Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) is a hidden gem along Tai Thong Crescent, Sennett Estate, serving up homely but outstanding Chinese fare, in a humble and casual setting.
I have never come across this estate despite staying just one MRT station away, but apparently this area houses several well-known eateries including the highly raved Ser Seng Herbs Turtle Soup Restaurant.
Perhaps I should step out of my house – and my comfort zone – more often.
The main dining area spreads over the first floor.
The second storey caters to events and functions, but will be opened up to diners when the crowd overflows. There is also a private room that will seat 40 comfortably.
Crispy Bean-jal ($10)
The Crispy Bean-jal is a great way to kick-start a meal. Eggplant (brinjal) is sliced thinly, battered and fried before coating with a sweet adherent sauce –it is highly addictive, and it didn’t even taste like eggplant. French beans add vibrancy and a refreshing balance to the dish. Nicely done, bean-jal.
Special Made Tofu with Lingzhi Mushroom ($12)
Tofu is homemade using egg and soya bean. No shortcuts here. Once deep-fried, crispy skin encases a smooth silky interior that explodes in your mouth.
Thai Style Beancurd ($6 for 6 pieces)
In this Thai-inspired dish, tender squares of beancurd are fried to a golden exterior, doused in an invigorating sweet-spicy sauce, and scattered with strips of onion atop for pungency and texture.
A pity we tasted the Special Made Tofu prior to this; the texture of this store-bought tofu pales in comparison. If only they employed the homemade tofu in this dish.
Prawn Roll ($8 for 8 pieces)
The Prawn Roll (Ngoh Hiang) reminds me deeply of my late grandmother.
Wrapped in a beancurd skin and fried to crispy perfection, the inside is meaty and tender with chestnut bits for crunch. It is not starchy at all –which is evidence that they don’t scrimp on ingredients.
Oyster Omelette ($12)
I love my Or-Luah (Oyster Omelette). I patronise my favourite Fried Oyster stall at Chomp Chomp on a regular basis. I love that starchy egg-y composition, and I tend to order it without oysters just so they would add more of that starch.
The cooking style here differs: there is less starch, more egg, and the stars are the oysters.
Plump juicy and fresh oysters, strewn amid light fluffy beaten egg that boast a crisp complexion.
A hot plate emerges from the kitchen, carrying a foil-wrapped dish set aglow with a dancing flame.
Kyoto Pork Ribs ($20)
As the rose-wine-ignited fire diminishes, the aluminium foil is being unwrapped; it follows by an aroma that wafted up our noses, inducing salivation.
Tender with a meaty bite, well infused with sweet-savoury flavours. Nicely done!
Assam Fish Head ($25)
Their signature dish – Assam fish Head – is highly favoured.
Red snapper fish head is pristinely fresh, handpicked from the market daily.
The fish is deftly executed –it isn’t overcooked, with meat firm but moist, and sufficiently tender.
Comprising more than 13 spices and herbs, you’re bound to be intrigued, and impressed. The cooking process is painstaking, but very much worthwhile.
The spiciness is toned down to cater to a wider audience, but it still possesses enough kick to stimulate your taste buds.
Sambal Seabass on hot plate ($25)
A thick blanket of Sambal (a thick chilli-based sauce) camouflages an immaculately fried fish –crispy skin with a tender flesh.
Don’t be too engrossed in the distractingly vibrant and delicious sauce; do be careful of bones.
I have to commend their Sambal for its wonderful fragrance and complexity in taste; so good I can eat it with plain rice and nothing else.
Cereal Sotong with Curry Flavour ($20)
I tend to avoid squid for its chewy or resilient texture, but this dish completely took me by surprise.
Squid is battered and deep-fried before tossing it with the fragrant cereal for another round of frying. The mollusk is nicely tender but still slightly springy, with enough bite.
The generous heap of cereal is mixed with curry leaves and curry powder, and spiked with chilli padi for a kick. It’s highly addictive! Those who can’t take the heat, beware!
Butter Baked Salted Egg Sir Lanka Crab (Seasonal Price)
Again, Gu Ma Jia has successfully brought enjoyment to the food I didn’t use to appreciate.
Eating crab is a hassle, and most of the time, a mess. What’s most disappointing is when you strenuously break the shell to find an underlying miserable morsel, tiny and limp.
I am mesmerised by the substantial size of meat that lies beneath the rigid hard shell –worth every action of cracking and knocking. Thanks Derrick for helping me with this, for I am still a novice.
The meat is not only ample; it is fresh, sweet and succulent. Great on its own but even better with the salted egg sauce.
Herbal Chicken Soup ($8.80)
For a tummy warmer, the Herbal Chicken Soup is divine; it is flavourful, rich and ample without any bitterness. It comes brimming with clams, chicken and a melange of herbs. Very nourishing.
Black Glutinous with Ice Cream ($4)
Traditionally paired with coconut milk, Gu Ma Jia substitutes the sweetening component with vanilla ice cream –both the young and old will enjoy this dessert.
With over 10 years of experience in the food industry, Gu Ma Jia certainly didn’t disappoint. It makes an ideal spot for family bonding, and I would love to bring my family down for a feast.
There is no GST or service charge. Awesome.
They do delivery too. There is a delivery charge of $3 with a minimum order of $25. Give them a call.
They will also accede to catering requests for parties and buffet receptions. Check out their website for more information.
From 1 June till 31 July 2012, enjoy $20.00 off your meal when you dine and check in @ Gu Ma Jia on Facebook today. The promotion is valid on weekdays only, excluding public holidays.
*Applicable with a minimum food order of $100 per table only.
Gu Ma Jia
Opening hours: 11am – 10pm