well, earning regulars and opening 2 more outlets at Bedok and Toa Payoh. Unfortunately, when Covid struck, those 2 branches had to be shut down. The young boss doesn’t seem all that deterred, though, as he’s already seeking new staff and planning to open another branch.
What I tried at Western Empire
The November monthly special is Namru Crispy Chicken (S$8.90). It was recommended to me when I was pondering what to order.
I thought it was a piece of fried chicken steak when I first saw it. The crunchy texture of the skin is caused by pan-frying the chicken steak marinated with red fermented bean curd paste and oyster sauce. I wouldn’t think that was what they used at first as the paste usually dyes food a noticeable red, and the steak’s skin wasn’t very prominent.
Because of this, the chicken, while cooked through, wasn’t hot when I collected it. The owner explained the paste would have burnt and ruined the overall dish.
It had been raining heavily on the day I visited, so the combination of colder weather and the dish’s temperature led to an underwhelming first impression.
The taste of the chicken steak reminded me of Fried Nam Yue Chicken Wings, which makes sense as the recipe also uses the red bean curd paste. As with its namesake, the skin of the Namru Crispy Chicken also has an audible crunch.
But that’s where the similarities stop. Due to the paste, Fried Nam Yue Chicken Wings are savoury and rich with umami. In contrast, I found the Namru Crispy Chicken to be milder in taste. But I will compliment it for being juicy, at least.
The Namru chicken is considered a main, so it comes with two complementary sides. I went with Mashed Potatoes and 4 pieces of Onion Rings. You can also choose Fries, Corn Rice, Mixed Vegetables, Sweet Corn, Coleslaw and Garden Salad.
The Mashed Potatoes were smooth and creamy with no random grainy bits. I would have liked it if they were more generous with the brown sauce. By itself, the mash itself was rather plain.
There is no way to mess up onion rings. They were fine and thankfully still crispy when I bit into them. There’s little to speak of about dipping sauces as we were given just the sweet chilli sauce. It paired well with the rings.
I also ordered the Popcorn Chicken (S$5.90) as an additional appetiser. It was a popular item among reviewers. At their price point, the portion given was very reasonable. I was surprised at how big the bowl was. It felt like I should have been sharing it with a friend.
While they were relatively dry, I quite liked the crisp and subtle spice of the snack. I still wish they had more dipping sauces to choose from.
While I find their monthly specials interesting, the overall taste felt like regular Western hawker fare. They were just fine, but not somewhere I would go out of my way to eat regularly. Of course, if they announce more interesting specials, I could still be tempted.
My lukewarm feelings could be a case of me not jiving with the Nov monthly special. For all I know, if I picked something else, it would have been hot when served.
They do have a hefty standard menu, though. So, if you’re looking for a Western hawker stall with plenty of options and happen to be in Parkway, try it yourself.
Expected damage: S$9 to S$18
The post Western Empire: 132 menu items & monthly specials like Red Fermented Bean Curd Crispy Chicken appeared first on SETHLUI.com.