Rice and seafood come in a multitude of combinations, but one of our favourites is pao fan, and these places serve the best examples in Singapore.
Pao fan may look similar to porridge, but the dishes differ in how they are prepared. While porridge sees the rice cooked in the broth, pao fan steams the rice separately. The grain is then added to a seafood-based soup, giving it the literal name of “steeped rice.”
Toppings are another way that pao fan distinguishes itself from porridge. Seafood is popular, including prawn, fish, scallop, and lobster. Fried egg floss and puffed rice are also common, both which lend a crunchy texture. Then there are more contemporary additions such as beef, pork stomach, duck, and ginseng chicken.
In recent years, pao fan reached peak popularity here as chefs and celebrities rushed to sell their version of the dish. Upscale restaurants and hawker stalls also got in on the act, and pao fan was adapted to fit different palates, from the lighter, cleaner-tasting Teochew style to the richer broth in Cantonese pao fan. While the hype has since subsided, what remains are some of the best pao fan in Singapore today. Discover them below.
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(Hero and featured images credits: Zui Teochew Cuisine for Chao Ting)
Where to find the best pao fan in Singapore today:
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Part of a chain that runs Teochew restaurants Chui Huay Lim and Zui Yu Xuan, Chao Ting continues the theme by specialising in Teochew style pao fan. The broth comprises of ingredients including prawns, pork, chicken, and fish bones, and is slow-cooked for over five hours to create a base that is light yet immensely flavourful. The toppings are just as wide-ranging, from a medley of prawns and fish, to fish skin.
(Image credit: Zui Teochew Cuisine / Facebook)
Chef Wai’s pao fan consists of a thicker broth that straddles both sweet and savoury. Toppings are diverse, including lobster, scallop, wild-caught prawn, even premium US beef, and the fried egg floss and crispy rice are served separately to prevent them from getting soggy. If you like your rice even more flavourful, the eatery lets you upgrade it to the fragrant kolo rice.
(Image credit: Chef Wai’s Poached Rice / Facebook)
While many flock to Forbidden Duck for a taste of their Peking duck, the restaurant’s seafood rice in aromatic duck soup does not play second fiddle to the signature dish. Here, the comforting bowl is filled with fresh scallops, prawns, duck meat, and a balanced serving of crispy puffed rice for added texture.
(Image credit: Forbidden Duck)
Hua Ting takes a more delicate approach to pao fan. The nourishing and creamy fish broth is poured into a heated stone bowl, and crowned with an exquisite mound of rice and tender slices of dong xing grouper. Smatterings of crispy rice, toasted flat sole, spring onions, and fresh coriander are then added for an elevated touch.
(Image credit: Millenium Hotels)
Le Kitchen’s seafood pao fan is packed with large de-shelled prawns, fresh clams, and fish slices in a light broth. For the indecisive, the duo fish pao fan oiffers the best of both worlds, while the lobster pao fan brings added indulgence.
(Image credit: @wanwaiwen / Instagram)
Pao fan does not need to only have seafood, as this restaurant proves. Their version starts from a soup base slow-cooked for over six hours, and comes with toppings such as flower crab, ginseng chicken,. X.O. fish, and white pepper pork stomach with chicken. All options come with fried rice full of wok hei for an additional smoky dimension.
(Image credit: T.K Kitchen – Paofan Paradise 泡饭天 / Facebook
The generous amount of ingredients at San Pin Pao Fan is enough to have us heading back to the joint time and time again. The stall, run by a former Jumbo Seafood chef, focuses on crafting an umami-filled broth that is big on flavour but will not leave you feeling overwhelmed. Bonus points for serving de-shelled prawns in the bowl.
(Image credit: @sanpinpaofan / Instagram)
Shang Palace’s luxurious take on pao fan involves slow-cooking lobster with a host of ingredients until the broth turns enticingly rich, then decked out with fresh seafood and both steamed and crispy rice. It hits all the marks: sweet, crunchy, savoury, meaty, and chewy, with every bite offering utter comfort and delight.
(Image credit: Shangri-La Singapore)
Si Chuan Dou Hua’s crispy brown rice with two-head abalone in superior stock sees a combination of brown, pearl, and white rice puffs that pop and sizzle on your table. The nourishing stock is a treasure chest of scallops, prawns, sakura ebi, conpoy, preserved vegetables, and cooked white rice. Finally, it is topped with braised abalone slices for the ultimate touch of luxury.
(Image credit: Si Chuan Dou Hua; Parkroyal on Kitchener Road)
Twin textures of crispy rice and steamed rice come together in Yan Ting’s pao fan. The fine dining Cantonese restaurant at The St. Regis hotel delivers them in a fire-orange lobster broth that is beautifully subtle, and serves to elevate the generously portioned and sweet Alaskan king crab.
(Image credit: The St. Regis Singapore)
Yu Huang Premium Seafood Soup was founded by the former head chef of Canton Paradise. Prices are a little steep, but you are paying for quality ingredients and the expertise behind the stove. The addictive broth is concocted from a blend of pig bones, old hen, and dried scallop, as dried sole fish and minced pork bring added depth and complexity.
(Image credit: @merrychristmasmrlawrence / Instagram)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore