Dining With Some Din: Chew Kee Eating House

There are better iterations of Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles around Singapore, but this place reminds me of Chinatown before Chinatownification, of when the Hokkien-speaking called the area Gu Chia Zhui. There’s another shop on South Bridge Road that’s been around since I was child, but that one’s been air-conditioned and iPadded (i.e. some POS vendor sold them an menu and ordering system using PIC grants).

This picture is of the glass panel in front of the kitchen/soya sauce chicken chopping station.
This weird picture is of the glass panel in front of the kitchen/soya sauce chicken chopping station.

Just off the corner of Upper Cross Street and South Bridge Road there’s a shop called Chew Kee Eating House. For as long as I can remember, it’s been serving Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles.

The ‘Eating House’ is uncomfortably warm at lunch time, dimly lit, and really noisy. And it struck me then, that that’s why I like it:

There are better iterations of Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles around Singapore, but this place reminds me of Chinatown before Chinatownification, of when the Hokkien-speaking called the area Gu Chia Zhui. There’s another shop on South Bridge Road that’s been around since I was child, but that one’s been air-conditioned and iPadded (i.e. some POS vendor sold them an menu and ordering system using PIC grants).

Chew Kee Eating House has stayed the same in terms of the food they serve, the place it’s served in, and the staff who serve. The only thing different is the price. (I paid $6 for lunch on Monday – a Soya Sauce Chicken Drumstick Noodle with a Cold Barley Water).

It is noisy, with staff – family members who own the business – shouting orders in Cantonese, scolding younger wait staff in Hokkien, and taking orders in Mandarin. There are an equal number of people waiting for a seat as there are waiting to take out.

I was ushered into the premises to share a table with an Aunty who was equally as unperturbed by the brusqueness of service and the messiness of the food slopped onto our plates a few minutes after we made our order, the efficiency of which an iPad ordering system can never replicate:

Waiter: Sek Mutt? (May I take your order please?)

Me: Gai Bei Meen (Can I have a plate of Chicken Drumstick Noodles, please?)

Waiter: Sui Gao? (Would you like a bowl of piping hot dumpling soup to accompany your meal?)

Me: Yee Mai Sui. (No thank you, but I would like to have a tall glass of your best home made Barley Water.)

Waiter: Dong? (Would you like it cold or warm?)

Me: Hai. (A cold one would be lovely, thank you).

My late mother used to ask her driver to stop on the way home from the office (illegally on the double-yellow lined Upper Cross Street), while she yelled her order to a staff member who’d be on the lookout for ‘drive-through’ orders. The order was always filled within five minutes, and Mom was only ever fined once. She did offer the traffic cop the most elaborate excuse of needing to eat urgently because she had gastric.

I was quite sure no-one ‘drove through’ any more, but I spotted one motorised customer as I was leaving after my sweaty, noisy meal.

Chew Kee Eating House from Benjamin Lee on Vimeo.

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas #1: Ang Ku Kueh

The colors make you want to sing Christmas songs, only you can’t if you stuff one of these in your mouth. They are by far the best roasted peanut filled Ang Ku Kuehs ever. Buy a dozen and put them in a nice box for the Christmas parties you’ve been invited to at the last minute.

Price: $0.80 each

Other flavours available (but not in Christmassy colors)

Poh Cheu Handmade Soon Kueh & Ang Ku Kueh

127 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-230 Singapore 150127

I Am Not A Food Blogger: Some Food In Our Hood

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Our Food Patriot K.F. Seetoh still hasn’t wiped the foam from his mouth from ranting about food bloggers, which is why I’m telling you now, I’m not a food blogger.

I don’t know how to write about food except to tell you I like it or not. But there’s a chance I might like a restaurant or cafe simply because the people who run it are nice, and are passionate about the things they make.

But there are places where we would probably have avoided if we looked closer before making a reservation.

Saturday afternoon offered one such place. We’d driven past it several times, and the location had once been a Swiss-German restaurant we liked. So I made a reservation, and picked up the family to go there for lunch. It looked like a pretty hip place from the outside, with the raw, distressed metal and glass and cement finishes.

Plus, it served ribs and wine, because from the name, you’d know it did. But once we opened the door and got in to be seated by the very friendly and attentive wait staff, we knew we were in trouble.

First, they piped-in Kenny G! In place of what you’d expect a hip rib joint to play! Secondly, we were the only people in the restaurant apart from the staff.

Then, when we asked for recommendations, the (really friendly and attentive) waiter obliged by giving us this, his only suggestion: “If you don’t mind spicy, then you should try our spicy pork ribs”.

Thank goodness for the Kenny G muzak, or else we might have had our brains working.

Then came time for us to dabao what we couldn’t finish. We were told, “Takeaway container is 50c”. There would have been complete silence at that moment if not for Kenny G.

We found the food to be pretty ‘meh’ considering the price, but don’t rely on me to tell you, because like I said, I’m not a food blogger, and maybe they’re better known for their wines.

Good Review

Good & Bad Review

1 Million kg Challenge: Update

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OK the fortnight is almost up, and I think I’ve lost the Blogger Challenge component (to get as many people to sign up for the 1 Million kg challenge) of the campaign.

That means a forfeit. Of me wearing spandex and doing yoga or some other exercise designed to make me look more ridiculous than I already do. So please, if you want to save your eyes and those of the nation, do your part and let me not be last if there’s still time.

Being a part of this campaign has been interesting. Not least because I got my friends thinking about what they’re eating and what they’re doing about their health. I get lunch reports from friends telling me what they’ve had and what they’ve cut out. A fried chicken meal is now had apologetically.

Last week, a friend brought Naomi and I a box of delicious nonya kuehs sprinkled with coconut and guilt.

Personally I don’t believe in putting even more stress on myself when it comes to my own health. I count myself lucky I’m able to enjoy tasty and unhealthy goodies once in a while, and in moderation. But to be able to do that requires a little bit of thought into what I’m eating.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with having pre-diabetes and I’m quite sure if I hadn’t modified my diet then, I’d have upsized it to full diabetes by now. I’m now so used to not having soft drinks or any drinks with added sugar that the last time I had a gingerale, I had a stomach ache for a whole night. Most days now, the drink accompanying my meal is a glass of water or a cup of unsweetened tea.

It pays to be mindful, and I’m glad we eat healthily in our household. I know it’s hard to change our mindsets – but like the proliferation of soup stalls shows, once we create the demand for healthier food, the supply will follow.

If the 1 million kg challenge is new to you, or your friends, sign up, and sign them up. Oh lordy save me.