[CLOSED] Woks of Taste: Woks of Hype for char kway teow worth it?

You’ve almost definitely heard about the first-year engineering student who gave up all the trappings of a white collar career for a life working a wok. 24-year-old Samuel Chiang runs Woks of Taste at Upper Boon Keng Market & Food Centre.

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Turned almost into a celebrity in his own right pretty much overnight, it’s understandable that the young man must feel the weight of expectations on his shoulders. He seems to be taking it quite well, though, and has been receiving plaudits from food publications for his take on the classic Char Kway Teow.

Woks of Taste opened on 1 April 2022 so when I paid it a visit in the first week of October, it had been operating for almost exactly half a year. Passion can only take you so far; after that, you need talent and hard work to carry you across the finish line. Had Samuel cleared the bar?

There was only one way to find out.

What I tried at Woks of Taste

woks of taste - black and white ckt

If you come to Woks of Taste, you are there for the char kway teow so there were no big choices to be made. However, I did not know whether to go for the white or black version, so my order was for one each.

With each regular-size plate of Char Kway Teow (S$3.50 for regular, S$4.50 for large), I asked for Egg (S$0.50) and Lap Cheong (S$1) but skipped the Cockles (S$1.50).

There was no queue but Samuel was already working on a backlog of orders, explained his parents who assist at the stall every day. They asked if I was okay with waiting 15 minutes and I nodded— it gave me some time to observe the creation process.

It’s quite an unusual thing. Samuel stands facing the right, both hands almost always busy with the tossing and turning, adding and scooping. One of his parents or the assistant conveys the order to him but the young hawker’s eyes literally never leave the wok, save to look within the work area for an ingredient to toss in. Minimal distractions, all focus.

So much of it seems to be him operating on auto-pilot, honing his skills in ‘the zone’. It’s mesmerising to watch the almost hypnotic scene play out.

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My two plates of char kway teow arrived just inside the 15 minutes I had been told they would take. I was happy with the serving size— each plate definitely contained enough to sate my hunger on a typical day.

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Better still, they were packed full of the tasty ingredients. I could see just from first glance that there was a higher concentration of fried egg, fish cakes and beansprouts than I had ever seen in a plate of char kway teow. Definitely very stimulating visually and it made me all that much more eager to sample the steaming dish right away.

I prodded the piles with my chopsticks and was rewarded with a burst of aroma from the hot noodles that promised a treasure trove of umami. Pulling up the strands, I could see that they were at the right balance of wet and dry, the point where each strand slides past the other but does not feel overly damp.

Taking my first bite made me smile. I just love when lard is done right and presented in the right proportion, as it was here. Having my molars come across the crispy little buggers at regular intervals kept my palate entertained for taste and texture, adding a specialness to the experience.

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My appreciation of the dish was helped along by the extra bite that came as the result of fish cake. This ingredient is often overlooked in terms of importance but can be the bridge between good and great char kway teow.

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On the other hand, the Chinese sausage seemed a bit off but I struggled to find the exact reason why. It was almost as if it had not been cooked long enough because it retained some element of rawness that messed with the rest of the dish every time I took a bite.

Final Thoughts

I have to say that the lap cheong was disappointing and definitely the weakest part of the dish. Another observation was that the sweeter dark CKT also seemed heavier than its light-coloured counterpart.

Our young hawkerpreneur has proven that he can hold his own against hawkers who are far more experienced (a couple of whom are located in Upper Boon Keng Market & Food Centre). On the other hand, the lup cheong issue is still bugging me. It seems like such an amateur mistake that I wonder if I somehow assessed it wrong. I’ll gladly make my way down again to see if that was the case.

Meanwhile, there is enough consensus that Samuel Chiang does a far superior job of creating good char kway teow than most of us would have expected from the fresh-faced fellow.

Check out our video on Samuel here.

Expected damage: S$3.50 – S$7.50 per pax

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Price: $

Our Rating: 3.5 / 5

Woks of Taste

17 Upper Boon Keng Road, #01-40, Singapore 380017

Our Rating 3.5/5

Woks of Taste

17 Upper Boon Keng Road, #01-40, Singapore 380017

Telephone: +65 9787 3335
Operating Hours: 7am – 2.30pm (Tue to Sat), Closed on Sun & Mon
Telephone: +65 9787 3335

Operating Hours: 7am – 2.30pm (Tue to Sat), Closed on Sun & Mon