I’ve been to Thien Kee for steamboat for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories of the place are running around with my cousins while my aunts and uncles carried on their adult chatter. This was the default place for many extended family gatherings.
This is a place so secluded that you’ll have to know that it’s there to find it. They rarely get walk-in traffic diners, yet they are full every lunch and dinner. Most would probably remember Thien Kee from their childhood. The dining crowd is eclectic from all walks of life. It’s air-conditioned so no worries about perspiring buckets while slurping hot soup. There is no known method of queuing either, so you’ll have to do the hawker centre stand-at-the-table-eyeballing-the-diners method, but turnover is so high that you’re assured of a table fairly quickly.
This is the only establishment I’ll go to for steamboat. The soup is full of chicken soup goodness, with nary the taste of MSG. I’m very particular about soup, and this Hainanese establishment has the best soup stock, good to drink from the first serving to the last drop. Unlike other places which you can only drink the soup after everything has been cooked because the soup is so tasteless. Here’s a tip, the soup stock is better on weekdays where the turnover is not as high as the weekends. The flavour from the chicken bones has a longer time to boil out into the soup stock on weekdays. Oh you may want to add a few drops of the flavoured oil condiment into the soup, and top it off with some pepper for maximum flavour.
Thien Kee serves Hainanese style steamboat, so chicken rice is served in lieu of white rice, although you can request white rice instead. The rice is cooked the traditional way, whereby the rice is first fried and coated evenly in oil and spices before adding the stock to boil. This makes the rice very flavourful and one that you can eat on its own without any chicken and/or ingredients. My siblings have been known to eat 4 bowls of rice in one sitting.
The condiments are typically Hainanese style, piquant chicken rice chili with minced garlic, ginger, lime and sugar. Spicy and tangy. My special concoction is a mix of 2/3 parts thick black sauce and 1/3 part chili, and 3 drops of light soya sauce because I’m not much of a chili eater. The BF and my brother are the same, Mostly chili with a few drops of thick black sauce. There is also minced ginger, but I don’t take it. Apparently, it’s really good as well.
The food is served a la carte in a set, according to the number of people that are eating. There were 4 of us, so we got the $33.00 set, without cockles or pig liver. Thien Kee is a lot more hygienic than those generic steamboat buffet places where they lay the food out in the open for customers to pick. I’ve been to Thien Kee countless times and I can attest to the fact that the food is always fresh.
A set usually consists of the following set items: fish balls, prawns, sotong, fish maw, pork slices, fish slices, cockles, pig liver, sea cucumber, eggs and vegetables. If you can remember the items, you can tell them to remove certain items from the list. You can also add beef slices, tripe, tofu and mushrooms. Admittedly, the portions have shrunk over the years, but the prices are extremely affordable, so there’s really not much to complain. A tip is to dunk the fish and pork slices into a beaten egg before tossing them all into the boiling soup. The pork and fish are then coated in a layer of egg this way.
I love the Steamed Chicken here, juicy, slippery and without the gelatinous layer that I dislike. Thien Kee only serves white steamed chicken, no roasted chicken. A portion like this costs $8.00.
A closer look at the juicy chicken.
Thien Kee also serves fruit juice, fresh from the juicer and coffees and teas served in old-school ceramic coffee cups and saucers, alongside the usual canned drinks.
There are also a la carte cooked dishes and satay, but that’s for another time.
The bill came up to $51.30 for 4 persons, inclusive of the drinks, tissue, and rice. It was my brother's birthday treat who loves the soup here. Happy birthday love.
Thien Kee Hainanese Steamboat
B1-20, Beach Road
Golden Mile Tower Basement
Tel: 6298 5891
Open daily from 11am to 11pm