Putien founder brings authentic Chongqing-style hotpot restaurant to S'pore, soup base at S$7/pax

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Lee Wei Lin | May 12, 2022, 04:29 PM

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Hotpot lovers, this one's for you—Uncle Fong Hotpot Restaurant has opened its doors in Singapore.

It's the 11th outlet for the chain, which also operates in Hong Kong and China. Behind the eatery is Putien founder Fong Chi Chung, who's affectionately known as Fang Shu Shu (or Uncle Fong).

Uncle Fong serves up "authentic Chongqing hotpot". For those who aren't great with geography, Chongqing used to be in Sichuan, which is known for having extremely spicy food.

Photo by Mandy How.

Thus begs the question: does it mean that Uncle Fong's is only for those who like spicy food? Spoiler alert: no.

Tucked in a corner of the basement in Great World, the interior of the 80-seater is comfortably dim -- dark enough that you wouldn't quite notice if you splashed soup on your clothes (they have disposable aprons for messy eaters), but bright enough that you don't have to squint to figure out what you're digging for in the pot.

Photo by Mandy How.

Photo by Mandy How.

Once you sit down, you'll presented with a bowl of warm white fungus soup, which they tell us helps protect your stomach so that the spice doesn't affect it too much. The dipping sauce here is also a little different: you're recommended to mix minced garlic, sesame oil and chopped spring onions together for the best flavour boost.

Photo by Mandy How.

The soup bases

While the nine compartments of the fancy copper soup pot might give you the impression that you can try all the soups on offer, we're here to burst your bubble: there are holes on the sides of the compartments, so you'll only be able to get one soup base if you're opting for the fancy, IG-friendly option.

Photo by Mandy How.

But it's not just pretty, it's also very functional:

  • Middle square: the hottest, ideal for meats with short cooking times of under minute
  • Squares next to the middle: for ingredients that require one to 10 minute cooking times
  • Square diagonal to the middle: ingredients that need to be cooked for more than 10 minutes

If that's too technical for you (or if you can't decide on which soup you want more), opt for the double flavour soup base.

The Fruit & Veg Soup on one side, and the Chongqing Spicy Soup on the other. Photo by Mandy How.

Soup choices are made simpler as charges are levied according to the number of diners (S$7 per pax), and you can choose from:

  • Pork Bone Soup
  • Tomato Soup
  • Fungus & Mushroom Soup
  • Coriander & Preserved Egg Soup
  • Fruit & Veg Soup
  • Chongqing Spicy Soup

There's also the option to make your Chongqing Spicy Soup more or less spicy. We tried the regular version, which was just about the level of spicy that you'd expect mala soup to be.

The Fruit & Veg Soup was specially introduced for the Singapore market, and is described as "light with a mild sweetness, refreshing in our tropical climate". After trying it, we say it's something that soup-guzzlers wouldn't mind having on a daily basis.

The food

As for the food items on the menu, hotpot staples such as the US Prime Beef Short Ribs (S$42 for a full portion, S$21.50 for a half portion), Chicken Slices (S$12 for a full portion, S$6.50 for a half portion) Home-made Ebiko Prawn Paste (S$16 for a full portion, S$8.50 for a half portion) and Deep-fried Soy Bean Skin (S$8 for a full portion, S$4.50 for a half portion) are available.

Photo by Mandy How.

Home-made Ebiko Prawn Paste. Photo by Mandy How.

Deep-fried Soy Bean Skin. Photo by Mandy How.

Each dish comes with thoughtful tips on how long we should be cooking them for, and the timer that's at every table will help you keep track of whether your food is ready.

Be prepared to hear a chorus of beeps throughout your meal. Photo by Mandy How.

There's also plenty of innards such as the Beef Tripe (S$24 for a full portion, S$12.50 for a half portion), Pig Kidney Slices (S$16 for a full portion, S$8.50 for a half portion), Fresh Pig Heart (S$12 for a full portion, S$6.50 for a half portion) and Sea Cucumber Intestine (S$38 for a full portion, S$19.50 for a half portion).

We'd rather save our limited stomach space for the non-innards though, as the innards tend to get a bit too heavy on the tastebuds after a while.

Beef Tripe. Photo by Mandy How.

Pig Kidney Slices. Photo by Mandy How.

Less common dishes are the:

  • Dried Gong Choi (S$8 for a full portion, S$4.50 for a half portion), a very crunchy vegetable option that will make you feel less guilty about having hotpot,
  • Leather Jacket Fish (S$24), a fish species that's said to be only eaten in Chongqing, and
  • Deep-fried Pork (S$12) that we belatedly realised had peppercorns in its batter. In other words, not quite child-friendly.

Dried Gong Choi. Photo by Mandy How.

Leather Jacket Fish. Photo by Mandy How.

Deep fried pork. Photo by Mandy How.

You can also look forward to their seasonal specials—we were treated to the Razor Clams (S$24 for a full portion, S$12.50 for a half portion), which are only available till August.

Probably the best thing we had at the tasting. Photo by Mandy How.

As part of their opening special, every diner will get a free drink of their choice from the Four Heavenly Kings' series from now till May 25, 2022.

Photo by Mandy How.

The 800ml drinks (usually S$8 each) are:

  • Oolong Iced Tea,
  • Iced Roselle Tea with Fresh Orange,
  • Iced Bayberry Juice,
  • and the slightly alcoholic Captain Cool Passionfruit Cocktail.

The drinks are so massive that you could probably share it with someone.

At the end of the meal, we had the Brown Sugar Agar Jelly (S$4), which helped to cool off some of the heat.

So, nice or not?

By now, you'd probably be wondering the same thing as just about everyone else: how does Uncle Fong measure up to the de facto hotpot choice, Hai Di Lao?

The server thoughtfully brought this along to shield us from any stray drops of soup. Photo by Mandy How.

Price-wise, Uncle Fong is slightly more wallet-friendly than Hai Di Lao, but keep in mind that you won't be getting the latter's bells and whistles such as complimentary snacks while waiting, dancing noodle men and embarrassingly loud birthday song dedications.

Taste wise, both Uncle Fong and Hai Di Lao have their roots in Sichuan, but while the former focuses on retaining the authenticity of Chongqing hotpot, the latter prides itself on customer service and (in our opinion, at least) doesn't have flavours that are unique to one city.

As someone who's not a fan of innards nor spicy food, I'd save my Uncle Fong visits for when my eating companions want to try something new. Otherwise, I'd shell out the extra dollar for the experience that I've grown quite fond of.

Uncle Fong Hotpot Restaurant

Address: Great World #B1-108/109, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Singapore 237994

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 11:30am to 11pm (Closed from 3pm-5pm), Saturday & Sunday 11:30am to 11pm

11:30am to 11pm daily from June 1, 2022

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Top photos by Mandy How.