My very first foray into the wonderful world of thunder tea rice was in Joo Chiat, where the centripetal force of 328 Joo Chiat Road attracts TTR aficionado’s from around the island. For 328 Joo Chiat Road is home to the Thunder Tea Rice mothership, the matriarch of the Lau Pa Sat, Suntec and HDB Hub branches, and arch nemesis of the few other independent providers dotted around the island. It is brick and mortar proof that thunder tea rice occupies a special and healthy place on Singapore’s culinary radar. And yet despite its proclamations of good and green healthiness, it’s not a dedicated vegetarian eatery. There’s a lot of chicken on the menu, and even a standard bowl of TTR needs to be customised slightly by asking for the ikan billis to be omitted. A small request in exchange for an almighty dish. I know exactly what you’re thinking: the path to epicurean enlightenment never did run smooth. Oh well.
The thunder tea rice with brown rice (SGD 5.00; with white rice is SGD 4.50) is, it should be noted, 50 cents cheaper than at the Lau Pa Sat branch (where it is SGD 5.50 and 5.00 respectively); a commendable act of mercantile largesse. The ingredients were chewy and full of life, bouncing around my mouth in a way that defied quick consumption. They consisted of the usual suspects – chopped green beans, some shredded cabbage, kai lan, peanuts, radish, tofu and even a shred or two of carrot for colour. How nice! The tea soup was as energetic in taste as the ingredients were in texture; very strong basil notes with a nice feeling of astringency from the tea. Enough to put a clap of thunder in your belly, a spring in your step and a smile on your face; that’s for sure.
In the interests of expanding our thunderous horizons, we also had a cai pu omelette (SGD 2.50). It was a pleasantly large omelette (the product of at least two, possibly even three (small) eggs), but was very, very, very salty. Cai pu is a sort of preserved radish that is chewy to the taste and probably the cause of the excessive saltiness. All in all I found it a curious contradiction of being both little strange and quite unimaginative at the same time. Next time I will stick to the basil variant.
But still, who goes to the Thunder Tea Rice mothership to eat an omelette…?! It’s the lei cha that is the reason to go, and the reason to go back. Again and again. And again.
Thunder Tea Rice
328 Joo Chiat Road
Open 10:00-21:30 daily