Makansutra: Vanishing art of Teochew muay
Qian Cheng Rice Porridge is among the few stalls still offering this fading hawker craft - and they do it well
If those on the keto diet and meat-loving millennials have their way, we may be seeing the last of stalls such as Qian Cheng Rice Porridge, especially in hawker centres.
Many of the so-called hipster hawkers cannot cook enough of or understand the culture surrounding this dish.
Chap chye or Teochew muay (porridge) stalls have distinctly different types of dishes and have to offer at least 20 by meal time to make the cut and draw customers in.
Qian Cheng Rice Porridge, a corner stall at Haig Road Food Centre, never fails to attract a queue, and I realised their regulars are hardcore, fussy old folks.
You cannot fool or lure this generation with Instagram posts or pretty pictures - no one in the queue was checking their smart phone for online reviews and ratings.
They know good stuff with their mouths and tummies, and they will be back. Otherwise, it is goodbye and good luck.
By 7.30am, I was prepared to do the "point-point" routine but only 13 dishes were ready, with more being whipped up and steamed as the line of about 15 formed.
From midway in the queue, I eyed the plain steamed pork belly and the red wine lees chicken, and was praying the Manila clams - being tossed in the wok - would be ready when my turn came.
And they were, when I began to "point-point".
The softly steamed pork belly came with a dollop of hae bee hiam, and lime.
I had to have that for the opening act as it felt so right and authentically Singaporean.
The fresh, moist wine lees chicken, although milder than what I prefer, was right for this hawker dish as it should not overwhelm the other dishes or the rice porridge.
The server even warned us the pig skin (that went with the stewed pork trotters) was not as soft yet, but I liked it with some bite. Most hawkers would not have bothered.
But those clams were the highlight.
Extremely fresh and simply stir fried in their own flavour, they were elevated with some basil leaves and light seasoning.
Take a bite and you will know why almost everyone orders this.
Another must have dish is the plain steamed little red snapper - it goes so well with the stewed salted vegetables.
And that combo is accompanied by a taucheo (fermented soy beans) dip.
The whole meal of seven dishes, including stewed cabbage and eggs, set us back by $25.
Sadly, this deal may not last, as there will not be enough people offering this fading hawker craft in the foreseeable future.
Qian Cheng Rice Porridge
#01-37 Haig Road Food Centre
7.30am to 11.30am (or till sold out)
Closed on Mondays
K.F. 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