Today, I went to visit Hai Kee 海记, for my old favourite famous char kway teow in Telok Blangah food centre. (Formerly, Margaret Drive char kway teow.)
To look for Hai Kee in the sprawling Telok Blangah food centre, listen out for the dull constant clanging of the iron wok and spatula. If you listen carefully, you can actually hear the constant clanging even from the adjacent carpark.
Use your nose to smell out the aroma from the wok. As I followed my nose today, I caught a whiff of that old aroma. Something that I have not smelled for long, long time. Not many char kway teow hawkers do it the old way any more.
You can't fool the human nose.
As you approach, look out for the long queue. You won't miss it.
There is always a long queue.
Finally, I am back at Hai Kee after over 30 years. We used to eat often at Hai Kee at Margaret Drive food centre (now demolished) during the early 1980s. I was working in Tanglin Camp and living on base.
Since then, work and life separated us until now.
I recognised Peter immediately from a distance.
Still the same smiling friendly face. He still receives his customers' cash with both hands stretched out and with a slight bow. Just the hair has greyed, the face has weathered slightly, the contented smile is still bright.
Peter looked way younger than his 64 years. Nearly 50 years of frying kway teow.
I wondered how did Peter's elbow held out all these years?
Still a one man show. Peter does everything himself. Fry, wash and collect money.
Peter's small stall has an "A" for NEA (National Environmental Agency) hygiene rating. Peter is an obsessively professional man. He does everything right. No cutting corners. No short cuts.
I reached the front of the queue after 45 minutes.
As I queued, I wondered if Peter remembers me.
Not likely, I thought to myself.
Too long ago. Too many customers over the years.
Yup, he didn't :-D
I asked for a big serving and more hum (fresh blood cockles). I heard that Peter doesn't let customers buy more cockles because he has just the necessary amount from his supplier. Fresh cockles are in short supply in Singapore, so suppliers ration it out.
I tried my luck anyway.
Nope said the boss, almost apologetically.
My SGD4 plate of piping hot Hai Kee fried kway teow.
The fried noodles were gummy, greasy and moist but not drippy wet.
It's not for the faint hearted.
It tasted savoury sweet with hints of spiciness as I had asked for chili sauce. The flavour and feel of that heavy bodied greasy lard is unabashedly present. Wok hei was slight.
There were some soft but flavourful, oily lard crackles.
Small but very fresh and clean blood cockles cooked just right. I could still taste the cockle blood and in a good way.
No lup cheong (Cantonese waxed sausages). No choy sum. No fish cake slices.
After the meal, I hesitated to approach Peter as he was frying non stop while the queue was constantly long.
But, Peter was extremely obliging. I managed to get some shots of him busy at work and spoke briefly with Peter while he continued to dish out plate after plate.
If you want an old school char kway teow still fried by the original hawker in the old way, check out Hai Kee.
Restaurant name: Hai Kee Teochew Cha Kuay Teow 海记潮州炒粿条
Address: 11 Telok Blangah Crescent (Telok Blangah Crescent wet market and food centre)
GPS: 1.277895, 103.819922
Hours: 5:00pm to 10:00pm (closed on Sunday)
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