Monday, February 22, 2010

Boon Tong Kee: only for chicken rice?

with colleagues

Many of us are familiar with Boon Tong Kee as a purveyor of fine chicken rice...hmm...that's doesn't sound quite right...ok...Boon Tong Kee as having power chicken rice...smooth, moist, tender chicken on fragrant, rice, and a chilli sauce with some kick. But did you know that they serve very good cze char style food at restaurant level?



We dropped by for lunch one day at their Whampoa West (next to Boon Keng MRT) stall. Kind of like a blast from the past...this row of shop houses right next to the MRT station. Boon Tong Kee occupies the corner lot, just next to the station entrance.

Inside, the decor continues on this 1970s theme. Quaint.

We started with the chicken, of course!



Also known locally as Pak Cham Kai...or translated as white, chopped chicken...I think...:-)...the chicken is steamed or boiled...with skin intact. The meat was smooth, almost creamy in texture and consistency, moist, and very juicy. Sometimes, in steamed white chicken, the white meat comes out to be dry, fibrous and chewy. But the BTK version was total opposite...nearly as smooth as dark meat, but the dark meat was even more succulent, even more tender, and any fibrous texture...small and interesting as it may have been on the white meat, is totally smooth.

But we came to sample the other dishes. Starting with the Khong Bak Pau:



Braised, pork belly...this was to be eaten between the folds of a steamed bun. The meat was less fat and meltingly tender as my benchmark Westlake's version, but it was quite tasty...a bit less collagen and fat, a bit more sinews and muscles. I prefer the smothering sauce and sinful collagen/protein mass served by Westlake, but the BTK version is quite good.

A dish not commonly found is the cuttlefish with kangkong...jew her eng chai:



The chef was generous with the cuttlefish. Typically this is either done from rehydrated dried cuttlefish which is more flavourful, chewy. Or with fresh cuttlefish, which is more gelatenous in texture. The traditionalists prefer the rehydrated version. I am not sure what was used here, but the cuttlefish was very springy, nice and not too chewy. The eng chai, or kangkong was quite young, and leafy. I truly dislike the use of old kangkong...these end up being fibrous, tasteless...and thankfully BTK had chosen to use young kangkong...which is fresh, crunchy instead of chewy, and tasty. The sauce, a kind of dark bean sauce...sweet, salty, spicy, punctuated by fragrant, lightly toasted sesame seeds was perfect.

Regular readers of this blog know I have a soft spot for well made, fragrant, soft tofu...



The special tofu served up at BTK does not disappoint. The home made tofu was cubed, coated with a batter, and deep fried. The batter provides a crispy exterior in golden yellow...protecting the smooth, creamy, silky fault, and wonderfully fragrant tofu interior. Wonderful.

And the piece de resistance...the ter kar...braised pork trotter



One of my absolute favourites, but totally destroys diets...and only to be imbibed once in a while, and only the very best, the braised pork trotter is excellent. The trotter is de-boned, and braised for a long time to achieve the consistency, and tenderness to be separated by fork. A thick layer of collagen and fat sticks to the skin...which has a springy, slightly tougher consistency than the super tender meat it conceals. The braising sauce could have been a bit stronger in flavour...I found the trotter in PuDong Kitchen and recently a tasting in Zhou's Kitchen to be better, but the BTK version is more elegant, lighter in flavour (though not lighter in fats and cholesterol), and milder. Nonetheless, within my top 5 great braised pork trotters.

And of course, we rounded up the meal with ohr nee:



The yam paste was quite nicely done, thick, gooey consistency, a bit of the powdery texture of ground yam could be detected, and very fragrant. The ginko nuts added the traditional taste, and the use of pork lard eased the paste to a smooth pulp. Nice.

Overall, a nice restaurant for the chicken rice and also cze char style dishes. The braised pork knuckle is quite excellent.


Boon Tong Kee
34 Whampoa West #01-93 Singapore 330034
(beside Boon Keng MRT)
Telephone 6299 9880
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