Zi Char (also known as Zhi Char/ Cze Char/ Tze Char/ Zhu Chao) refers to comforting Chinese home-style dishes cooked upon order, usually eaten at humble local eateries and coffee shops in Singapore.
Every Zi Char stall has different selections of a la carte dishes, and it is perfect for communal dining. The idea is to order a few dishes (or many), and everyone digs in together.
From butter pork ribs, prawn paste chicken wings to spring onion deer meat, here is our Guide to 21 Popular Zi Char Dishes that you will commonly find in zi char stalls across Singapore.
Hainanese chicken rice is Singapore’s national dish, it is a must-eat food when you are here. When you ask locals for recommendations, it is impossible to agree on which is the best chicken rice in Singapore as everyone has their own favourites.
However, no one will deny that Tian Tian Chicken Rice is one of the most famous chicken rice stalls. It even gained the approval of Anthony Bourdain when he was in Singapore.
Le Chasseur has been widely raved about in numerous reviews by newspapers, magazines and food blogs. A few of my friends are also huge fans of the food there. They are always talking about this hidden gem of a restaurant that serves good zi char. So when a friend was in town visiting, I decided to bring her there for dinner. And from the first dish, we could not stop singing its praises.
Zi Char (also known as Zhi Char/Cze Char/Tze Char/Zhu Chao) is a term used to describe a wallet-friendly, home-style cuisine from a Chinese stall, which serves a variety of ala-carte dishes and leaves you spoiled for choice. Most zi char stalls are located in a non-restaurant setting like a coffee shop or a hawker centre. There are also some local seafood restaurants which have air-conditioned dining area.
Here are some of the best zi char restaurants located in the west of Singapore.
You know a marketing campaign is successful when people still remember the slogan after a long time. When you mention Chin Huat Live Seafood, chances are, people will think of the slogan “lobster bigger than little girl” used in their television advertisement years ago.
Chin Huat Live Seafood at Sunset Way, is of course, more than just lobsters. Besides the typical Sri Lanka crabs, they offer a huge variety of seafood and popular zichar dishes.
“Where can you find the cheapest crabs in Singapore?”
Irvin’s Seafood Cze Char at River Valley road is probably the place to go. Most of the crabs on the menu – like black pepper crab, chilli crab, butter crab – are available for just $19.9. There’s a catch of course. The crabs are much smaller, around 500g each.
Personally, I thought that it was a good tactic to attract customers. But taste-wise, the crabs that we had were nothing special. Irvin’s Seafood is only worth a try if you a) are on a budget b) want to try a variety of crabs.
When I was younger, the de facto meeting place for gatherings was definitely at least a cafe, or a nicer restaurant for a special occasion. While I enjoy going out to fancy restaurants, I also like having a simple dinner at a Zhu Chao stall with my friends.
For one of our gatherings, we decided to meet at Tiong Bahru as everyone is working nearby. Since I’ve been to Sin Hoi San Seafood Restaurant, I asked my friend to recommend another eating place in the area, and she immediately suggested Por Kee Eating House – a very popular Zhu Chao Stall at Seng Poh road opposite Tiong Bahru Market.
Tucked at the back of a run-down coffee shop along Upper Bukit Timah Road, Ga Hock Seafood Restaurant is a popular zhi char stall in the west of Singapore.
Despite its hidden location, Ga Hock has a huge following; many people flock here for a good and satisfying dinner. I only knew about Ga Hock when I asked on twitter for recommendations of the best zi char places in Singapore.