With the kind of weather this time of year, I crave soupy dishes or congee. As it was storming when I arrived at Our Tampines Hub, the desire only increased.
Botak Cantonese Porridge, previously known as Botak Delicacy, was my goal. It’s a family-run business selling Cantonese-style congee. The outlet at Tampines is the flagship, and they have a 2nd outlet at Punggol.
The Tampines stall was manned by a friendly trio – 2 aunties and an uncle. I was honestly captivated by the auntie who was managing the stove, managing all 3 pots with efficiency and speed. It’s likely why, despite seeing a continuous flow of customers, it never became too crowded. The orders were dealt with swiftly.
The founder himself wasn’t there, sadly. I would have liked to see the man who had a nickname ‘Botak’ that stuck long enough that he decided to name his own business after it. I have to give kudos to the uncle. He explained the store’s name without even a hint of laughter.
Small talk aside, I was starving when I received my two big bowls of porridge. Let’s get into it.
What I tried at Botak Cantonese Porridge
When it comes down to Cantonese-style congee, I’d opt for a simple bowl of Minced Pork Century Egg Porridge (S$4). I never understood the distaste for century eggs, and I’ve always enjoyed them. In this dish especially.
The cut-up bits of the century egg have a jelly-like texture. What was most interesting was that, when trying it alone the richness would dominate my taste buds. But alongside the porridge, I’d get a creamier spoonful, everything mixing in harmony and not one thing overpowering the other.
I also ordered mine with an add-on for one egg (S$0.60). They’ll crack a raw egg atop the scalding porridge. Once you mix everything together, the egg will add a silky and richer taste to the bowl. Together with the fried shallots and chives, it was a humble but fragrant porridge.
But I struggled to see the minced meat in my bowl despite the dish supposedly meant to feature two main ingredients. But it only was an issue visually. With every bite, I easily found fatty bits of minced meat.
There was also a rather subtle but still identifiable hint of ginger. I’m honestly not all that fond of the spicy root plant. Usually, the only time I can tolerate it is when I’m drowning out the taste with honey in tea. I can now add this porridge dish to that extremely short list.
Topping everything off is the you tiao that were lost in the bowl after my good mix. What really surprised me was that every time I got one in a scoop, they were still crispy. I had expected them to be soggy, so it was a delightful subversion of my expectations.
I was still pretty hungry so I ordered the Mixed Porridge (S$4.80). It was the easiest way to try almost everything Botak Cantonese Porridge would have to offer.
I’ll gloss over the you tiao, century egg and minced meat as I’ve already gone over them, and the magic of what happens when an egg is mixed in. So let us start with the cuttlefish. I found 4 slices.
I feel like it’s the weakest of all the ingredients, it’s flavour unable to stand out in the whole bowl. At the very least, it’s not too chewy and difficult to break apart, having a nice snap when my teeth bit into them.
When I noticed 2 slices of gizzard slices, I was slightly apprehensive. I’m not a fan of these either. It’s not as bad as my dislike of ginger, but I rather not have them if given the choice. My distaste was unfortunately rewarded with a mouthful of chalky meat. It’s just not for me.
There was a mix of shredded chicken meat and pork slices, with a single meatball. Between the 3, I’d say the meatball was the star. It’s handmade so there wasn’t a hint of frozen meat aftertaste and was a mixture of fatty and lean meat. I just wish they would have more than 1 piece.
Thinking about it, maybe their Handmade Meatball Porridge (S$3.50) would have been more worth it.
If I wasn’t on my lonesome, I would have definitely gotten a bowl of Sliced Fish Porridge (S$5.30) or Seafood Porridge (S$6.50) just to test the waters there as well. But considering how they’ve won me over, there’ll be a next time.
While I heartily adore Botak Cantonese Porridge, I still need to you need to manage your expectations. Each bowl is hearty and generously sized but sparse with ingredients, some of which are handmade. They’re wallet-friendly as most of their dishes are under S$5.
Despite taking some soya sauce with me, I never felt the need to use it. They were richly flavoured all on their own. Still, it’s a humble bowl of porridge, with no added fluff.
So, if you’re just looking for a simple bowl of Cantonese-style congee done well with no crazy fluffs added to the mix? I can confidently recommend them to your food-ventures.
Expected damage: S$3.50 – S$6.50 per pax
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