It’s not often I’m up early, nor is it often I’m in the East side of the island, but if I am, it’s usually for just one thing: breakfast after a workout at East Coast Park. One of the go-to places for my all-time favourite noodle dish is Ah Lim (Jalan Tua Kong) Mee Pok Kway Teow Soup in Joo Chiat Place, where I’ve breakfasted on mee pok tah on many a sweaty occasion.
Dry mee hoon kueh, to be exact. A secret dish of hand-torn noodles in a sauce, not soup, served only at dinnertime. To clarify, mee hoon kueh is on the menu, but only the soup version. The dry version is off-menu.
If the name of the stall rings some bells, it’s because they have six outlets in various locations across Singapore, including Bugis, Tampines, Simpang Bedok and the one that started it all over twenty years ago in Siglap, on the corner of East Coast Road & Jalan Tua Kong. According to Mr Bronson Lim, the noodle business is all in the family – his uncle runs the stall in Siglap and his father, Mr Lim Teck Seng, operates the one at Joo Chiat Place. I considered it quite the culinary coup when the younger Mr Lim informed me that of all the six outlets, the dry mee hoon kueh could only be found at their Joo Chiat branch.
“Only regulars know we make it after 5.30pm. At first my dad didn’t want to do it because it’s very troublesome. There are extra steps because of the sauce,” Mr Lim explained, gesturing to the layout of the stall. The sauces are mixed in a different area from where the mee hoon kueh is cooked, which tends to slow down the entire process during peak periods, especially earlier in the day and on weekends.
I’m always on the hunt for a satisfying bowl of fishball noodles, especially if it includes quality, handmade her giao (fish dumplings), which are notoriously hard to find. Call it destiny, but it was the song Sunny by Boney M that brought me to this stall. For months, I had been playing the requests of a couple who would text me on occasion from their workplace. I was delighted to discover that they actually made and sold my favourite hawker food for a living. I was doubly delighted to realise that their stall was already on my “to-try” list.
Excellent taste in music and food aside, the owners of Lina Fishball Noodle had already created quite an online stir because these hawkers of traditional Chinese noodles are young, attractive and surprise-surprise, not Chinese. Meet newly-weds May & Jeevan Ananthan – she’s in charge of business development and makes a mean fishball, he’s in charge of operations and the main bulk of cooking. But what does a young Indian man know about making bak chor mee and fishball noodles? Indeed, 30-year-old Jeevan Ananthan, who looks more at home in a gym or the corporate world of Trading and Investments (his previous job), is the last person you’d expect to see in a Toa Payoh kopitiam, putting together your order of bak chor mee. In the words of his equally youthful wife, May Leena (the stall is named for her, using the Mandarin version of her middle name) Krishnan, their start really wasn’t easy and they had to overcome a lot of odds to get where they are today.
Despite having zero F&B experience, the couple took the plunge and opened a stall selling their favourite hawker food, so they could spend more time together. And just like that, Lina Fishball Noodle was born. When they first started, they hired someone with experience to pass on some basic culinary skills, but after the first couple of weeks, May and Jeevan were on their own. For everything else they didn’t know, they taught themselves from internet videos and their own kitchen experiments. Their youthful gamble seems to have paid off and after almost two years and one move (just down the road from their original stall), Lina Fishball Noodle has gained a loyal and regular customer base, along with the expected gawkers, still surprised by the sight of Jeevan manning the stall.
May initially leveraged on that surprise factor and a video she posted on Instagram of Jeevan cooking his signature noodles went viral. Her digital marketing background in full play, May hashtagged the video #TheIndianFishballMeeExperience and with the subsequent online buzz came the media attention. It was exactly what they needed to give their business a boost. But what about naysayers who think the couple are just getting by on their good looks and internet fame? May’s immediate reply was, “Come and try.” Jeevan added, “We’ve heard that before, but look, our food does the talking, not us. Just come, try and see if you want to come back or not.”
And that is exactly what I did…
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You might have heard of a now defunct stall at Tanglin Halt Food Centre called Aw’s Signature Minced Pork Noodles, which made a name for itself with delicious, ingredient-laden bak chor mee. But almost as quickly as it rose in popularity, it closed down, much to the disappointment of customers in the know. One of them was my Makan Kaki, Chef Shen Tan of private dining experience, Ownself Make Chef and Gastrogig’s Thank-Goodness-It’s home delivery concept.
So imagine my delight when she revealed it had re-opened, albeit in a surprisingly different set-up, just a stone’s throw from its former location. She recommended that I head down to The Milky Way Homemade Ice-Cream And Coffee cafe for my bak chor mee fix, but with the added bonus of dessert.
The man behind the noodles (and now, ice cream) is Terence Aw, a self-taught cook and former police officer who left a decade-long career in law enforcement to pursue his passion for cooking. After a lot of practice and pointers from fellow hawkers at Tanglin Halt Food Centre, Terence’s bak chor mee, with its unique taste and plentiful ingredients, really took off and gained a loyal fan following.
He credits Chef Shen for helping to get the word out and helping to jump start his business. In fact, she’s still doing so, now that he’s added custom gourmet ice creams to the menu at his new location. But more on that later.
First, I was hungry for a taste of the noodles I had been hearing so much about. My order for the best-selling dry kway teow (flat rice noodles) cost $5.80 and came served in a bowl piled with meaty, golden-brown ingredients. Beside it was a separate bowl of soup swimming with greens and more meaty ingredients. No wonder it used to be called Aw’s signature minced pork noodles – Terence had created a noodle dish that was entirely his own – it didn’t look like the typical hawker centre variety and was unlike any other I’ve tasted.
As we hurtle towards 2020 and a brand new year of feasting, let’s take a little look back at the best of 2019 – here are the most popular makan places that really caught your attention. Click on each for details & enjoy!
If you like what you hear on air and what you see here, do share the good food with your good friends and tell them about Makan Kakis on Gold 905! Cheers to another year of yumminess – may your 2020 be bursting with the best things to eat and drink – Season’s Eatings!
Hi Foodie Friends, our new Makan Kaki is the founder-owner of Taiwanese rice bowl & street food inspired communal dining restaurant, The Salted Plum, as well as pasta pop-up, Pasta Supremo.
Shawn Kishore tells us about his humble beginnings in F&B as an 8-year-old “kopi kia” in Tampines, helping out at his Grandma’s noodle stall and filling in for the drinks stall uncle when he was on break.
An F&B Consultant by training, Shawn became a restaurateur with the opportunity to start a pop-up called FIVE TEN (because everything on the menu was $5 or $10!). It went viral and was such a culinary hit, that after the 11-month lease was up, they decided to look for a permanent space and voila, The Salted Plum was born! This is an affordable, fuss-free, communal dining concept that serves dishes inspired Taiwanese Street Food. They now have 2 outlets, one at Circular Road, and another at Suntec City, which just opened a few months ago. Coincidentally, they also decided to start another pop-up at Suntec called Pasta Supremo, which serves fresh, handmade pasta paired with novel sauces. Do scroll down for some droolsome pictures of the delicious dishes served at both dining concepts!
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for Shawn and it’s the only time he has for himself, so that’s why he’s obsessive about a hearty meal to start his day. Enter excellent Bak Chor Mee – in one bowl, you have a complete, fuss-free, affordable meal with the perfect balance of flavour, carbs, fat & protein. So where does a guy who ate it everyday day for breakfast 7 years in a row go for his Teochew Fishball Noodle fix? Shawn’s current favourite is just a one minute walk from his restaurant The Salted Plum on Circular road, which makes both convenient and comforting!
All this month of August, in celebration of our Nation’s birthday, we shine the spotlight on homegrown brands and their success stories. We talk to some of the people working behind-the-scenes who work hard to make things tick and of course, get them to recommend their favourite makan places! This week, we warmly welcome back our Makan Kaki, Lyn Lee, one of the owners of local confectionery Awfully Chocolate & heritage-centric Sinpopo Brand. It’s been 3 years since she was last on-air with us, so we have a lot to catch up on, including the latest offerings from Awfully Chocolate and developments with Sinpopo Brand, which has expanded from a cute restaurant in Katong to a coffee bar and a grocer (Scroll all the way down for pictures & more)!
Lyn says she was never a fan of Bak Chor Mee until she tried the one from a humble stall in the Tiong Bahru coffee shop at the corner of Seng Poh Road (Block 71). This coffee shop is already famous for Loos’ Curry Scissor Rice and the Vegetarian Bee Hoon, but you’ve also got to try the Bak Chor Mee there, with one caveat – it HAS to be prepared by the Uncle. He made a convert out of Lyn. If the Uncle is cooking it, you’ll see a long queue, but if it’s not prepared by him, there’s something not quite right about the flavours & textures – he really does have the magic touch. Both times in the last month that Lyn has been, Uncle hasn’t been there, so she’s been forced to find another Bak Chor Mee which is more central. She was delighted to discover that an excellent stall from Maxwell Market has popped up at Capitol Piazza.
Guan’s Mee Pok is what Lyn calls “fancy”- you can get add-ons like an onsen egg, yaitori on a stick, dumplings, abalone and other luxe ingredients.
Our Foodie Friend, Chef Shen Tan is partial to a bowl of Bak Chor Mee and recommends this stall run by an ex-policeman. Since quitting his crime-fighting job to pursue noodle perfection, Aw has been doing an excellent job with his signature minced pork noodles.
Great tasting and great value at only $5 or $8 for a fully loaded bowl – not only do you get minced pork, but also abalone, clam, liver, prawn, quails egg, herh keow (fish dumpling), fishball & meatball. You can tell this isn’t your typical Bak Chor Mee, but there’s a nice balance between the vinegar, soya sauce & chilli, which makes for a really delicious, flavour-packed bowl. Continue reading “AW’Some Noodles!”→
Hello Jukeboxers and fellow Makan Kakis, we continue our month-long National Day celebrations by featuring not only uniquely Singaporean foods but also, home-grown talents making a real splash in our local culinary scene. Case in point, our newest foodie friend, Chef-Owner of Morsels, Petrina Loh!
This one-time banker has now turned her attention from finance to food with remarkable results, as seen and tasted at her progressive fusion restaurant, Morsels at Dempsey Hill. Chef Petrina is all about comforting, nourishing food that is natural, yet unusual. For example, you’ve got to check out her signature dish of steamed Venus Clams in a fig broth with homemade Kimchee and pickles Wakame (we love studio guests who surprise us with food!).
Another dish that Chef Petrina is very proud of is something off her Special Lunchtime Noodle Menu – the HERBAL DUCK TSUKEMEN, which features a slow braised duck leg that has been marinated in 12-14 nourishing herbs like tang gui & yu zhu. The duck is served with a herbal dipping sauce and dry somen noodles on the side, which you dunk as you please. At the end, they give you a dashi sauce to thin down the sauce, which you can then drink it to finish off your noodle meal! A lovely green papaya pickle balanced out the rich, herbiness of the duck noodles.
Do check the Morsels socials for updates on this rotating menu of weekly noodle lunch specials! Look for them on FB & instagram @morselsinsingapore.
When it comes to unique Singaporean food, Bak Chor Mee surely is high on everybody’s list, especially if it includes a raw egg! This week, Chef Petrina’s first recommendation is of her favourite noodles – soup or dry, she loves Bak Chor Mee!
Whilst everyone has their personal favourite, she loves this new-found stall for the taste and comfort factors! She used to frequent the famous Hill Street Tai Wah, but the crazy queues sent her searching for an alternative. Imagine her delight when a friend brought her to this place about 6 months ago. It tastes great, parking is convenient and it’s tucked away at the bottom of a block of flats, amongst car repair workshops. What Petrina loves about Bak Chor Mee is its versatility – you can have your pick of noodle types, from mee pok to mee kia to mee sua (which all are excellent dry with chilli), or you can have a comforting kway teow or mee tai mak soup on a cold, rainy day in Singapore.
But if asked to pick, Chef Petrina will likely choose this variation as her favourite – just the cloudy-rich soup made from tee por (dried flatfish) and pork bone stock, full of the “liao”, or ingredients. So essentially it’s everything sans noodles – minced meat, fishballs, fishcake, herh keow, meat balls, the works. But the piece-de-resistance is to ask for a raw egg to be cracked straight into the steaming hot soup (see above) – sooo good! Be sure to get there early, say before 11am to avoid the lunch rush!
TASTE: BAK CHOR MEE @ Seng Hong Coffee Shop
Blk 58 Lengkok Bahru, Singapore 150058
Open Daily (closed alternate Sundays)
P.S. Be sure to catch Chef Petrina in her exciting new project – a collaboration with Mitzo:
The highly anticipated ‘Friends of Mitzo’ collaborative dinner series returns this September, continuing on its mission to showcase progressive Cantonese cuisine through some of Singapore’s top chefs. Taking center stage for the second instalment of the dining series is Chef Petrina Loh of local progressive small plates and award winning restaurant Morsels, who will bring her wildly creative fusion savoir faire to complement Chef Nicky Ng of Mitzo’s contemporary Cantonese cuisine.
Known to defy the boundaries of cuisine and tradition, guests will be delighted to witness a marriage of delectable modern Cantonese and progressive fusion by Chef Nicky and Chef Petrina in this specially curated six-course menu – each course is a duo interpretation of premium ingredients, brilliantly woven through contemporary techniques.
Creative and sophisticated in style, diners can look forward to highlights such as the modest yet savoury Gin-cured Red Emperor Snapper; east meets west in the form of Sakura ginseng chicken two ways; and be intrigued by the tantalising Duck duo, complete with Soy Brined Slow Poached Duck Breast and Black Truffle Crispy Roast Duck, an impeccable umami dinner that is an indulgence for both taste and sight.
Revel in this exquisite fare with a selection of artisanal cocktails, set to complete the whole Mitzo dining experience. Start off your meal with Summer spritz, a floral and fizzy aperitif cocktail shaken to perfection. Savour in Cinema sour, a deliciously smoky cocktail of slightly tart yet refreshing concoction of popcorn infused vodka shaken with lemon juice, homemade salted caramel syrup, and lapsang souchong tincture, topped with velvety egg white foam.
Friends of Mitzo: Morsels x Mitzo
Date: Friday and Saturday, 8 – 9 September 2017
Time: 6.30pm – 10.00pm
Location: Level 4 Grand Park Orchard, 270 Orchard Road Singapore 238857
Price: S$118++ for a six-course dinner (S$168++ with cocktail pairing)
For reservations and enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +65 6603 8855.