Last Updated: January 28, 2017
You’ll never want to hear that your food is “chao ta” (burnt). Why would you? Why would anyone, anywhere want to for that matter? Yet, chao ta bee hoon is a thing, and not just any old thing. The rendition at Yong Kee Seafood is “legendary” as some internet food people have put it.
Every now and then a zi char chef strays from the beaten path of chilli crab, yam ring, ngoh hiang and for quite some time now — salted egg over everything. Chao ta bee hoon is that understated unique dish that’s setting Yong Kee Seafood apart from other zi char joints.
However, is the humble looking plate of crispy fried bee hoon all it’s been made out to be?
Crispy vermicelli bee hoon ($6 for small) better known as chao ta bee hoon isn’t actually burnt or charred in anyway if you haven’t already figured out from the pictures. Simply described, it’s bee hoon that’s fried till crispy and served in a pancake-like state. If you’ve had authentic (no bull) claypot rice complete with the crispy layer of rice that sticks to the pot, then this my friend, is the bee hoon version of it.
Splitting the crispy, crusty layer you’ll be glad to know that it isn’t just a plate of flattened crisp bee hoon. Beneath the crisp layer is a moist bed of noodle with prawns and pieces of chicken.
However, if you’re looking to be blown away, I wouldn’t pin your hopes on it. It’s more textural than anything, with no strong flavours of wok-hei that we were expecting. There was some but, not enough for my liking.
However, with all the components combined, especially with the sizeable pieces of pork lard that garnish the dish, it’s a nice change from the usual dishes at other zi char establishments.
Before I continue, I’d like to clarify that this isn’t authentic Thai food. However, the chef has tossed dishes inspired by Thai flavours throughout the rather extensive menu.
The hotplate beancurd ($10 – small) isn’t one of the dishes inspired by Thai cuisine. But, we had to try Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant’s version of this zi char classic.
The egg tofu, prawns and minced pork coated in thick brown gravy, that bubbles away with a beaten egg is comfort food. Personally, all I’d need is a bowl of rice and this classic to be satisfied. At Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant, the dish ticks off on all the boxes. Not too salty and a generous amount of tofu and other ingredients, there’s nothing to complain about.
To get a taste of the Thai inspiration that’s quite apparent here, we ordered the hot & sour soup Thai style ($7). A local take on tom yam soup, this is a thicker creamier version that won’t blow the top of your head off with the typically (quite insane) Thai spice levels.
With generous amounts of sliced fish and an assortment of seafood, it’s a perfect way to start a zi char meal. Or a damned no nonsense method warming your soul.
The tangy soup reminded me of tom yam but, one that doesn’t take itself seriously if we’re speaking about being 100% authentic. It’s still a very enjoyable dish nonetheless, however, if you’re looking for authentic flavours of Thailand, I’d suggest you look elsewhere.
With a menu that’s about eight pages long, you’ll be spoilt for choice at this little gem of a zi char restaurant hidden within a district full of culture and heritage. Our suggestion to avoid mulling over what to order? Ask the staff for recommendations, or have a peek at what other diners are tucking into.
Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant is a very reasonably priced zi char restaurant that’s not packed to the rafters with an interesting dash of Thai inspiration in their menu. While the chao ta bee hoon is something different, it’s the rest of the items on the menu that make it special.
It opens 24 hours from Tuesdays to Sundays, here’s a nifty spot to fill up on your supper hunger pangs.
Expected damage: $8 – $15 per pax