Hard-to-find Teochew classics
In Singapore, we used to have Hakka, Teochew, Putien, Cantonese, Hokkien and Hainanese restaurants. Each had very distinct iconic dishes and styles of cooking.
Today, they have mostly become just Chinese restaurants.
So it was with regret that I heard that Mr Lee Chiang Howe wanted to pull down the shutter of his Teochew Restaurant Huat Kee in Amoy Street.
He sold his pre-war three-storey shophouse and wanted to retire. But his daughter ditched her degree and agreed to carry on the family legacy two years ago. She was then 23.
So they refurbished this new place three months ago and carried on where they left off.
Third-generation hawker Jasmine Lee says: "I saw Mum, Dad and Grandma work seven days a week. I wanted to continue the family business.
"Many called me 'Daddy's little girl' and did not take me seriously. I will go learn on my own what Dad can't teach me and be my own boss."
Miss Lee is tackling the heat in the kitchen, whipping up the classics that many expect from Huat Kee.
It still does premium dishes like abalone (from its farm in Africa) and sea cucumbers very well and its signature Teochew steamed pomfret is the one to beat.
Huat Kee's chive noodle is handmade by blending the greens with flour, then pan-frying it into crispy wedges with a soft middle. It is served with vinegar or sugar dip.
This dish is very rare and simple yet delicious.
The kai lan olive fried rice was as good as I remembered it to be. The wok hei in the rice, crunchy from chopped kai lan and savoury saltiness from the preserved olives, made eating this a great pleasure.
The oyster omelette was crisp and not overloaded with starch. It created an explosion of beautiful flavours from juicy, fresh oysters.
Dessert was, of course, the classic orh nee (yam paste) with gingko nuts.
Or you can dip the leftover of the crispy chive noodles in sugar - that would make the meal Teochew and not merely Chinese.
Teochew Restaurant Huat Kee
Level 2, RELC Building, 30, Orange Grove Road
- Daily: 10.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm
Tel: 6423 4747
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.