Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lee Kui (Ah Hoi) Teochew Restaurant

My father, being Teochew, sometimes has cravings for Teochew food, being reminiscent of the times when grandma and relatives used to cook really home-style teochew food, i.e. steamed pomfret with mushrooms, salted vegetables, preserved prunes; braised goose; etc. He had heard about this restaurant and had decided to bring us along to try the food here - so we came. Located at Mosque street, Lee Kui is really an old-school eatery, reminiscent of the places that my grandma / grandpa used to hold their big birthdays or the Chinese New Year reunions, and indeed it was a throwback to the old days. Even the people who were tucking away at their fish / goose / oyster omelette etc were all of that "generation". I mean, tradition can't be bad right, and indeed the food was great. Let's see what we had...


First up was pork in aspic, with a chilli-vinegar sauce. This was pretty delicious. The aspic was done pretty well and the pork, while being gamey enough, was not too smelly. Went well with the sauce. (7.5/10)

I was extremely impressed with the next dish which was the cold crab. Cold crab, as everyone already knows, is eaten for the roe, or milt, which is so full of umami (usually) and sweet. This one was an excellent example of a good cold crab: firm tasty sweet meat, excellent roe / milt - full of roe and milt. It didn't even need the accompanying sweet sauce. (8.5/10)

Next up was the braised duck, which was frankly nothing much to shout about. A good braising sauce, reasonably tender. However, it would have been better had it been goose. I always love goose; not so partial to duck in comparison. (7.5/10)
Prawn balls were so-so; fried to a crisp, yes. But not much texture inside being relatively one-dimensional (7/10).

What was a revelation was the vegetables - fried with tee poh dust and containing flakes of tee poh (dried sole), the vegetables were aromatic, flavourful, and full of umami at the same time, and cooked to perfection in the typical Teochew way, that it was a delight to eat. Just yummy. (8.5/10).

The best dish was at the end - Orh Nee! Absolutely, absolutely, delicious. This was one of the best Orh-Nees I have ever eaten in my entire life, and I'm serious. I grew up eating Orh-Nee because my grandmother is a true-blue Teochew ah-hia and we'd go with the entire extended family to stalwart Teochew Restaurants like Hung-Kang, and the dish at the end would inevitably be the Orh-Nee. Hence, having tried alot of Orh-Nees, I can safely say that the Orh-Nee at Lee Kui really matches those at the top echelon of Teochew Restaurants. This is seriously good stuff. It is just so full of yam flavour, as evidenced by the dark, purple colour of the yam paste. The more purple it is, the more flavour there is. And this was just that - intensely flavourful. Rich, yammy paste. Burst of flavour. Intense flavour. Long lasting flavour. Oh, and did I say, very rich? Yeah. this is how orh-nee should be. I have no qualms giving it a (9/10). I didn't even need any of the pumpkins and gingko nuts to lighten the dish. Pure, unadulterated yam. mm. This was exceptional.




Overall, Lee Kui is a great place to have a traditional Teochew dinner. Not cheap, but the food's as traditional as it gets. 

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