Makansutra: Serving up the most comforting Teochew porridge in town
Revisiting Teo Heng Teochew Porridge reminds me just how special and comforting the food is
I was shuffling about the very busy lunch hour crowd looking for another stall to try and feature when I stumbled upon a Teochew muay (Teochew porridge) legend.
Amid the fancy donburi bowls, truffles and bespoke noodles, roasted almond lattes and fancy millennial chow Amoy Street Food Centre is known for, Teo Heng Teochew Porridge still holds its own.
Mr Teo Heng started in a coffee shop in Chulia Street, and has relocated around the Central Business District where he continues running the stall to this day.
It is a 65-year-old icon, but I feel this uber comforting meal is slowly fading into oblivion for so many reasons.
For starters, cooking more than a dozen items is not something the new generation of hawkers or cooks are capable of these days.
Because they are so iconic and embedded in our makan ecology, the dishes have to meet the high standards of even the casual Teochew muay fan.
I had featured Teo Heng Teochew Porridge on the Makansutra TV show 16 years ago, and just one glance at the stall brought it all back.
I remembered just how special this brand of Teochew porridge was - and still is.
Unlike many such stalls that hawk all sorts of "chap chye rice" and falsely call it Teochew muay, these guys are exacting and the menu reflects it.
A dozen items are offered, and each is a moreish treat on its own.
The Teochews largely braise, boil and steam their coastal town food, and in the words of Teochew food master Lee Chiang Howe of restaurant Huat Kee, "fish must taste like fish, and likewise, meat and vegetables - take nothing away from nature".
Teo Heng's "clean", well laid out items include a whole plainly steamed sotong (fresh and softly crunchy), stuffed fried-then-steamed tau pok (with cucumber, fish cakes and shredded braised pork), one of the best fish cakes I have had, soya sauce braised eggs (with runny yolk), braised duck breast (the favourite part for such meals), large intestines, tau kua, soft braised pig skin and pork belly.
This place also steams garoupa and warms it in salt mustard vegetable stew, served with a ladle of it over the fish.
This one was sweet and fresh, and made downing that bowl of porridge a joy.
I ordered a "whatever-you-suggest set" and Mr Teo placed seven items (because it is me the glutton, and on overdrive that day) - pork belly, sotong, tau pok, intestines, egg, duck and fish cake - all in a platter with a bowl of the warm rice porridge.
The two chilli dips, a blended and a vinegar garlic version, was exactly what the meal called for.
That cost me no more than $9, and I had to order the steamed fish in salted vegetables (from $16) beckoning me.
This is one of the most comforting Teochew meals, served affordably in town. When I asked about continuity, Mr Teo looked down and smiled as he shrugged, citing the oft-heard hawker line: "Who wants to do these hard jobs any more?"
That made me sigh. Meanwhile, I will be back for a repeat session.
Teo Heng Teochew Porridge
#01-27, Amoy Street Food Centre
Opens 7.30am to 2pm, closed on weekends