Uncle Fong Hot Pot Review: Authentic Chongqing-Style Restaurant Opens Its First Overseas Outlet In Singapore
The hype is real when it comes to Uncle Fong Hot Pot, a Chongqing-style restaurant that opened in Hong Kong to staggering queues that even had celebrities among the locals. The popular hot pot chain has now arrived at our shores; the new restaurant at Great World marks its 11th outlet and first overseas outpost.
After weeks of scrolling through Instagram and gazing in envy at everyone's posts of the recognisable 9-grid pot, I finally got the chance to try out Uncle Fong Hot Pot. My review in summary: it's worth the hype.
The Ambience at Uncle Fong Hot Pot
Olden days of Chongqing meets modern simplicity best describes the interiors at Uncle Fong Hot Pot. The 80-seater restaurant has a decidedly homey and unpretentious ambience with the use of natural materials like wood and stone. Warm, dim lighting creates a cave-like cosiness, while clean lines and contemporary furniture lends the space an on-trend minimalist aesthetic.
The Food at Uncle Fong Hot Pot
Many theories sprang to mind when seeing the unique 9-grid hot pot: each grid holds a different type of soup, each diner can have their own designated grid, and more wild guesses. Turns out that these are all wrong! The grids are for cooking food at different heat zones.
The heat is strongest in the middle square, making it ideal for blanching quick-cook foods like thinly sliced beef. The four grids around it have a more even, medium heat and is best for poaching foods. Finally, the corner grids get the least amount of heat and is perfect for simmering ingredients like tofu and mushroom in low heat.
There are seven soup bases ($7/person or $28/pot) to choose from including the Singapore-exclusive Fruit and Vegetable Soup, Pork Bone, Tomato, Fungus and Mushroom, and Coriander and Preserved Egg.
But if you want something classic, go for the Authentic Chongqing Spicy Soup which comes in Mild and Super Spicy.
Everyone's familiar with mala - numbing, peppery and addictive - but the soup here stands out for its multi-dimensional flavour that goes beyond the basics we already love.
The spicy soup is brewed from five main ingredients. Chongqing Shizhuhong Chilli lends a rich fragrance, Sichuan Hanyuan Pepper gives the broth a sharp citrus tang and helps to remove fishy tastes, while Yunnan Yellow Ginger enhances flavours and has an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect. Another star ingredient is Sichuan Pixian Bean Paste which is made from broad beans instead of soybeans, giving it a unique nutty flavour with a warm, earthy spiciness and a hint of sweetness. Lastly is the "soul" of authentic Chongqing hot pot, Refined High Quality Beef Tallow. This specially selected beef fat has strong flavours without the gamey taste of beef. Together, they make for a delicious broth that is wonderfully rich and robust.
The Authentic Chongqing Spicy Soup comes in Mild and Super Spicy. Which spice level should you choose, you ask? Unless you're one of the few super humans who orders da la, it's safer to go for the Mild version, which offers plenty of kick.
Before your meal, you'll be served a small bowl of white fungus soup that's supposed to protect the stomach from the spices and prevent a tummy ache.
In line with the authentic Chongqing-style hot pot practice, the restaurant doesn't have the typical sauce station we're used to. Instead, diners are served a standard dipping sauce made with sesame oil and fried garlic. Simple yet satisfying, this sauce adds a light aroma to the ingredients and dampens the spicy effect of the soup while still letting the glorious broth flavour shine through. Xiao la people (and xiao xiao la people, not judging), you will need this dipping sauce!
Uncle Fong Hot Pot is known for their unique ingredients that are hard to come by in Singapore, but we'll start with the more common ones first.
Favourites include the Pork Shoulder ($18) and US Prime Beef Short Ribs ($42) which were both tender and fatty.
Certain ingredients come labelled with the recommended cooking time which is helpful to avoid overcooking them.
The noodle ingredients are another of the restaurant's strong suits. The Potato Noodles (half: $4.50) had a discernible starchy, savoury sweet potato taste, while the Inaniwa Udon (half: $4.50) was uber soft and springy with a QQ bounce.
Another must-try is the Homemade Ebiko Prawn Paste ($8.50). I'm usually not a fan of this quintessential hot pot ingredient but Uncle Fong Hot Pot's rendition doesn't have that fishy aftertaste, and has a light popping burst in the mouth.
Do try their Crunchy QQ Mushroom ($6.50) as well! These are thick and fat mushrooms have a lovely chewy texture as promised.
The only letdown from the typical ingredient group was the Chicken Slices ($12) which were a tad dry for my liking,
On to the more unusual ingredients, we have the Celtuce Slices ($8) that are beautifully presented in a shape of a flower. This stem vegetable was light and crunchy, sort of like a cross between cucumber and celery, and had a mild taste that went well with the broth.
And now we have the intestine category. The most palatable item for those who have never tried intestines before would be the Sea Cucumber Intestine (half: $19.50) in regular or red. These intestines had a fun crackling mouthfeel and better yet, no trace of gamey taste whatsoever.
Another one for the less adventurous is the Pig's Throat (half: $9.50), which simply tastes like the soup latched onto it and has a rubbery consistency.
Such innards are recommended to be accompanied with the dry dipping powder that's made with chilli powder and crushed peanuts, giving them that familiar shao kao aka grilled skewers taste. This dry powder also helps to mask some of the pungent intestine flavours.
If you're in the mood to get out of your comfort zone, or are dining with someone who loves intestines, there are more hardcore ingredients to choose from.
There's the Pig Kidney Slices (half: $8.50), that was tender and fatty with a strong earthy taste, and the Fresh Ox Liver (half: $8.50) which was slightly tough and had the most intense feral flavour of all the intestines I tried.
But perhaps the most daunting hot pot ingredient was the Beef Tripe (half: $12.50). These weren't too gamey and had a pleasant chewiness, but it did take a while to get past that strange bumpy surface.
Diners can also look forward to seasonal ingredients. The current one on the menu is the Razor Clams (full portion: $24, half portion: $12.50) which are harvested from black mud and air-flown into Singapore directly from Putien every week. These plump and succulent clams are meant to be cooked while tied up in a bunch so that they retain their natural sweetness.
From now until 25 May 2022, Uncle Fong Hot Pot is having an opening promotion where every diner can enjoy a free Signature Drink from the Four Heavenly Kings series. Choose from Oolong Iced Tea, Iced Roselle Tea with Fresh Orange, Iced Bayberry Juice or Captain Cool Passionfruit Cocktail. These drinks are served in comically oversized glasses that are fun for the 'gram!
I ended the dining experience with a refreshing blast of fine mist from a deodorising machine. Give a wave to activate the mist, do a little spin, and ideally, this should help remove hot pot smells lingering on diners. I can't attest to whether it works or not, but it sure is fun!
Here's the full Uncle Fong Hot Pot menu:
Uncle Fong Hot Pot
Address: Great World #B1-108/109, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Singapore 237994
Opening hours: Mon to Fri 11.30am – 3pm, 5 - 11pm; Sat & Sun 11.30am – 11pm; From 1 June 2022: 11.30am – 11pm daily
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Reservations: 6232 7800
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Photos by: Karmen