There seemed to be more tourists than Singaporean locals queuing for Song Fa Bak Kut Teh at the flagship unit of 11 New Bridge Road.
You can hear a spattering of different languages of people in the queue… Chinese, Japanese, Korean, English in all sorts of accents.
Some were looking at their mobiles, many armed with guide books, and there were times when a busload of tourists would just descend all of the sudden. They looked excited, they took selfies with the menu and signboard.
It was almost like a place of interest.
Bah Kut Teh literally means “meat bone tea”, consisting of tender pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and peppery spices. The dih can be considered as one of Singapore’s iconic local street food.
I used to dine at Song Fa at 11 New Bridge Road during the good old days quite regularly, because my office was just nearby.
Then it expanded, tourists starting coming, and everything started becoming more commercialised.
Not that it is any bad, it is just an inevitable step for F&Bs to survive in an ever-evolving Singapore.
You would notice two queues here. The 2nd at 17 New Bridge Road would lead to an air-conditioned space, whereas the other side would be slightly warmer.
A bit of Song Fa Song Fa Bak Kut Teh’s history, founded in Singapore in 1969 by a Mr Yeo Eng Seng who learned his skills as a stall assistant.
He subsequently opened a shop at Victoria Street selling a clear peppery Teochew take of this dish and complementary side dishes, and found popularity. His son eventually took over, modified the recipe by having more tender pork ribs.
I think the 2nd generation did quite a good job as the restaurant is brought to greater heights.
The queue system was fast and efficient: take a number, read the menu, make your orders, once you get the seat the food would come very soon.
During the ‘good old days’, I would have to wave multiple-times to get attention from the service staff to fill up my soup.
Now, they do it automatically and repeatedly. Service with a smile.
Song Fa sells a variety of items from Premium Pork Ribs Soup ($11.50), Pork Ribs Soup ($7.00), Pig’s Kidney Soup ($7.50), Pig’s Tail Soup ($6.00), Pork Tenderloin ($6.50), and Sliced Fish Soup ($6.50).
Side dishes include Braised Pig’s Trotter ($7.00), Braised Pig’s Intestine ($7.00), Braised Pork Belly ($7.00), Braised Chicken Feet with Beancurd Skin ($4.00), Groundnuts ($1.50), Salted Vegetable ($1.50) and various vegetables such as Cai Xin, Xiao Bai Cai and Kai Lan ($4.00).
They have recently introduced a new side of Homemade Ngoh Hiang ($8.50) which I thought was not too bad.
I asked what the difference was between the Premium Loin ($11.50) and normal Pork Ribs Soup ($7.00). The server recommended me the normal, cheaper version. Strange.
The pork pieces had differing qualities, one fell off the bone easily, the other two pieces were tougher. So some inconsistency there.
I still liked the clear peppery and garlicky aromatic soup, when hot and piping, would give a high as you sipped the broth down.
Compared to some other brands which would be overly-peppery, I think Song Fa ranks 6.5 out of 10 for pepper-level.
I have grown a liking for the Sliced Fish Soup ($6.50). While the fish was not the freshest of all, it made a decent, comforting meal if you won’t want to have something too heavy.
Bak Kut Teh fans would tell you there are better brands out there, and certainly this same dish had sprout many versions, many variations.
Song Fa Bak Kut Teh happened to be at an iconic tourist spot (opposite Clarke Quay), with sound marketing, and a taste that most would find acceptably-pleasant.
Being listed in the Michelin Bib Gourmand Singapore was also a mark of some quality assurance.
Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
11 New Bridge Road, #01-01 Singapore 059383 (Upper Circular Road)
Tel: +65 6533 6128
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 9:15pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
Clarke Quay: 17 New Bridge Road #01-01 Singapore 059386
Opening Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm (Mon – Sun)
Chinatown Point #01-04, 133 New Bridge Road Singapore 059413
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 9:30pm, Last order 9:15pm (Mon – Sun)
UE BizHub East (North Tower Office)
6 Changi Business Park Ave 1 #01-38 Singapore 486017
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 9:15pm (Mon – Sun)
The Seletar Mall, 33 Sengkang West Ave #01-39/40/41
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 9:30pm (Mon – Sun)
JEM, 50 Jurong Gateway Road #B1-09 Singapore 608549
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 9:30pm (Mon – Sun)