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Terrific Singapore hawker food stall opens in Flushing

It’s definitely been an eventful second career for chef Richard Chan. Born and raised in Singapore, Chan came to New York City in 1984, and spent more than thirty years running a travel business in Queens before selling the whole operation — complete with its fleet of buses — in 2017. And then he was finally able to pursue his true passion: cooking the foods of his beloved homeland.

The chef part of his life started out great, with a place called Yummy Tummy in Murray Hill, Queens, that became something of an instant hit after some early media attention. COVID was not kind to Yummy Tummy, however.

“We were doing a lot of dining in, not a lot of takeout, so we were forced to close during the early days,” Chan told Gothamist. “When they reopened indoor dining, we were already behind by like six months in rent, so we negotiated with the landlord and gave up the premises.”

But Chan did not give up, and in November of 2020 he opened the excellent Rolls Rice in a Flushing food court, specializing in what he called “modern, untraditional rice rolls.” The location wasn’t quite right for the concept though, said Chan, so when a space became available in the Queens Crossing Mall, he leapt at the opportunity. Maybe a bit too fast.

“The initial idea was to move Rolls Rice over here and expand our menu,” said Chan. “Unfortunately, after we signed a lease and moved here, the building didn’t let us extend our venting hood, so we couldn’t feed our steamer into the equipment, and had to give up Rolls Rice.”

And now, after all that, we have Sin Kee, Chan’s third restaurant in as many years, and this time the chef is focusing on Singapore’s legendary hawker fare.

A pair of entree-sized birds lead the way, with top billing going to Chan’s Hainanese Chicken Rice, “the national dish of Singapore.” The chicken here is slow-poached, skin left on, poured over with broth and served at room temperature, gizzards and spicy pickles on the side. It’s delicious.

Also very good is the funky Teochew Braised Duck, sticky with dark soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and star anise. This comes with chunks of soaked-through tofu and tons of SK taro rice. Chan said he will follow tradition and reuse Sin Kee’s braising liquid, giving it more and more depth of flavor after each use.

“In Singapore some places have been using the same broth for 60 or 70 years,” he said. “I don’t intend to use it for quite that long here in America, plus I’d be 149.”

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