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Food

Gubak Kia: The Beef Kid Who Serves Up Traditional & Modernised Beef Kway Teow At Timbre+

Last Updated: January 21, 2020

Written by Felicia Koh

Gubak Kia which literally translates to ‘beef kid’ was a nickname earned by John Paul when he was helping his father at Empress Place Beef Kway Teow since he was a kid. Today, at the age of 24, he has outgrown the name and now proudly hangs it up on his shopfront at Timbre+.

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Starting up Gubak Kia has not been an easy feat for John Paul, who has no formal culinary training. His passion for food and love of being in the kitchen built up when he started assisting at his family stall since he was 11, washing dishes, taking orders and occasionally preparing beef kway teow for their customers.

After a short venture out of his comfort zone—cooking at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club and Wolf Burgers—John Paul returned back to his roots, setting up Gubak Kia as a homage to his father’s legacy with tweaks and flavours that also reflect his personality and creativity.

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Strategically located in the urban food park of Timbre+, the storefront of Gubak Kia immediately caught my eye with its simplistic blue and white signage. The signage itself showcases a legacy which the entire family holds true and is proud of: Hock Lam tradition since 1921. It’s a tradition started by Tan Chin Sia, John Paul’s great grandfather, who founded the famous Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow stall in the 20s.

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We started off light and easy with John Paul’s take on a traditional kong bak bao (pork belly bun), Gubak Bao (S$5.90 for two). Soft fluffy Chinese steamed buns stuffed with stewed beef brisket and pickled shredded vegetables were branded with Gubak Kia’s logo on its smooth white surface, making these Gubak Bao instantly beautified and camera-ready for the ‘gram. 

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Take my advice, these bao‘s should be devoured the moment it reaches your table when they are still soft and warm. The steam buns were moist, acting as a good vessel to house the beef brisket and soak up its succulent juices. It was made more flavourful with the piquant pickled vegetables which added a refreshing tang and acidity to the dish. Be warned that these bao‘s are highly addictive, so do consider ordering the trio (S$6.90) for just a dollar more!

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Gubak Kia’s beef broth and chilli sauce hold true to the family recipe used at Empress Place Beef Kway Teow. These two elements were beautifully highlighted in their Mixed Beef Kway Teow With Tendon (S$8.90). For an extra S$1, I got a bowl of kway teow with a bit of everything—sliced beef, beef brisket, beef tripe, beef balls, and most importantly, beef tendons. 

Different parts of the beef were neatly placed around the bowl and presented together with a spoonful of house-made chilli, salted vegetables and fresh Chinese coriander. As a traditionalist (especially when it comes to food), the Mixed Beef Kway Teow With Tendon was definitely my top pick. 

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The kway teow used were thin and unbelievably smooth almost to a point where I could slurp the noodles wholly without chewing it. When mixed and eaten all together, the punch of saltiness and the heat from the chilli played their respective roles in enhancing the beefiness of the dish, without either of them overpowering the main character.

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Following his father’s recipe, what made Gubak Kia’s chilli sauce stand out was in fact, its tanginess, coming from pineapples which are blended in. Although it was spicy, there was a tinge of fruitiness that paired perfectly with the medium-rare beef slices and melt-in-your-mouth gelatinous tendons.  

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Beef Short Rib Kway Teow (S$12.90 for 300g, S$14.90 for 400g) has got to be the most iconic and unique dish offered at Gubak Kia. For an affordable price of S$12.90, I was served a gigantic 300g short rib right smack in the middle of my bowl of kway teow. 

This particular dish is a representation of fusing new techniques with traditional flavours. The luscious rib was marinated with Gubak Kia’s special sauce made from their beef stock, then sous vide for 48 hours. Upon ordering, the rib is then seared on a pan and flamed with a blow torch, resulting in a charred and crisp surface. 

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The meat was tender, sliding off the bone almost immediately when I picked the rib up. It had a burnt, smoky aroma which married well with the umami and savoury flavours of the beef, making it undeniably irresistible.

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To draw a perfect full stop to our visit at Gubak Kia, John Paul introduced a new menu item that he recently launched, Pepper Scallion Kway Teow (S$8.90), a dish that features beef stir-fried in their exclusive black pepper scallion sauce.

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If you are a fan of the bold and strong flavours of black pepper crab, trust me, forgo everything else on the menu and opt for this particular dish. The beef slices are lightly stir-fried, leaving a tad bit of rawness and a delicate bite. The best way to savour this Pepper Scallion Kway Teow is to break into the runny yolk and stir everything together. In a bite, I was able to relish the peppery heat from the beef mellowed down by the richness of the yolk that was fiery and addictive at the same time!


Seldom do I come across young hawkers like John Paul who are so enthusiastic and passionate about his business. Not only is he proud to showcase his heritage and family tradition, but he is also not afraid to take on risks, showcasing his creativity and innovation in the food he serves.

Whether you are choosing between a traditional or modernised bowl of beef kway teow, Gubak Kia will definitely satisfy your cravings and leave you wanting more!

Expected Damage: S$5 – S$15 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Gubak Kia

73 Ayer Rajah Crescent, Timbre+, Stall 27B, Singapore 139957

Price
Our Rating 4/5

Gubak Kia

73 Ayer Rajah Crescent, Timbre+, Stall 27B, Singapore 139957

Operating Hours: 11am - 10pm (Mon to Fri), 5pm - 10pm (Sat), Closed on Sun

Operating Hours: 11am - 10pm (Mon to Fri), 5pm - 10pm (Sat), Closed on Sun
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