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Sep 25, 2011 08:23 AM

Singapore - Paper-wrapped chicken from Union Farm Eating House

One of the last bastions for village-style dining in the city, Union Farm Eating House has been serving its simple but popular fare of paper-wrapped chicken (纸包鸡) using its original recipe which has not been changed for nearly 50 years. Other staples included blanched egg noodles tossed in oyster sauce & topped with choy-sum vegetables.

But the piece de resistance remained the little parcels of marinated chicken, redolent of ginger, Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce & ground pepper, slightly sweetish.

Union Farm Eating House's setting was incredibly rustic, considering its location on Clementi Road, in-between Maju Camp and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Address details
Union Farm Eating House
435A Clementi Road
Singapore 599474
6466 2776

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  1. Oh my goodness, I have not been back there for more than 10 years and the whole place still looked exactly the same!

    1. Same reaction as Gomez; I have not been back there like 20 years. The food is too greasy for me now.

      1. klyeoh: were these photos taken recently?

        i guess you must have been a regular there; either that or we was seriously snooked when my friends and i ate there a year ago =( the noodles did not come with quite as much veggies (actually, i think it came with two stalks of veggies).

        and the paper-wrapped chicken! imagine a chicken wing, chopped up into four parts, and each part individually wrapped into a parcel. we never got what seems to be the generous portions as shown in your photos. to top it off, we were charged about $1.50 per piece (which meant that a whole chicken wing would have cost us six bucks =p

        the worst part was that our chicken was not "redolent" of anything but oil. a far cry from when i had it as a kid...

        it was such a embarrassing moment for us as we were entertaining guests from penang. he must have went away thinking, "is this all that sg can offer in terms of food"? we have boycotted the place since.

        20 Replies
        1. re: akated

          What a horrid experience it must have been for you. Yes, the photos were taken very recently - 2 weekends ago when I was back in Singapore during the F1 race season. I last visited Union Farm perhaps 2 years back, so am not a regular there - but the taste during my recent visit was about the same as I'd always remembered it. It tends towards the more rustic, but our tastes have also changed in the past years as we travel farther & taste better food elsewhere.

          One tip for entertaining Penang visitors in Singapore - take them to one of the nice fine-dining Cantonese restaurants in town, e.g. Crystal Jade Palace, Imperial Treasure, Lei Garden, etc. I always did, and they'd rave about it afterwards. That's because Penang, despite its wonderful street food culture, has virtually NO good Cantonese fine-dining restaurant on the island at all!

          Only two fine-dining Cantonese restaurants in Penang impressed me - the Canton Palace Chinese restaurant at Evergreen Hotel, and the Sesame+Soy modern-Chinese restaurant at the G Hotel, both located in Gurney Drive. Other older Chinese restaurants in Penang: May Garden, CRC or Starview all have a heavy, Hokkien-influenced cooking style.

          Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant
          391 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238872, SG

          1. re: klyeoh

            My dear friend, klyeoh - so now you know, if I ever come by to visit you in Singapore, don't bring me to Union Farm ha ha ha!
            Anyway, I'm amazed that a place like Union Farm actually still exist in Singapore when so many other nice Chinese restaurants that I knew from trips years ago seemed to have disappeared, for example Fook Yuen in Paragon, Mei San Szechuan at Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Grand City at Cathay Building, Charming Garden at Novotel, Chinoiserie at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Royal Garden at Winsland House, Yanbin Garden at Cuppage Building etc etc.

            1. re: penang_rojak

              Restaurants in Singapore come & go pretty quickly, and I'm surprised that you still remembered all those old places:

              - Fook Yuen was part of a HK-owned chain. At one point , they also had a branch in Changi Airport T2 and, if I remembered correctly, another one in Raffles City. Exited Singapore in the 90s, but you can still try their HK bracnhes;

              - Mei-san Szechuan was the only halal fine-dining Chinese restaurant in Singapore during its hey-days in the early-90s in Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza (now called Royal Plaza at Scotts), which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. There was also a fine-dining Malay restaurant, Sukmaindra, on the same level 2 as Mei-san restaurant then;

              - Grand City (owned by the same people as Dragon City in Novotel Orchid) was closed when the old Cathay Building was torn down;

              - Charming Garden was owned by the same people who owned the public-listed Tung Lok Group (headed by Andrew Tjioe) that runs a chain of Cantonese fine-dining restaurants in Singapore. It closed down last year when the location it was in (Copthorne Orchid Hotel, ex-Novotel) was to be torn down;

              - Chinoiserie at Hyatt - I think you mixed up this place with the Cantonese restaurant there, Ru-yi. Both were on the same floor, but Chinoiserie was more well-known for bar dining & drinks. Anyway, both outlets (together with Nutmegs, a California-themed restaurant) on Level 2 of Grand Hyatt were shut-down and the whole space was integrated and re-developed into Mezza9 restaurant that's proving to be very popular these days;

              - Royal Garden at Winsland House served fantastic Cantonese fare, but it suffered from poor location and traffic.

              - Yanbin Garden, now this name's a blast from the past. I'm not sure if it's still open, but I think not. Cuppage Centre is more of a nightspot place.

              Old restaurants do struggle to survive in Singapore, some which still do are Spring Court, in Upper Cross Street, Capital Restaurant in New Bridge Road and Da Dong Restaurant in Smith St.

              Another oldie, Mitzis Cantonese restaurant on Tanjung Pagar Road, is closing down (or maybe has closed) as the landlord wanted to raise the rent in the shophouses it's located in.

              1. re: klyeoh

                wow! i've never heard of all these restaurants... (except for mitzis as i work at tanjong pagar. not yet 30 here. hehe).

                thanks for the tip on cantonese restaurants! will remember that next time my friends from penang come over.

                1. re: akated

                  Always a pleasure to exchange dining tips with fellow CHs, akated - and please continue to share your critiques (good & bad) here, as others who read the threads will definitely want to hear all sides of how a restaurant is perceived. Some of us may have a good experience at a certain place but others will have a totally negative experience - often, the inconsistency of that particular restaurant comes into play.

                  I envy you younger CHs, you'll have more energy & appetites that us more "mature" ones :-D Singapore is also a more exciting dining place these days, with more sophisticated/international eateries like Waku Ghin, CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Santi, Guy Savoy, Daniel Boulud's Bistro Moderne, Joel Robuchon's 2 restaurants in Resorts World Sentosa, Salt at ION Orchard, amongst others.

                  When I was your age, the top French/continental restaurants in Singapore (and those which I really liked) were:

                  - Maxim's de Paris (Regent Hotel),

                  - Hubertus Grill (ANA Hotel),

                  - Le Restaurant De France and Chez George (both at Le Meridien Hotel),

                  - Le Duc and Les Brasserie (both at Omni Marco Polo - building's torn down),

                  - Nutmegs (the old Hyatt Hotel, now upgraded to Grand Hyatt),

                  - Baron's Table (the old Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, now Royal Plaza at Scotts),

                  - Latour (Shangri-La Hotel),

                  - Truffles (the old Dynasty Hotel, now Marriott),

                  - Palm Grill (the old Westin Plaza, now Fairmont Hotel),

                  - Compass Rose (the old Westin Stamford, now Swissotel),

                  - Pinnacle (top floor OUB Centre), Fourchettes (Oriental Hotel, now called Mandarin Oriental) and

                  - Les Chalet (Ladyhill Hotel - building's also torn down), amongst others.

                  Some very good restaurants that came & gone in the last 20 years:

                  - Bice at Goodwood Park Hotel,

                  - Liana's Bistro at the Oriental Hotel,

                  - Duo at Ann Siang Hill,

                  - L'Aigle D'Or at Duxton Hotel (the only Relais & Chateux-rated spot in Singapore then),

                  - Salut at Tanjung Pagar Rd

                  ... and these are just the tip of the iceberg!

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Ah, all those names bring back so much nostalgic feelings ....of a time when people dress up to go out for dinner, and service is polite and formal. I still remember Maxim's de Paris at the Regent Hotel which was a favourite of me andmy husband. They insisted that the gentlemen must wear ties and jackets before they are allowed in. These days, I see customers walk into Waku Ghin or Guy Savoy wearing t-shirt and jeans. YUK!

                    1. re: M_Gomez

                      "These days, I see customers walk into Waku Ghin or Guy Savoy wearing t-shirt and jeans" - i admit i do that sometimes (not to waku ghin / guy savoy, but to places like jaan, albeit with a jacket, or layered with an unbuttoned short-sleeved shirt to satisfy the collar requirements). it's just too hot here in sg!

                      i always wear a jacket when dining in good restaurants overseas though. easy to satisfy that requirement since one would be likely to be wearing a jacket due to the weather.

                    2. re: klyeoh

                      but younger = not as much spending power. true for me at least. haha.

                      i only recognise l'aigle d'or, compass rose, and salut from the list. and i have not eaten at any of them! (maxim's was in singapore before? *gasp*!)

                      1. re: akated

                        L'Aigle D'Or really upped the ante in Singapore where French-style fine-dining is concerned when it opened in 1992 - I dined there countless times, and still remembered the very talented first chef-de-cuisine, Thierry Duflos, and the smooth-talking maitre'd, Dominique Couture. Through the years, there were also good visiting/guest chefs who cooked there, e.g. Michel Rostang (one of my fave chefs in Paris).

                      2. re: klyeoh

                        Ah... a blast from the past. I have fond memories of the buffets at ANA and Latour. It may be my rose-tinted glasses but it seems like the buffets today don't hold a candle to my memory of those. Quite liked the high tea at Marco Polo too.

                        On the same topic, anyone remember May Garden (Taiwan porridge) at Orchard Towers), Hediard at Paragon Shopping Centre (different than the Hediard of today - the original Hediard did proper meals and featured that most wonderful of things, a proper dessert trolley), or Movenpick (the restaurant precursor of Marche) at Scotts Shopping Centre? Used to be fond of those places too.

                        1. re: RipCurl

                          You weren't wrong - the buffets you remembered from the past really WERE better than those we have today. Remember Triple 3 in Mandarin Orchard which used to have steamed lobsters and rich lobster bisque soup? Today, those have been subsituted with cold poached mussels and tepid soups.

                          I still remembered May Garden, too (*smile*), same era as Silver Spoons in Supreme House, Tropicana (where Pacific Plaza stands today), Copper Kettle (also in same neighborhood), etc.

                          I do remember Movenpick very fondly in Scotts Shopping Centre, especially their salad buffet. Also their steak tartare :-)

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            P.S. Thanks for the nice trip down memory lane klyeoh. :)

                          2. re: RipCurl

                            I vaguely remember May's been MANY years since I was last there.

                            1. re: huiray

                              Yes, the steak tartare - with fried potato skins!

                              Years after May Garden closed down, I still remember their clams with black bean sauce and the plum tea. :) Haven't been able to find another Taiwan porridge place I liked as much since..

                              1. re: RipCurl

                                Same here about May Garden, although I also miss their minced pork with salted black beans, chai-poh omelette and stewed peanuts.
                                Does anyone remember Hillman Restaurant in Cantonment Road? I think they are now in Kitchener Road, and they stil have the signed poster of legendary French chef Paul Bocuse who dined there. In those days, Hillman's claypot dishes were the best in Singapore.

                                1. re: M_Gomez

                                  Was just at Hillman a few weeks ago - their claypot dishes and paper-wrapped chicken are still the same. Nice to know that some things don't change :)

                                  1. re: RipCurl

                                    i haven't tried this before! *making a mental note to go there* - it's so close to my office!

                                    1. re: akated

                                      akated, don't go to Hillman with overly-heightened expectations, ok? ;-)

                                      Its food has got an old-world, overly-greasy & "heavy" taste to it, and may lack the subtlety to tantalize modern-Singaporean tastebuds which had been exposed to finer, HK-influenced Canto fine-dining these days.

                                      But back in the 70s, Hillman was almost like the height of epicurean achievement in small-town, backwater Singapore, and we'd bring visiting HK relatives (who pooh-poohed Singapore's Hokkien-dominated rustic cuisine) to Hillman as its variety of claypot dishes would never fail to delight them.

                                      Hillman still does a respectable fried rice dish - a good companion to their claypot chicken or pork-liver dishes.

                                      But today, I'd go to Kitchener Road for the irresistible Putian Restaurant (a few doors away from Hillman), with its incredible Hingwa-style fried beehoon - simply to-die for!

                                      1. re: klyeoh

                                        old-world, greasy like a good "yu2 xiang1 qie2 zi3"? then bring it on i say! lol!

                                        1. re: akated

                                          Go for it then, akated!
                                          Don't forget to post back your experience there :-)

              2. Wow, late to this post but this place still exists?

                I was last there maybe 30 years ago when I was a kid. I used to love it - didn't mind the grease at all...

                1 Reply
                1. re: mikey8811

                  Isn't it amazing that a place like this is still around in modern, fickle, slave-to-trend Singapore?!

                2. Just to update this thread that Union Farm Eating House is no more. It closed down after the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) who owned the land it stood on for over 60 years wanted it back to expand its campus:


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Yes, it closed after the Chinese New Year holidays but the news was a mere bleep on our radar, which goes to show how far Union Farm has receded from our list of eating priorities. I will miss its kampung atmosphere but not so much its food.