- Nicholas Yong
Fragrant Garden, Upper Serangoon
Inside a shopping mall (that looks like it has never changed since the late 90’s) is a hidden foodie gem probably known only to its loyal customers. It’s not too hard to spot — the Fragrant Garden restaurant was the only lot inside Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre that was bustling with activity.
Thanks to Quandoo, I had the chance to try this Teochew style restaurant that’s been around since the 1950s, currently run by its second generation owner.
These pork and shrimp rolls dubbed the Special Combo Roll ($12 / $20) should be the first thing you order here. The pork rolls are packed to the brim with minced pork meat goodness. They were so flavourful! The shrimp roll is no slouch either, but it can be slightly too greasy for some palates.
The Pork Aspic Jelly Teochew Style ($10 / $15) is not something that I would usually eat, but I understand that this is an authentic Teochew starter. It’s a cold dish that requires a lot of hard work to make, stewing pig collagen over many hours to form the jelly. If you do appreciate pork jelly, perhaps you can give the Fragrant Garden version a try.
Here’s something that reminds me of a home-cooked meal mum would make when you came back from school — Sea Cucumber with Roast Duck (enquire for prices). The sea cucumber portion of the dish is soft enough to be chewed, though there wasn’t much to shout about the duck.
The Aubergine With Vegetables ($18) is an impressive dish that really stood out. A whole giant aubergine carved out through the middle, and filled with assorted vegetables. The aubergine itself was not too greasy, even though it’s known to soak up oil. A uniquely presented dish, but maybe too much to eat unless the whole family is along to share.
Another dish that caught my eye was the Signature Fragrant’s Flaming Pork ($16 / $25 / $30), served literally flaming to your table. I’m not sure how best to explain the exact taste, but it’s kinda like a better Marmite pork dish. Goes well with a piping bowl of rice.
I couldn’t stop adding more Kuey Teow with Chai Por ($5 / $8 / $12) to my plate. The dish had plenty of “wok hei” with generous bits of garlic, bean sprouts, as well as “chai por” (or “chye poh”) throughout. Addictively delicious, and most importantly not greasy or cloying. I can imagine having a small portion of this alone for lunch.
While the kuey teow was good, my dish of the night goes to the Halibut With 3 Different Sauces (enquire for prices). Plus points for the filleted fish, makes it easier to share and you don’t have to pick out the fish bones. Every bite is crispy, and the sauce (their own secret creation) is a good balance of sweet, sour and spicy.
If you’re coming here with a group, you can’t go wrong with ordering Fragrant Garden’s Braised Pork with Mantou ($12 / $20) — very good slow braised pork, very tender meat coupled with hot steamed buns. I used whatever mantou left to scoop up all the remaining sauce on the plate.
The final dish to try was the Yam Paste ($4 / $20 / $30), another Teochew restaurant staple. The shallots go very well with the yam paste, which was blended perfectly. While most yam paste is cooked with lard, the owner chose to not to add the ingredient as it’s healthier without. I don’t think the dish missed a beat without lard anyway.
The best way to go to Fragrant Garden via public transport is from Serangoon MRT station, exit B. Take bus 81 or 82 from there, and get off at opp Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre station (3 stops).
756 Upper Serangoon Road #01-15/16 Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre 534626
Tel: +65 6289 7621
Opening Hours: Closed on Monday
Tuesday - Sunday: 11:30am - 2:30pm; 5:30pm - 10pm
*The more expensive prices in parenthesis are for larger portions of the dish