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Healthier taste of tradition

Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle and Soya Sauce Chicken Ipoh Hor Fun from Kim Kee Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.
Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle and Soya Sauce Chicken Ipoh Hor Fun from Kim Kee Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

In this series brought to you by the Health Promotion Board, find out where to go for healthier food that is tasty and affordable

Listening to his customers who wanted healthier options led this hawker to ditch his specialities of roast chicken and poached chicken in favour of soya sauce chicken in August last year.

Now, 57-year-old stall owner Tan Cheng Hiang of Kim Kee Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle has two dishes on his menu which the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has identified as healthier choices.

The stall's Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle ($3) and Soya Sauce Chicken Ipoh Hor Fun ($3) carry the HPB's Healthier Choice Symbol and Lower In Calories label.

To qualify for the Lower In Calories label, a dish has to contain 500kcal or less. A typical dine-out meal contains 700 to 800kcal, while the recommended daily energy intake is 2,200kcal on average for men and 1,800kcal for women.

The soya sauce chickens, strung in two rows, glisten invitingly under the spotlight of the shop's glass display and taste as good as they look.

Mr Tan started his stall selling Cantonese-style roast chicken and poached chicken in 2010 at a coffee shop in Jurong East. Last year, he decided to specialise in soya sauce chicken when he moved to its current location at Yuhua Market and Hawker Centre in Jurong East Avenue 1.

He says in Mandarin: "I wanted to focus on authentic traditional Cantonese-style chicken that is healthier than roast chicken."

Mr Tan's soya sauce chicken is based on a family heirloom recipe from Hong Kong. His friend's parents, who ran a successful eatery selling soya sauce chicken noodles, had decided to retire and gave him their recipe.

"They had only one condition for me - that I must help keep their traditional recipe alive," says Mr Tan.

When he first received the recipe in 2014, Mr Tan practised braising five soya sauce chickens daily for two months. Although he had learnt the Cantonese method of roasting and poaching chicken in 2004at a chicken rice stall, it still took him many attempts to get it right.

Braising requires cooking at a low, even temperature and the timing must be precise, so that the meat is cooked through while keeping the skin intact, he explains.

Mr Tan improvised the recipe by using chicken stock instead of plain water as a base for the braising liquid.

For the $3 healthier choice options, customers get either chicken breast meat or the upper thigh portion of the chicken leg. Remove the skin for a leaner meal. The chicken meat is tender, juicy and aromatic with spices.

Mr Tan shuns lard in his cooking, using only a little sesame oil and shallot oil to flavour the noodles. The top-grade egg noodles are blanched to the right degree of springiness. The slippery-smooth Ipoh hor fun retains a slight firmness and does not break easily when lifted with chopsticks.

Each plate of noodles or Ipoh hor fun comes with a generous serving of fresh, crunchy cai xin. Mr Tan serves each order with a side bowl of simple vegetable soup made from chicken stock, cabbage and carrot.

He says: "I don't mind absorbing a little more cost as long as my customers are happy. The cabbage and carrot are inexpensive and add natural sweetness and more nutrients to my chicken stock. My regulars tell me the soup gives them the feeling of eating a home-cooked meal."

KIM KEE HONG KONG SOYA SAUCE CHICKEN RICE AND NOODLE

Where: 01-175 Yuhua Market and Hawker Centre, Block 347 Jurong East Avenue 1

Open: 8.30am to 7pm daily. Closed on Mondays. Closed for Chinese New Year from tomorrow to Feb 26.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Healthier taste of tradition'. Print Edition | Subscribe