Monday, September 24, 2007

Hakka soon kueh that's the real thing

23 Sep 2007, ST

By Thng Lay Teen

ABOUT half a year ago, my brother bought some delicious Hakka soon kueh for a family gathering. I went to the shop recently and was reminded of how good they were.

Sink your teeth into the palm-sized soon kueh ($1 each) from The Beef House in Syed Alwi Road in Jalan Besar and you will appreciate how it all comes together.

The skin is made the traditional way using mashed steamed yam and tapioca flour, and it is just thick enough to hold the generous filling together.

I like how the filling is not dominated by cheaper ingredients like bangkwang (turnip). It is a decent mix of mushrooms, black fungus, dried shrimp, yellow tau kwa (beancurd) dices and minced meat. These are cut just right, not too thick or thin, so there is some bite.

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HAND IT TO HIM: Mr Chia Teck Kwang makes everything by hand, including Hakka soon kueh (above) and yam abacus. -- ST PHOTOS: ALAN LIM

The friendly stallowner, Mr Chia Teck Kwang, uses a recipe that a retired Hakka hawker in her 80s passed on to him about 14 years ago.

She also taught him how to make yam abacus seeds ($2), which are some of the best I've eaten.

The small flattened yam balls are not oily and have a springy texture that contrasts nicely with the crunchy black fungus strips, dried shrimp, minced meat and mushroom.

Mr Chia's other crowd-pullers are Hakka yong tau foo ($3) and beef ball noodles ($3).

The hardworking 49-year-old, who starts work at his coffee shop stall at about 3am six days a week, makes everything from scratch, including the bouncy beef balls, fishballs and fish meat for his yong tau foo.

He also makes the chilli sauce himself, and takes pride in making stock with no MSG.

For example, the yong tau foo soup is made by brewing soya beans for several hours in the water that was used for soaking fishballs. The tasty beef stock is also simmered for many hours using good quality meat and bones.

It's no wonder that the Gar Lok Eating House is packed at lunchtime.

In fact, when I was interviewing Mr Chia late in the afternoon on a weekday, we were constantly interrupted by customers who came by to eat his beef noodles and regulars who called to order soon kueh.

He sells about 400 soon kueh over the weekend when people order them for functions, and how glad I am that my brother did just that six months ago.

Gar Lok Eating House
217 Syed Alwi Road

Open: 8am to 6pm, closed on Fridays
Tel: 9821-5463
Rating: *** 1/2

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