Most Singaporeans know that Hakka cuisine includes thunder tea, abacus seeds, mei cai kou rou, and yong tau foo. But here is something different–bitter gourd soup, and Soon Kee Bitter Gourd Soup 新顺记苦瓜汤 at JB serves an amazing bowl.
More specifically, Soon Kee is located in Senai, a village in the Kulai district, and the restaurant serves many Hakkas living in this town. On weekend nights, the restaurant packs a full crowd, so it is advisable to go for lunch.
There are two dishes that every table orders: bitter gourd soup (RM4.50/pax) and fried meat (RM2.80/pax or RM10.80/plate). For the soup, the bitter gourd is sliced so thinly it’s almost translucent. Perhaps because if it’s so thin, it is crunchy and not bitter. The pork-based soup has pork slices and pork intestines, which are devoid of any gaminess. Tastewise, the soup enters the mouth sweetly and evolves to a gentle bitterness, leaving a 甘甜 dry-sweet aftertaste. Superb.
Fried meat is deep-fried pork belly marinated in fermented beancurd. It’s cooked excellently: it’s crispy and fatty, but it has no drop of grease. That said, I had a better version at Penang Seafood Restaurant.
A unique dish I hadn’t had before, pineapple intestine 黄梨大肠 (RM7/ RM13/ RM18) is pork big intestines stir-fried with pineapple in a starchy sauce. There are bits of birds eye chilli to give it an edge. My friends like it but I dislike having fruits in my savory dishes.
Many Western chefs, like Jamie Oliver for example, despise iceberg lettuce (RM6/ RM9/ RM12) and it is something I wouldn’t order at a restaurant. But it is delicious. Crunchy and extremely salty at first bite, the lettuce’s light flavour emerges as an aftertaste.
The fish head with black bean paste 鱼头豆腐 (RM10/ RM15/ RM 20) is full-on flavour. Bold and strong. But unfortunately the fish isn’t good quality, detracting our enjoyment of the dish.
There are many other popular dishes that we didn’t have the stomach space to try. Dishes such as braised pork belly with taro 芋头扣肉 (RM2.80/pax or RM10.80 plate), tofu with minced meat (RM6/ RM9/ RM12), curry chicken (RM6/ RM12/ RM18), and the black vinegar pig’s trotter (RM6/ RM12/ RM18).
Besides the delicious food and the wide variety, I also like their honesty as the food is clearly priced on their menu. I hate dishonest restaurants that give people “tourist prices.” We spent RM75 for 5 persons, or RM15/pax.
What a fantastic and affordable meal! The strong flavours here stir the entire tongue, unlike the milder and perhaps paler flavours in Singapore cze char.
Highly recommended. We were all extremely satisfied with the meal.
Soon Kee Bitter Gourd Soup 新顺记苦瓜汤
28, Jalan Impian Senai Utama, Taman Impian Senai, 81400 Senai, Johor, Malaysia
Tel:+60 12-719 8567 / +60 7-598 0955
GPS: N1 35.645′ E103 38.816′
11am-9pm, closed Tue
Decor/ambience: 6.5/10 (air con and comfortable)
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.