It’s got the most unpreposessing of names. Tea Shake Hut, for goodness sake! Yet, it’s the place I go back to time and agian, whenever I need lip-smacking good food and drink, at a reasonable price, in a clean environment while I eat and generally feel at home.
It’s a really small place — no bigger than a one-room HDB flat –in Bugis Junction (at street level) and the tables are packed closely together. It’s noisy because it is nearly always full-house, and diners talk and laugh, against a background of noisy music and song.
We sit on stools and the main menu has no more than three dishes: mee siam, fried rice and nasi lemak. The main ingredients with all three dishes are BBQ mid chick wings and sliced boiled prawns. There’s limau kasturi, there’s sambal, half a hard boiled egg and cucumber slices. The owner couldn’t have pared things down more, for efficient delivery and quick turnaorund time.
The prices are also quite standard. $4.50 for the food and $7.50 for food with a drink, such as the myriad versions of bubble tea, thrown in. The drink is $3.90 on its own, or slightly more if one goes for the hot almond tea in a pot.
It’s the simplicity that’s drawing me and hundreds of others, I reckon. The place is always packed; the only difference is pack-pack or sardine pack. I’ve even seen elderly octogenarians of middle-class pretensions squeezed into the small tables and stools, to enjoy TSH’s offerings.
What takes the cake is that in the numerous times I’ve eaten at Tea Shake Hut, I’ve never eaten anything other than the mee siam and drank only the bubble green tea. This suggests I’ve got no imagination or that the mee siam is super good. I believe it’s the latter, as it’s the one dish that’s eaten by most, with many also ordering it as “take-away”.
It’s unlike mee siam which one gets elsewhere. It is dry mee siam (with no gravy) and the only other place where I’ve eaten the dish, outside of friends’ homes, is Peramakan but Tea Shake Hut’s price is deliciously lower, with no compromise to the taste of the mee siam.
The rice noodles (or bee hoon which forms the mee part of the mee siam) are firm and tangy and so tasty that it could be eaten on its own, which is virtually the case, since it comes with only half a hard boiled egg, two BBQ mid chick wings and slivers of boiled prawn.
But the “siam” part of the mee siam is what gives the hot and tangy taste, as “siam” is actually “SIAM” (the old name for Thailand) and all things Thai are hot and tangy.
The mee siam aside, the bubble tea is absolutely addictive. I don’t normally have ice in my drinks but I make an exception for bubble tea, drinking it thru a super large straw, intermittently sucking the chewy sweet black “pearl” (or “frog’s eggs” as they are sometimes called) and enjoying the texture for a moment before swallowing it.
When the tea is gone, there’s always a generous amount of frog eggs left at the bottom of the plastic cup, to be slowly sucked up, chewed and swallowed for maximum taste pleasure.
I go to Tea Shake Hut alone, I go there with friends and have even taken my mother a couple of times. She’s not enamoured of the noise or the packed conditions. But for me, I find it conducive, whether I’m with people or alone.
More curious is the fact that TSH feels better when one is alone. And considering how many people I observe going there for lunch alone, many people feel like I do!