Mui Kee is a famous congee restaurant in Hong Kong although I must confess that in my trips to Hong Kong, I have never once made a trip to Mui Kee. Instead, my usual fix for congee is at Ho Hung Kee at Hysan place.
Mui Kee’ entry into Singapore has been heralded with much fanfare. Those who have tried have squealed with delight and waxed lyrical over the “Wok Hei” in the porridge .
“Wok Hei” to the uninitiated, is a Cantonese word and literally translates to “breath of the Wok”. It is a superlative used to describe a dish in Asian cooking when you can smell a burnt smell in the dish which the Chinese chefs achieve with a ginormous fire and constant tossing in the pan. When someone mentions Wok Hei when tasting a dish, it literally means it’s the pinnacle of success and no further adulatory words needs to be uttered.
But Wok Hei in porridge? Really ?
Have we lost all our collective marbles ?
It is said that the Wok Hei in the porridge at Mui Kee is achieved with the use of a copper based brass pot. I have a copper frying pan at home so I know that copper is a super fast conductor and retainer of heat. So I use that pan when I want high heat to be constantly maintained and for flash cooking of delicate food . But I would never want to use that pan to burn the food ??
I have tried to eat at Mui Kee on two previous occasions but was put off by the long snaking queues. But today I was third time lucky and my lunch companion and I were seated within 15 minutes.
We ordered our porridges and a few side dishes. They serve various options of Chee Cheong Fun with different ingredients. Chee Cheong Fun is a steamed rice noodle roll which is typically served in Chinese restaurants selling Tim Sum. Hong Kong restaurants are particularly good at making this dish .
The different options were out of the ordinary like sakura prawns and beef brisket. I ordered the beef brisket option.
My first taste of Mui Kee food was, and I’m trying not to burst into tears here, simply underwhelming. Instead of a delicate almost silky texture a good restaurant would offer, the rice noodle was a little lumpy and floury. The beef brisket on top was decent but the combination did nothing for each other and was just confusing. It wasn’t ebony and ivory. Not Key and Peele for sure.
I must apologise for the hurriedly taken photos but I didn’t want to be rude to my lunch guest. But putting aside the lack of attention and photography skills, the food was visually unappealing and the taste matched the visuals.
The fried bean curd skin was again disappointing. Both crisp and flavours had taken a holiday and were not coming back.
What in the world is going on ?
The much touted drunken chicken was a little better but I found the abundant gelatin disconcerting and interfered with the taste. So again it was average to me.
By this time, I had formed the view that the side dishes didn’t quite make the mark.
I ordered parrot fish belly with the home made pork balls. I didn’t enjoy the parrot fish belly – it was cut into thick clumsy chunks and was hardly delicate or fragrant. I am going to put it down as just a bad choice that I ordered something I didnt quite like on a whim. But the homemade pork balls that they seemed to be proud of didn’t taste much of anything either.
So did the porridge save the day ? I was expecting delicate, smooth and silky but it was just a little above average for me, not much more. And the Wok Hei? Yes it was there but for all those who rave about that magical touch, please be honest and tell me I haven’t lost my mind. Isn’t it just like burnt porridge that is cloying and pungent and destroying the delicate balance of how a good Hong Kong congee should be ?
I love Wok Hei as much as the next neighbourhood menopausal aunty but I cannot for the life of me understand this.
Its like the day the music died.
Mui Kee Congee: 1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre #01-12, Singapore 228208| Opening Hours: 12pm – 9.30pm | Tel: +65 6737 242