My search for a decent serve of Beef Hor Fun (beef with flat rice noodles) in Singapore brought me to Bee Kia Seafood Restaurant along Thomson Road. For the unfamiliar, Bee Kia is not apparent. Firstly It is not a restaurant but a stall in the far right corner of Sin Mee Eating House. This obscure coffeeshop is located in a block of Balestier Hill Shopping Centre just opposite Thomson Medical Centre. Secondly this humble hawker stall belies a history of popularity with locals in the know. Even if you don't have access to insights from regular diners, a scan of the dishes streaming out of Bee Kia's kitchen will tell you that seafood is not the signature.
The long-standing coffeeshop is busy during lunchtime with plenty of customers making a beeline for Bee Kia. While fried rice, prawn paste chicken and sweet and sour pork are issued from the kitchen, the Beef Hor Fun is certainly the crowd favourite judging from the volume of orders. Plate after plate of flat rice noodles covered with beef and gravy arrive before hungry workers and families familiar with its classic flavour.
Without any available seat in sight, I decided on a takeaway. Although there were many orders before mine, the lady cook produced them with uninterrupted efficiency. The resultant clang of steel ladle to wok and angry tongues of cooking fire was a steamy plate of Beef Hor Fun wrapped in an old-fashion cardboard takeaway box.
Unlike the Cantonese-style dish in Hong Kong where the flat rice noodles are dry fried with beef slices and beansprouts, the version in Bee Kia is a Singapore/Malaysian gravy or "see chup" style. The portion for one is a generous serve of noodles, beef slices, vegetables, pickled green chillis and gravy.
The flat rice noodles were fried with oil over intense heat to achieve a kind of browning then kept aside. The beef slices retain some bite and were not overly tenderised with bicarbonate as practised by many Chinese kitchens. The gravy was velvety and enriched by the preserved black bean but not overly salty, with a touch of sweetness.
Each mouth feel was a tasty slurp of flat rice noodles covered in fragrant sauce and tender beef. The downside were the inadequately browned and clumpy noodles. The noodles were pre-cooked and set aside for too long, allowing them to adhere to one another. In addition, the wok fire wasn't intense enough to achieve a charred fragrance. That aside, I can understand why the locally familiar taste and generous serve for one at just $4.50 keep customers coming back.