Following from my blog about the 3 Sin Kee chicken rice stalls operating ( Niven, Benson and Holland Close ), you will recall that prior to opening up Sin Kee at Ubi, Niven sold his father’s chicken rice recipe to two investors for $42800 each.
As a term of the sale, the investors would get to use the name Sin Kee at their stall.
They will also be receiving tutelage from Niven on the art of making Sin Kee chicken rice and the operational aspects of doing so.
I learnt that one of the Disciples (Christine Cheong) runs an outlet at The Bedok Marketplace at Simpang Bedok which is not far from my hood.
I wanted to see how the Disciples have fared, and how the Sin Kee legacy has been passed down.
If this is successful, that may well be the model for successful old school hawker stalls to be preserved for posterity – old hawkers whose family members did not want to pursue the legacy should accept “disciples” and for their food to be cooked in the future by other non family members.
Those of you who have been to Bedok Market Place will know that it’s an open air food court on the second storey of a market at Simpang Bedok.
Instead of a wet market downstairs however, it sits on top a Giant Supermarket.
Surrounding this food court is a sprinkling of rows of shophouses housing small eating places, casual restaurants and some other small shops.
Parking is limited although the waiting time for a lot is not too prohibitive.
The stalls at The Bedok Marketplace, however, I have always found a little odd.
It consists of some down to earth stalls like wanton mee, chicken rice etc (but many have come and gone) housed in more modern stall settings than a conventional hawker centre.
The majority of the stalls, however, are a mish mash of hipster bar and bistro stalls, burger joints, pizzerias, stalls selling Japanese rice bowls, western casual bistro fare, fast food like fried chicken etc.
So the clientele is eclectic to be polite, and slightly confused to be blunt. Especially for those stalls selling the down to earth hawker fare. Their pricing is at a premium (food court pricing) so the human traffic is not a hustling one.
Honestly, the location I think suffers from lack of awareness and visibility, and it is largely hidden from the main road.
A normal foodie hunting for good old fashioned hawker food will not come here unless they like any particular stall that much.
You are also not likely to get residential traffic or heartlanders traffic, which is a big and critical support base for anyone venturing into running a hawker stall.
So I’ve always felt The Bedok Market Place is a challenging concept and if it was my money on the line, I would not open an F&B outlet there unless rentals are dirt cheap, which I suspect is likely to be quite the opposite.
The Disciple’s stall
So here I am at Unit #02-23 The Bedok Marketplace at about 215 Pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
It’s post lunch so I did not expect a crowd. But it was completely deserted.
Yes this is the problem with foot traffic at this place for the stall owners.
But for patrons like us, it is perfect to beat the crowd.
You will have the whole place to yourself.
The stall was manned by just one middle aged man. He seemed nice and polite when I placed my order.
I ordered white chicken. And some giblets.
The white chicken looked plump and glistening hanging on the rack.
I saw the roast chicken looking very appealing and although I was generally strictly only a white chicken person, I asked for $2 roasted chicken to be added to my order.
I brought the food back to an empty table and started taking photographs.
I must confess that I came with zero or gloomy expectations.
I always remind myself not to be influenced when I assess the offshoot of another famous stall, or new stalls opened by young people ie not to think that they cannot be as good if not better than the original or a famous stall.
Just like I don’t equate hand made or home made with good and factory made with something less.
I hate it that some people make statements in blogs and write ups like “it’s not even hand made but factory made” and say it in a final sanctimonious way like that’s the end all.
That’s just plain stupid. Just go with your taste buds moron.
I was apprehensive for this stall not simply because they were just “disciples”.
They have not been in this business passed down from father to son, they bought a recipe and had to be taught in a short time, and from what I read, the owner may not give up her day job to be hands on at the stall.
So everything really depended on the chef she has hired to learn the recipe and to stay true to the Sin Kee Legacy.
So many things could go wrong.
I was rooting for them and desperately wanted them to succeed.
But I kind of understood if they didn’t.
I was tickled to see a huge pot of soup outside with a sign that says “free soup”.
I was pleasantly surprised and happy.
Blogs about Sin Kee and about Benson and Niven’s offerings will always say they don’t offer soup because all of it goes into making the rice tasty.
Hello – have you tried making chicken rice at home ?
First the tastiness of the rice comes from frying chicken fat to melt it down, then you add blended shallots, blended ginger and even some garlic and you fry the rice in that concoction.
Only then do you add some Pandan leaves and the chicken stock you used to poach the chicken.
And how much of the chicken stock do you think they need to cook the rice ?
Make a guess ?
About 1 to 1.5 cups of stock to 1 cup of rice.
Have you seen that giant pot they submerge the chicken in, and how much stock there is?
So I always laugh when all the blogs repeat that statement in an erudite fashion explaining why Sin Kee don’t give soup at their stalls.
That is, with the greatest love and respect, complete chicken bollocks.
It just takes a little effort people.
I don’t mind not being given soup but can’t take the bollocks that it needs to be used to cook the rice so Hallelujah.
I scooped the ingredients of the soup from the bottom of the pot. It was largely chicken bones and old cucumber.
So easy and a chicken rice stall will have lots of unused parts to do this.
The soup offered here was tasty enough.
The chilli and ginger
I noticed that the chilli and grated ginger looked identical to the offerings from Benson and Niven’s (sons of the original Sin Kee Founder) stalls.
The ginger was roughly blended or pounded, with chopped scallions and quite dry instead of the watery versions offered by many chicken rice stalls.
The ginger was uber delicious. A faint hint of sesame oil and the ginger and scallions worked beautifully. Nicely salted.
Chilli was “ Sin Kee” delicious too.
Not overly spicy but with a nice kick and overt lime overtones.
Spot on “Sin Kee” style.
The rice at any chicken rice stalls makes or breaks it for me.
At all three Sin Kee stalls, the rice did not bowl me over.
When I took a mouthful of the rice here, it was steaming hot and a robust waft of chicken essence greeted me.
I smiled stupidly.
I think the rice is better than Benson and Niven’s.
It was nicely cooked right through Sin Kee style with no pink parts worrying you.
Succulent with a great chicken taste. Perhaps 5% drier than perfection but maybe I’m splitting hairs here.
But the sauce they trickled over was too much and too salty. Too heavy handed with the soy sauce and perhaps it should be watered down slightly with a little chicken stock.
I think they have not gotten their sesame oil and soya sauce components to balanced perfection.
I returned to the stall to order another small portion of chicken. This time, I explained to the chef that I wanted half the sauce only and he obliged.
I also ordered another bowl of rice as I wanted to it taste it again unadulterated with sauce (all excuses).
The chicken was more enjoyable this time round. I think the soy just needs to be a little watered down and perhaps just a little more oil added to make the chicken succulent and silky.
I took a few spoonfuls more of the the steaming rice without any sauce or chicken, although I was about to explode by this time.
So bloody good.
When I returned to order the second order of chicken and rice, I asked the man for his name and asked if he was the cook.
He confirmed that yes he was the cook and also said yes to my question whether the boss owner is Christine.
I complimented him on the chicken and the rice and he beamed.
He said yes they were essentially following the methods of Sin Kee but he had worked at some chicken rice places before being hired by Christine.
He confirmed that they have only opened here at Bedok Marketplace for 4 months.
A very nice and accommodating chap and obviously a good cook.
I am delighted to say that Sin Kee Simpang Bedok is delicious and I will happily come down here for my “Sin Kee” fix any day.
The success of stalls such as this will auger well for our hawker culture and for legacies to be passed down.
Now these places need our support.
This place is definitely worth a trip for your next chicken rice fix.
Sin Kee Simpang Bedok
348 Bedok Road, Level 2, The Bedok Marketplace, Singapore 469560