Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hidden Hawker Gems - Sheng Kee Cooked Food and Soya Chicken

While lavish attention has been put on the French tyre starred soya chicken place in Chinatown, there is another soya chicken stall in Kallang Bahru that has been wowing its local audience for years.

The lady owner, Mrs See, started this place 36 years back with her husband. Now, it is a popular haunt for the residents around this area. But very little media attention has been given to them, save for a few blog posts here and there.

Today, it has temporarily shifted to a nearby coffeeshop as the hawker food centre is undergoing a major renovation.

Her repertoire includes her signature soya chicken, shrimp dumplings and chicken feet. It may sound rudimentary, but each of these dishes is of a very high standard when compared to the regular ones you find in your neighbourhood stalls.

The soya chicken, in particular, is the standout. Succulent, juicy pieces of beautifully cooked chicken drenched in the classic Hong Kong styled soya sauce. It is just so savoury rich and flavorful. The protein is also superbly tender and moist, and chopped in large pieces. No shortcuts here.

Shrimp Dumplings

The shrimp dumplings, which you can order either with the noodles or separately, are the largest I have ever come across. What is so fulfilling (no pun intended) are the ingredients that go into the filling. Playful chunks of water chestnuts provide so much textural context, coupled with the well seasoned minced protein and a robust broth, this is just so satisfying on a number of levels.

Chicken Feet

Some may say Da Jie braised chicken feet is the best in town, and I would not dispute that prior to coming here. After having a go at Mrs See's rendition, I am inclined to disagree now. The chicken feet are braised to a glorious gelatinous texture that is so easy to bite through. The braising liquid, with that signature soy taste, is just about perfect. Nothing to really complain really, and everything to enjoy here on one simple plate.

But there's more to this story. And it is not about the food. It's the story of good old fashioned kindness that is so pure and so rare, a Samaritan like Mrs See is just about extinct these days.

For years, people have come to know of her magnanimity and her generosity. The estate of Kallang Bahru is a very old one, and hence, there is a higher number of elderly folks residing here. Some cannot afford the full fare of her dishes.

Yet, Mrs See never bothers to charge them the full amount. If an elderly cannot afford, she will just take whatever they can give and leave it at that. And she will even top up more food for them. But this does not extend to just the elderly.

She extends this kind gesture to young students as well, and I presume, the under privileged folks too. In fact, I was able to experience her benevolent nature first hand. And I am neither old nor handicapped.

I had ordered just a simple soya chicken with rice dish that day, but seeing that I was a newcomer to the place, she suggested that I order her dumpling soup as a side. I wasn't really that peckish that afternoon, so politely refused at first.

But she insisted, saying she will just charge me four dollars for the entire meal. She seemed so genuinely insistent, that I eventually caved in and said yes. It was one heck of a deal to be honest, for where can you get a soya chicken rice and a full bowl of 3 gigantic dumplings at the price?

Not only that, she even topped up more rice for me. I guess I had a very hungry face that day, haha. The point is, she does not care about earning every cent. For someone like her, she is satisfied that she is making a profit to earn a living.

In her heart and her mind, it's feeding people that's foremost at the back of her head. And that much is clear. She cooks with great passion to make beautifully classic food. But, she extends that love into her interaction with the people surrounding her on a daily basis.

This is simply a great story of the human spirit. Of a particular Singaporean hawker. For that, no amount of french tyre stars is enough to do her justice. Deep inside the goodness of this wonderful human being, the value is priceless.

Sheng Kee Cooked Food
Pin Yu Xian Pavillion
66 Kallang Bahru

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