Bites: Sin Heng Kee Porridge, Hougang

 

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What are the odds? First venture into the northeast – that wild, desolate land of half a million people – in 2017, and after wandering about in HDB estates as I remembered from my childhood, I strike gold. Gloopy, ivory-coloured gold.

(Actually, the odds were well in my favour. It’s called internet research and it often works.)

Sin Heng Kee reminds me of another northeastern spot I enjoy, namely Lau Wang Claypot Delights. The two share similar origin stories – claypotting and porridging their way from a single stall to taking over a whole coffeeshop niche. Their menus even overlap slightly, with Sin Heng Kee having a few claypot items. So clearly the moral is – to be successful in Singapore’s food scene, sell stuff in claypots. Or be a hipster cafe. Better still, a hipster claypot-serving cafe. Is that not yet a thing? Get on it, people.

I jest, of course. The morals of the story, if Sin Heng Kee is to be believed, are: be clean and meticulous in layout, be quick about your food, and be ready to upsell. I was just asking the auntie at the counter if they sell century egg, and she interprets that as an order. That’s another $3 in sales, guys. It all adds up.

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I’m happy for that little sleight of hand, though. The century egg wedges, snowflakes gleaming in their ‘whites’, sit in a black puddle – soy, sugar, sesame oil perhaps, to accentuate the creaminess and slightly woody, ashy flavour of the yolks. Slightly gummy whites, meanwhile, pair nicely with the crisp pickled ginger slices.

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And as for the congee? The porridge base feels like curling up with a duvet on a cold night – barely maintaining the texture and flavour of rice in its smoothness. This cries out for its longtime companion youtiao, for each to contribute flavour and bite. I get century egg and meatballs, because I like century egg that much; the loosely packed meatballs are full of flavour released at leisure, from a marinade of (I’m guessing) sesame oil and liquor.

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Meanwhile, where are these people coming from? I’m seated here during work hours and there is always a vague queue before the counter. Out back, porridge is being ladled constantly into the little pots over a row of growling stoves, bubbling and churning over the fierce fire. A sprinkle of spring onions, fried shallots, sesame oil. Then out they go to the hungry and waiting, each a bowl of sweetly murmuring beauty.

 

Sin Heng Kee Porridge

685 Hougang Street 61 #01-150

Contact no.:

Facebook

Hours:

Daily, 7am – 9.30pm

Closed on the 1st and 15th of every lunar month (Check their FB)

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