Family-run Ngai Hakka serves up simple yet well-done authentic Hakka fare.
|PHOTO: Terence J.R.Lee|
At the Ngai Hakka kiosk at Bukit Timah Plaza, the food is simple yet well-prepared—the kind you crave for most when you’re overseas and homesick. Serving a capacity crowd at lunchtime on a Saturday, this stall seems to have found a formula for success.
Staff members are friendly and approachable. This being my first experience with Lei Cha Fan (Thunder Tea Rice, S$4.50, S$5.00 with brown rice), I asked the waitress how it was supposed to be eaten. “Some people mix it with the tea, but you don’t have to,” she said. “For a stronger flavor, don’t mix it. You should give it a try first. The taste might be unfamiliar, but the more you eat, the tastier it is.”
Lei Cha Fan is rice topped with long beans, tau kwa, chai po (pickled radish), chye sim, cabbage and peanut, served with a green tea “soup” mixed with basil, sesame seeds and mint. I chose to have it with brown rice, which proved to be the tasty thing to do.
It was a textural treat, crunchy vegetables and yielding nutty rice grains complemented by the flavor of hay bee (dried small prawns). Though initially salty, the flavor is balanced by the strong, cooling tea, creating a dish that gets better and better towards the end.
The Niang Dou Fu (S$4.50, ala carte pieces also available) offered another textural surprise—minced pork sandwiched by soya bean skin and fried till crunchy. It surprises by being savory and meaty beyond the initial crunch. The Stewed Pork (S$4.50) is well-prepared though unexceptional. The fat is rich and creamy without being too oily, and the meat is spiced with star anise and cloves. Served with rice, this is real comfort food.
Ngai Hakka is relatively generous with its servings—you are pleasantly full at the end, with room just enough for dessert.
Dessert is gingko nut, beancurd skin and barley (S$1.80) simmered in soy milk. When I asked what the dish was called in Chinese, she simply replied, “Gingko nut, beancurd skin and barley.” The Cantonese have a similar version they call fu chok. The soy milk gave the dish a depth of flavor that its water-based cousins lack. The sweetness of the ingredients makes this a pleasant, balanced hot dessert to soothe the stomach.
I enjoy the care that the owners take with their food. This is evident in their takeaway boxes, which have separate compartment for the starch and the ingredients, so your meal tastes just as it should even in the office. Overall, this is good old comfort food, perfect after a busy day.
1 Jalan Anak Bukit
Bukit Timah Plaza
Open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.