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Home / Chinese Cuisine / Thien Kee – Authentic Hainanese Steamboat
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Thien Kee – Authentic Hainanese Steamboat
By Alfred July 3, 2009
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Thien Kee – Authentic Hainanese Steamboat
Fast Facts
Hainanese Steamboat
Chinese Cuisine
Price Range:
S$31- S$40
Rating Range:
7 to 7.9
Food Centre:
Recommended For:
Reviewed by:

Maybe some of you may ask, what is the difference between Hainanese steamboat or Hokkien steamboat or Teochew steamboat? Well Teochew style of steamboat consists mainly of fish especially pomfret. In many places, it is called Fish Head Steamboat and it’s soup usually has remarkable flavours which derived from the use of dried sole or tik poh. Now that flavour, just like all Teochew food has a whiff of that Teochew-ness if you know what I mean. Hainanese steamboat is usually associated with Hainanese Steamed Chicken. So if you come across any steamboat that has a few chicken hanging at some display racks, then you know that it is Hainanese Steamboat. Usually Hainanese steamboat outlets would also feature some other authentic Hainanese dishes like Hainanese satay or Hainanese kopi or other Hainanese stir fry dishes. Well it’s just basically the same theory applied, just like for Cantonese food outlet, you’ll also see Cantonese famous dishes in their menu.

For those who wondered why Hainanese cuisine has such limited food variety, it’s because Hainan was not active agriculturally. It was actually meant to be an exile island where the Emperor exiled all the hardcore political dissidents and other elements. These officials were banished to that little island mainly because they did not agree with the right people and too dangerous to have around court but yet too precious to kill. The place became a province only in 1988.

The fact is no emperor had visited Hainan island and none of them looked to develop Hainan and so it was, in general, culturally backward and poor. The men spent most of their days at teahouses talking about everything and anything under the sky. As such Hainam nang in Singapore are more political conscious or socially conscious. If you go around Singapore, those ah beih who sit in coffeeshops and comment about politics or current affairs, more than half of them are Hainam nang.

Now eventhough Hainan had a lack of agricultural activities, it is quite surprising to know that the Hainanese community still excels in the culinary field. They make the best chicken rice and kaya spread in this part of the world and that’s because a lot of them came here during the age of empire tagging along as servants on the tail coats of their colonial masters. Most of them picked up culinary skills onboard ships and it’s no wonder the Hainanese make fantastic toast or western food such as pork chop.

Being a Hainanese, I was often asked the question “Do you know how to cook Hainanese Chicken Rice?”. The matter of the fact is I don’t know what’s so difficult about boiling some chicken and cook some rice that have that garlic, sesame oil and pandan leaf flavour. But yet the truth is I find no pleasure in eating boiled chicken skin so Hainanese Chicken Rice is really one of those food that I this Hainanese cannot resonate with.

Thien Kee Hainanese Steamboat at Golden Mile Complex has come a long way. I remembered they used to operate from a coffeeshop inside this perimeter of an area near to Middle Road where there were cinemas, some shops and basically have what looked like pasar malam street kind of environment if you know what I mean. Those were the days and my father used to fetch us all the way to that place just to have this famous Thien Kee Hainanese steamboat.

Thien Kee is one of those eating place where a lot of Hainanese goes to because the flavour of the food there can provide that Hainanese nostalgia. Me and my family included. I’ve been eating this thing since very young so that ‘Hainanese’ flavour in the food here is actually something that I had acquired for a long time.

The food served here are very old school kind with ingredients like seafood, pork and vegetables. The price for steamboat starts from $20. Now this place can get so busy that in the evening that you may need to wait for a while to get seats. Infact they’ve even rented something like 3 or 4 shops beside their shop to house those chairs and tables for customers and yet the queues just can’t seem to get any shorter whenever I was there.

Now I’m going to tell you that the steamboat ingredients used here are pretty oridinary and it’s something that you probably can get from the market for a fraction of what it may cost you here. The thing that makes this the only surviving Hainanese steamboat in Singapore is it’s kickass oily rice and chili sauce.

Other than those things, the soup here is pretty good. If you were to pour all your ingredients into the soup and let it boil for a while, it will have what I will call a ‘Hainanese’ addictive flavour which is something I’ve tried but yet cannot be duplicated at home using the same selection of ingredients. I’m suspecting there are some secret ingredients used in preparing the stock, I ain’t sure but it definitely wasn’t the excessive use of msg.

Another highlight of Thien Kee is it’s beef stir fried in ginger and onion. Well it’s very different from the cantonese version where you get lots of wok hei flavour, here you get a dose of what I would call the ‘Hainanese beef flavour’. I’m a hardcore fan of stir fried beef and yet I’ve never seen this flavour been duplicated anywhere else so if you’re coming here I tell you now that you really really must try this dish if you’re seriously keen to explore this Hainanese eating experience right to the max.

I’ve heard many things about Hainanese pork satay here but yet on this occasion when we ordered, we found it to be pretty ordinary with what seem like it was grilled on anything but charcoal. So that charcoal flavour was so dearly missing and so satay unfortunately is something I can’t see myself eating here again. The satay gravy has that run of the mill kind of satay sauce taste which was seriously lacking that peanut flavour.

The stir fried beef cost us $10 while the selection of ingredients was $25. $35 for 3 person to embrace an authentic Hainanese affair is a pretty reasonable price I guess. If you’re going, good luck in finding the place as people often get confused with Golden Mile Tower and Golden Mile Complex. But if you really can’t find it, then just stroll along the basement of both buildings and you will surely soon be met by this most authentic Hainanese steamboat in town.

Price: $20 and above

Recommendation: Stir Fried Ginger Beef

Conclusion: Simple food that did not cost us an arm and a leg but yet authentic. Dining here always make me wonder why I can’t duplicate the flavour using the same selection of ingredients at home.

Likes: Authentic Hainanese flavour and cheap.

Dislikes: Ingredients used can be that bit fresher.

Address Overall Rating

Golden Mile Thien Kee
B1-20 Beach Road
Golden Mile Tower
Singapore 199589
Tel: 6298 5891 /6293 5910

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Readers' Comment(s) : 7
Sammi says:

I’m not a steamboat lover but reading your post here enable me to discover there are different types of steamboat available in this market. If I were to be there, I will keen to try their Stir Fried Ginger Beef. Looks yummy and the beef should be very tender and juicy, right?

Posted July 5, 2009
Alfred says:

well not very tender, the beef really had that beef flavour unlike those cantonese ones where you get tenderised by soda. Well it;s almost very thinly sliced steak if you know what i mena

Posted July 5, 2009
Lim Boon Tiong says:

I used to frequent Golden Mile Complex in 2006 because one of my good friends setup an office there and I always have the chicken rice lunch with him. I am also not a white boiled skin chicken rice lover and certainly not adventurous enough to try other dishes until i read your post.
The stir fry beef looks good and would like to try the steamboat too if the place isnt too crowded and I can find a few friends to come along.

Posted July 9, 2009
Adeline says:

The flavour of the soup quite mild. I prefer Hokkien steamboat anytime.

Posted October 22, 2009
Alfred says:

Where do eat hokkien steamboat?

Posted October 25, 2009
Jane Chia says:

Hi, I have been searching for Hainese Steamboat and stock recipe but am not a hainese but teochew, but a hainese cuisine lover, cld u email me the ingredient and steps to make a good hainese steamboat as u are an expert in this field and have already tried doing it. Wld like to know also the main ingredient probably most used in the tyoe of cuisine and in this case is hainese. Any recommendation of blog or website that has hainese recipes as well. Thank you in anticipation

Posted December 23, 2010
Jiani says:

It’s nice to see such review from fellow hainanese.

I didn’t know that we were that politically conscious , I guess that’s why I am politically interested too.

Will go and try one day…
Thanks for your review!

Posted June 22, 2011
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