For 33 year old Wai Hoong, the nephew of Wong Choon Kwok and Soo Lai May aged 60 and 56 respectively, porridge isn’t what most of us are accustomed to. It’s because of their seemingly different interpretation of what porridge should be which makes Huang Hong Ji Porridge stand out from others in the business of porridge.
Tradition – it has a different meaning depending on the individual. When it comes to food, most of us are set on how we enjoy certain dishes, especially those we grew up on, introduced to us by the generations before us.
Huang Hong Ji porridge has been around since the days hawkers peddled their food on the streets. From their trishaw, the business established itself at Tanglin Halt Food Centre during the 1970s.
Fast forward to the present day, the purveyors of authentic Cantonese porridge are now ladling out bowls of it a short 10 minute walk from Punggol MRT station and Waterway Point at Blk 269A Punggol Field #01-197 from 6:45am to 2pm daily, only taking a day off on alternate Mondays.
A local culinary dynasty now in its third generation, Huang Hong Ji has no intention of surrendering the more unique items on its menu any time soon.
The first item on their menu is the signature porridge ($4.00), the closest thing you’ll get to Cantonese porridge in Singapore from a bygone era with a mix of fish, pork and cuttlefish buried like hidden treasure.
Earthy pork blood cakes are all but a memory in our hygienic city, in its place are delicate slices of Ikan Parang (fish) a saltwater fish which is more flavourful than the more commonly used snakehead (Toman), cuttlefish with a crunch of freshness and tender meatballs squeezed by hand, all hidden under the ladles of silky porridge.
All of this is topped off with what is now my new favourite crispy pork item– deep fried pig’s intestine.
Eating at Huang Hong Ji has been a gastronomical revelation of sorts. Oh what a tragedy it would be if deep fried pig’s intestine were to disappear from our local culinary landscape.
Besides the deep fried pig’s intestine, a side order of fried bee hoon ($1.20) can be mixed in and eaten with porridge. The fried bee hoon is the Cantonese alternative to youtiao (fried dough sticks) – commonly served with porridge as a long lost tradition not many locals know about.
To round the meal off, an additional side of handmade yam cakes ($2.00), only available over the weekend, is recommended for the full authentic Cantonese porridge experience. But of course, there’s no strict way to eat your porridge and it’s recommended to have it in whichever way you prefer.
New age demand
Cuttlefish + Peanut + Century Egg ($3.50)
To meet the demands of the new generations of customers, an array of the usual suspects such as luncheon meat, ngoh hiang and lup cheong which are commonly found at other places selling porridge and economical bee hoon are offered too.
Yes it’s all very sinful and tempting, and almost too hard to resist.
However, it would be a great shame to have a meal at Huang Hong Ji without at least trying the signature porridge and if you’re feeling particularly peckish, the full experience which is the signature porridge with sides of both fried bee hoon and yam cake work out to be ($7.20). Satisfying comfort food.
With Punggol being a relatively new estate, its crisp new streets flanked by blocks of white and grey apartment buildings don’t do a whole lot in helping convey the heritage and tradition that this wholly owned family business brings.
Back at Tanglin Halt food centre, they used to clear out by 10am. Now at Punggol where the owners have concentrate their cooking efforts, they won’t be going anywhere till 2pm, and the same goes for the crispy pork intestine – fingers crossed.
Expected damage: $4 – $6 per pax