Cheap & Good

Get a modern bento with old-school dishes at Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap

The braised duck bento comes on a lacquered platter with a cup of hot soup.
The braised duck bento comes on a lacquered platter with a cup of hot soup. ST PHOTO: EUNICE QUEK

I'm all for creativity in the food and beverage scene, as long as it doesn't cross over into becoming a gimmick.

One stall that marries tradition with innovation is Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap at Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre. While it has been there for 34 years, it is second-generation owner Melvin Chew, 39, who has jazzed up the menu without losing the authenticity of his late father's recipe.

For the past three years, Mr Chew has been running the stall with his mother Lim Bee Hong, 60. It offers braised duck rice or noodles (from $3), as well as kway chap items such as big and small pig's intestines, tongue, ear, stomach and skin.

But to cater to younger diners, his menu features braised duck bento ($6) as well as a Combo Jumbo set ($8), which also includes tau pok (fried beancurd puff), braised tofu and a small selection of pig innards.

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The braised duck bento comes on a lacquered platter with a cup of hot soup.

You've seen chicken rice balls. Here, I get three balls of yam rice, separated by tender braised radish slices, and topped with freshly fried shallots. There's sliced braised duck and a generous serving of cucumber slices, coriander and salted vegetables. The salted vegetables are cooked till soft, but not mushy.

A crowd-pleaser is the ramen- style ajitsuke tamago (lava egg), with a perfect, custard-like texture and gooey egg yolk.

 

The braised duck bento comes on a lacquered platter with a cup of hot soup. ST PHOTO: EUNICE QUEK

The herbal soup has a cinnamon flavour that I find too strong at the beginning. But after sipping a few spoonfuls, I end up drinking everything straight from the cup.

For those who want a bit of everything, get the Combo Jumbo set. I do not like pig innards, but at this stall, the offal is cooked in the umami "mother sauce", which masks any "porky" smell one commonly associates with kway chap. Mr Chew lets on that one special ingredient in the sauce is cognac - which indeed takes it to the next level.

  • JIN JI TEOCHEW BRAISED DUCK & KWAY CHAP


    02-156 Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Block 335 Smith Street; tel: 9018-9052; go to www.facebook.com/jinjiteochewbraisedduck; open: 10.30am to 6.30pm (Saturdays to Thursdays), closed on Fridays

    Rating: 4.5/5

Don't forget to get a saucer of his housemade chilli, vinegar and garlic sauce - you'll want to dunk everything in it.

If you don't want to eat at the swelteringly hot hawker centre, you can choose to take away as the meal is packed neatly into a bento box.

It is heartening to see Mr Chew's passion and dedication to his craft as he continues his father's legacy. Hopefully. he will inspire more young hawkers to follow suit.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'In praise of braised duck bento'. Print Edition | Subscribe