Por Kee Eating House 1996: “Lit” Canto-style zi char with a spoilt-for-choice menu

It’s hard to miss. Located right next to an open-air carpark, Por Kee Eating House 1996 at Tiong Bahru has been serving Canto-style zi char fare since, well, 1996.

Its (literally) roadside location may not appeal to some but this does not stop the crowds from thronging at all. Guess what? This old-school Eating House has an extensive menu of close to 150 dishes, all listed in a big, fat menu.

Por Kee Eating House 1996 - StorefrontAs someone who frequents the Seng Poh vicinity (hint: I eat fish soup there), I do catch glimpses of spectacular flames from Por Kee’s kitchen. Sure-fire sign of wok hei? My family used to da bao from them during the weekdays, and I knew that I likely would not be disappointed.

What I tried at Por Kee Eating House 1996

With my electrified father in tow (he loves tagging along for my tastings now), we made our way to the archaic restaurant that was a stark contrast to the sprightly Sin Hoi Sai Seafood Restaurant, the other Cantonese-centric zi char spot near Seng Poh Lane.

Archaic, huh? Offering outdoor seats with red plastic chairs that complement the round wooden tables clad in white cloth, Por Kee Eating House 1996 is unrecognisable without its well-worn shelter that has been holding the fort for the past 28 years.

Por Kee Eating House 1996 - Outdoor Seating
Credit

After getting turned away from a feisty waitress, we decided to takeaway the dishes due to the overwhelming dinner crowd. Aw, man. I was looking forward to a zi char feast in-store. On a positive note, the rest of my family members could enjoy the food as well. Good things must share

Regardless, here is a disclaimer that tastes and flavours may vary. 

Por Kee Eating House 1996 - Crispy Roast Chicken, Crispy Butter Prawns, Champagne Pork Ribs

And regardless, the show must go on. As a customer who regularly patronises the restaurant, my father took on himself to decide what I should order. We settled on 3 Por Kee Signatures in Small Crispy Roast Chicken (S$18), Champagne Short Ribs (S$24) and Crispy Butter Prawns (S$24).

I was famished by the time we arrived home! Therefore, I wasted no time tucking into the mouth-watering spread in front of me. 

The Crispy Roast Chicken, otherwise known as Siu Gai, was Cantonese at its best. Served with oh-so-moreish Prawn Crackers, this chicken was deceptively flavourful. Although the flesh was a tad dry for my liking, its golden-brown skin was roasted to crispy perfection.

It really boils down to your tastebuds ah… While I prefer the likes of moist Hakka Salt-Baked Chicken, my father was delighted with this sapless meat. 

Por Kee Eating House 1996 - Crispy Roast Chicken

If this Roast Chicken is too bland for you though, sprinkle some complimentary salted seasoning (we suspect that it is 5 Spice Powder) and you will taste the elevated difference. 

Evidenced by my sibling doggedly peeling and woofing down 4 prawns in one sitting, the Crispy Butter Prawns surpassed our expectations. Among all zi char dishes in general, I live for cereal prawns and cereal prawns only.

Strewn on a bed of cereal, curry leaves and red chilli, the large prawns were succulent and fresh. To be honest, they tasted like regular cereal prawns at first, but I could discern a sweet, buttery undertone after pairing them with loads of golden flakes. 

Por Kee Eating House 1996 - Crispy Butter Prawns

Hmm, my next mission will be to compare Por Kee Eating House 1996’s Cereal Prawns (S$18) with these Crispy Butter Prawns. I am more than curious to discover what sets them apart. 

Moving steadily to the highly-raved Champagne Short Ribs

Por Kee Eating House 1996 - Champagne Pork Ribs

No, I couldn’t taste the Champagne. Yes, I was disgusted to find myself gnawing on those ribs like a savage animal. Coated in sweet and savoury zhup, these darkly-caramelised ribs were surprisingly tasty lor.

I would have preferred the flesh to be a little more tender but again, would it make a difference if we had dined-in instead? Shucks, I need to arrive earlier next time round. 

Nevertheless, this was a pretty solid zi char meal. We were only left with the remnants of shells and bones; everything was devoured with gusto. Hey, I guess that my family agrees too.

Final Thoughts

Will Por Kee Eating House 1996 be my next go-to zi char spot though?

Getting tugged along by the rising costs in Singapore, I would prefer opting for more wallet-friendly options. Either way, I can clearly envision my fam occasionally dining-in (no more da bao-ing) or even assembling at Por Kee for a hearty Reunion Dinner during Chinese New Year. IMO, the portion and quality align with the price.

Well, if you noticed, I did not taste the distinct smoky char in any of the dishes that we ordered. BUT I can strongly attest to their wok hei. Tried and tested, it is the most prominent in other dishes like Handmade Beancurd, Mushroom & Sea-Cucumber Strips (S$18/ S$22/ S$26) and Beef Hor Fun with Black Bean Sauce (S$10/ S$15/ S$18).

Por Kee Eating House 1996 - Kitchen Wok Hei

Look at that flame go!

With their consistently large crowds, it is safe to say that they have anchored themselves on the list of zi char mainstays despite a higher-than-average price point. 

So, add Por Kee Eating House 1996 to your list of good-quality, family-friendly zi char spots. Me? To fill the Yam Ring-shaped void in my heart (I still can’t get over my mistake of not eating in-store), I am determined to head back to try again. And waste no time in getting there early. 

You?

Expected damage: S$10 to S$18 per pax

We tried Singapore’s best-rated zi char

Price: $ $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Por Kee Eating House 1996

69 Seng Poh Ln, Thye Hong Centre, #01-02, Singapore 160069

Price
Our Rating 4/5

Por Kee Eating House 1996

69 Seng Poh Ln, Thye Hong Centre, #01-02, Singapore 160069

Telephone: +65 6221 0582
Operating Hours: 11am - 2.30pm & 5pm - 10.45pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon
Telephone: +65 6221 0582

Operating Hours: 11am - 2.30pm & 5pm - 10.45pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon

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