We girls found ourselves with a bit of spare time while in Singapore and decided to check out one of the big crazes: fish spas! You stick your feet into tanks of doctor fish and they eat your flaky dead skin. As they turn your scaly skin smooth, they’re excellent for very dry skin and psoriasis. We tried this novel spa treatment at a branch of Singapore’s leading fish spa, Kenko. Here, you can have the fishy treatment by itself or paired with a massage – the latter is what we chose as there’s a good discount when you have them together. Well, it turned out ‘massage’ meant a combination of painful foot reflexology (where each part of the foot is supposed to be associated with a part of the body) and uncomfortable elbows into shoulders and back massage. Yeah, relaxing it was not. (We tried foot reflexology while we were here three years ago. It was bloody painful and obviously we never learned.)
We got through the prodding intact and made it to the tanks of doctor fish. Gosh, they were so tickly and I couldn’t stop laughing for the first five minutes! After that though, it was rather relaxing with the fish feeding feeling quite like a little micro massage.
After a little while, the receptionist suggested that we move to another tank. It turned out that each tank had a different size of fish and I eventually made my way to the one with the biggest.
What the heck were these?! They were humongous! There was no gentle massaging sensation here as these big boys had teeth and were gently nibbling away at my feet. I felt as if I was being eaten alive! Sure they didn’t break my skin but still, the feeling was quite unnerving. If I ever return, I’m sticking with the cute little fishies!
I got my revenge on the big fishes that night as we dined at Wo Peng, a Hong Kong banqueting style restaurant run by Chef Julian Tam Kwok Fai (who returned to Singapore after spending some time cooking in Guangzhou). We’d never have known about the place if Ivan had not taken us there. He was so knowledgeable and passionate about the place and its food that I asked him whether he was a regular here. By way of an answer, he pointed at one of the group photos on the wall; there he was with Chef Julian and K.F Seetoh of Makansutra. Ah, very much a regular then!
When we arrived, the table was set with fried peanuts and a sambal hae bee (chilli sambal with dried shrimps). This sambal was very moreish and I picked away at it bit by bit along with the fried peanuts as Ivan repeatedly warned us that there was going to be quite a bit of food. He’d actually preordered almost all the dishes that night and finalised the last few things with the waitress upon his arrival to the restaurant.
The food showed up semi-banquet in style – i.e. one or two dishes would show up at a time, allowing us to focus on each particular dish. Our starters came out together. First there was a cold cucumber with century egg salad. It’s a simple dish, dressed with dark sauce and garlic oil, and yet it’s just so delicious for all its simplicity.
Our second starter was a crispy fish skin Hong Kong style. The pile of fish skins looked crispier than crisps and I almost snatched one and shoved it straight into my mouth. But then Ivan told us that it’s meant to be dipped into the soup. Ah, ok. When dipped, the skin crackles like Pop Rocks and it does become more flavourful and yet still remains crisp when eaten.
It was time for the main courses. First came this spectacular charcoal grilled goose, served with a sweet plum sauce on the side. You know how goose can be a wee bit too fatty? Well, something had been done to this goose so that almost all the fat had rendered out and we were left with all its meaty goodness and crisp skin. This was utterly gorgeous and we pretty much skipped the overly sweet sauce to focus on the delicious bird. That said, the plum sauce wasn’t all wasted; I found that a little every once in a while helped cut that richness. The only thing that confused me about this goose was its… four legs. I’m still confused. Anyway, this really was the best goose I’d ever eaten (I’ll even say I’ve not had a duck this good either) and I wondered how the other dishes were going to fare in comparison.
I needn’t have worried. The next big dish was a whole smoked golden snapper fish, served with a chili garlic dipping sauce. What’s this? A big fish? Yes, it looks like a bigger version of the little guys who nibbled away at my feet that afternoon. I would have my revenge – I’m eating the big mama! I have to say I didn’t expect much when I saw it – yes, it’s a big fish and yes, it kinda looked hot smoked – and to be totally honest with you, if presented with a fish and a pig, I’d pick the pig every time. But this fish – wow. The skin was crispy but the flesh was moist and so meaty and like the goose, it tasted fine by itself, without the sauce. There was a light smoky flavour from the cooking and damn, this is probably going to be the best fish I eat all year! After everyone was done, I rather inelegantly stuck my fingers in and dug out the tender cheeks.
The final main dish was a big bowl of braised pig trotter vermicelli. This was also excellent though not as eye-poppingly wonderful as the two previous dishes. Surprisingly meaty braised chunks of pig trotter had been cooked together with rice vermicelli, the latter soaking up the cooking liquid of the former. A very nice finish to the savoury part of the meal, especially the home-pickled slices of green chilli on the table.
When we’d cleared every morsel of the main courses, it was time for dessert. A panfried red bean pancake came out and it was a pretty good version of this classic Chinese (Cantonese?) dessert. However, as we were all pretty greedy and our stomachs could still fit a little more, Ivan ordered another pancake.
Oh, and he ordered another dessert too – black sesame balls! So…three desserts in total – my goodness, we really are gluttons. These were good – tasty enough with a good liquidy black sesame filling.
Chef Julian came out to our table from time to time to see how we were doing and exclaimed when he saw the empty platters. Well, yes, we’re good eaters you see and as it’s so delicious, well, down it goes. Maybe that was his way of saying we were pigs. The cost per head ($50 – there were 5 of us in total) reflects the quality of the food. Sure it’s not cheap but you get what you pay for – and in this case, it’s excellent banquet-style food. Thank you, Ivan, once again!
(And if you go, you’ll need to pre-order the goose and the fish and the vermicelli.)
Wo Peng Eatery
476 MacPherson Road
(tell your taxi driver it’s across from the Mazda showroom!)