Makansutra: Exquisitely simple soul food at Teochew Big Brother
Teochew Big Brother will keep you going back for more
It has come to my attention that a collective of retired seniors and home cooks has recently come out to champion our culinary heritage.
Mr Raymond Leong and Mr Jeffrey Bong offer home-based private Peranakan meals with some Cantonese touches, while Ms Tammie Loke hawks her comfort food in a bowl from her new eatery at Jalan Sultan.
And now, Hong Kong-born Singaporean Randy Chan, after closing his shipping firm, has decided to offer his Teochew-style braised duck seafood and beef dishes at an industrial canteen in Toa Payoh.
I am sure there are a lot more out there that I do not know of.
The baby boomers are continuing our food culture because they know their food very well and have always pottered around in the kitchen, replicating these soulful pleasures.
Mr Chan's Teochew Big Brother does not demand a second look. He is not into stall display, and frankly, it looked pathetic.
It is barely two months old yet it looks like it has two months left on its lease.
He said: "I cook often at home to entertain and de-stress, so this was quite natural after I shuttered my shipping business."
Mr Chan also reminded me that he is a Hong Kong-born Teochew who can only say"how are you" in the dialect.
Fortunately, his food is exquisitely simple.
The starter platter of braised duck with pig ears and uber soft pork trotter slices set the tone of what lay ahead.
It looked dark and bold but the caramelised soya sauce hid no hints of saltiness.
It was an umami explosion, and every slice was softer than the usual kind.
It also came with a roasted XO sambal, which did me in.
And when he said "you have to wait for the scallion oil poached chicken" with confidence, I simply had to.
The chopped scallions, with traces of ginger, sesame oil and light touches of salt, so beautifully flavoured the soft poached chicken.
I should have ordered the whole bird, instead of half.
Then came the main course - a whole red garoupa steamboat with huge sea grey prawns and a basket of greens.
Visually, it was nothing much to rave about, but herein lie its simple pleasures.
Randy insisted we first bring the soup to a boil and taste some of it, before we cook the fish and its co-stars.
It reminded me that slow-cooked food must be devoured slowly.
He also brought out a plate with a mound of hand-minced pork, with mushrooms and bits of water chestnuts, which was scooped into little balls and cooked in the pot.
This was a delight for me. Soft, fragile and intensely flavourful, it just collapsed in my mouth.
He next brought out his last order of braised beef tendon, looking so un-Instagrammable (as if I care) and tasting like a hot beef jelly.
You will cry out for some rice.
"You should also try my Hong Kong-style Teochew oyster omelette," he whispered as I left.
That was an invitation for me to return, and I of course will.
Teochew Big Brother
Block 9, Toa Payoh Industrial Park, #01-1209
Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 3pm (basic menu) and 6pm to 11pm. Closed on Mondays.
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.