In short: Putien Restaurant focuses on delivering classic Henghua cuisine originating from Putian City, Fujian Province China. Its success is defined by its 63 outlets in 10 countries around Asia, with its Kitchener Road outlet in Singapore winning its 4th consecutive Michelin Star this year.
Having lived in Singapore for some 30 years before I migrated to Sydney, I grew up eating a lot of Chinese food, both home-cooked and at Chinese restaurants. While Singapore has developed a cuisine of its own, there are number of restaurants featuring cuisines from different regions of China. With China being such a huge country, each province presents their own specialties, depending on its location (whether it is surrounded by seas or mountains) and available local produce. Besides Cantonese and Hainanese cuisine, which is what I mostly ate at home, I have also come to like Henghua cuisine; and no one does Henghua cuisine more justice than Putien Restaurant in Singapore.
Putian City(莆田市) is a beautiful coastal city in eastern Fujian province of China, surrounded by mountain and seas, providing the Henghua people who live there with an abundance of fresh local produce and seafood. Putien Restaurant aims to introduce its customers to the culture, customs, and specialty of Xing Hwa cuisine showcasing an array of local food that is representative of the region.
For starters, we would definitely recommend the Seaweed and Mini Shrimp Salad (虾苗拌头水紫菜). This is the restaurant’s best selling Starter, having sold over 100,000! The soft, yet crunchy, seaweed is mixed in with luscious mini shrimps, tossed in a light tangy dressing to bring out the magical flavours of the sea, and finally wrapped with a cucumber ribbon to hold it all in place. In fact, the presentation of the dish almost makes it resemble a mount of black caviar. Having had my first taste of the salad, my only regret was not ordering two portions of it, as I definitely could not get enough.
When dining at any Chinese restaurant, there is one dish that is always a universal crowd-pleaser (fussy eater kids included) – Sweet and Sour Pork! Putien jazzes up the classic version of Sweet and Sour Pork (莆田荔枝肉) by adding lychees, to give it an added dimension of sweet and tangy punch. Bite-size pieces of tender pork, gently marinated, cooked until tender on the inside, then deep fried until golden brown on the outside. The delicious meat morsels are then tossed in a delicious sweet and sour sauce, with pieces of cut cucumbers and tomatoes to balance the flavour and texture of the dish. The end result is a dish that is colourful and glistening in appearance. The success of this popular dish hinges on the balance of sweet and sour flavours from the sauce and the contrast in texture between the pork meat, crunchy cucumber, and tangy tomatoes. Putien nails this classic dish and it even got a thumbs up approval from little Coco and Viner Sammi.
One of the most prized fish in Chinese cuisine is Tenggiri (马鱿鱼). When I was young, I remember that my mom would deliberately go early to the market to make sure that she was able to get the freshest available. She would then use it as base to make the most incredibly delicious fish congee. Because the flavour is mild and not overpowering, it is the best fish to cook for kids. Putien present theirs as a Deep Fried Tenggiri Fish (酥炸马鱿鱼). Kudos to the chef, as the fish was cooked to absolute perfection! Lightly coated with seasoned flour, then deep fried until golden brown on the outside, it still was juicy and moist on the inside. When the fish is this good, you really don’t have to do much, but just serve the delectable slices of fried fish by itself on the plate, no accompaniment needed, and let the food speak for itself.
To balance our meal, we decided to choose a dish from the vegetarian section of Putien’s menu, and we stumbled upon stir-fried Kailan with Bean Curd Skin(芥兰豆皮). Whoever said vegetarian dishes are bland, boring, and monotonous in colour, definitely needs to try this dish to defy any misconceptions about vegetarian dishes. Giant slivers of of beancurd skin are gently stir fried with button mushroom, straw mushroom, green kalian vegetable, red carrot and yellow corn. It is all tossed together with a delicious reddish sauce, which gives it an appetising appearance.
For me, no meal at Putien is complete without their signature Putien Braised Noodles(莆田卤面). This is one of the first dishes that I remembered trying at Putien when I came to its Kitchener Road restaurant many years ago when it first opened, sans any Michelin stars. This one dish keeps me coming back to Putien, over and over again, both when I was living there, and now whenever I am back in Singapore. It is the dish that embodies everything that I like about Putien’s style of cooking. It is simple, understated, yet packed with multi-dimensional flavours. The seafood broth is a milky creamy essence of wombok, kalian, prawns and clams. Combined with slippery noodles that are soft but not stodgy. The noodles soak up the flavour of the broth and it is just the definition of perfect comfort food, with its harmonious balance of flavour.
The restaurant environment is so pleasant and comfortable, and the staff at Putien Restaurants are friendly and helpful, making you feel so welcome and at ease. Dining at Putien Restaurant always brings back so many memories, and despite having eaten there several times, each visit for me is always a satisfying one.