I was rather confused when I first heard of ‘chao ta’ (burnt) Bee Hoon. After all, why would someone want burnt food? Nestled in block 203 Toa Payoh North is Hao Kee Seafood Deluxe, a stall that serves up chao ta bee hoon, and a plethora of zi char dishes! Interestingly, the stall is a mere 3-minutes walk away from the SPH headquarters and is wildly popular amongst SPH employees. In fact, we came to know of Hao Kee when we stumbled upon a raving review on The Straits Times!
I was particularly excited about trying Hao Kee’s Chao Tar Bee Hoon ($ 6/ $ 12). This is one of the stall’s most popular dishes. Although the estimated waiting time for this dish is 15 minutes, it can extend to as long as an hour during busy periods! The dish features stir-fried rice vermicelli that has been flattened and shaped into a pancake. Then, the noodles are swirled around in a scorching hot wok to create a charred and crisp surface.
We first tried the Chao Tar Bee Hoon($ 6/portion for 1 pax). When this dish was brought to our table, I immediately caught a whiff of its smokey fragrance. We eagerly broke open its crispy exterior to reveal the moist and flavourful bee hoon within. I found that the ‘chao ta’ layer was actually quite thin and it was not as blackened as I thought it would be. However, the dish was still imbued with a strong wok hei!
The combination of the crispy surface and the moist bee hoon provided an enchanting contrast of textures. The bee hoon was stir-fried with a variety of ingredients which include prawns, squid and most importantly, fried lard! While the seafood was all cooked to perfection, the fried lard brought the dish’s flavour to the next level. The lard released a good amount of its oil which imparted a mesmerising flavour to the noodles. When the dish started to feel a little jelak, a squeeze of lime made me fall in love with the dish all over again. This dish was so good that we had to order the $ 12 portion for everyone to share! We just couldn’t get enough of it!
Hao Kee’s Mee Sua Gor ($ 5) is also highly recommended. Thin mee sua noodles are cooked in a pork broth which contains minced pork, eggs, shrimp, as well as some chopped spring onions. The mee sua was cooked to a soft consistency, and every mouthful of it and the thickened soup was cohesive and smooth. This dish was definitely warm and comforting, but it didn’t strike me as a must-order. Perhaps a spoonful of black vinegar or a sprinkling of pepper would have elevated the flavour of this Mee Sua Gor.
On the other hand, Hao Kee’s Chai Por Hor Fun ($ 5) is a dish packed with loads of flavour. The dish features hor fun that has been fried with bean sprouts, eggs, prawns, and green vegetables. This hor fun definitely captured the intense flavours of chye poh (preserved radish), without overpowering the delicious noodles. The richness of the oily and smokey noodles was cut through by the sour tang of the chye poh, while the bean sprouts added a refreshing crunch to the dish. Order this if you’re a fan of chye poh!
If you’re not a fan of garlic, steer clear of Hao Kee’s Spicy Garlic Chicken ($ 13). When the dish was first served to us, I was surprised to see entire cloves of garlic. The chicken was fried together with the garlic and coated in a sweet plum sauce. Despite the copious amounts of garlic, the taste of the garlic wasn’t overwhelming. The meat was not amazingly moist or tender, but I quite enjoyed the sweetness of the plum sauce and slight tinge of spiciness.
A zi char meal with friends or family wouldn’t be complete without a big plate of food for everyone to share. The Assam Fish Head ($ 24) comes with a head of a grouper and a variety of vegetables, including lady’s fingers, brinjal and tomatoes. The fish was tender and moist, while the skin added a lovely gelatinous texture. However, I felt that the broth was slightly too milky and diluted. The dish could have definitely benefitted from having a richer and punchier assam broth!
I might have mentioned this before, but I’m generally not a fan of vegetables and greens. However, Hao Kee’s Kailan & Pork Floss ($ 12) was definitely an exception! The kailan, which had been fried, had a waxy sheen on the surface. It was also topped with a generous amount of mouth-watering pork floss, which clearly made everything taste better. The kailan itself had a wonderful hardened texture (from the frying), which complemented the melt-in-your-mouth pork floss. The slightly bitter flavour of the kailan also went beautifully with the sweet and savoury floss. This was definitely a vegetable dish done right!
Overall, there were more hits than misses. If you’re thinking of paying Hao Kee a visit, I’ll highly recommend going for their Chao Tar Bee Hoon, Chai Por Hor Fun and their Kailan & Pork Floss!
Address: Blk 203 Toa Payoh North, #01-1097, Singapore
Mobile: 8688 1382
Area: Toa Payoh
Opening Hours: 11am to 2pm & 5pm to 10:30pm daily, closed on Tuesday.
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.
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