When was the last time you heard of an executive chef from a Chinese restaurant in a 5 star hotel setting up shop in a hawker centre and selling restaurant quality Cantonese dishes at Hawker Center like prices ?
Chef Chik Ka Chung, came to Singapore from Hong Kong in the 90s . He worked as a Cantonese chef in different hotels including a stint as an Executive Chef at Wan Hao Cantonese restaurant in Marriot Tang Plaza Hotel.
He faced a personal episode in his life which made him lose his job and was out of the business for several years.
In 2012, he started this hawker stall at #01-36 Haig Road Hawker centre with his wife to sell traditional Cantonese dishes.
He focuses on Cantonese-style cooking like the double-boiled soups, and assorted steamed dishes.
A few friends and I decided to meet for dinner at Chef Chik’s stall. A word of caution – their last order is at 545 pm and it would be advisable to call ahead to order as most dishes would run out in the evening.
His repertoire includes off-menu items on some days, depending on what he finds at the wet market.
Chef Chik’s wife Joanne mans the stall taking orders and serving, while Chef Chik does the cooking. So it’s a two man operation and operations can be frenetic at times.
Joanne is friendly and approachable although we tried not to have too much small talk as she was obviously rushing from table to table.
She tells us that for health reasons, they want to close early but from lunch till dinner, they do not take any breaks and serve continuously.
Their dishes are pretty much fixed as per their menu but they do have off menu items depending on what they find at the market daily.
Xiang Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice
We expected a bit of a wait so we scanned the neighbouring stalls.
I believe that when you try a new stall or restaurant, the most optimum conditions is to make sure you are not starving but be about 20% full. Otherwise, everything will taste like manna from heaven .
You need to be not so easily satiated and be a little critical. To be fastidious and critical, you can’t be starving.
So purely on the grounds of effective research, I felt we needed a prep dish.
A guy walked past with Chicken rice and it looked absolutely delish.
So off I went to queue at Xiang Ji which was right next to Chef Chik and came back with this:
Very lucky. The chicken was good, the chilli packed a punch and was delicious and the rice I would give it a credible 7/10 although it could be more fragrant, otherwise the ensemble would be considered nothing short of stellar.
The acid test – I see myself taking a drive the next time I want chicken rice to buy from Xiang Ji.
It was what I would call of “returning quality”.
Back to Chef Chik.
Pictures speak a thousand words. So here’s their menu for you to digest:
Our dishes arrived.
Thread Fin Belly “Si Chup” style
This dish is what I came for.
Thread fin belly is sweet to the taste and the slightly blubbery texture adds even more finesse to this fine fish.
Thread Fin costs more than the average fish and it is no coincidence that affluent Chinese families like to give Thread Fin porridge to babies the moment they progress to sold foods.
Such is the allure of the mighty Thread Fin.
The Thread Fin was steamed to perfection. The sauce consisted of black bean, soy and maybe oyster sauce and the dish was adorned with red cut chillies and fresh spring onions and coriander.
Finely balanced in texture and taste and made perfect with a bowl of white rice.
This was the universal favourite and my companions are already talking about ordering the fish head and belly dish the next time we are here.
Steamed Pork Patty with “Hum Yue”
This was my favourite dish of the night.
The pork was finely chopped and the texture was executed perfectly- soft yet with a little bite.
It was a salty dish as it was steamed with dried salted fish. You need white rice to neutralise the saltiness.
But utterly delicious.
We tried to order another round but was told it had run out.
Kai Lan with oyster sauce
I have no idea why the kai lan I try to steam at home can never achieve the bright colors of the vegetables served at restaurants.
Chef Chik did this dish with great colours and it was done al dente with a slight crunch. My Kakis liked it a lot and gave praises to the sauce as well.
Me, the cantankerous fussy bitch thought the sauce could be more tasty (but what do I know ?).
We ordered the Cordyceps White Fungus Chicken Drumstick Soup as well as the Ginseng Chicken Drumstick Soup.
Of the two, I preferred the Cordyceps though both were clear, tasty and comforting.
Steamed Prawns with chee cheong fun
Visually a very pleasing dish.
We were particularly attracted to the novel idea of adding Chee cheong fun which, to the uninitiated, is a steamed rice flour crepe quite popular as a breakfast dish, and commonly served with sweet sauce and chilli.
Ok we all agreed that the cheong fun was not as smooth and silky as we expected. Instead, it was a little chunky and unyielding.
My companions commented that the prawns were fresh but could do with a couple more minutes of steaming as the top parts of the prawns were a little soft, while the bottom of the prawns were a little more cooked and were firm and had a nice crunch to the taste.
The sauce it came with was flavourful and delicious.
All of the above came up the princely sum of $65 for 5 persons.
How not to be happy ?
Located at 01-36, Haig Road Hawker Centre, 14 Haig Rd, Singapore 430014
Phone: 9011 8979
Opening Hours: 12pm to last order 5.45pm daily.
Closed on Sundays and Mondays.