Hong Kee Porridge, Commonwealth: Of velvety Fish Porridge & an important lesson in food writing

Commonwealth Crescent Market& Food Centre Hong Kee 8

When I tell people what I do, I’m often met with envious sighs and jealous exclamations. I have to admit; even I’m sometimes jealous of myself. From the fancy-schmancy restaurants with cloth napkins to the exclusive first dibs on new chains hitting out shores, life is sweet, and I’m not just talking about the desserts. All these rose-coloured moments came to a grinding halt when I visited Hong Kee Porridge at Commonwealth Crescent Market and Food Centre one afternoon.

There are times where I forget that the words I write have a real impact. No, I’m not talking about the petty fights that break out in the comments that disappear with the news cycle. There are the earnest new cafe owners or long time hawkers that text me after a review is published to express their utmost gratitude. Of course, there are instances where I give a less-than-glowing review which incites an equally passionate reaction from store owners.

So when I busted out my rather large and imposing Canon camera—this baby is huge—the good people of Hong Kee Porridge were understandably worried.

Hong Kee Porridge 6

As far as I know, Hong Kee Porridge is managed by a husband and wife, where he cooks, and she serves the bowls of piping hot porridge to your table. Just like every seasoned hawker, they were not the most amiable unless you are longtime customers. A little brusque and a touch cantankerous were all but endearing traits I believe makes the hawker culture a whole character on its own.

What I tried

Hong Kee Porridge 1

Hong Kee’s Pork Porridge With Century Egg (S$4) was served in a hefty bowl brimming with chunky quarters of century egg and slivers of pork. In my line of work, Ms Canon always eats first, and that’s when auntie spotted her.

Granted, it wasn’t the first time stall owners are curious about what I was doing. All I had to do was to spout little white lies about working on a school project or that I’m training my arms and I actually enjoy lugging a giant camera to skirt around the question.

Most of the time, I’m brushed off as an annoying millennial and ignored. This time, I was not.

“Hey, who are you? Are you a journalist? Don’t anyhow take photos of our food, okay!”, the auntie interrogated us in Mandarin. A little defensive, but she disappeared to her duties pretty quickly.

Hong Kee Porridge 4

Seeing as the other bowl of Sliced Fish Porridge (S$4) was getting cold, and I do like my porridge at least a little lukewarm, I resumed my journalistic duties. In between shots, auntie appeared again and demanded to know our intentions with the porridge or at least for God’s sake just eat it already.

Hong Kee Porridge 5

Slightly miffed by the sudden catechising, my colleague assured her that we were indeed going to try her porridge. When the coast was clear, we began with the Sliced Fish Porridge that came with a spread of thinly sliced raw fish on the top that you’ll have to stir into your porridge to cook. As the translucent fish turned a pleasing pearly white, I went in for my first scoop of porridge on that sweltering afternoon.

Thick and smooth, it was a texture you can only get at restaurants. Not to mention, a pleasant blandness that was so characteristic of porridge.

Of course, here, you have the mild sweetness of the fish that turns the flavours up a notch. I could see this as excellent comfort food on rainy days or when one is invariably under the weather—or, you know, stuck at home due to ‘Circuit Breaker’.

Hong Kee Porridge 2

Just as I was about to greedily take a heaping spoonful of Pork Porridge, out of the corner of my eye, I see the uncle make his way towards us. He was a lithe and rather pale man that kept himself behind the counter. This was significantly out of character.

He was a little more agitated than his wife, worried that we mistook him for serving us uncooked fish. “You have to stir the porridge!”, he insisted several times. His consternation only reminded me that COVID-19 is incredibly hard on older hawkers, and in this period of instability, anything and everything could tip the scales again.

Once he finished his spiel, he walked away in a huff to attend to his other customers, and I returned to my Pork Porridge.

Hong Kee Porridge 3

If I liked the Sliced Fish Porridge, then I loved this Pork Porridge even more. There was the same velvety texture but this time more robust from the liberal helpings of pork liver and tender pork slices. An almost too generous serving of century egg pieces that made me wish for a sudden downpour so I could properly savour this.

Like a revolving door, the couple each visited us at the table again. When we finally divulged our ‘intentions’, relief visibly washed over them and were all smiles.

Final thoughts

Hong Kee Porridge was stellar if it wasn’t clear enough. In fact, on that humid afternoon, I would have gladly eaten four bowls. But, that day stayed with me longer than I would care to admit. Because it crystalised the notion that words matter.

Sure, I could go to town on how much a dish annoyed me or broke certain ‘rules’ that so offended me simply as an exercise in harnessing my literary prowess. I must say, that would be quite cavalier of me, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been tempted. But that doesn’t mean I’d sugar-coat my reviews endlessly. Instead, whatever heat I want to bring to my writing, I’ll make sure to be ruthlessly impartial, fair, and to always remember who I’m writing this for.

Expected Damage: S$4 – S$5 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 5 / 5

Hong Kee Porridge

31 Commonwealth Crescent, Commonwealth Crescent Market & Food Centre, #02-89 , Singapore 149644

Our Rating 5/5

Hong Kee Porridge

31 Commonwealth Crescent, Commonwealth Crescent Market & Food Centre, #02-89 , Singapore 149644

Telephone: +65 9067 5755
Operating Hours: 6am - 2.30pm (Daily)
Telephone: +65 9067 5755

Operating Hours: 6am - 2.30pm (Daily)