We came to PSA Building at Tanjong Pagar intending to try the Amoy Street Boon Kee prawn noodles, after hearing Y rave about them. Unfortunately the stall was closed, despite reading online reviews that only close on Sundays. We wandered round and chanced upon the branch of Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh, the famous one at Outram/Havelock. At least our trip here wasn’t in vain then.
In order to make it as fair a comparison to Founder as possible, we tried to order similar items – the long pork ribs (which cost more), salted vegetables, you tiao and steamed rice. Taking each item in turn:
Pork ribs: These were remarkably tender. We thought Founder’s were tender but here the meat simply fell off the bone with absolutely no effort. Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo, they were also remarkably tiny and certainly not worth $7 a bowl. At least half the size of the Founder ones. So, a tie here.
Soup: The soup at Founder packs more of a punch. It’s more peppery, but it goes beyond just the amount of pepper. The soup at Ya Hua somehow lacked a richness and depth of flavour that Founder’s has. Winner: Founder
Chilli Padi: Available at both joints. Another tie.
Salted vegetables: I don’t know what Founder puts in their giam chye, but there’s absolutely no comparison here. Founder’s isn’t salty so much as slightly garlicky and very savoury. The one at Ya Hua was more like the very one-dimensional giam chye that you get at porridge stalls – just plain salty, and cooked until almost mushy. Clear winner: Founder.
Service: Yes, at Founder you have to queue to get a table, but once you’re seated they’re very efficient and your food arrives really quickly. At Ya Hua, they’re very keen to seat you but after that, it takes ages for them to (a) notice you, (b) come to take your order, and (c) actually serve your food. We overheard a table complaining that they’d been waiting for their food for over half an hour. I prefer the Founder system because it’s more transparent, so for me, winner: Founder.
Basically, the only thing going for Ya Hua is the tenderness of the pork ribs, but it’s not enough to switch my allegiances from Founder. It was worth a try just to see what the fuss is all about, but whenever I have a bak kut teh craving, there’s no question where I’ll head to.
I’d rather go to Founder.
Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh
7 Keppel Road
#01-05/07 PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex
7 am to 3 pm
593 Havelock Road
#01-01/02 Isetan Office Building
6 pm to 2 am