One evening we made the journey to Eunos neighbourhood to get authentic claypot rice. We’d already tried to visit Le Chasseur once to get it, but the restaurant had moved and we were out of luck. We searched online and found that they had relocated to a small industrial park near the metro line so off we went.
The restaurant was cute. It was kind of retrofitted into an open air warehouse with other little hawker stalls all around. It was the feature of the food centre and we were welcomely showed to a table.
Le Chasseur restaurant is famous for three dishes; Pork Knuckle, Claypot Rice, and BBQ Live Shrimp. These are apparently the best sellers but there are a few other dishes that we had from the menu that need to be added to the list.
Le Chasseur is operated by Mr. Andy Lim. After we studied the menu for a few minutes Mr. Lim himself came to our table and asked us if we had any questions. I immediately said we’d be having the Claypot Rice – I came all the way across town for it – but I was open to suggestions for the rest of our meal. Mr. Lim saw that we were serious and knew what we were doing. He asked us “How did you hear of us?” because he really doesn’t get any white tourists. We knew what we were doing!
We discussed some options and decided on; Otah Omelette, Claypot rice, and his famous BBQ Cuttlefish! It was obvious that Mr. Lim was as excited to have us at his restaurant as we were to be there! He sat with us, talked with us, and kept us company all night. It’s not often that you get to have dinner with the chef. This is exactly what our trip to Singapore was all about.
Mr. Andy Lim
While our food was being made Mr. Lim returned with a set of clay pots. I knew our evening was going to be memorable at this point. Mr. Lim sat down, got comfortable, and unloaded an amazing amount of culinary knowledge on us:
Claypot Rice is, to me, an example of all of the best things about cooking. A simple dish which requires time and care to make perfectly. Healthy and hot, fragrant and unforgettable. Claypot Rice is, very simply, rice cooked in a clay pot at high temperatures. It’s the amazing details which Mr. Lim explained to us which make it so special…
The most integral aspects of making Claypot Rice are the tools. The pot and the stove. The rice is cooked over a charcoal fire at extremely high temperatures (Mr. Lim knew the exact temperature to the degree) in a cracked clay pot. The pot is important – it has to be old enough that it has developed cracks in the bottom of it which will cary the essence & flavour of the charcoal and infuse it into the rice on the bottom. You never stir the rice, cooking it from raw as the evaporating chicken broth dances along the bottom of the pot, refusing the smoke from entering. Traditional clay pots have to be used – no other pot develops the correct cracks and over time the porous pots will acquire a flavour of their own. They’re never washed with soap – which would be absorbed into the bowl itself influencing the flavour and they must be used often to keep them sanitary. It takes exactly 20 minutes to cook the rice before the other ingredients are added such as chicken, salted fish, chinese sausage, and greens. The pot is then opened for you at your table where the waiter will stir it for you and add some sweet sauce if you desire. The little bits of crunchy rice from the bottom mixed in with rest are little wonderful surprises of crispiness.
I got to sneak into the back of the restaurant to take a picture…
As we enjoyed it I was surprised to discover that Mr. Lim uses Basmati rice. I though that for sure he would use a regular Chinese white rice so I asked him why he uses Basmati. He told us that he used to work in a big hotel restaurant alongside another chef of Indian heritage. They cooked together, shared skills with each other and learnt from each other. Mr. Lim discovered that the claypot rice is better with traditionally Indian Basmati rice because it’s longer grained and cooks well with the heat and has a preferred texture.
Claypot Rice was one of the dishes I wanted to try the most and to learn everything about it from the man in charge of making the best pot around was perfect. He explained that there’s really only a handful of places still making it in clay pots – it’s not practical. It takes 20 minutes and it’s much more economical for places to use pre-cooked rice or a non-charcoal fire. It was only the best for Leanna and I. I’m not about to mess around.
A perfect pot of Claypot Rice
Ok, the other dishes we enjoyed… We had an Otah Omelette which is an egg omelette with Otah seasoning which is a traditional Malay flavour which was hard to explain. A Malay version of a curry flavouring is a vague way to explain it. Omelettes of different kinds are popular throughout Singapore but seeing them alongside other items on a menu seems unimpressive. It was delicious and light and a great little 5$ item to go with our dinner.
The other side dish we enjoyed: A beautiful BBQ Cuttlefish. Glazed with a dark sweetness it was just as tasty as it was beautiful. The little crispy bbq burnt ends of the tentacles were heavenly. I still remember the flavour.
I needed dessert so I asked Mr. Lim to impress us. Without hesitation he said he’d bring us a bowl of Tau Suan. Tau Suan is served at nearly every desert stall in Singapore so I was a little unimpressed at first, but boy would I be wrong.
Mr. Lim brought out another dish of knowledge with our Tau Suan. Tau Suan is a warm bowl of Mung Beans in a syrupy sauce of Gula Melaka (palm sugar) served with crunchy dough fritters to dip. Mr. Lim imports the Gula Melaka specifically for his Tau Suan and served it to us with two bowls and three spoons.
Three spoons? Well yes, as he explained it is very important to keep the hot gooey syrupy texture of the Tau Suan. He explained that most people think that it gets runnier as it cools off but that’s not true at all – it’s the saliva on your spoon dipping in and out which counteracts the emulsification! One spoon for serving the Tau Suan into our individual bowls so it never interacts with our saliva. He knows more about food in one or two of his dishes than I’ll ever know. The Tau Suan was so yummy and warm – most people consider it to be the secret specialty of Le Chasseur.
The best Tau Suan in Singapore?
As we finished our meal Mr. Lim returned to us to chat some more. I asked him “Why does the restaurant have a French name: Le Chasseur”? He told us how he’s had 4 different careers in his life. First he was an engineer, then a shrimp farmer, then a chef, now a restaurant owner. During a period of his life he escaped to Mauritius to avoid Dengue fever and living there he was given a remote restaurant which was named “Le Chasseur” (“The Hunter” in French) so when he moved back he opened his restaurant with the same name.
Who’s this classy couple? That chick looks cute…
After dinner we relaxed while Mr. Lim kept the stories coming. He was eager to tell us the story about why his Pork Knuckle is so famous at his restaurant (almost every table was eating one). Most fried pork suffers from a skin which is too crunchy. It’s too hard to bite through. Mr. Lim explained that he discovered that it’s the collagen in the skin that when fried produces this undesirable quality. He explained pig skin doesn’t have pores and he thought for a long time for a way to fix this problem. Eventually he figured it out; he found a way to remove the collagen from the skin itself. He does this by frying the meat 4 times, shocking the skin each time! After expanding and contracting the skin will release the collagen. He was listing off precise cooking times and temperatures of the skin and the oil and the meat and it was just impressively scientific. He claimed he’s the only one who figured this out and that’s why his pork knuckle was so good.
It turns out that Mr. Lim is actually quite scientific. So scientific that it was at this point in the evening where he started telling us that he wished he could have been a doctor. He wanted to be a doctor so bad that he has actually opened up a Chinese medicine clinic in his office at the back of his restaurant!
What!? Really? Yes, and he didn’t hesitate to show us pictures of the crazy skin diseases he’s claimed to have cured for his “patients”. I’m not sure treating patients out of the back of your restaurant is purely “legal” in Singapore. He got really excited, and dragged us up out of our chairs and into his office and sat us down. We were surrounded by diagrams of the human body, books, and shelves upon shelves of Chinese medicine: deer antlers, dried snakes, insects, sections of bone, wood, and hundreds of individually labelled herbs. It was weird. He gave Leanna a free lesson on impregnation and gestation before taking us out the back of the restaurant so we could eat some of his medicinal plants! It was just too weird. He was so excited to show us everything (I could have done without the photos of gross skin diseases on his iPhone).
Mr. Andy Lim and his wife
Such a crazy night. We’ll never forget it. Le Chasseur turned out to be one of our favourite restaurants in Singapore, and one of my favourites in the world. I absolutely love it that Mr. Lim is so passionate about his food. His attention to detail is really rare and it’s nice to experience this, his food, and a lovely atmosphere person to person.