Last Updated: March 9, 2021
It’s amazing how pregnancy can cause a woman’s body, emotion, and appetite to change in a blink of an eye. Just two weeks ago, pregnancy cravings brought me to the likes of Lemaq and Flying Pig to binge on a boldly flavoured plate of gado-gado and an intensely spicy bowl of tom yum soup. Now, one week into my third trimester, my appetite seems to have dropped to an all-time low. I have no cravings, no hunger pangs, and not even an appetite to eat.
As frustrated as I am with myself, the only thing that I seem to be able to stomach nowadays are bland, soupy treats. Knowing my symptoms and pain, a fellow colleague recommended me to give The Beef House a try. “They sell my family’s favourite bowl of beef ball soup. I’m pretty sure your baby will like it,” he suggested.
Like star-crossed lovers who are not meant to be, it took me three trips to be able to get a taste of all the dishes I wanted to. My first visit to The Beef House was on a Friday, when I reached bright and early only to find out that they were closed. On my second attempt, I arrived at 3pm to avoid the lunch crowd. Sadly, they were sold out for the day. As the saying goes, ‘third time’s a charm’, and I arrived at 10am and joined the already snaking queue, all confident, knowing that this time around everything will go exactly as I planned.
Step into Gar Lok Eating House situated along Syed Alwi Road, and you will immediately notice two stalls located side by side selling traditional Hakka delicacies. Working between both stalls is the main man behind The Beef House, Mr Chia, a hawker veteran who has been serving up bowls of authentic Hakka beef balls and yong tau foo with his family for more than 20 years.
From the looks of the never-ending queue, satisfied smiles on the faces of diners and all the empty red bowls and plates, I knew I was in for a treat. Thankfully, my appetite co-operated with me that particular day, and by the time I received my orders, I was ready to feast.
A sip of The Beef House’s Beef Ball Soup (S$4) warmed me instantly from the inside out. Despite what I thought was a rather bland and stingy portion of broth, the plain-looking soup surprisingly packed so much more flavour than I expected.
Not only was it filled with the aroma of cilantro and spring onions, but the full-bodied stock was bursting with natural sweetness from the beef bone broth. At that moment, the portion of soup seemed impertinent. It is, after all, quality over quantity and I graciously forgive The Beef House for that.
One bite into the beef ball and immediately I knew—boy, this is probably one of the best beef balls I’ve ever tasted in the thirty-three years of my life.
With most of the fat removed from the meat and the amount of starch-to-beef ratio controlled to a T, the irregularly shaped hand-made beef balls were firm and amazingly chewy in texture. Since they were only slightly salted, the beefy flavour came through in every bite, resulting in plump, juicy meatballs that were undeniably addictive in taste.
Unlike most yong tau foo stalls we usually frequent, Hakka Yong Tau Foo (S$3) at The Beef House comes in a bowl with standard ingredients as they are all hand-made and limited in quantities.
Bobbing in my clear steaming soup were pieces of tau kwa (firm tofu), meatballs, fish balls, a ngo hiang, shiitake mushroom filled with meat, and a handful of baby choy sum. Unlike the Beef Ball Soup, the broth in the Hakka Yong Tau Foo was immaculate and refreshing in taste attributed to the soybean broth. Adding to the umaminess of the soup was probably the use of fishball water, a trade secret many chefs use as flavour enhancers to give their stock that additional oomph.
Since almost every element in the Hakka Yong Tau Foo is painstakingly made from scratch, they might look unappetising and rough on the edges but are in fact, seasoned to perfection. The freshness of the fish and meat paste mingled with the tau kwa to create toothsome bites that feed both the body and the soul. If not for the amount of food I have placed in front of me, I think I can easily go for seconds, maybe even thirds.
Whether you are looking for a light morning bite or a dish to complement your mains, The Beef House’s Abacus Seeds (S$3) will make for a faultless option.
The Abacus Seeds here might not spot the same indentation as those that we are familiar with, but taste-wise, they are surely not lacking in flavour. Prepared using a mixture of yam and pumpkin, the nuggets were soft in texture and had a nice springy chew.
Not only did they exude the delicate fragrance of steamed yam, but every mouthful was also made more delectable with the addition of minced meat and dried shrimps. As simple and humble-looking as this dish might be, the Abacus Seeds are addictive bites that deserve a place in your belly.
I might not be Hakka in descent, but like most foodies, I relish in the joys of savouring honest-to-goodness heritage food. Food might be essential in our life, but we just can’t simplify them as something we put in our mouths. Often, they are imbued with meaning and history.
As a Singaporean, I’m proud to have hawkers like The Beef House going strong in our gruelling F&B industry, and with their presence, I sincerely hope that their legacy will be preserved for our generations to come.
Expected damage: S$2 – S$10 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
The Beef House
217 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207776
217 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207776