Benson Salted Duck Rice at Toa Payoh is just beside the nameless chicken rice stall which taxi drivers frequent and I wonder if the similarity of two stalls is a good thing in a small neighbourhood.
As announced in the name of the stall, Benson sells salted duck, a classic Hokkien dish. In the past, people didn’t have money to buy herbs and spices so they poached the duck and rubbed salt on it.
There are many variations of making the dish. Mr Fitness’s father who is a popular wholesaler of char siew rubs salt all over the duck and steams it. Others rub salt on the duck, poach it, and dry it.
For Benson, who has worked at Tung Lok and Purple Sage Catering, he first poaches the duck with pandan, lemongrass, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, garlic and ginger; this step is done over low fire for a long time, almost like a sous vide style.
Then he puts the duck in salt water and after 1.5 hours, he removes it from the water, and rubs it with salt and spices. Soaking the duck in salt water after poaching allows the duck to retain its moisture.
Benson also uses smaller and fresh (not frozen) ducks. He pairs the duck with buttered rice and an excellent homemade chilli sauce; both rice and sauce are similar to Hainanese chicken rice’s. The buttered rice smells fragrant, but doesn’t take as rich as a good chicken rice. A plate of salted duck rice goes for $3 or $4.
As for the salted duck, it is smooth and tender. But the taste is simple, and doesn’t really attract us.
We prefer the smoked duck rice ($3/$4). Unfortunately, the smoked duck comes from a supplier. The smoked duck is really quite something, one of the better ones I have eaten. Most smoked ducks are very salty, but this one is mildly salty and has a layer of fats for the umami.
The pig’s organ soup ($4 + $2 fish maw) is not bad. The soup is tinged with salted vegetables. The flavor is mild and pleasing and moderate although I’d prefer a heavier, more forceful soup.
Including a plate of tao gay ($2)–you know, just to pretend we had some fiber in our diet–we paid $16 for two persons.
Personally, I didn’t take to the salted duck like a duck to water. It is a novelty, something to try, but now that I’ve tried it, I can Elsa it. If we return, we would probably order a serving of the smoked duck and then order most of the food from the nameless chicken rice stall beside it.
Benson Salted Duck Rice
Blk 168 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-1040, Singapore 310168
Tel: +65 9781 4042
10am-7pm or sold out, Closed on Th
Ambience: NA (coffeeshop)
You may be interested in…
–Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, Tiong Bahru: “Even the Eggs Are Delicious!”
–Kaya Handle This?: 7 Old-School Kopitiams to Jiak Kaya Loti, Lim Kopi, and Instagram
–$30 Lobster Noodles at Hawker : Lobster Time @ Bishan; Sumo Big Prawn Noodle @ AMK; and Fresh Generation Seafood Soup @ Upper Bukit Timah
–Song Fa Bak Kut Teh, New Bridge Road: Michelin Star Bib Gourmand Awardee
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.