Tung Kee Noodle House
Ah yes - welcome to Tung Kee Noodle House, a local establishment since 1983 that apparently now simply calls itself "TK Noodle," and has expanded to 14 locations across the Bay Area, albeit mainly in San Jose. One might wonder why one would travel all the way to California to get a bowl of noodles when one lives among good bowls in Singapore already. The reason is because there are a couple dishes that are pretty unique, and definitely very tasty. My favorite is "number 2," or "Beef Sate Rice Stick," which features flat rice noodles in a very good sauce. It's a bit like satay sauce from Singapore in that it's peanuty, but it is definitely not as thick in consistency, nor is it sweet at all. Indeed, it tastes a bit more like a savory sa cha sauce from Taiwan rather than satay sauce from Singapore. The bowl also features thin slices of meat, shreds of cucumber, and basil, all combined into a bowl that you add a squeeze of lemon into for a killer yet refreshing taste. Yum.
Another cool thing they have here is a "combination crispy fried noodle" (number 23), where noodles are deep fried into a bed on top of which lie some random American chop suey-like veggies and corn starch-based sauce. This place also has a decent "combination rice stick soup" (number 1) with thin slices of meat, but when it comes to deep fried bits of pork fat, it still can't beat bak chor mee from Tai Wah Pork Noodle. That's why I'll stick to my "sate #2" here at Tung Kee.
It doesn't sound too great when I describe it in words, especially since it sounds like an identity-crisis-type restaurant that I usually shun. I still can't figure this place out, actually. It is supposedly Teochew-style noodles, but there is a clear Vietnamese influence here (witness the soda chanh - number 40 - I got today), as well as the American-Chinese use of stir-fried broccoli and shrimp on top of the crispy fried noodles. And yes, in typical American-Vietnamese fashion, you order by number here ("I want a large number 2 and a number 40"), and then you pay up after you're finished by walking up to the counter and citing your table number (cash only, mind you, and with a "tips" jar conveniently placed there).
Despite all this, I still love that "sate #2." Today's bowl was a little too salty and a little less spicy than I remember it at its prime, but I sure haven't been able to find "sate #2" anywhere else in the world (I once got excited when I first got to Singapore and found a lady selling "satay noodles" in Tanjong Pagar market, only to find that it was the sweet satay sauce instead of my old favorite Tung Kee's number 2).