Last time I checked, Johor Bahru was not listed in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s recent global survey as being one of the most expensive cities to live in. On the basis that neighbouring Singapore has reportedly overtaken Toyko in terms of its cost of living, JB is now, if it wasn’t before, a thoroughly useful place to go to.
I pop over the border sporadically, to stock up on all manner of things that cost at least 50% less than they do here in Sing, including contact lenses, reflexology and…yes, really…herbal chicken.
It’s this last thing – the herbal chicken – that I want to write about. I was introduced to the den of deliciousness that is Teck Sing when I was on my way to Mersing to do my first ever open water dive in the waters of Pulau Aur, off the east coast of Malaysia. I have in fact blogged about this restaurant before, briefly, when I was here on another trip entirely.
Whilst I am not the only person who has identified this joint as being a culinary landmark (not desperately hard in JB, granted) I am not sure enough people know just how good it is.
They are essentially a local and pretty normal Chinese restaurant, but what I come here time and time again for is their Paper Baked Chicken which they are famous for.
First up – and actually very importantly – they ONLY use kampong (read free range) chicken; it’s trussed up in layers of tightly wrapped baking paper and steamed slowly for hours in its own juices and a handful of traditional Chinese herbs. The crispy, tightly bound paper parcels are always rather charmingly charred around the edges as a testament to the cooking process.
Be warned. It’s nothing to look at…
This is how it arrives (above) and this is how it looks once you’ve unwrapped it:
But…looks can be deceiving; it is succulent, juicy and utterly moreish. I love the addition of the Chinese herbs (you can see a few on the paper above) which not only add a depth of flavour but also remind me of my confinement – which I loved doing, especially for the food. You can read more about that here.
The herbs they use at Teck Sing include red dates and goji berries, to name but a few, but neither the chicken nor the herbs are, weirdly, particularly important on their own. What they combine to make together is though: the gravy – or ‘liquor’ as it’s probably technically called. Dark brown in colour, it’s a relatively thin but potent liquid and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before (in a good way).
Teck Sing won’t deliver to Singapore, I’ve tried asking a million times, but if you make friends with the owner she might, just might, help you out as apparently her son is at university here and she’ll do deliveries for special people. (I am not her friend so I have to go to the restaurant along with everyone else.)
Just to help spread the love here in SG, I actually dau pau’d (took away) NINE chickens last week to give to people here who I knew would adore them. I was flooded with phone calls the instant people started eating. This is what the boot of my car looked like as I came back over the border:
What’s even stranger than bring back nine chickens? That the man I ordered them from thought I said ‘nineteen’ and still he didn’t flinch.
Each paper baked chicken costs RM20 – equivalent to about S$7 (£3.50) – and is cheaper than buying an uncooked kampong chicken at the wet market (I may be getting ripped off but at Ghim Moh I pay $8).
Super rustic Teck Sing is the kind of place where you wash your own cups in the tea before drinking from them. I am inclined to skip this bit as I always spill some of the boiling tea on my hand, (which hurts) but as H pointed out, if the whole idea is for you – the customer – to clean your own cups, you can be certain that they need cleaning. Love too how the watermelon comes out first.
Also worth ordering: fish head curry and an extra paper baked chick. In fact, and I am not joking, I can eat a whole one by myself.
Teck Sing, 3-5 Jalan Satu, Tamen Sentosa 80150 Johor Bahru, Johor.
T: 07 334 7025