Ah, my expedition in the East continues (begrudgingly). The day was turning out to be all gloom with dusk approaching after an extended shower. What could possibly soothe my downcast spirit?
Bedok 85 Fengshan Food Centre turned out to have more than just a few options. But first, I had to endure the 20-minute walk from Bedok station. Like many stalls there, Chai Chee Pork Porridge stays open late into the night.
After a short chat with one of the stall hands, I learned that there are a total of 3 Chai Chee Pork Porridge stalls.
2 operate in tandem at Bedok 85, where one opens from morning (7am – 3pm, Closed on Wed), while the other opens at 4pm. Since I’d turned up for the latter, the first stall was closed. The third outlet is at Tampines Round Market & Food Centre.
What I tried at Chai Chee Pork Porridge
The entirety of my childhood was spent avoiding porridge since it was the one dish I would be fed when ill. So by pure association, little me was adamant that porridge was the worst things to have ever graced the planet. That perception has since changed, so I was looking forward to a comforting bowl of Pork Porridge (S$4.50) with egg (S$0.50).
There are 2 schools of thought when it comes to enjoying you tiao. I usually finish them before stirring the porridge, but that immediate gratification somewhat weakens the rest of the dish.
They were delightfully fluffy on the inside and the oily aftertaste contrasted (and was subsequently cleansed by) the light congee. In fact, letting the you tiao absorb the deceptively non-viscous soup upgraded the savoury flavours of both. I enjoyed the taste even without the you tiao‘s crispiness.
Easily stealing the spotlight were the meatballs, the softest component here next to the rice grains. I’d read reviews criticising them and stating that the saltiness was off-putting. My friend, Justin, agreed with my assessment that they were undeniably the best part of the dish.
Not only were they soft, but hopping from the subdued, gooey congee to the you tiao and then the meatballs was like a flavour escalator.
After a few spoonfuls of the unmixed solution, I finally relented and gave the bowl a series of stirs to break the yolk. The golden colouration was immediate, almost like a rapid chemical reaction. In consistency, the yolk had imparted its qualities well. I noticed a subtle change in texture; the congee soup hadn’t been as thick before. Or that was the work of those spindly egg white strips.
The second bowl was Mixed Porridge (S$6), also with the addition of an egg (that I had burst by accident). This is ultimately the superior choice as both century egg and cuttlefish are added to it. Outside of lending their crunch, they were tart and had a faint odour.
The century eggs had been sliced into what looked like equal quarters. I found them to be remarkably springy with an almost creamy centre. Perhaps my senses had been dulled in the moment, but I detected none of the usual pungency.
I can assure you that the soya sauce and pepper were redundant but if you’re a frequent patron at Chai Chee Pork Porridge, they are justifiable for adding depth to the congee.
My opinion of porridge has come a long way, thanks in no small part to Cantonese congee. I certainly didn’t feel the salubrious effects of porridge that my parents had vouched for over decades but found it was more aligned with an indulgent meal. On that particularly depressing day though, Chai Chee Pork Porridge did assuage my melancholy.
Expected damage: S$5 to S$7 per pax
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