I first came to know of this joint after watching a random show on Asian Food Channel called “$2 Wonderfood”, showcasing the fact that food costing only $2 (duh) can still be found. What amused me about this place was the fact that the host, Ah Ben, counted the number of hum (cockles) he had in his $2 plate of char kway teow, and the total was around 22!
The stall is located at the same food centre as the Margaret Drive Sin Kee chicken rice and the Queenstown Popiah. He only opens in the evenings though, from 5 pm to 10 pm, and is closed on Sunday. Queues are expected and people have been known to wait more than half an hour for a plate of kway teow. When we went on Thursday night at around 8, there were about 10 people ahead of us, and we waited about 20 minutes in all. (I’m not sure how much of the queue was a result of this place being featured on Makansutra Raw some weeks back.)
The reason it takes so long is that it’s a one-man show here. The soft-spoken old man does everything himself, from frying to collecting money to packing takeaway orders. Not including the time he takes to pre-fry the kway teow and noodles (which he does every 6 plates or so), each plate takes him about a minute to whip up.
I guess with the inevitable impact of inflation, the minimum is now $2.50, not $2. $2.50 gives you a pretty big plate, though. I had a $2.50 one with less hum, and A went for a $3 with the whole hog. At last count, he had about 15 hum in his plate.
The verdict? Well, I still don’t think this is quite in the same league as the other char kway teow big guys like the Outram Park one (now at Hong Lim) and the Zion Road guy. The one here somehow lacks a certain oomph that I’ve come to expect from char kway teow, but maybe this is typical Teochew style, which is less oily, less sweet, less salty – less everything, really, which is a hallmark of Teochew cuisine… It was quite clean tasting though, if you know what I mean. It’s just not quite what I’m looking for when I’ve geared myself up for a major artery-clogging binge.
In short, while I think the Hong Lim one is worth the wait, I don't think this one is. Bit of a pity cos it’s quite near us, and the guy is really quite a sweetie. I expected him to be gruff and brusque because he’s harassed, but quite the opposite. He does everything at his own pace, seemingly in a world of his own, and doesn't let the long queues bother him. Don’t think I’ll come back in the near future though – I’d rather use up my calories on a more kickass char kway teow.
Definitely the most value-for-money char kway teow I’ve had in Singapore. Portion is huge compared to everywhere else. And considering how busy the guy is, he still has an amazingly friendly attitude.
I’d like to keep coming back but it’s really not worth the wait. C and I timed him and he takes about 1 minute to make each plate of char kway teow. Yes, it’s hot and fresh, but taste-wise, it’s not as fantastic as I hoped.
On a side note, check out his website at www.haikee.com.sg
Hai Kee Teochew Char Kway Teow
40A Commonwealth Avenue
#01-550 Commonwealth Ave Food Centre
Monday to Saturday 5 pm to 10 pm; closed Sunday