Let’s take a trip down memory lane, back to the end of 2008. I had just ended my 8-year relationship and decided to go on a trip. I didn’t even book a hotel, I just took off and believed all will be good. The night I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, I met a guy at a bar and he invited me to have dinner together the next night. I was alone and still very depressed from the breakup of that long relationship, so I said yes. He took me to a famous local restaurant which I can’t recall the name anymore. It was only a week from Chinese New Year, he ordered many dishes, but I only remembered one: Yusheng, in Chinese we call it 捞(lāo)起(qǐ)鱼(yú)生(shēng).
Yusheng literally means raw fish. It’s a Lunar New Year salad made of thin slices of raw fish and a combination of spices. Its requisite communal tossing is part of what contributes to luck and prosperity in the coming year. A play on the names of ingredients that sound similar to words associated with prosperity and longevity, the dish is consumed throughout the 15 days of the Lunar New Year as well as New Year’s Eve as part of family reunion dinners.
12 years later, the sound of people greeting each other while raising their chopsticks and tossing Yusheng brought me back to reality. I’m sitting here in PUTIEN restaurant at IN77 with my friends and once again in front of me is Yusheng (priced from 68RMB/small to 238RMB/large).
The original restaurant was founded in Singapore in 2000 and was named after a coastal city in Fujian province – the owner’s home town. It soon became regarded as one of the top restaurants in Singapore and branches opened in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China. In 2016, the original Singapore location received one Michelin star and the Hong Kong Causeway Bay location received a Bib Gourmand rating. This Hangzhou branch comes with an easy-going atmosphere and its Fujian cuisine is respectful of tradition, with a focus on natural flavours.
When people speak of Fujian province, the cities Xiamen and Fuzhou come to mind, more so than Putian. Yet, the latter is a hidden culinary heaven with plenty of native ingredients worth seeking out. Located south of Fuzhou and surrounded by mountains and the sea, the geographic location gives the area a bountiful supply of seafood. With these resources, the Putian region has always been about bringing out the natural flavours of the ingredients.
I chatted away with some old friends while I enjoyed the procession of delicacies.
Sweet & Sour Pork with Lychees (莆田荔枝肉 49RMB) - Deep fried to light golden brown, the meat is tender and moist on the inside. The lychee is a perfect complement with its added burst of sweetness to the sauce. The sweet and sour pork with lychee has the right amount of sweetness, while the pork is extremely tender.
Stir-fried Yam (酥炒芋芯 48RMB) can't decide if it wants to be a savoury or a dessert, so you get meaty cubes of mashed yam more suitable for a yam ring, deep-fried in a sugary crust.
Braised Bean Curd with Chinese Cabbage (皇白菜炖软豆腐 68RMB), a perfect dish for winter! Homemade bean curd and Chinese cabbage, flavoured with Putian seasonal clams, dried shrimps and dried scallops in a light, irresistible tasty broth. It warms up your whole body, but one bowl is definitely not enough.
Deep-fried Duck with Yam (酥糯芋香鸭 58RMB) - Actually, it's more like duck meat wrapped in mashed yam (taro), then deep-fried. It's quite similar to eating deep-fried wu gok 芋角, a Cantonese dim sum item. The mashed yam was very smooth, but unfortunately the whole thing tended to be a little greasy.
The famous Hokkien snack Yan dumpling (pork dumpling) has a Putian variation: the Bian Rou Soup (莆田扁肉汤 15RMB/8pcs). Here, pork is pounded repeatedly for three hours to a fine texture without a trance of tendons. The minced meat is then combined with sweet potato flour and rolled out into a dough to make dumpling skins. The skin is then stuffed with more pork, and served in chicken broth laced with white vinegar.
A crowd favorite! Fujian Seafood Lor Mee (福建海鲜卤面 49RMB) was the top favorite dish from PUTIEN among many of my friends. It is different from our usual local Lor Mee. They braised smooth silky Putian noodles, pork belly, prawn and clams with pork broth. Making the dish rich and flavorful!
Now the best comes at the end! Pot of Goodies Abalone (原粒鲍鱼盆菜 358-1588RMB) symbolizes cohesion, unity and prosperity. Top grade ingredients, including whole abalone, sea cucumber, dried clams, and more are individually cooked then carefully layered in a pot and simmered in stock for eight hours before serving. This special New Year’s dish is available from January 1st to February 9th, 2020.
PUTIEN is good value for the money and is a casual dining place with family and friends. It is affordable and the dishes are delicious. Some of the dishes are pretty unique and not commonly found in other Chinese restaurants. PUTIEN is a great choice for your Chinese New Year dinner, you can check out their special CNY dinner set menu below. You may want to book early to reserve your spot!
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