PUBLISHED March 15th, 2021 06:00 am | UPDATED March 24th, 2021 11:13 am
Pao fan (literally translating to ‘submerged rice’) has been popping into the limelight lately – it seems like we hear of high-flying chefs venturing into the pao fan hawker business every other month. And we aren’t complaining – this Chinese soup dish is our definition of comfort in a bowl. Think cooked rice drenched in a silky, usually seafood broth, then topped with crackly rice puffs for that satisfying play of textures. And while Chinese restaurants typically do it in sharing portions with luxe fixings, we can now feast on wallet-friendly hawker options too. Here’s our rundown of the best pao fan to slurp up in Singapore.
The main draw of chef Alvin Leung’s Forbidden Duck is, of course, Peking-style duck – dry-aged, sliced thick, and slow-cooked to juicy tenderness – and some of it makes its way into his droolworthy pao fan. Bathed in a rich broth simmered with duck meat, the Seafood Rice in Aromatic Duck Soup (S$36, feeds two to four) teems with duck slices alongside fresh scallops and prawns. The crispy rice, heaped atop in generous handfuls, arrives smoky and sizzling.
Forbidden Duck is located at 8A Marina Boulevard, #02-02 Marina Bay Link Mall, Singapore 018984, p. +65 6509 8767. Open daily 11.30am–3pm and 6pm–10pm.
San Pin Pao Fan
A hawker stall helmed by a former Jumbo Seafood chef, San Pin Pao Fan launched to snaking queues and rave reviews late last year. You can take your pick of prawns, fried fish, sliced fish, and lala renditions here, but why choose when you can have them all in one bowl? The Mixed Seafood Soup Pao Fan (S$7) comes swimming with juicy prawns (conveniently deshelled, no less), thick fish slices, and some fried egg floss to mop up the broth nicely. Sides like the Grilled Iberico Pork Chop (S$6) sell out fast too, so come early to beat the hungry hordes.
San Pin Pao Fan has outlets at Telok Ayer and Lavender. The Telok Ayer branch is located at #01-18 China Square Food Centre, 51 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 048441. Open Mon-Fri 1`0.45am–5pm. The Lavender branch is located at Hoa Nam Building #01-02, No. 27 Foch Rd, Singapore 209264. Open daily 1`0.45am–8pm.
This mod-Teochew gem in Siglap does a mean roast pork belly and some glorious BBQ crab served cold, but we’d make the trip just for their pao fan too. Their lighter broth plays well with the small, delicately creamy oysters in their Oyster Claypot ‘Pao Fan’ Porridge (S$28++, serves two); alternatively, the Sliced Fish Claypot ‘Pao Fan’ Porridge (S$28++, serves two) is pure comfort food, featuring your choice of pomfret or red grouper. We like how the crispy rice holds its crunch well.
SHAO 燒 is located at 117 Frankel Ave, Singapore 458232, p. +65 6610 9233. Open daily 11am–10.30pm.
Pao fan is typically a sharing dish in Chinese restaurants – Chao Ting was among the earliest dedicated to dishing up pao fan in individual, pocket-friendly portions. Their small stall in Amoy Street reels in the CBD crowds with their Teochew-style pao fan, featuring fragrant jasmine rice along with an umami bomb of a broth slow-cooked with prawn shells and fish, pork, and chicken bones. They do a solid Fresh Prawn Pao Fan (S$8.80), but the Fried Fish Pao Fan (S$7.80) is a winner for its luscious, meaty fillets.
Chao Ting has outlets at Amoy Street and Bedok Road. The Amoy Street branch is located at 132 Amoy St, Far East Square, Singapore 049961, p. +65 6788 3637. Open Mon-Fri 11am–3pm. The Bedok branch is located at 308 Bedok Road, Bedok Shopping Complex, Singapore 469469. Open daily 7am–5pm.
Si Chuan Dou Hua (PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road)
If downright decadence is what you’re after, Si Chuan Dou Hua’s rendition redefines it. This Sichuan restaurant’s PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road branch has recently undergone a menu makeover, and among their new creations is the Crispy Brown Rice with Two-Head Abalone in Superior Stock (S$78). This luxurious dish makes quite the splash with juicy gems like two-head abalone slices, conpoy, scallops, and sakura ebi. The cherry on top is a colourful medley of brown, pearl, and white rice puffs for a varied crunch.
Si Chuan Dou Hua (PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road) is located at 181 Kitchener Rd, Level 3, Singapore 208533, p. +65 6428 3170. Open daily 11.30am–2.30pm and 6pm–10pm.
Mun’s Seafood Pao Fan
After three decades in the kitchens of top Chinese restaurants like Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant and Feng Shui Inn, Chef Mun chose to bring his skills to the heartlands for his first solo venture. Set in a humble Ghim Moh coffeeshop, his pao fan broth is simmered only with carrots and pork bones, yielding an unusually light, sweet soup. The classic Seafood Pao Fan (S$6.90) packs two plump prawns, lala, and a fresh scallop, but for something more homely, we prefer the Mixed Pork Pao Fan (S$5.50) – a hearty heaping of lean pork slices, meatballs, and even pig intestines.
Mun’s Seafood Pao Fan is located at 25 Ghim Moh Link, #01-01, Singapore 270025. Open Wed-Mon 11am–3pm and 5.30pm–7.30pm.
Famous Pao Fan
Mediacorp veteran Chew Chor Meng has several F&B ventures under his belt already, and his latest is a pao fan stall in a Kampong Glam food court. Simmered with prawns as well as chicken and pork bones, the broth here is packed with flavour while still sitting lightly on the tongue. The Kurobuta Pork with Lala Pao Fan (S$8) is a standout with its tender pork slices, but the star of the show is undeniably the Lobster Pao Fan (S$16) – where a succulent whole lobster takes the richness of the broth to new depths.
Famous Pao Fan is located at 100 Jalan Sultan, #01-06/07 Sultan’s Kitchen Food Court, Singapore 199001. Open daily 10.30am–8.30pm.
Red House Seafood
One of Singapore’s oldest seafood restaurants, Red House Seafood is pretty much a household name for fresh crab offerings. So you can bet they whip up a stellar Crab Meat Pao Fan (S$24++), made with Alaskan king crab meat and a fish collagen broth slow-cooked to pure silkiness for more than eight hours. If you’re out to splurge, they do a fabulously umami Lobster Pao Fan (S$88) packed with sweet, luscious whole lobster as well.
Top Image: Chao Ting