Crab-Hunting @ 姑妈家 & Joyden Treasure

You don't have to have a mother who can remotely cook a single dish in the kitchen without catching the corner of her frilly apron on fire (a bit of a stretch, I know) to appreciate the charms of the food being served up at  姑妈家, located at the far end of the food-centric Macpherson Road.

The storefront and interior are kept minimal and simple as if to preserve high strung days where the establishment grounds were packed wall to wall with hungry diners. Nowadays, the rare family occasional rolls in on a weekday night; the lazy susan bearing significantly lesser burden than in those hay days. That being said, 姑妈家 with its homey environment and earnest sit-down diner experience is something suited for the large family get togethers. 

Some dishes to order would be the Claypot Wine Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil ($15) and the Kai Lan 2 Styles Yuan Yang ($12) -  the latter presenting the kai lan in a terribly innovative way with the dried bits of leaf finely shredded at the ends and flash fried after being blanched hence resulting in a haphazard mop head of greenery with a crunchy seaweed like texture. 

Much as I would have loved to fawn over the other dishes on the dinner table, the rest succumbed to a certain level of mediocrity that could be excused if one were visualizing dining in your grandma's kitchen instead of a restaurant. The Kyoto Pork Ribs ($20) arrived in a package of blazing fire but failed miserably in terms of flavor due to the lack of caramelization while the Cereal Sotong with Curry Leaves ($18) lacked the savoury sweet crispness of the cereal crumb required of a truly hot wok. The Prawn XO sauce noodles ($30) and Ubin Lala Bee Hoon ($18) are promising candidates in the communal sharing department but then again lacked a little oomph in execution. 

In all honesty, a trip to 姑妈家 won't be complete without some crab on the table. The excellent renditions paving the way for kitchen redemption. Given Singaporean's fascination with Salted Egg Yolk, it's easy to see why GuMaJia's rendition of Butter Salted Egg Yolk Crab ($74.80) would easily become a must-order amongst patrons. My preference lies with the White Pepper Crab ($85) though, the use of white pepper from Sarawak permeating the succulent Sri Lankan crabs with musky spicy flavors; a piquant note that provides a lovely contrast to the intrinsically sweet flesh of the crab.

To wrap up the night, I suggest getting the  姑妈's dessert, and preferably cold ($4). Similar to a cheng teng, the combination of white fungus and gingko nuts will help to clear the crowded palate after the heavy meal. If you're gunning for the Black Glutinous Rice, may I advise against the addition of ice cream. The pure pulot hitam benefiting in no ways from the distractions of the cheap vanilla scented ice cream. 

45 Tai Thong Crescent
t: 6285 2023

Operating Hours:
Mon - Fri: 11am - 2 30pm; 5 40pm - 10pm
Sat - Sun: 11am - 10pm


Moving a little further from home, we arrive at Joyden Treasures in Kallang Leisure Park. Another outfit of the Joyden group which includes the westbound Joyden Seafood and Joyden Canton Kitchen. The team expressed that for this new venture, the emphasis is on researching past culinary delicacies, cooking methods and stories and replicating them with a new twist.

As usual, a visit to any Joyden Concept would not be complete without indulging in a comprehensive line up of seafood dishes. Then again, I was thoroughly impressed with the humbler dishes on the menu such as the Double Boiled Seafood soup in whole old cucumber ($14), the homemade broth perfumed with mushrooms and dried scallops harbouring some extraordinarily sweet flavors especially after being double boiled within the hollow of an softened old cucumber. However, the surprise parcel of pork wanton failed to impress with its 'thick skin' demeanour, instead, I raveled in creating a larger cavern in the cucumber; its walls serving as sponge to the immaculate broth.

Whilst the Phoenix beancurd skin prawn roll  ($16) proved a little bit too greasy for my liking, I would happily wax lyrical about the Jumbo Prawns in Traditional Dark Sauce ($26) anytime - ignore the shrewd looks you'll garner as you clasp on to your bowl of rice, making a sort of slushy with the brilliant pool of prawn sauce and the accompanying in-house sambal chili. They are just jealous that they didnt' patent the eating methodology earlier.

Continue the partially clean but sordid food feast with the Steamed Red Grouper in Homemade Soy Bean Broth (market price); here a whole red grouper is skillfully steamed in a soya milk broth made from scratch and flavored with the gentle nuances of fresh ginger and chives. Straw mushrooms and black fungus's lingering presence in the broth stealing the show from the fish itself. 

The kitchen continues deploying stellar seafood dishes such as the Traditional Salt Baked Crab (market price; about $63/kg) , where a blend of different salts are wok fried and then plastered all over the Sri Lankan crab before being baked for half and hour at low heat. The salt crust is then removed to reveal a super moist fleshed crab with a whisper of saltiness and smoky fragrance from the additional spices thrown in. I enjoyed this dish loads, despite the mixed feedback received from the other diners, the outer hide of the crab leaving slicks of intense flavored volcanic sea salt like impressions on your fingers as you work your way through the succulent crab. 

You better pray you're with a huge bunch of ravenous diners cause you wouldn't want to miss out on the next dish. The Crispy Fragrant Duck with Lotus Shaped Buns ($58) is as close to a Chinese duck confit as you can get. The quick jump into hot oil after an arduous simmering process resulting in fall off the bone duck dish hiding under supremely crisp skin. Eat this on its own or stuff it between the soft lips of a steamed lotus shaped buns with alternating sheets of homemade pickled papaya and fresh cucumber for optimum hedonism. No words are required as you exchange pleasantries with the bird in front of you.

Desserts at Joyden Treasure will make you shudder in delight. It's old school provenance combined with the prospect of dim sum in the middle of night bringing an instant smirk to ones' face. score. The Brown Sugar Ma-La-Gao ($4.20) is an impossibly simple cake; but sometimes its the simplest of things that would bring the greatest chefs to their knees; Joyden's rendition is fragrant with molasses, it's cloud like structure so good that you'll tear through a half piece and pray that another cube drops from the sky onto your lap. It doesn't happen. So you move on to the Traditional Yam Puree ($26), yet another traditional dessert one would earnestly hope for whenever attending one of those dreaded wedding dinners; here, the Teochew Orh Nee is refined with a lighter body topped with chopped water chestnuts for crunch, steamed pumpkin slices and earthy nodules of gingko nuts. The lard oil, the last crucial bit that contributes to the epitome of sweet endings.

Joyden Treasures
5 Stadium Walk
Leisure Park Kallang
t: 6446 8488

Operating Hours: 
Mon -Fri: 11 30am - 3 pm; 6pm - 10pm
Sat- Sun: 10 30am - 3pm; 5 30pm - 10pm

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