Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ho Kee Porridge, Maxwell Food Centre

Ho Kee Porridge - check out the huge vat in the middle

Conveniently open from 7AM - 2AM, this Chinese rice porridge place is located at Maxwell Food Centre. There is another porridge place, Zhen Zhen Pork Porridge, at the same hawker centre that attracts huge queues thanks to its Makansutra three-chopstick rating, but in my opinion, it isn't necessarily that much better. I actually kinda prefer the "cleaner" taste of this place.

Yu Sheng and Pork PorridgeAnyway, if you've never had Chinese porridge, it is pretty darned good. It doesn't sound like much, but done properly, it's a savory bowl. This place boils the crap out of the rice to the point where it's nearly a mushy sludge, the grains of rice having fallen apart. This, in my opinion, is the best type of porridge as the savory flavors pervade. I think this is more Cantonese in style (like getting porridge in HK with dim sum), whereas other Chinese porridge, like in Taiwan, are bland, with grains of rice still discernable. This place prepares the former with several selections such as fish or pork, both of which are fresh and tasty; add condiments like scallions, white pepper, and deep fried shallots to taste. At S$3 (US$1.80) for a huge piping bowl, it's rather filling (although the rice will burn off in a couple hours to make you hungry again). It's cool to watch them scooping porridge out of that huge vat in the middle too.

Another thing I like about this place is the yu sheng, or raw fish. The name is the same as the stuff you "lo hei" to during Lunar New Year meals in Singapore, but this version tastes much much better without any of that sweet sauce or fried wonton skins. At porridge places like these instead, they simply take raw fish, drown it in (sesame?) oil, and add some scallions and sesame seeds. Squeeze a bit of lime on it (or rather, the smaller calamansi variety that is common in these parts), and that's it. Simple and clean. With these ingredients, it kinda tastes like ceviche, albeit much less sour and still raw. And I love it of course - I used to come here for a quick afternoon snack and eat only the fish (no porridge).

Anyway, these guys are open late, so come here anytime. It looks like they have a sister store selling steamed Chinese buns across the island, but I come for the porridge.


Anonymous said...

oh, i love their "yu sheng" too! I, too, sometimes just buy the "yu sheng" alone without the porridge. I call it my Chinese version of sashimi. Incidentally, i also posted an entry about them in my blog.

metroasianman said...

I can not agree more! I much prefer this porridge place to Zhen Zhen. It's a cleaner, lighter taste with a more viscous consistency (but not watery line Teochew porridge). The queue is longer at Zhen Zhen and the patrons there prefer the highly viscous, almost oatmeal like, consistency. Also the added meats and/or fish in the porridge at Ho Kee are done in visible, recognizable sized chunks unlike that at Zhen Zhen. Ho Kee also offer frog porridge (al la Eminent Frog Porridge in Geylang)! Ooh lah lah!

I find that the portions at Ho Kee are slightly larger than Zhen Zhen, but it's only rice and water after all (not really, as some of the best porridges use pork stock and the finer ones use ginko nuts to flavor the broth).

Sadly,I don't particularly like yow tieu (yow jah gwai)or fried donuts in Singapore as they are fried in coconut or palm oil vs vegetable oil in the U.S. and Hong Kong.

The yu sheng is terrific but not really a ceviche as it's still raw but lightly marinated in oil and mixed with red peppers (not spicy), spring onions, and lettuce. If you prefer, get a side bowl of plain porridge and mix in the yu sheng and let it cook slightly. Yum!

Hong Kong porridge still rules over that found in Singapore. But still, my favorite porridge of all time is found in San Francisco's Chinatown in a place called Hing Lung located on Broadway. The variety and quality is out of this world and is cheap. The century egg pork porridge is the best in the world because they brine the pork and it's always really lean pork. Abalone and chicken porridge is also a godsend as well as the ever popular sampan porridge (which is difficult to find in Singapore but very popular in the U.S. and Hong Kong)

Please share any porridge gems you may come across for us porridge nuts!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I just purchased a takeaway porridge yesterday 11 July 2007. Thinking it was the same old price of $3, I duly paid with a $10 expecting change of $7. Holy Cow, I got back $6.50. Too late... I cannot cancell the order. So when asked why the price increase, these chinaman told me it was due to GST increase,,,,,
Wah pian,, GST increase from 5 %to 7 %, which means for a mere 2%, this Ho Kee dare to charges 50 cents more!!! which mean nearly 20% more.. 2% equates to 0.06 cents. I am definitely not going back.. anyway, nothing special with the chinaman cooking. PLEASE BOYCOTT THIS UNREASONABLE BEHAVIOUR.

we are helping this people to be richer and us consumer poorer,

Dj Michael Jay said...

The GOD of gastronomic proportions..
Like he says, HE EATS, HE WRITES, AND HE TRAVELS! did i mention he also cooks?
by the way, he does have the coolest job in the world!...

Anonymous said...

I just searched all over Maxwell for this stand but could not find it. What number is it or has it closed?