A Straits twist puts a unique spin on the usual Chinese specialitiesI miss two things when eating out at Chinese restaurants in Korea. First, is the wisdom-filled fortune cookies you get in the United States; I have never found a place in Korea that serves them. Second, is some genuine Singapore-style Chinese food. It is not the easiest thing to find ― at least not outside of Singapore. Nearly everyone has tried Cantonese, Szechuan or Beijing-style cuisine. But the Singapore version of Chinese food is harder to come by.
The island location of the city-state has had a great influence on its cuisine. Singapore’s food features a rich style of seafood and an assortment of noodle dishes with a healthy dose of spices, such as chili, to give the food a unique flavor within the broad spectrum of Chinese cooking.
Well, my long wait for Singaporean food is over. Seoul now has a place to go for authentic Straits Chinese dishes. It is about three months into its opening and located directly across from the Posco building in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul. The place is called Zhensi and can seat about 80 people between the 18 tables located inside and outside the restaurant and smaller tables in the bar.
Most Chinese restaurants in Korea do not serve the standard hot-and-sour soup that is carried by Chinese restaurants in the United States. So it was truly a happy moment when I saw that Zhensi serves hot-and-sour soup (3,000 won or $2.50).
I started off with the soup, which was just tangy enough to whet my appetite for something heartier. I ordered the Miegorang seafood noodles (8,900 won) and hot-and-sour pork (12,300 won). The flavors really complemented each other. I savored every bite of pork and seafood, holding each one in my mouth as long as possible. To wash it all down I ordered a Tsingtao lager (8,000 won).
In addition, Zhensi recently started serving fresh crab, flown in from Singapore every day, in black pepper or chili sauce, prepared by Chef Suryanto Hwang. Mr. Hwang is a veteran chef, having worked 25 years in restaurants in Singapore. The price tag of this Southeast Asian delight ― two crabs ― was 55,000 won ($45.80). The sauce was a little heavy, but its salt and black pepper mixed well with the moist, flavorful flesh of the crab.
Zhensi offers unique food that fits a wide range of budgets. The ambiance is nice and if you have not experienced Singaporean cuisine, Zhensi is a good place to start.
Phone: (02) 557-7929
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10, Sundays 12 p.m. to 10
Location: Daechi-dong, across from Posco building
by Brian Lee