Sunday, 12 January 2014
Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh in Singapore 顺发肉骨茶 - Stepping towards Redemption, One Bowl of Soup at a Time
My foodie buddy, Ian Low (The Silver Chef blog) has been telling us about Soon Huat bak kut teh 顺发肉骨茶 in Bedok, Singapore.
Soon Huat BKT is headed by Jabez, Chief Chef and owner - an ex-offender who has turned over a new leaf.
Jabez was behind bars for 13 years for drug and rioting offences. But, that is all behind him now. Soon Huat BKT is ably led and staffed by ex-offenders, all appreciative of the opportunity to start afresh with the support of the social enterprise.
We have been looking forward to visiting Soon Huat BKT as we were eager to support it's worthy mission.
It turned out that Soon Huat's bak kut teh was very delicious as well :D
We were at Soon Huat BKT for lunch on a sunny Saturday morning. Most of the seats at the simple shop lot restaurant were filled.
Once all our makan kakis arrived, we settled down to the business of BKT tasting.
Soon Huat's bak kut teh is Jabez's own concoction. It is a blend of Jabez's interpretation of Malaysian Klang style BKT and the local Singapore variety with some Johor Bahru influence.
Jabez has been carefully fine tuning this BKT for over two years. It is already well liked by many regulars but Jazeb being a perfectionist still wants to make it better. With the spirit of constant improvements, it will always be a work in progress.
The broth in the clay pot was well bodied, and cloudy with coagulate. Subsequent complimentary top ups were clearer. The herbal flavours and savouriness were mild.
The broth initially felt unfamiliar but I quickly found it likable and pleasing after a few spoonfuls. Jabez said that the broth was tuned to appeal to a wider cross section, including children. From the business point of view, this makes a lot of sense.
Personally, I felt the flavours very friendly though a little meek. My initial preference was for more boldness and a defined personality - either peppery spicy, savoury or herbal.
Soon Huat's likable BKT broth was sweet and savoury with light herbal notes.
(I like it more and more with every visit :D )
The pork was tender and undraped from the rib bone easily. Made with Argentine pork, it was less porky than the local variety. Lovely soft texture, especially the marbled portions.
The "dry" BKT 干炒肉骨茶 was pork ribs made with the same BKT broth reduced by heat and then stir fried in a clay pot with a blended savoury sweet sauce, dried chili peppers, lady fingers and dried cuttlefish strips.
The dryness made the pork a little stiffer but the savoury and sweet flavours from the gummy gravy were quite pronounced. There were spicy notes from the dried chili peppers tossed together with the pork ribs.
The pork liver in BKT broth.
This simple fried bean curd skin (tow ki) in braising sauce was my favourite of the day. The stash of golden brown fried bean curd skin was drenched in savoury light braising sauce.
Softened by the savoury braising sauce, yet the wet tofu skin was still crunchy.
The braised pork trotter 卤猪脚 meat was firm while the fats and skin were nicely velvety soft.
I love Soon Huat's braised pig big intestine 卤猪大肠 as it had the right balance of tenderness and bounciness. I wouldn't mind a little nice subtle gaminess (which I enjoy), but couldn't detect any at all from the two pieces I ate. So for people who are squeamish about big intestines because of potential gaminess, this one is perfectly safe :D
The braised chicken wings 卤鸡翅膀 had a nice tender and smooth texture. The savoury flavour clung onto the surface of the wings, not quite penetrating into the meat.
The total bill for all the food came to SGD75 for 9 of us.
While we were eating, the friendly boss Jabez, was making his rounds, attentively looking out for the customers' needs.
Once we were done eating, Jabez came to sit with us. He earnestly wanted to hear our feedback as he is constantly on a quest to make his BKT better.
I asked Jabez, based on his personal experience, what advice he could share with young hawkers or those thinking of starting out in food business.
Click on photo for review of Soon Huat's MacPherson branch
On my second visit to Soon Huat a couple of months later, I had the privilege to chat a while with Sherman, one of the ex-offenders working in the bak kut teh shop.
Sherman was a real life gang land street fighter who was imprisoned several times for rioting. Sherman has finally put his life of violence behind him and has worked hard to turn over a new leaf.
Sherman is now the Assistant Manager in charge of Soon Huat's new branch in MacPherson. (This is my post on the new Soon Huat branch.)
I'll be back at Soon Huat regularly because I like the friendly, appealing food here. I also enjoy the earnest and sincere service from people whom I can learn much from about life and the resilience to return from the dark side.
It was a simple meal, and it was not simply that.
Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh 顺发肉骨茶's mission is to "provide ex-offenders a new start in life with a meaningful career".
May I take this opportunity to wish Jabez and his crew the best.
Restaurant name: Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh 顺发肉骨茶
Address: 302 Bedok Road, Bedok Shopping Complex, Simpang Bedok, Singapore
Hours: 11:00am to 9:00pm
Date visited: 11 Jan 2014, 22 Mar 2014, 18 Jul 2014
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