Friday, July 8, 2016

Big Lazy Chop (大懶排): Chinese Zi Char Bistro

Big Lazy Chop (大懶排) is a name that raises puzzled eyebrows especially if you are fluent in Hokkien swear words. Don't let it deter you from the food though, as there's some seriously tasty "zi char" here (and in air-conditioned comfort too). Actually the name is meant to evoke lazy days indulging in great food, so just take it as one of those quirky Hong Kong-like names.

Interestingly, the Head Chef here is a Singaporean. Mr Oh Ah Lek has 37 years of experience in the Asian kitchen, including as Head Chef of Fortuna Hotel Hanoi in Vietnam. “I like to push the boundaries by adding complexity with my choice of ingredients in the sauces. The main difference with my cooking also lies in how I control the fire for a strong, appetising wok hei.”

Sauces and wok hei.

When I first heard that sauces were the highlight here, I was a little skeptical. Many sauces if not done right tend to mask the natural taste of food items. Some are downright cloyingly sweet or nastily goopy. It can be a lazy chef's gimmick to dress up less than fresh ingredients.

But I'm glad I came to try the dishes here. The sauces (some 30 housemade varieties) play well with the food. You'll see the ever popular Salted Egg Yolk, Thai, Black Pepper, Butter Beer (inspired by how the Vietnamese steam crabs with beer), Citrus Champagne, and even a milky Indo Curry.

We kicked off with a couple of appetisers:

Crispy Baby Silver Fish (S$6++)
This is the perfect beer snack. Crispy and well-seasoned, these whole whitebait will probably fulfil your day's calcium requirements.

Handmade Fresh Crab Money Bag ($18++)
Such moreish little parcels, these money bags are. The wrappers are made from egg white; they are delicate but with just enough tensile strength to hold the generous crab filling. The last time I had something similar was at Yan Ting, although that was one giant dumpling. These money bags are handmade so there are limited quantities each day.

Big Lazy Prawns (S$20++) - Crispy Crackers
When they brought these out to us, the crispy coating seemed deliciously familiar but we couldn't put a finger on what it was: not breadcrumbs, rice crispies, or cereal. Guess what? It's keropok! Fish/Prawn crackers! The novelty factor left after we knew what it was, but it was still pretty addictive.

Big Lazy Prawns (S$20++) - Salted Egg Tempura
This is a different take on the usual salted egg seafood - the prawns are first fried tempura-style and then drizzled with the salted egg yolk sauce and topped with curry leaves and chili padi. So sinful but yes, I will willingly cut short my life by a few hours for one of these.

Now, despite the "chop" in their name, Big Lazy Chop's signature is not chops but ribs.


Drunken XL Spare Ribs (S$23++): Butter Champagne
For the drunken ribs, you have a choice of butter beer, butter champagne or citrus champagne. These are fairly large ribs (about 20cm) and arrive piping hot, so be patient when picking up one of them to gnaw. You will have to gnaw, yes, because the meat, while tender, is not exactly fall-off-the-bones like in BBQ-style ribs. But they are so tasty, you won't mind getting messy fingers for it.

Apparently entire bottles of champagne go into the sauce along with passionfruit juice to temper the bitterness.

Saucy XL Spare Ribs (S$20++): Coffee
The Saucy Ribs come in four flavours - buttermilk, citrus orange, coffee and salted egg. Our coffee ribs were indeed beautifully charred with a sticky coffee sauce but some pieces were a little too dry. I'm not sure if it's due to the ribs we got or the preparation style.


Another specialty is the Wok-Fried XL Crabs (S$70/kg) using live Sri Lankan crabs; a 800-850g portion shown here). This is the Indo Curry crab and it comes in a big and presentable claypot. The curry is the thin but intensely savoury kind. No coconut milk went into this. Chef Oh uses four types of chilli, lemongrass and curry leaves. The ingredients are wok-fried for almost an hour for the fragrance to come through and the consistency to be reached.

The gravy would go very well with rice. On its own, it's a little too strong.

You can also have the crabs done in black pepper, chili, salted egg yolk, or with bee hoon.

Mantous, steamed or fried, are available separately at S$1 a piece (min 4 pieces).


French Bean with Minced Pork (S$9++)
The beans were excellent - so crunchy and umami with the minced pork (and possibly dried shrimp). Full as we were, we refused to let the staff clear the half-eaten plates til we had polished off everything. 


Beancurd (Handmade with Fresh Soybean Milk) Hotplate Hakka Beancurd ($13++)
This simple comfort dish is so good here. The beancurd has a rustic homemade edge to it, and yet is tender and smooth. And whatever this brown sauce was, it made the whole dish come together.

Fried Chestnut Bars (2 - 3 pax) (S$8++)
These steamed chestnut cakes are battered and fried. Sweet and sticky on the inside, crunchy on the outside. It's something I should have liked but I found them too greasy. After a heavy meal like the one we had, something lighter or cooling like a cold jelly or sorbet would have gone down more easily.

Meanwhile they do serve traditional Chinese teas (minimum 2 pax per tea pot) like Pu-Erh ($1.60 /pax), Chrysanthemum (S$2.20 /pax) and “Gook Po” (Pu-Erh and Chrysanthemum mixed, S$2.50 /pax). Pu-Erh is especially good for washing down oily food (and making you feel less guilty).

They are also bringing in craft beers like these (left to right):
Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer (S$12++): tastes like whisky
Magic Hat Low Key Session IPA (S$10++)
Magic Hat #9 not quite Pale Ale (S$11++)
Lindemana Pecheresse Peches-Lambic Artisanal (S$9++): peachy and sweet, estimated to be popular with ladies but the guys in our team liked it too

Big Lazy Chop has al fresco seating as well, but with the heat these days, I'm guessing the 40 indoor seats are going to be the more popular.

It is located across from La Salle College of the Arts in a building with huge printed words. It's diagonally across from Rochor Beancurd too.

The nearest MRT is Rochor (Downtown line). Take Exit A (Sim Lim Square). Walk along Rochor Canal Road and turn left into Short Street.

You can check out the full menu with prices online here.


1A Short Street #01-04
Singapore 188210
Tel: +65 62-388-443
Open Tuesdays to Sundays. Closed on Mondays
Lunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm (Last order – 2:00pm)
Dinner: 5:30pm – 10:30pm (Last order – 10:00pm)

Instagram: @biglazychop #dalanpai #biglazychop

Many thanks to Big Lazy Chop for the invitation


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