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Home / Chinese Cuisine / Tian Wai Tian Fish Head Steamboat – How Good?
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Tian Wai Tian Fish Head Steamboat – How Good?
By Alfred July 21, 2009
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Tian Wai Tian Fish Head Steamboat – How Good?
Fast Facts
Kang Kong Pai Kwat Wong Tofu Fishhead Steamboat (鱼头炉)
Chinese Cuisine
Coffee Shop
Price Range:
S$61 & above
Rating Range:
6 to 6.9
Food Centre:
Recommended For:
Reviewed by:

If you have friends visiting from overseas, what will be the thing in Singapore that you will tell them ‘You DIE DIE Must Eat’? Unfortunately I think, the phrase ‘Die Die Must Eat’ somehow cannot be applied universally. I’ll tell you why.

Everybody has different eating habits, likes and dislikes or even preference for type of eating places. For example, you may like to eat at restaurants or cafes and so you will find no pleasure in eating a plate of Char Kway Teow in a kopitiam. Likewise if you adhere to certain standard of hygiene when comes to eating, then you cannot also be expected to look forward to whack those die die must eat street food from sellers operating from beside the longkang. If I tell you some food is ‘Die Die Must Eat’, it won’t definitely mean you ‘Die Die Will Like It’. Therefore it is completely meaningless to talk about ‘Die Die Must Eat’ without taking into considerations your eating habits. Die die to some unfortunately isn’t really that die die to others. So it is important not to apply our own version of ‘Die Die Must Eat’ measure to people without understanding their preference first, agree?

So when my friends arrived from HongKong last week, I indeed had to spend considerable amount time thinking where to bring them. I would had brought them to try our chili crabs and stuff at places like Jumbo or Long Beach except that they were to meet another group of friends who were going to do the same. Then if I were to bring them to places like Crystal Jade or Tung Lok which is all about cantonese food, it is going to make me look silly because they have far better cantonese food at better value back home. Yet our local food like chicken rice or bak kut teh is not the kind of food where you can have a feast with a group of people. I mean it’s going to be dull for the evening looking at the plate of chicken or the bowl of bak kut teh only so therefore our local Cze Char came to mind. Now most of the good Cze Char places in singapore have a whiff of that cantonese flavour and so I specifically went for one that is different.

I have heard many many good things about the Tian Wai Tian. Apparently they serve one of the best Fish Head Steamboat around the island which is distinctly Teochew style. Now I was very eager to find out how will this perform compared to the famous Whampoa one because that one is already quite outstanding for me.

We reached there at around 6ish and the place was surprisingly filled with tables from the front of the shop to the back lanes. There must be something like 60 tables at the very least, now that is one of the most extraordinary crowd I’ve seen in a long long time and the thing is it was only 6pm+. If you’re driving, it is advisable to park across the PIE flyover and walk over as that stretch of road is really really difficult to find a parking lot.

Now from what I heard, if you come after 7pm, the minimum waiting time is at least 1 hour and if you call up the place, you will be able to make a reservation but don’t believe it because that place can get so messy during meal times that no one would bother tending to your advance booking. They will tell you that you need to find a table first and then come here and make your order with your table number. Guess how we found this out?

Luckily for us we managed to find a table big enough for the gang quite quickly but the ordering process was a tad tedious because the person taking our order is also the person directing the kitchen and not only that, she also gets ready almost all the ingredients for the 4 chefs in the kitchen.

Now although I only ordered 7 dishes but it took me 10 mins to read those 7 dishes to her because she was always interrupted by other tasks. She was the only person handling the orders for all 60 tables, preparing the ingredients, ensuring the chefs whipping up the right food and making sure that all the foods get delivered to all the tables correctly and not only that she needs to handle all the occasional hiccups like this table didn’t order this or that table ordered a large ones blah blah blah.

In the 10 mins that I watched, that lady’s multi-tasking skill blew me away and I thought working in the kitchen managing a specific area was already tough enough!

Our meal started off with the Prawn Paste Chicken which is one of the signature dishes here. Fwah! It was by far the best Prawn Paste Chicken I’ve eaten all my life. Granted I haven’t eaten many freshly fried ones but this is seriously very good. The texture was so extremely crispy on the outside and the inside was bursting with plenty of that prawn paste flavour. From the picture you can see that it was fried to perfection and indeed everyone on the table was raving about it. It almost can put KFC’s chicken to shame. It was so good that I would be happy to come back here just for it!

The second to arrive was the Tian Wai Tian’s speciality which is the Fish Head Steamboat and you have a choice of the pomfret or the red grouper. I ordered a large red grouper version which is priced at $40 but unfortunately they got my order wrong and came a small one instead, so I had to go in and order another one. I only ever had fishhead steamboat at Whampoa so I’m definitely no expert in this but yet I can tell that the Fish Head Steamboat here was slightly different from the one I had.

The noticeable difference is the fish meat were slightly fried before it went into the soup and I’m not exactly sure if it affects the flavour of the soup but one thing is for sure is that it is hard to tell the freshness of the fish meat in this way. The soup was delicately flavoured from the many ingredients in the hotpot which I cannot recognise except for the ginger slices which I know are often used to mask fishy smell. The hint of sourness created an exotic overall taste which otherwise would be very similar to the one I had before. It was not bad, probably a few inches off my outstanding point, if only the ingredients used were a little fresher and if only they could create the same flavour without the use of ginger.

The third to arrive was the sambal cuttlefish kangkong. They’ve got this order wrong as I’ve ordered a stir fried kai lan instead but since it looked pretty good, I didn’t bother getting it changed. This is one dish I think that is quite easy to be outstanding because sambal dominates the flavour most of the time so as long you have good sambal then it works. This dish was terrific but not enough to make me come all the way here just for this again because I can eat outstanding kangkong in many places.

The fourth to arrive was the tofu prawn. It was a little strange that they added sambal to it but nevertheless was very tasty. The prawns used were extremely fresh but some of us agreed that it would be better if they used the normal tofu instead of Japanese tofu. The sambal once again dominated the taste in an otherwise savoury tofu cum prawn kind of gluey gravy which can be very mouth-watering if you guys know what i mean. But it was also very good though our Hongkong friends couldn’t really take the spiciness.

The next to come was the Fu Yong Egg. Truth be told, this is a dish I actually ordered just to make up the number because I wasn’t sure how big would be the portion of the other dishes so I thought an egg dish might just fill the gap if there is any. Well at first I thought eggs just being eggs, how much better can it gets right but boy was I wrong! The texture inside was superbly managed. It was soft and puffy with bits of grounded prawns and pork. It almost stole the no 1 spot from the prawn paste chicken but alas it didn’t, for some reasons. Well some of them were saying that if only this dish had came first, then the prawn paste chicken would definitely be taking the second spot because we were hungrier at the beginning and if you are hungry then taste of the food can be elevated but yet the history cannot be rewritten so the prawn paste chicken is undisputedly the no 1 dish for us for the night.

And finally the prawn roll and sweet and sour pork came. The prawn roll was typical and very similiar to those that I’ve had. Grinded pork, prawns and water chestnut were used as the fillings and this can easily score a few notches higher if the fillings weren’t that finely grinded though it was still quite delicious. The beancurd skin was coated with something that tasted like some flour cum egg marinate or something along those lines. The sweet and sour pork was seriously so-so and we thought it tasted not sour enough with some hint of sambal that seems to confuse our tastebud with something else. It looked hastily done and perhaps the removal of sambal can save it but this is the only dish that had quite a bit of leftovers and I’ll definitely pass this on my return trip in the future.

So that completed our makan session and the entire meal cost $114(thanks to Godwin for picking up the bill). It was quite an interesting meal according to the guests but yet with all the excellent recommendations, I found it quite didn’t live up to my expectation in particular but I do admit the food were quite reasonably priced since most of the dishes we had were large size. It was extremely busy on a Sunday night so I’m not sure if a weekday trip can do more justice to those food we didn’t found to be outstanding. Perhaps you readers can give your views if you had came to this place before or even give some recommendation for other dishes. I was glad to catch up with my dear friends and was equally glad to have made some new friends. See you guys in Hongkong soon!

Price: $114

Recommendation: Fu Yong Egg & Prawn Paste Chicken

Conclusion: The Fish Head Steamboat was good but has room for improvement. Some dishes were equally good while others were so-so only. Overall the meal was pretty authentic and definitely worth another visit very soon!

Likes: Prawn Paste Chicken.

Dislikes: Can’t find a decent piece of fish meat in the steamboat. Lots of fish bones and the freshness of it can’t be tasted because it was fried.

Address Overall Rating

Tian Wai Tian Fishhead Steamboat Restaurant
1382/1383 Serangoon Road

7/10 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

8/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

5/10 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

6/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

6/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

6.5/10 ★★★★★★½☆☆☆ 

Readers' Comment(s) : 7
Lim Boon Tiong says:

Great post !

I agreed that the Prawn Paste fried chicken and egg omelette are the BESTEST among the BEST !!! Simply can’t get enough of it !

You are right that the tofu prawn would be better if they use normal tofu instead of the japanese type. The prawns were really fresh !!!

the reason why the steamboat were so popular is because of the sour lime taste in the soup i think. The fish werent that fantastic as you said, but it is the overal taste that made it so delicious!

If you were to ask for soup refill after a while, you will notice that the soup will taste really really bad till the stage that you rather not drink it at all.

lastly, I think they should franchise their prawn paste fried chicken and put POPEYE and KFC chicken to shame. :)
you can iterally taste the “prawn juice” flowing out from the fried chicken wings the moment you bite on it ! :)

I havent eatn TIAN WAI TIAN for more than a year, I am craving for it now after reading your post. :D

Posted July 21, 2009
Alfred says:

The only problem i foresee is finding a parking there. Did you said they have another branch somewhere?

Posted July 21, 2009
Kenny says:

IMHO, I’d rate it as the best teochew fishhead steamboat you can have in Singapore! Do not be surprised if you have to wait 2 hours for your dishes to arrive during dinner peak hours, and people queuing up for tables, it is really that good.

First, I’ll introduce the fish head steam boat. you have a selection of red garoupa, promfret and a few other fishies depending on season. my favourite will be the promfret steamboat, sweet, juicy, simply perfect. Coupled with delicious yam and lettuce in the soup, it’s simply marvellous. Other dishes like the oyster omelette, cuttlefish kangkong & fried pork ribs will simply make you go gaga too.

Posted July 22, 2009
Su says:

Aiyo..the food making me hungry already..haha. The price is cheap leh. Some more so many varieties of food,

Posted July 22, 2009
Alfred says:

Will try the pomfret next time. The yam was very soft though.

Posted July 22, 2009
Alfred says:

Yup, it was very reasonably priced. But then again it’s kopitiam ..

Posted July 22, 2009
Pace says:

Tian wai tian is good but its a bit ex. order 1 normal fish steamboat goin ard $40 liao.

Posted July 23, 2009
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