When it comes to most Chinese restaurants, there are always more dishes available than what meet the eye. Regulars are often benefitted by being offered special, off-menu dishes that are usually subject to seasonality and availability.
Despite these dishes being the best-kept secrets of insiders who are in the know, it does not mean that others are excluded from trying out these dishes. The simple fact of the matter is that there are reasons why these special dishes don't make it to the regular menu, with some of them being due to seasonality, ingredient availability, or the laboriousness demanded for the dish's preparation.
Here are 13 dishes that you wouldn't find in the regular menus of MICHELIN-Starred Chinese restaurants in Singapore. Featuring a variety of regional Chinese cuisine, dine like a regular and try them out on your next visit!
Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine (Orchard)1 MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Address: ION Orchard, #03-05, 2 Orchard Turn, 238801, Singapore
According to our MICHELIN Guide inspectors, traditional Teochew fare takes centre stage at Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine (Orchard), with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Other restaurant standouts include a marinated meat platter, oyster omelette, chilled steamed fish, sugar-crusted fried taro, crystal buns, and mashed taro with pumpkin.
Steamed Marble Goby "Soon Hock Fish" with Salted Fish, Minced Ginger & Iberico Pork Belly
On a regular basis, the restaurant's chefs will come up with new dishes that aren't on the regular menu, and one of them is a Steamed Marble Goby "Soon Hock Fish" with Salted Fish, Minced Ginger & Iberico Pork Belly.
In order to prepare this, the chef will first pick out the fish and remove its bones, and then salt and sauté it. Diced Iberico pork belly is added, along with diced ginger, and the dish is steamed for around 8-10 minutes. It is garnished and hot oil is poured over the fish to release its fragrance.
Putien (Kitchener Road)1 MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Address: 127 Kitchener Road, 208514, Singapore
Known as one of the most native Chinese cuisines, Fujian cuisine prides itself in seafood-rich dishes that are known for their fragrance and flavour. At one-MICHELIN-Starred Putien (Kitchener Road), chef Li Wen Wu is ready to swoon the restaurant's regulars with a few off-menu dishes that are offered depending on seasonality and availability.
As the restaurant is known for its seafood, our MICHELIN Guide inspectors highlight the 6-cm-long razor clams straight from the restaurant’s namesake city in Fujian, which are available annually from April until July.
Pan-Fried Wheat Vermicelli Stuffed with Duotou Clam
In this dish, chef Li uses a variety of vermicelli called Ma Zu mee sua from Putian. Ma Zu is know to be the Chinese goddess and patroness of the sea, wisely worshiped in Southern China, including Putian. She is believed to protect fishermen and sailors, this is why Ma Zu symbolises safety at sea, represented by the Duotou clams. The implication of this off-menu dish is peace and safety.
Inspired by stuffed tofu, the clam is wrapped with the vermicelli and is fried in shallow oil until the vermicelli turns crispy, while keeping the clams tender.
Braised Red Mushroom with Beancurd Skin
This off-menu dish is a variation of the restaurant's signature, Fujian Red Mushroom Seafood Lor Mee (braised noodle). The red mushroom is braised with a smooth, homemade bean curd skin and flavoured with dried Duotou clams, dried scallops, shrimps, and other ingredients.
Red mushroom is a rare ingredient foraged from the depths of the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian and is only found during the summer. According to the restaurant, it has a high concentration of nutrients, which is believed to have detoxifying qualities and other wellness benefits. Because the red mushroom provides a natural pinkish hue to the soup, it is meant to symbolise joy and happiness.
Home-style Braised Yam
A traditional and local dish originating from Putian, yam is braised with dried clams, dried scallops, mushrooms, shrimps, and other ingredients for three minutes. According to the restaurant, the sweet taste and glutinous texture from the yam paired with the savoury sauce creates different layers of flavour.
Shang Palace1 MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Address: 22 Orange Grove Road, 258350, Singapore
At one-MICHELIN-Starred Shang Palace, the off-menu dishes require a lot of advance preparation and are usually requested ahead of time by guests who come by often. The portions are suited for bigger groups, so consider these when planning for a larger-sized feast.
Imperial Buddha Jumps Over the Wall
(Requires an advanced notice of at least 48 hours)
The addition of bird’s nest and a whole kampong chicken provides a luxurious touch to the classic soup. The broth is made by simmering an entire kampong chicken with a variety of premium ingredients including sea cucumber, abalone, fish maw, pork belly, and Chinese herbs, in a traditional Chinese pot for more than eight hours.
Barbecued Whole Suckling Pig Stuffed with Glutinous Rice
(Requires an advanced notice of at least 48 hours)
Prepared from scratch, a suckling pig is deboned and stuffed with glutinous wok-fried rice with preserved Chinese sausage, dried scallops, and dried shiitake, before being air-dried for 4 hours, and subsequently roasted over flames until the meat is tender and the skin turns to a crisp, golden brown. Hence, this whole stuffed suckling pig requires an advance order of 48 hours.
Sliced Crispy Chicken with Foie Gras and Shredded Chicken with Jellyfish
(Requires an advanced notice of at least 24 hours)
In this dish, foie gras is gently seared until tender, and then combined with a piece of fluffy bread and sliced crispy chicken skin. The rest of the chicken meat is then marinated with sesame oil and paired with jellyfish as a salad on the side to balance out the richness of the foie gras and chicken skin. Half a whole chicken is used in this off-menu item and requires an advanced notice of at least a day.
Summer Palace1 MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
1 Cuscaden Road, 249715, Singapore
For Summer Palace, most of their off-menu items are ordered by frequent diners who belong to an older generation, given the traditional elements of the dishes, as well as the portion size and ingredient availability.
8 Treasure Winter Melon Soup
(Requires an advanced notice of at least 1 day)
Given that this soup requires an entire winter melon that can serve at least six, it requires a day's advance notice. According to chef Liu Ching Hai, Summer Palace's executive chef, this is a highly popular dish, especially during the summer months, as winter melon is known to cool down the body. To make the soup, the winter melon is halved, and its flesh is scooped out. After steaming for 2-3 hours to soften the flesh, it is then filled with a superior stock of pork bones, Yunnan ham, and fresh crab meat.
2-Way East Star Garoupa Fillet with Soya Bean Paste
Liu says that diners from the older generation are really the only ones who still take the time to enjoy the heads and tails of the fish. Boney and with a lot less flesh, they are not the easiest parts to break down, though these are viewed as the best parts because of their flavour. Tradition has it that no fish should be served without a beginning (head) and end (tail).
Younger diners, on the other hand, prefer fish that is already filleted and easy to eat, and the aim of this off-menu item is to satisfy both camps. For it to be prepared well, Summer Palace will need a fish that is large enough to fillet, at least 1.5kgs., which is why it may not be always available upon request.
A whole fish is prepared in two distinct ways: the head and tail are steamed, and the main body of the fish is filleted and cubed, then crisped in hot oil, and assembled again to resemble a whole fish. Steamed kai lan (Chinese broccoli) and soy bean paste complete it.
Braised Crocodile Palm with Fish Maw and Vegetables
(Requires an advanced notice of at least 1 week)
Sourcing a good crocodile palm takes plenty of time, so the restaurant requires at least a week's notice to prepare this dish.
The crocodile palm is braised with whole garlic, dark soy sauce, dried sole fish, and hua diao wine until the meat is glazed and fall-apart tender. According to Liu, regulars who order this dish prize the collagen qualities of the crocodile palm. He recommends complementing it with either fish maw or sea cucumber and some vegetables.
Pan-fried Minced Kurobuta Pork with Water Chestnuts and Salted Fish
The current menu version of this dish at Summer Palace uses shrimp paste in place of salted fish. "This is another dish that appeals to the older crowd because some younger diners may find the funk of salted fish too overwhelming," says Liu. "The shrimp paste is a little less pungent, but for folks who prefer the traditional combination of minced pork and salted fish, they can just place this special order, and we’d gladly make it in a flash with no advance order required. It's best paired with plain congee," he recommends.
For this dish, fine cuts of Kurobuta pork are minced by hand and mixed with finely diced water chestnuts and salted fish. The mixture is moulded into patties, and then pan-fried until golden brown.
Summer Pavilion1 MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021
Address: 7 Raffles Avenue, 039799, Singapore
This MICHELIN-Starred Cantonese restaurant located at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore prides itself in two off-menu dishes prepared by its chef de cuisine, Cheung Siu Kong. According to him, these items require an additional time to prepare due to the amount of labour and effort involved; hence, they aren't included in the restaurant's menu, but are available for advance notice orders.
Double Boiled Chicken Soup, Fish Maw, Sea Cucumber, Dried Scallop, Wolfberries
(Requires an advanced notice of at least 1 day)
"Timing and cooking accuracy is important when making this dish," says Cheung. "The chicken has to be precisely poached so that the meat does not get too dry, and the accuracy of controlling the heat of the fire has to be maintained so that the flavour of the soup is best achieved." As the dish has to be cooked two hours in advance of the serving time, an advance notice of at least one day is required.
Baked Fortune Chicken
(Requires an advanced notice of at least 3 days)
Ingredients such as shredded mushrooms, shredded pork, shredded Kohlrabi, and ginger are placed into a whole chicken, which is then wrapped with lotus leaf and baked. Timing and temperature are key elements that have to be mastered in its preparation, as the the exterior shape of the chicken is made with non-edible flour, and the dish has to be baked until the surface of the pastry hardens and turns a light golden brown, all while ensuring it keeps moist. A rooster and an auspicious Chinese proverb are also painted onto the plate when served.
At the table, the chicken is cracked open with a hammer, and the dish is portioned out and served individually.