Friday, 28 February 2014

Zhen Zhen Porridge - Maxwell Food Centre - Singapore, Singapore.

Zhen Zhen Porridge

Singapore will always be my favourite country no matter where I travel in the world. I've been fortunate enough to have been able to go on many trips to experience different cities and explore new countries, in which I've enjoyed some places more than others. There is just something about Singapore that brings me back time and time again. Even though people tend to say it's such a small country, I find that there is heaps to do regardless. It's not too far from Australia, being only approximately 8 hours by plane from Sydney, as compared to going to the United States or Europe which can take up to a whole day. I'm not a plane person and get terribly sick at times, but that hasn't stopped me from going.

There are just so many great things about Singapore that I like such as the highly efficient transport system, the cleanliness of the city and the culture in general. But what I love most about the country is the variety of food on offer, the abundance of locations to get food,  how cheap food can be and how deliciously good the food is.  What is there isn't to like? The only negative is the weather as the humidity and heat gets to you but I prefer Summer over Winter any day.

I can write, write and write about how great Singapore is but this post is all about 'Zhen Zhen Porridge', located in Maxwell Food Centre, serving Singaporean hawker food at extremely affordable prices. It is relatively easy to get to as you can either catch the MRT (train) and get off at 'Chinatown' station, catch a bus or even take a taxi with all modes of transportation being pocket friendly. It is situated across from the Chinese temple.

Maxwell Food Centre may look a bit old and outdated and not appear to be the cleanness of places, but don't be scared off by this, as this is where the authentic Singaporean delights can be found.

What does Zhen Zhen Porridge specialise in you may ask? The two most popular items on their limited menu is the 'Fish Congee' and the 'Raw Fish Salad'. If you read Singapore food blogs, then there has probably been a mention of this place, as it is very popular with locals and tourists with queues starting early in the morning. Some like the taste of their congee while others do not. It all depends on personal preference and whether you're willing to wait in line for a long time!

Arriving just before 10am, we are shocked at the amount of people queuing up for congee so early on a weekend morning. We join the queue and end up waiting 40-50 minutes for a bowl of congee. In Singapore, people queue for things that are good and that only means one thing, the congee here is good. There is a huge pot at the back with an automatic stirrer containing plain congee. I think the main reason for the queue being so long is there is only one person cooking behind the counter so each bowl is cooked individually with the chef combining the congee with choice of meat. The people in front of us appear to be from Hong Kong and the person behind us was holding a map, so they must have been tourist too.

The menu you see is in Chinese but on the side of the glass there is a little menu in English. There are a few meat options on offer for the congee such as chicken, fish, century egg or a combination. The most popular being the fish.

The 'Fish Congee (SGD 3.00)' comes in what looks to be a small bowl but don't be deceived by how it looks as it is packed in densely. The congee is uniformly consistently, smooth and silky, cooked to perfection with fresh pieces of fish. The fish meat melts in your mouth and there is no presence of any weird fishy smells that you may get elsewhere. This is topped with fried shallots, spring onion and ginger. Then sesame oil and white pepper is drizzled on top to season. The congee is steaming hot and just so tasty, reminding me of the Cantonese jook.

 The grains of the congee have been fully dissolved so don't expect rice looking grains like the Teochew style congee with fluffy grains. That sweet and salty dipping sauce with fresh chilli is just phenomenal and I really want to know where I can this this in Sydney, so if anyone knows please let me know.

I noticed a lot of people ordering the 'Raw Fish Salad (SGD 5.00)' also called Yu Sheng in Chinese and this is another recommended dish for those raw fish lovers out there.

I had to get the 'You Tiao (Fried Dough Sticks)' from a neighbouring store called 'Pan Cake' to dip into the congee. A pair of freshly made and freshly fried fritters cooked on premises at a measly price of SGD 0.50.

Then we had to finish our meal with a 'Small Soya Bean Milk (SGD 0.70)' located across from the famous 'Tian Tian Chicken Rice'. Not artificial tasting and well balanced with the right amount of sugar.

Oh yes, do bring some tissue packets cause that's how you can reserve a table or a seat. These restaurants do not provide tissues to wipe your perspiration from the heat!

If you want to avoid the line-up, do go as early as possible and for those who are really eager, Zhen Zhen opens at 5:30am. They do sell out so it's best to go early to avoid disappointment. Worth the wait? To me yes, as I like the taste and texture. Even though I think it tasted better the last time I tried it a few years back but I still think it tastes great.  Well worth a try if you're in Singapore.

Maxwell Food Centre
Maxwell Road
Singapore 069184

Opening Hours
Open daily (Closed Tuesdays)
5:30am - 2:30pm


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