Chang Ji Gourmet 昌记美食 is a breakfast stall that draws long queue but fret not their service is speedy and friendly. They specialize in three items on their menu, the fried bee hoon, fried mee, fish and peanut Cantonese style porridge. Currently run by second generation hawkers – two sisters and a brother who are in their 50s. This business has been ongoing since their parent’s times for almost 50 years. I literally grew up eating their bee hoon and porridge. It brought back fond memories of me and my grandma enjoying their food. It is our after school (then PAP kindergarten in the adjacent block) staple.
Chang Ji Gourmet
They only have three main food on their menu, economical bee hoon, economical fried mee and the fish & peanut porridge.
Here’s Chang Ji Gourmet Menu. The regulars love to order double carbs like bee hoon or mee with the congee.
Fried Bee Hoon
50 years back, the bee hoon stall ran by the parents serves the same dishes but with some other small details that really makes a difference. The bee hoon is fried to a more smoky flavour with many clumps of black-brown fond that has soft bee hoon sticking out of it. The balls of fond has a deep smoky to almost bitter rich flavour to it.
The condiments besides the red chilli sauce offered then are some really nice and tangy green chilli in white vinegar. The zest you get from accidentally adding some of the white vinegar into the wok hei fried bee hoon is something that is unique to this stall.
The bee hoon is topped off with a generous amount of toasted sesame seeds for the extra crunch and aroma on top of the piping hot bee hoon. The pops of the sesame seeds adds extra nutty crunch with an almond like consistency. It has a very old school flavour that I still remember till now. However due to raising cost and changing taste palate, these are probably omitted now.
Back then, they also sell fried hor fun besides the bee hoon and yellow egg mee. Having said that, the older generation calls this the “poor man’s shark fin stew or porridge”.
To create the poor man’s shark fin stew, you pick up some of the bee hoon and mix them with your spoon into the congee. The bee hoon acts as the chewy elastic “shark fins” and the congee is the savoury broth that has taken on a more gooey smooth texture.
The second way to eat this is – by spooning the congee over the fried bee hoon. The wet consistency of the congee enhances the flavour and texture of the fried bee hoon. The bee hoon has a kind of a moist fluffy texture that many love. For the small group of people who “always choke” on fried noodles, this is the way they can enjoy the “drier” texture without risking the “bee hoon choke”.
The blocks of dried bee hoon are soaked into soft pile of hydrated strands. These are then fried on the spot using a Chinese wok. The wok is usually smoking hot with oil and when the cool hydrated bee hoon goes in, it lets off a strong white billowing cloud of smoke. The bee hoon is skillfully cooked with a pair of long wooden bamboo chopsticks.
Seasonings dark soya sauce and light soya sauce are then added at this time. These are then stir fried till it is almost amber brown and has a nice glaze to it. Piled up high like a mountain on a sliver round plate and before you know it, these are quickly snapped up by the hungry army in the queue. They fry in small amount and you can be assured that the bee hoon is always warm when served or even piping hot.
I like my fried bee hoon 炒米粉 ($1.20) neat. The beehoon with the watery chilli flake sauce that has an earthy mild tangy flavour is irresistible. The flavour of this bee hoon is so unique that I have never come across any bee hoon that come even close to it in my years of eating fried been hoon. This is the savoury type instead of the sweet type. The texture of each strand of bee hoon is also uniquely to this stall.
A less than 1 mm thick in diameter bee hoon that has a soft tender section but elastic and savoury on the outside. The simple no frills dish of fried bee hoon is fried with soy sauce, oil and some crunchy bean sprouts that adds delightful short burst of mild sweetness to the savoury bites.
If you like to try some of their chewy char fond of bee hoon, you need to ask them to add some into your noodles. The usual order of fried bee hoon does not have the char wok hei clumps, these “specials free add- on” are only known amongst the regulars old customers.
Fish and Peanut Porridge
The fish and peanut congee 柴鱼花生粥 ($1.20) has a silky and rich texture. The grains of rice are boiled till they are all fluffed up to disintegrate into a creamy texture. The porridge is almost cooked to a white milky consistency. The fish used are smoked bonito fish chunks which had melted into the porridge with bits of surprising soft fish flakes. Peanuts are soft and buttery pods encased in brown skin. The congee with its delicious umami flavour makes it really addictive.
This stall is still one of the top few stalls that has lasted throughout the generations till now. For 50 years, they have perfected the fried bee hoon that speaks to even the youngest generation. The price of the bee hoon for the last 50 years has not seen a drastic increase. They have stayed at the affordable and super cheap price of 50 cents to now $1.20 in the early 2000s. Many hawkers stalls are unable to sustain the same range of price 50 years back, Chang Ji Gourmet has managed to stay alongside the price they started with not straying too far away from it in the past 50 years. For this, we should support this traditional business that not only serve nostalgic good food but even to the extent of preserving the flavours of the food.
They have successful handed over from the first generation to the current second generation the skill of fried bee hoon. This is something to be applauded and indeed less is more. Many regulars brought with them their third generation to enjoy this old nostalgic simple dish prepared by the siblings. Simple as it may look, the preparation is time consuming and back breaking.
These are sold early in the morning as breakfast from 7 am. This is the first stall, I always patronize whenever I step foot in this hawker food centre. You should try this too whenever you are there, just remember to be early as they get sold out pretty early usually before 1 pm.
7 am till 1 pm (wed – Sunday)
Closed every Monday and Tuesday.
Chang Ji Gourmet 昌记美食 Location:
Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre
Blk 335 Smith street, #02-110, Singapore 050335