When the opportunity arose to tour PUTIEN’s central kitchen – think: being able to sneak a peak at the behind-the-scenes of their daily operations and food preparation, and getting to interact with the chef – I jumped at the chance.
(Scroll down further to read about my experience there.)
After the educative tour, we headed to the flagship outlet along Kitchener Road –with our rumbling tummies and curious palates.
We sampled items from the new summer menu, along with their signature homemade beancurd (which we witnessed the making-process of, at the central kitchen).
PUTIEN Summer Menu
In celebration of summer holidays and splendid harvests, fresh fruit and melon feature prominently in PUTIEN’s Summer Menu this season.
The menu is deeply inspired by Executive Chef Li Gongba’s childhood memories: back in the Putian countryside, where he raced to the fields and enjoyed one of nature’s greatest gifts –freshly picked fruit.
Plum and Cherry Tomato Juice with Aloe Vera ($4.90)
To get things started, the Plum and Cherry Tomato Juice with Aloe Vera cleanses the palate, and stimulates the appetite. Featured in last year’s summer menu, it is now a permanent resident on the menu due to popular demand.
Most ideal for our all-year-round tropical hot weather, this refreshing drink is a great thirst quencher to beat the heat. You’ll need a straw wider-than-usual in diameter to suck up the aloe vera bits. What a nutritious and delicious drink.
It is freshly made upon order, so don’t throw a fit if it doesn’t arrive immediately –it is totally worth the wait.
My new-found love!
Homemade Sweet Corn Juice ($5.90)
Not featured in the summer menu, but if you’d like an alternative choice, the Homemade Sweet Corn Juice is recommended. It is served warm.
I tend to avoid food that is cooked with corn, because I dislike its texture so much that I would painstakingly pick each corn kernels out. I do like the naturally sweet taste of corn though.
This beverage is perfect, because the corn is puréed to a smooth, slightly thick consistency, and strained off any excess pulp. You can taste the natural unadulterated sweetness of corn without that dreadful-for-some texture. It is simply corn-y, wholesome and just all too potable. Love it.
Winter Melon in Orange Juice ($4.90)
Now, back to the summer menu. When this dish arrived, I was in awe. A heap of summeriness that glows with radiance arrives on a plate. The plating is immaculate: winter melon is cut into uniform blocks, and stacked neatly like Jenga blocks. Orange juice concentrate is what gives the winter melon its bright striking hue.
As improbable as it might sound – as many of us relate winter melon to savoury soups – the crunch of the melon, together with the sweet and zesty orange juice that doesn’t overwhelm, is a brilliant combination.
Want to recreate this? Winter melon is blanched in hot water. Next, it is shocked in ice water to stop the cooking process. It is then soaked in concentrated orange juice overnight in the fridge.
This dish makes a refreshing appetiser; it is ridiculously light.
Ah Yuan Fragrant Herbal Chicken ($8.90)
The Ah Yuan Fragrant Herbal Chicken looks plain, but it is anything but. Kampong chicken is cooked in a braising liquid of eight herbs, including fennel, cinnamon and angelica. The chicken fat is firm rather than slimy; it isn’t oily at all.
PUTIEN’s Spice Mum Chilli Sauce
PUTIEN’s homemade chilli sauce is made from fresh ingredients daily. This condiment is available on every table. Dip anything into it as you please. But usually with spice, if used too liberally, can easily ruin the flavour of a dish. It will be wise to use it sparingly, no matter how delish this concoction is.
There’s hint of garlicky aroma interspersed among a bold blend of chilli. It goes well with the Ah Yuan Fragrant Herbal Chicken. What seems missing is a bowl of fragrant chicken rice eh?
Thick Bitter Gourd Soup ($6.90 per pax)
Bitter gourd accounts for snippets of my nightmares. I have a sweet tooth, so bitterness – at the opposite end of the taste spectrum – veers towards unpleasant on my taste buds.
However, bitter gourd can too be palatable, depending on the preparation and cooking method. Thank you PUTIEN, for making bitter gourd seem less of a nightmare to me. I finished the entire bowl with no qualms.
The soup itself – comprising puréed bitter gourd – once cooked in chicken stock, loses its astringent bitterness (but not entirely), following by a sweet savouriness that is oh-so-tasty. Love the thick consistency by the way! So, so comforting.
Once you dig in, you get accustomed to the subtle (very subtle) bitterness of the soup. There are pieces of bitter gourd floating amidst the soup – they are slightly crunchy and a little bitter, but not alarmingly so – and prawns that are so deftly cooked. I’m not a huge fan of prawn but I wanted more.
Juicy and succulent, the texture of the prawn is perfect.
Stir-fried Prawns with Fruit Salad ($21.90, $32.90)
Just when I was yearning for more of that well-executed prawn, a stir-fried version arrived.
I am no chef, but I think the prawns are coated with some kind of flour (corn flour or starch?) for that lovely texture. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
Vibrant colours fill the plate; it is a playful mix of ingredients that is not only pleasing to the eyes but also to the palate. The contrasting tastes and textures is a mouth-watering revelation.
I absolutely adore this mood-enhancing dish.
PUTIEN Pork Ribs ($5.90 per pax)
Carnivores, it’s time to pick these up with your fingers.
Marinated for a good long time, the meat is fleshy and juicy when cooked, yielding a fall-off-the-bone-tender texture. Each piece sits on a refreshingly crunchy – as opposed to starchy – Chinese yam. The sauce is a little bit of sweet, sour and spicy.
Fried Heng Hwa Bee Hoon with Soy Milk ($5.90)
One of the highlights for me is the Fried Heng Hwa Bee Hoon with Soy Milk, available exclusively at their flagship restaurant, PUTIEN Kitchener Road, for a limited time period only.
I love it so much I’m secretly (not so secret anymore) hoping that this dish will make it on the regular menu at all outlets. (Especially the one at Nex where I patronise.)
Check out how it’s done:
1. Beat the eggs.
2. Measure a cup of soya bean milk. (I’m not sure about the precise measurements!)
3. Cook the beaten eggs in a non-stick wok. (A non-stick wok is crucial in this case.)
4. Add in soya bean milk. (Their soya bean milk is homemade.)
5. Add in the rice vermicelli. (They use Heng Hwa Bee Hoon, which is made from old rice milled by hand in Putian.)
6. Once the liquid is absorbed, the Bee Hoon is cooked.
7. It is time to plate. Tumble on some peanuts and sprinkle with fried seaweed.
It may look simple, but I am highly doubtful of my cooking abilities to be able to achieve the ideal result.
The combination of soymilk and bee hoon works splendidly. The bee hoon is translucent, silky, fine, chewy but not brittle. Once it has absorbed all the soymilk in the cooking process, the bee hoon evolves into a moist, creamier and starchier texture almost akin to mee sua, without being mushy at all. I’m hooked.
Lychee Mango Pudding ($4.90)
Back to the summer menu, it is time for dessert. The Lychee Mango Pudding is a novel take on Singapore’s favourite dessert, the Mango Pudding. Inspiration for this dessert is spurred by the abundance of lychee and mango in summer.
A layer of lychee jelly is set atop mango pudding; within you can find pomegranate seeds and mango cubes. Every bite brings on raptures of delight.
This cheery dessert is cool, light and refreshing.
25 Harper Road (Central Kitchen)
To cater to the growth of the company, and maintaining the consistent quality of food, PUTIEN’s 8,500 square feet logistic centre boasts a 3,700 square feet kitchen space –almost double the size of its former Kaki Bukit logistic centre.
The high-tech kitchen is sparklingly clean and uncluttered –almost laboratory-like.
I get a little queasy when I step into wet markets or places that deal with massive piles of raw produce, decidedly due to the smell –good thing their kitchen is odourless.
Different rooms are dedicated to different scopes of work. To prevent cross-contamination, there are several individual preparation rooms: the meat and seafood preparation room is kept at a constant 16°C, complete with an air filter, to minimise bacterial growth; there is a preparation room solely for chopping up vegetables, where workers are trained to consistently chop ingredients to the precise shape and size; there is a preparation room for the ready-to-eats (the room is completely white); there is a sauce room, suggestive of a vault that contains all the secret recipes; and a cooling/packing room.
We were guided to a preparation room to witness how tofu is made. The process is time-consuming and tedious. One lady single-handedly makes the tofu from scratch. It’s amazing what dedication she has.
How it’s done:
1. Soya beans are soaked overnight,
2. They are then ground and boiled for 45 minutes till the liquid turns milky. (You can drink it as soya bean milk right away!) *Don’t stir the liquid in the boiling process.
3. After it cools down a little, it is transferred it into another tub, where a brine solution is added. Lightly salted water makes the tofu softer and healthier than store-bought tofu. Sun-dried sea salt is used prudently.
4. As more brine is added to the soya milk, it starts to curdle. The separated lumps can be eaten as Tau Huay.
5. Excess water is then scooped out and disposed of.
6. The remaining lumps of curd are scooped into a metal mould with a cloth underneath so excess water can be pressed out.
7. The curd is now densely packed within the mould. Folding in the cloth, a wooden board is placed on top and pressure is applied.
8. The amount of pressure applied is highly crucial for the firmness of the tofu. The lady who is solely responsible for the making of tofu is titled ‘master of tofu’ at PUTIEN for her delicate pair of hands.
9. This pressing process takes about 2 hours to finally achieve the ideal texture.
Cut into uniform blocks, they are ready to be deep-fried.
They pledge to use only virgin oil for frying. No re-used oil.
The frying temperature is kept constant and precise, at 100°C.
The final product turns out a light golden shade. It isn’t greasy at all!
The tofu is airy yet meaty at the same time.
Even plain, unseasoned tofu can taste so good; imagine all the different dishes you can churn out with this main ingredient. The recipes are endless.
Tofu is freshly produced daily, and dispatched to the 9 outlets islandwide.
Below are two tofu dishes that we tried.
Braised Homemade Beancurd ($5.90)
Once the tofu is steeped in a flavoursome braising broth, the air pockets within the tofu are filled with delicious juices –exploding in your mouth upon the first bite.
Braised Beancurd with Chinese Cabbage ($16.90/$24.90)
I love soups.
The stock is boiled for 8 hours to achieve that rich, full-flavoured soup.
It comes brimming with ingredients, including the homemade beancurd, Chinese cabbage, seasonal clams, dried shrimps and dried scallops.
I slurped up all that lip-smacking soup, yearning for more.
Perhaps due to my ethnicity, Chinese cuisine is something that I find immensely comforting. The communal dining experience and the familiar flavours are simply heart-warming.
Every time I go abroad, Chinese food is something that I will miss terribly. I can totally relate to how Mr. Fong Chi Chung, a Heng Hwa native and founder of PUTIEN, felt when he arrived in Singapore (more than 10 years ago). He yearns for his hometown (Putian) cuisine so much that the birth of the first PUTIEN eatery was almost mandatory.
Heng Hwa makes up a minority group in Singapore, amongst the other dialect groups. (That explains the scarcity of its cuisine!)
More commonly, we come across Hokkien (I know zilch about the history, but I’m a fan of Fried Hokkien Mee), Cantonese (oh my fervent love for Dim Sum), Teochew (I patronise Quality Hotel for their value-for-money Teochew porridge buffet), Hainanese (chicken rice, prevalent in every corner of Singapore) and Hakka (a little less common but I know of its existence, and only that :X).
We have witnessed the growth of PUTIEN: from what used to be a modest coffee shop that has evolved into a refined flagship restaurant, to having several branches sprouting islandwide. They have even ventured into the overseas market, with an outlet in Jakarta and another in Malaysia –but I’m positive their plans for expansion will not stop there.
PUTIEN imports fresh ingredients directly from Putian (in Fujian, China), pairing seasonal ingredients with home-style Putian cooking.
The Summer Menu is a must-try!
DBS/POSB cardholders get to enjoy 10% off any summer dish, valid till 31 July.
PUTIEN’s Website: http://www.putien.com/
Kitchener Road – Flagship restaurant (since October 2000)
127 Kitchener Road, Singapore 208514
Tel: (65) 6295 6358
11.30am to 3.00pm (Last order at 2.30pm)
5.30pm to 11.00pm (Last order at 10.30pm)
Nex (since December 2010)
23 Serangoon Central #02-18/19 nex Singapore 556083
Tel: (65) 6634 7833
11.30am to 3.00pm (Last order at 2.30pm)
5.30pm to 10.00pm (Last order at 9.30pm)
Fri-Sun & PH: 2.30pm to 5.00pm (Last order at 4.30pm)