Dish has changed, but is still enjoyable
He has struck again.
Singapore-born Hong Kong food expert Chua Lam decided to announce that Singapore's Teochew-style pig's organ soup - or ter huang kiam chye - is not "authentic".
This came after his trip to Chaozhou, China, the birthplace of this soup that is created by slow-boiling pig offal and meat with salted vegetables.
After devouring a bowl there, he felt that Singapore's take on the dish was way off the authenticity meter.
Mr Cheng Mun Kee, boss of Authentic Mun Chee Kee, challenged him to test his version. To paraphrase Julius Caesar: Chua Lam came, Chua Lam ate and Chua Lam concluded: Still not authentic.
This set me thinking: At which point in the history of pig's organ soup was a version decreed bona fide?
The dish has changed in Singapore.
Up until the 90s, hawkers made the dish by including everything but the oink - lean and fatty meat, liver, stomach, tongue, lungs, heart, kidney, skin, large intestines and pig blood curd.
But that was then.
Mr Koh Kee Teo, of the famous Koh Brother Pig's Organ Soup stall at Tiong Bahru Market, tells me: "Today, customers are scared of these parts.
"Now, we have only seven items and tofu has replaced blood curd."
Regulations took pig blood off suppliers' lists due to a lack of clean and properly handled supplies.
My take on "authenticity" is that it has more to do with expressing the idea behind a dish, rather than keeping to a rule - and that goes for all dishes whether it is pig's organ soup or pizza.
So here are just two "unauthentic" ter huang kiam chye places I enjoy...
AUTHENTIC MUN CHEE KEE
207, Jalan Besar
10am to 5am daily
The place that dared challenge Chua Lam. Come lunch and (especially) supper, it is packed.
For me, its soup lacks the punch of porkiness and the tang of salted mustard leaves.
But it is gentle and pleases the masses, especially the palate of the young post-clubbing crowd.
It uses fatty and lean meat, pork balls, liver, stomach slices, tofu and salted vegetables.
The chilli is not as fantastic as it was in the 80s.
TEOCHEW PIG ORGAN SOUP
Jalan Kukoh Market and Hawker Centre,1, Jalan Kukoh, #01-11
Mondays to Fridays 10am to 9pm, Saturdays 10am to 4pm, closed on Sundays.
Mr Tan Jo Huak has been selling this dish for close to 37 years.
On Chua Lam, he says: "He's quite irresponsible. People like us need to make a living.
"Authentic is subjective."
For $5, he serves the biggest portion with the most ingredients, including skin and kidney slices.
His pork base sediment-filled soup has the right amount of tang and the chilli is by far the best that can be found.
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.