Chen Huang Temple.
Within the vicinity of the nine-cornered bridge at Yuyuan Garden.
26th year of the Qing Dynasty
The steamed soup bun was created (or so the restaurant claimed).
I like this feeling. Of warping back in time for a taste of history. It is like listening to Jay Chou's (周杰倫) haunting Blue And White Porcelain (青花瓷). A masterpiece perpetually engraved on the beautiful body of a centuries-old vase. A timeless beauty, laced with bars of mesmerising contemporary melodies.
As assuring as the masterpieces by the dynamic duo of Jay Chou and Vincent Fang (方文山), I was very much looking forward to an encounter with the legendary Nan Xiang Steamed Soup Bun.
Served piping hot, the Steamed Soup Bun With Shrimp And Pork Filling (S$7.80 - 6 pcs) was flavourful. Thanks to the sweetness of the shrimps. As the orifice expanded, the flavourful melted gelatin oozed from within the skin, releasing a sweet/savoury taste of pork. Above average, yes. But not top notch as the skin was rather thick. Centuries old porcelains or not, I still prefer my Crystal Jade, the restaurant.
With such rich colours, I thought the Shanghai Fried Rice (S$7.00) was a sight to behold. Taste-wise, like a filler in an album, it was absolutely uninspiring. Think dark soya sauce, scrambled eggs and chopped scallion. Only. I'm sure there's more to Shanghainese fried rice than this. Well, hot and spicy, at least. Like those feisty, fair as snow Shanghainese maidens.
The Chilled Tofu With Preserved Vegetable (S$4.20) was a suitable side dish to complement the fried rice, we thought. The silken tofu was soft and has a rich soya flavour. The preserved vegetable was rather bland. A better crunch would have been appreciated as well. The dressing? A chili oil and soya-based sauce combination, simply.
A signature dish, the King Size Steamed Soup Bun With Crab Roe Stufing (S$6.80 - per serving) was not as generous as I imagined it would be. Slightly smaller than my fist, it was. With basically just soup and minimal solids, a large straw was all it took to extract the so-called treasure encapsulated by the thick bun skin. The soup (with bits of carrot, lard and meat) was rather salty. I also walloped the skin, cursing the thickness with every chew. Only to find out later from Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations that the skin was not meant to be consumed. My sejarah dunia (world history) textbook did not prepare me for this, I'm afraid.
Just as the dishes were as strange and uninspiring as Cowboy On The Run (牛仔很忙), came a dainty Hair Like Snow (发如雪) to save the day. The Steamed Bun With Glutinous Rice (S$4.20 - 3 pcs) was quite interesting albeit again, the rather thick skin. The simple glutinous rice was soft and flavourful. Honestly, I could do without the skin. Oh, throw in some dried shrimp chili paste as well.
The steamed buns were above average, yes. But if this whole meal was a reflection of a century-old oriental taste, we would have sung our Chrysanthemum Flower Bed (菊花台) long time ago.
OK, moving on to some Eason Chan (陳奕迅) ballads now.
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
200 Victoria Street
#02-53 Bugis Junction
Tel: (+65)6835 7577