Mui Kee Congee is one of those popular eateries which are often on “To Eat” list of anyone heading to Hong Kong for a holiday. So when Mui Kee did a pop-up event in Singapore last year, there was considerable interest. However, the quality of the food was inconsistent and understandably, the reviews were less than stellar. Thankfully, that didn’t prevent them from opening their restaurant here earlier this year.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkXlhub-jE8]
The opening of Mui Kee Congee in Singapore is more than a simple expansion of the brand outside of Hong Kong. It is, in fact, a way of preserving the brand itself. I met with up with co-owner, Terence Chan, a financier, who has been eating at Mui Kee since he was a kid. He told me that his initial plan was to help preserve the eatery by turning it into a modern eatery in Hong Kong. However, he had difficulty with high rentals and the resistance of the locals to pay more for what is viewed as “hawker” food. It is the same culinary prejudice we find here in Singapore.
Fortunately, he found willing partners in the Les Amis group who saw the potential of a Hong Kong style congee in Singapore!
I am sure the the $64K question in everyone’s mind is:
“Is the porridge really that different from what we can get here at the hawker centre that I would be willing to pay more to try it?”
In short, yes.
The way the porridge is prepared is unique and there is a distinct difference in the taste of the porridge. Whether the price is justifiable is, of course, subjective.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPUKwVKozQ8]
The most obvious difference is the presence of wok hei in the porridge. This is done with a specially procured copper base, brass pot which is handmade by an old man in Hong Kong. I was told it’s a dying craft and he is the last person making these pots in Hong Kong!
The pots heat up very fast and retains heat very well. When ingredients are thrown into the pot they are quickly engulfed in fire and smoke which infuses the ingredients with that irresistible wok flavour which we all love. Do note that the wok hei flavour can only be found in the fish belly and King crab porridge as not all ingredients are suitable for the baptism of fire!
The way the congee is prepared is also different. Century eggs and oil are first mixed with the rice grains and left overnight to marinate. The alkali in the century eggs help the rice grains to break up so that the congee becomes silky smooth when cooked. A milky soup made from bean curd skin is added at the end of the cooking process to add extra aroma to the congee.
The final result is a congee that is very smooth but perhaps a little more runny than what most Singaporeans are used to, especially if you like to keep stirring your porridge while eating it. The proper way to eat Hong Kong congee is to gently skim off the top porridge in a circular motion. This not only ensures the porridge doesn’t burn your palate, but also keeps the rest of the porridge from turning watery.
The King Crab porridge is very good. It has a good wok hei and the crab adds an extra dimension of crustacean sweetness to the congee. It’s not cheap, but worth trying. 4.5/5 The other option if you want the experience the wok hei flavour is the fish belly porridge $11.80. They use threadfin belly here instead of grass carp like what they do at the original stall as the local carp tends to have a muddy flavour. 4.25/5
Aside from the congee, Mui Kee has other Hong Kong favourites on the menu. The beef brisket is very good and well worth a try. 4.5/5
Other side dishes like the drunken chicken is also very good. 4.25/5 Although these are not a specialty of the original Mui Kee, the team from Les Amis have managed to come up with dishes which are highly competent.
Their chee cheong fun are made ala minute and are also very good. The sakura ebi chee cheong fun is interesting but the one I will definitely order is the zha leong (fried fritters) $4.50. The fritters are freshly deep fried and nice and crisp and goes really well with the slippery rice sheet and sweet, savoury sauce! 4.5/5
Before the banning of raw freshwater fish at hawker centres in 2015, we used to order a plate of raw fish to eat together with porridge. Mui Kee has brought back this tradition using sashimi grade hamachi which you can order as a side dish. 4/5 For those looking for something a little more Hong Kong, they also serve fried dace cake. 4/5
Mui Kee is definitely worth a try if you want to experience porridge with wok hei. Aside from the porridge, the other non-Mui Kee dishes like their chee cheong fun and beef brisket noodles are also very good. No one would dare to say that it is as good as what you can get in Hong Kong, but if you are missing Hong Kong food, this little eatery provides a little respite before your next trip!
This was a tasting organized by my friend who knows the owner personally. We didn’t pay for the meal, neither was I paid for writing the review.
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