Hoo Kee Bak Chang: Michelin Bib Gourmand bak chang packed with umami goodness

Out on a mission to try out Hoo Kee Bak Chang’s Michelin Bib Gourmand bak chang,  I made my 1.1km walk from Redhill MRT to their Bukit Merah outlet.

It was certainly a gamble— there was a high chance that they were sold out for the day, as demand always soars around the Dragon Boat Festival.

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Storefront

Hoo Kee Bak Chang’s main store is located in Amoy Street, and their bak chang used to sell out at record speed. Famous for delicious, traditional Hokkien-style and non-jelak bak chang, they have been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand for four consecutive years from 2016 to 2019 and again in both 2021 and 2022.

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Heritage

The store at Bukit Merah features an adorable hawker pushcart, adorned with jars of glutinous rice, dried chestnuts, shiitake, and other store paraphernalia. The pushcart is a nod to Hoo Kee Bak Chang’s humble beginnings as a roadside hawker stall along Amoy Street in the 1940s.

What I tried at Hoo Kee Bak Chang

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Overall Shot

When I finally arrived at Hoo Kee Bak Chang’s Bukit Merah branch, I was dismayed to hear that they were completely out of bak chang. Not only that, they were fully booked until July due to the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival that will take place on 24 and 25 Jun 2023.

I was all ready to head back empty handed, when I was told that they just happened to have two Deluxe All-In Bak Chang left. That bak chang is their best seller — guess I wasn’t as unlucky as I had thought.  

Each bak chang was S$6 due to the Dragon Boat Festival mark-up, and usually sells for S$5.80. It’s definitely on the pricier side; only one way to find out if it was worth it.

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Cross-section

Even without unwrapping the bak chang, I could already smell the intense aroma of the Chinese five spice used to season the bak chang. It was even more intense when I peeled back the wrapper, now accompanied by the fragrance of seasoned pork and the rich aroma of dark soy sauce — they made my mouth water.

The Deluxe All-In Bak Chang was stuffed with a whole salted egg yolk, seasoned lean pork, shiitake and a generous amount of chestnut.

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Insides

The glutinous rice was very aromatic and flavourful, with just the right amount of dark soy sauce to season it. I didn’t find it too salty or oily, which a lot of bak chang tend to be.

However, I found the rice not “sticky” enough and it seemed a little overcooked, with the grains disintegrating easily. It lacked the soft yet chewy texture of well-cooked glutinous rice, which I found to be quite the shame as the rice would have been perfect otherwise.

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Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Meat

Though bak chang can often be too oily and jelak, Hoo Kee Bak Chang uses lean pork to make for a meatier bak chang.

Personally, while I did find the meat to be very soft and tender, their use of lean pork made it a little less shiok. There was not enough fat and collagen in the bak chang from the pork to coat the rice grains nicely. Of course, this all comes down to personal taste, so if you prefer lean meat, this one’s for you!

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Egg Yolk

The salted egg yolk had a bright orange-yellow hue and was cooked just right, exploding with umami in my mouth. Very satisfying.

There was thick-cut mushroom aplenty, adding a nice texture to the bak chang.

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Chestnut

Last but not least, the many chestnut pieces in each bak chang were cooked very well and had a delightfully creamy texture that was neither too soft nor crumbly. The hint of sweetness from the chestnuts complimented the umami of the shiitake and pork very well and made for a nicely balanced bak chang ingredient-wise.

Final Thoughts

Hoo Kee Bak Chang - Side View

The bak chang at Hoo Kee Bak Chang, though undeniably good, were on the pricier side and, dare I say, slightly disappointing. With the shop’s status as both a heritage brand and 6-time Michelin Bib Gourmand award winner, the bar has been set high. Unfortunately, too high.

For the price I paid, the bak chang, though full of ingredients, were on the smaller side and the portions of rice and meat were not as large as I had hoped. Perhaps, if you go in with lower expectations and are a fan of leaner meat, Hoo Kee Bah Chang’s bak chang will be more up your alley.

I was only able to try their most expensive and buffed up bak chang option. For all you know, their cheaper offerings like the Original Bak Chang ($S3.80) and Mushroom (S$4.80) will be more satisfying at their respective price points.

Expected damage: S$3.80 – S$5.80 per pax

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Our Rating: 3.5 / 5

Hoo Kee Bak Chang (和記)

161 Bukit Merah Central, #01-3735, Singapore 150161

Our Rating 3.5/5

Hoo Kee Bak Chang (和記)

161 Bukit Merah Central, #01-3735, Singapore 150161

Telephone: +65 6222 7866
Operating Hours: 9am - 3pm (Mon to Sat), Closed on Sun
Telephone: +65 6222 7866

Operating Hours: 9am - 3pm (Mon to Sat), Closed on Sun