Whenever I think about Chinese-style steamboats, specific locations like Bugis especially Liang Seah Street, Tan Quee Lan Street and Beach Road will just come to mind. Having worked in that area previously, I had the chance to try out many of the steamboat restaurants in the vicinity as work often ended late so eating out everyday was like the norm for me then.
Recently, the husband and I went on our city-hopping walk again. By the time we reached Bugis, our final destination, I told him I needed a steamboat to refuel myself so we headed straight to Liang Seah Street without hesitation and decided to randomly pick a place for an early dinner.
And this was where we ended up. Besides the fact that this was the only steamboat restaurant in the area that was new to me (hence worth a try), I was attracted by the wide spread and neat display of ingredients.
Prices for the steamboat buffet (lunch/dinner) are as follows:
Mon to Thu
Fri to Sun & PH
(prices are subject to 3% service charge and 7% GST)
The restaurant wasn’t fully packed when we arrived but as there were only two of us, we were ushered to a table right inside next to a group of people who were already eating halfway. Quite a hassle because we had to squeeze in between chairs to get to our table and also to get out to grab food. And our request for a table change was rejected as the ‘other tables were reserved for bigger groups’. If you do come in big groups (4 or more), opt for the outdoor seating as the indoor area was really cramped.
The moment we sat down, we were given 5 choices of soup bases (Chicken Herbal, Sichuan Spicy, Thai Tom Yam, Singapore Laksa & Singapore Satay) from which we could pick two. We were also handed disposable plates which we had to use to put the ingredients on.
Here’s a glimpse of the buffet line:
Carbs included different types of noodles (not pictured) like instant noodles, bee hoon, thick beehoon, udon, rice cakes and glass noodles.
The cooked food section was what the husband was most interested in, lol. There were fried noodles, ma la prawns, fried spring rolls, samosas, jiao zi (dumplings), guo tie (pot stickers) and fried mantou buns.
Not sure why the uncooked egg tofu appeared next to the hot stuffs though, lol.
Free flow of drinks were included in the buffet with sodas like 7-Up, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mug Root Beer and juices like Lime and Sour Plum. There was ice water too.
Unfortunately, besides sliced watermelon and fruit cocktail, there weren’t any other fruits or desserts.
Different sauces and condiments that we could help ourselves to and play around with.
I concocted a sweet chilli sauce with coriander leaves (meh!) and sesame paste with minced garlic, chilli padi, coriander and spring onion (yum!). The sweet chilli sauce was obviously straight from a bottle and was most uninspiring and boring. I loved my sesame sauce as it was rich, thick and creamy and really gave meats a lot of flavour. However, it could get a little sickly if consumed too much.
The husband did 2 delightful concoctions to my surprise. I loved the classic light soy sauce with spring onion, coriander, chilli padi and a touch of sesame oil. It went well with almost anything without overpowering the original flavour of the food and the punch and heat were just appetising. The chicken rice chilli sauce was much better than the sweet chilli sauce with a vinegary punch and garlic aroma. Or you could have good old fermented beancurd or fish sauce too. So many possibilities, you can just mix and match several ones till you find something you like!
For the soup bases, we picked Singapore Laksa and Herbal Chicken Soup. Both were good. Not overly salty and flavoursome especially the Laksa one which I thought it tasted familiar. And true enough, I discovered a carton on the shelf next to the husband that had the Prima brand of laksa premix, lol. At least I was eating a reputable brand of premix which I didn’t mind! It was really tasty and it wasn’t oily too. I loved cooking pig skin in the laksa broth, so yummy.
We initially wanted to try the ma la soup base but was glad we didn’t because the Japanese couple next to us was literally downing beer to ease the spiciness. And I really didn’t think they enjoyed the heat that much. In fact, they left pretty soon without eating much. Maybe next time, if I ever feel that adventurous, lol.
Somehow I didn’t really fancy the meats much that evening. The chicken was sliced too thickly and I got a little sickly of it as it was bland. The mutton was good as it didn’t have any gamey smell at all. The beef was a little sinewy. The pork was sliced a little too thick and was also too lean.
The husband was hooked onto the green mussels, lol. I thought they were just alright so I wasn’t sure why the husband loved them so much. To each his own. For me, I was addicted to the pig skin especially when they soaked up the laksa broth.
The fried fish was quite good and went really well with the laksa broth too but some pieces I took were extremely fishy which kinda put me off.
The scallops weren’t defrosted properly so they were still icy cold when I grabbed them. I preferred the bamboo clams that were sweeter in taste.
Their hot food were mediocre but the spring rolls and guo tie were pretty tasty. We each had a few servings of them.
I wouldn’t say the whole dining experience was fantastic but it was decent enough for the price paid. The spread was sumptuous and most items were clean and fresh. My recommended would be the mutton slices, mud crabs, prawns, bamboo clams, clams, assorted mushrooms, mushroom balls and pig skin.
I liked that there was a box of tissue paper on every table which came in really handy. Eating steamboat can be a steamy and sweaty affair! What I didn’t like was that there were ants crawling on the table and several houseflies and even fruit flies were buzzing around while we were eating. The wall next to our table was full of stains which wasn’t a very appetising sight. Cleanliness wise, it was a flop. Do note there are no separate chopsticks for cooked and non-cooked food so request if you need.
Service was prompt to refill the broths and the ingredients were also replenished regularly.
Very unlikely we’d come back again as we’d rather explore new places for similar steamboats. But the experience definitely inspired me to use Prima laksa paste next time for my steamboat at home, lol.
Zhong Hua Steamboat
95 Beach Road
Tel: 6337 1655
Opening hours: 10.00am to 5.00am daily