It’s evening at Telok Blangah Crescent Food Centre and the place is virtually deserted. All the rows of stalls are dark, except for one. From a stall in that solitary aisle come the rhythmic, musical clangs of a metal spatula on a metal wok. Hai Kee Teochew Cha Kuay Teow is still open.
There are 9 people lined up before me in the queue. I do the math: 5 minutes X 9 = 45 minutes. It seems an absurdly long time because the queue seems relatively short. However, that’s one of the most notable things about this stall: every plate is made from scratch on its own. Even if you order several plates at once, they are cooked individually.
Wait, we must. The elderly lady in front of me takes the opportunity to sit at one of the empty tables straddling the line. Behind me, another 3 people have joined the waiting party. The musical clanging carries on, non-stop.
What I tried at Hai Kee Teochew Cha Kuay Teow
I had heard about the rather unusual default cha kuay teow at Hai Kee Teochew Cha Kuay Teow. It is served with hum (cockles) and not with lup cheong (Chinese sausage). I personally prefer it the other way around. Apparently, you can ask for it to be done to your liking.
Unfortunately, I was just so glad to be placing my order after the 45-minute wait that I forgot to ask! So, there I was with my Cha Kuay Teow (S$5) with all the cockles and none of the sausage. I wished I had ordered the smaller (S$4.50) version instead.
Really, the serving is huge. It fills the entire plate and rises up to quite a height (compared to other stalls).
It’s also a bit wetter than I am used to.
My plateful had the wonderful dark colour that I love in my cha kuay teow, thanks to the generous spatula-full of dark sauce added to the mix. Also mixed in there were 2 eggs, now virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the plate.
There was also a generous helping of bean sprouts. They and the crispy pork lard added an essential crunch to the mix.
I very carefully hunted down all the 20 or so cockles and piled them onto one side of the plate. Well, almost all. 2 of the buggers had gone full camo and made their way into my mouth. I’ll have to admit that they weren’t as bad as I had imagined. Still, they are an acquired taste that I have not yet decided to acquire.
On the other hand, I did miss having lup cheong with my cha kuay teow. As far as I can recall, this was the very first time that I have had the dish without that essential (to me) ingredient.
That said, the rich flavour of the noodles in the sauce, the texture and crunch from the pork lard and the sprouts, and the overall eggy touch left me quite satisfied with my choice.
When I left at 8.54pm, 6 minutes before Hai Kee Teochew Cha Kuay Teow’s scheduled closing time, there were still 6 people in queue. I wondered if they would be served or left to make more timely plans for another day.
It’s a bit difficult to judge this cha kuay teow in comparison to other stalls where I have had the same thing. It’s all my fault— had I been paying more attention, I would have ordered my ‘standard’ version with Chinese sausage and without the cockles. That would have allowed me to make a better comparison of taste and flavour.
That does not make my visit a complete failure, though. There is no doubt that Mr. Loh dishes up some delectable plates of this popular favourite. It has its own appeal, something that’s proven every day from the queue at his stall.
I’m a bit torn about the preparation style. Obviously, he has perfected a way of doing things that works for him (and draws the endless line of customers). At the same time, there is no doubt that all of us would prefer if he managed to cook in bigger batches and served them up just a bit faster.
That said, Mr. Loh is an elderly man who has achieved an admirable level of nationwide fame with his unique style (and wonderful cha kuay teow). When everything you have done works, there is going to be little incentive to change. I think I like that.
Expected damage: S$4.50- S$5 per pax
Other articles you might like:
The post Hai Kee Teochew Cha Kuay Teow: Open for 4.5 hours, queue can be over 1 hour appeared first on SETHLUI.com.