If you are craving for “authentic” roast meat in Singapore, you most likely will think of Kay Lee. With its roots as a modest stall in Chinatown, it is now a franchise with convenient locations around Singapore. However, for those who are particular about their food, they will definitely make the trip down to 125 Upper Paya Lebar Road for their fix.
The shop is anything but modern; the décor looked like time had frozen in the 1970s Singapore, which was in stark contrast with the busy road right in front of the shopfront. Even the ceramic bowls holding the double-boiled soups (老火汤) looked like it had absorbed the essences of countless herbs and spices through the years. (I can’t say about the melamine plates for the rice, though).
I had myself a typical Honey Glazed Char Siew Rice, while N added roast meat (a.k.a 3-layered roasted pork) to his meal. We also ordered Old Cucumber Soup with Pork Ribs Soup and Salted Vegetable Duck Soup.
Before I tucked the first char siew into my mouth, I already felt a sense of guilt washing over me. The fat to meat ratio was 1:1! As I chewed on the meat, oil was seeping out from the corner of my mouth uncontrollably! The high fat to meat ratio added tenderness to the meat (because roasted meat tended to be tougher due to how it was cooked). However, I tasted none of the honey glazed skin. The almost black skin also lowered my expectation of the meal.
If you are banking on the soup to be healthy (somehow double-boiled soups have the reputation of being wholesome and healthy), be prepared… The slab of pork I found in my Old Cucumber Soup with Pork Ribs Soup was as fatty as it could get. When I took it out and laid it on my plate, the lard was melting into a gooey fluid (I really don’t understand the physics behind this phenomenon!). That made removing the fats from the meat easier for me, though. The soup was heavy on the herbs, without any of the fattiness despite the meat in it. It also had the usual suspects like cucumber, dates and wolfberries to add on to the sweetness.
It was the first time I dined at Kay Lee Roast Meat, and I thought it was so-so. I liked the soup, and the meat was too fatty for my liking; I prefer my char siew to be lean and with crispy, caramelised (and sometimes charred) skin. The ambience of the stall, though, was an experience in itself. Perhaps if I dined in one of its modern franchise outlets, I would be terribly disappointed. However, the experience of eating Char Siew Rice in a shop reminiscent of the charms from bygone era more than made up the disappointment in the char siew.
How To Get There
Kay Lee Roast Meat can be reached on foot from Tai Seng MRT station; it was a bus stop away.
Kay Lee Roast Meat
125 Upper Paya Lebar Road