Friday, 12 December 2014

Savour the Nostalgic Flavours of Classic Chinese Fare at Gu Ma Jia Restaurant

With Gu Ma and Head Chef, Yap Geok Loong

Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家), translated as Aunt’s Home is another hidden gem near Bendemeer area. The family restaurant specialises in homestyle Chinese fare and is best known for its signature assam fish head. Gu Ma Jia Restaurant (姑妈家) has also been voted by Singapore Press Holdings as the Top 10 Favourite Restaurants. Founder, Chan Mei Yan who is affectionately known as Gu Ma (Aunt) has an avid interest in cooking. She started Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) five years ago offering Chinese comfort food, using original recipes from her grandmother. 

Gu Ma spent her childhood years in Pulau Ubin and learnt how to prepare food through cooking for her siblings when she was young. As the area where she lived in previously had abundant seafood, Gu Ma would select the best seafood to prepare meals for her family. Her passion in cooking grew and she decided to start Gu Ma Restaurant (姑妈家) offering understated, tasty and traditional cuisine of yesteryears. The restaurant prides itself on serving healthy and delicious home-cooked food using reduced oil and MSG. The menu is meticulously curated by Gu Ma and Head Chef, Yap Geok Loong. Chef Yap who helms from Negeri Sembilan has over two decades of culinary experience specialising in Chinese dishes in both Singapore and Malaysia. He has honed his skills at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Johor Bahru and several other reputable restaurants in Singapore. He is very innovative and adds a creative and contemporary touch to the cuisine at Gu Ma Restaurant (姑妈家)

Although the menu focuses on Cantonese nostalgic homestyle dishes, it also offers Malaysian and Singapore classics. The restaurant exudes a homely feel, akin to being in someone’s home. Gu Ma and her staff were very hospitable and immediately made me feel at home. 

Signature assam fish head

The signature assam fish head ($28 for dine in and $29 for takeaway) was the best I have ever tried. The red snapper fish head, handpicked from the market daily was pristinely fresh. It was dexterously executed and the flesh was firm and tender at the same time. The assam gravy comprised more than thirteen herbs and spices and the flavours were perfectly harmonised. It was full of body and texture and you won’t find a trace of coconut milk in the gravy.The spiciness was toned down to cater to the palates of the average Singaporean. 

Gu Ma signature traditional bean curd soup

In celebration of its fifth anniversary, the restaurant has recently launched new dishes to whet your appetite. To start your meal, go for the Gu Ma signature traditional bean curd soup (price $28). It was served piping hot and was very savoury. This nourishing soup was prepared by boiling for six hours with salted, Chinese ham, pork ribs, peanuts and beancurd. 

XO prawn noodles

I love the signature XO prawn noodles ($36) which was quite different from the usual prawn noodles as it had the intense, rich taste of the special homemade superior XO sauce. The prawn heads were stir-fried first to bring out the flavour and boiled together with the pork bones to prepare the stock. XO sauce was then added to enhance the flavour of the stock. The XO broth combined excellently with the sweet succulence of the prawns, making every mouthful absolutely gratifying. 

Homemade yam ring with Kyoto pork rib

Another favourite dish of mine was the homemade yam ring with Kyoto pork rib ($30). The way it was presented and served was quite unique. This dish is usually served with scallops and prawns and this was the probably the first time I have tried it with pork ribs. The pork ribs were well executed and literally melted in my mouth and when accompanied with the crispy yam ring, it was awesome. 

Satay cuttlefish

The satay cuttlefish ($18) was appetising and the similar to the satay beehoon, a quintessential local dish. The satay sauce was lovely and complemented well with the fresh, succulent cuttlefish.

Claypot pork in sesame oil

If you are a fan of pork, you must try the claypot pork in sesame oil ($15/$23/$30). Prepared using premium Chinese wine, tender pork slices, ginger, black fungus and sesame oil, it is a very nutritious and flavourful dish. The pork was also sliced very thinly and steeped in a clear and tantalising broth.

Stir-fried beehoon with clams

For staples, go for the stir-fried beehoon with clams ($18 for 4 to 5 persons) The beehoon was stir-fried with homemade chicken stock. Clams and egg were then added to give it a sweeter flavour. Light, healthy and delightful, it left me craving for more.

Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) will also be launching Chinese New Year Reunion Set and á la carte menus. The noteworthy items include herbal soup, drunken prawns and lotus leaf rice. Prices start from $488 for the set menus and $15.80 for the á la carte dishes.

Herbal chicken soup

The herbal chicken soup is a very nourishing dish and helps to keep you warm on cool days. It is also commonly eaten during confinement. The soup is prepared with a whole chicken and Chinese herbs such as danggui, huaishan, wolfberries, yuzhu, beiqi and dangshen. Red dates are added to balance the balance the herbal taste, resulting in a perfect harmony of flavours.

Drunken prawns

The drunken prawns are also heavenly and immensely popular with many diners. Live prawns are used in the preparation of this dish and the stock is flavoured with Chinese herbs such as danggui, huaishan and wolfberries. Chinese wine is drizzled to the broth and the flavours are infused together to make the taste memorable.

Lotus Leaf Rice

The lotus leaf rice is another winning dish and consists of double-steamed Jasmine rice with roast pork, Chinese mushroom, fried yam and Chinese sausage wrapped in a lotus leaf to retain the aromas and flavours. It is usually eaten during Chinese New Year as it is believed to bring good fortune and prosperity to all.

With Gu Ma and Head Chef, Yap Geok Loong

With the media and bloggers who came for the tasting session

Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) serves very authentic and nostalgic dishes that you can't find in other restaurants. I will definitely be back to try the other dishes. A million thanks to Ms Agnes Tay for the invite.

Gu Ma Jia (姑妈家) is located at 45 Tai Thong Crescent, Singapore 347866.
For reservations, please call 6285 2023.

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