CHEAP & GOOD

Tasty dimsum from chain stall

Chain stall Lai Kee's dimsum includes (clockwise from far left) pork ribs, siew mai, har kow and chive dumplings.
Chain stall Lai Kee's dimsum includes (clockwise from left) pork ribs, siew mai, har kow and chive dumplings.ST PHOTO: REBECCA LYNNE TAN

When it comes to food, snobs usually want to brag only about the artisan small-batch places that make food from scratch.

But I think people ought to acknowledge that, sometimes, chain stalls and shops make good food too.

Just think of Life's blind curry puff taste test last month - Polar Puffs & Cakes, one of the most well-known chains in Singapore, took first place. Surprise, surprise.

This week, I'm going to tell you about a humble bao and dimsum hawker centre chain that deserves a little pat on its back.

Lai Kee has four outlets islandwide - two in Clementi, one in Bukit Batok and another in Teck Whye.

Compared with the increasingly exorbitant prices of dimsum dishes at restaurants these days, its prices are easier on the pocket.

  • LAI KEE FOODSTUFF

  • 01-118, Block 207 Bukit Batok Street 21; 01-K1, Block 107 Clementi Street 12; 01-243, Block 143 Teck Whye Lane; and 01-294, Block 727 Clementi West Street 2

    Open: Operating hours vary across outlets, but most open between 6.30am and 9.30pm daily

    Rating: 3/5

A lotus paste bao costs 70 cents and steamed dimsum ranges from $2 to $3.50.

There is also plenty of variety, considering the small size of the stall. Offerings range from bao in all shapes and sizes to a selection of dimsum that includes crabmeat balls, chive dumplings and braised phoenix claws (chicken feet).

The stall does the simple things well. My favourite things to eat here are the bao (from 70 cents each), which are soft, light and airy in texture - supple and much fluffier than other hawker centre versions.

I like the tasty and juicy Big Pau ($1.60) with slices of braised pork and a quarter of a hard-boiled egg; the Kong Bak Pau ($1.30) - a thick, fatty and meaty piece of soya sauce-braised pork belly wrapped in a pillowy steamed bun; and Liu Sha Pau, or golden lava buns filled with molten salted egg-yolk custard ($3.50 for three).

The petite siew mai here is decent too. The minced pork is moist and well-seasoned.

I also appreciate that the translucent skin of the har kow is soft, thin and delicate.

Skip the pork ribs. They are tender but too oily and not flavourful enough for me.

•Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'Cheap & Good Tasty dimsum from chain stall'. Print Edition | Subscribe