In the labyrinth of stalls at ABC Brickworks Food Centre, one man has been quietly serving up outstanding hokkien mee since the 1980s. Only recently have his noodles been making a bigger noise, thanks to a Michelin Bib Gourmand mention. My Makan Kaki Koh Han Jie, Head Chef of Elfuego and quite the gourmand himself, recommended that I get in line despite the longer queues, to try Mr Toh Seng Wang’s expertly fried noodles. Which got me thinking – what makes this hokkien mee so special that people are willing to queue for a taste of it? You’re about to find out…
Click the links below for more on the perfectly fried hokkien mee from Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng:
TASTE: Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Hokkien Prawn Mee is located at ABC Brickworks Food Centre, 6 Jalan Bukit Merah, #01-13, Singapore 150006. It’s open Thursdays to Tuesdays, 3pm to 10.45pm. Closed on Wednesdays. Tel: +65 98629296 *NOTE: ABC Brickworks Food Centre was closed for Renovation Works From 16 March till 20 June 2020. But hurray! They’re back in business, so you can hurry down for your hokkien mee fix!
I never say no to a bowl of noodles, especially one that comes with a story and characters as colourful as its ingredients. So when my Makan Kaki Xin Hui Helder-Eng, from the foodie family behind Tie Fun Wan and writer for Parched, recommended I check out this stall at a coffeeshop in New Upper Changi Road, I jumped at the chance.
Visiting 456 Mian Fen Guo was a fascinating and slightly intimidating affair. Two figures stood waiting for me. One, a diminutive older lady with a piercing stare and the other, a younger gentleman covered in tattoos, who was in a hurry to get back to clearing up after a busy lunch crowd. They are 80-year-old Madam Lim Kwee Kee and her grandson 28-year-old Dickson Ng. Together, they are the tag team of dough-making, the yin and yang of handmade noodles and the convergence of past, present and future…
A three-generation operation, 456 Mian Fen Guo was started in 1991, serving homemade noodles like ban mian and their namesake, mian fen guo (hand-torn noodles) based on recipes created by grandma Madam Lim. Right after completing National Service in 2013, Dickson learnt the ropes with his mother until her passing two years ago. That’s when he decided a full commitment to the family business was necessary – under the watchful eye of Grandma, of course. You could say things haven’t changed much since he was a boy, growing up in the coffeeshop environment.
We’re back with our Makan Kaki Lyn Lee, of Awfully Chocolate, Sinpopo Brand & now mooncakefair.com her new project, just in time for Mid-Autumn Festival. The countdown begins from now till 1 October! Scroll down for details on this one-stop virtual mooncake marketplace and also, the selection of mooncakes Awfully Chocolate has for the season. Or have a listen to our podcast here.
This week, Lyn also wants to share with us the joys of a childhood hangout – Bukit Timah Plaza! Anyone who grew up in the area will remember iconic eating places in the shopping centre, like Wishbone and Happy Kappy ice-cream. Struck by a craving, she popped by to check things out and sadly it has since closed down. So she walked around looking for something else to eat and chanced upon Tok Panjang Nonya Cafe in Basement 1, run by a husband and wife team, Patrick and Angelina. On that day, Patrick was the only one there and what a friendly, persuasive character he is. He kept saying, “Come in and try our homemade kueh kueh. If you try, you’ll definitely come in to eat!”
The exchange was so fun, that Lyn and her family allowed themselves to be cajoled into the cafe for a bite to eat. They ordered Nasi Kunyit with whole chicken leg curry & Mee Rebus, which they enjoyed. In particular, the fragrance of the yellow rice was lovely and the curry is thick and savoury, with a hint of sweetness. Tok Panjang isn’t about elaborate Peranakan dishes, but is dedicated to simple, satisfying, no-nonsense home-cooking.
Other dishes to try are their Mee Siam (both dry and soup versions are yummy) and their Laksa Lemak, which is very tasty, with lots of curry flavour, rich coconut and a little sweetness rounding things off. Other goodies include their Nasi Lemak, excellent crispy fried ikan billis (super-tasty & addictive, available in takeaway containers) and their dish of the day, which varies. The day I visited, soy braised chicken rice was on the menu and wow, the rice (which Patrick generously doled out in tiny tasting cups) was just like Hainanese chicken rice – fragrant with garlic and pandan, shiny from delicious chicken fat.
But Tok Panjang’s signature has got to be their handmade kueh kueh – 4 pieces for $4 – on display at the very front of the cafe. One bite and you’ll immediately know that these have been made from scratch, with love.
All the kueh kueh looked gorgeous, with their different colours and textures.
Kueh Pandan (green), Kueh Kosui (brown) & Ubi Kaya Kukus (yellow) were all meltingly tender and not too sweet, especially when showered with the savoury grated fresh coconut. The sweet potato ondeh-ondeh was also squelchingly good.
Also available is the Pulut Seri Kaya, also known as Kueh Salat. Unusually, Tok Panjang’s version has sticky black rice topped with the thick pandan custard on top. But Lyn’s favourite is the Ubi Kayu Kukus, steamed tapioca kueh. But you can also enjoy their Kueh Bingka, which is baked tapioca with a browned crust on top.
Other sweet treats you might want to try are their refreshing Mango Sago, or their Chendol. We’ve saved the best for last though – their Chendol Agar-Agar is really fantastic and worth the calories. It is exactly chendol captured in a firm, layered jelly – delicious and creamy, yet light and refreshing.
Another plus is Patrick’s generosity with samples. One visit and I had tastes of butter cake, chocolate cake, and a whole selection of savoury mains. Lyn too, was the recipient of a bag of kuehs to takeaway for free one afternoon when she arrived with friends. It was Patrick’s way of saying sorry they had almost sold out.
It’s always these spontaneous discoveries that leave a lasting impression and you’ll definitely remember Tok Panjang for their delicious home-cooked Nonya rice and noodle dishes, as well as their lovely handmade kueh kueh. Please so go early though, because they often sell out right after lunchtime. Best to go first thing in the morning when they open at 9am.
TASTE: Tok Panjang Nonya Cafe @ Bukit Timah Plaza 1 Jalan Anak Bukit, B1-52C, S(588996) Open Daily: 9am -5.30pm Tel: +65 92737979
Mooncakefair.com is Singapore’s first and largest dedicated online mooncake fair & one-stop shop that runs from now till 1 October 2020. The mooncakes are delivered straight to customers’ doorsteps in temperature-controlled food trucks, straight from a F&B centralised distribution centre.
With over 35 notable brands from hotels, restaurants, and bakeries, Mooncakefair.com currently has the widest variety of mooncake players on a single dedicated mooncake platform.
There’s also a special feature for corporate and bulk orders – discounts can be applied by combining orders across all brand partners, so no need to commit to a large quantity from any one brand before getting that corporate price or bulk discount!
While you’re on mooncakefair.com, check out Awfully Chocolate’s extraordinary artisanal mooncakes luxuriously presented in one-of-a-kind bespoke wooden keepsake chests. The Awfully Chocolate Mid-Autumn Collection 2020 comprises two distinct styles of mooncakes – Classic Baked Mooncakes and Chocolate Truffle Mooncakes.
Each chest of Classic Baked Mooncakes boasts four different flavours, baked in either light golden Shanghai pastry or signature dark chocolate pastry. New this year is the Six Treasures with White Lotus flavour, inspired by the traditional “Five Nut” mooncake with a unique spin. The 100% Premium Dark Cocoa’s distinctive roast is enhanced with a salty-sweet medley of fruit and nut, creating a lovely balance in flavour and texture.
Complementing the Classic Baked Mooncakes is the matching wooden chest of pure Chocolate Truffle Mooncakes. Every exquisitely handcrafted chest of eight holds four delightful flavours.
SEE: Hello Makan Kakis! Our celebration of the top local eats (as voted by Gold 905 listeners) continues with that quinessential South-China noodle dish, Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee. A rich stock made from prawns and pork is key for the making of a great plate of Hokkien Mee, wok-fried with a mix of seafood, meat, yellow and rice noodles, with chilli sauce and calamansi lime on the side. Personal preferences run the gamut – some prefer a wetter consistency, some expect lots of wok hei (breath of the wok), some think pork belly is essential. But everything pivots around that delicious saucy stew the noodles are sautéed in.
While there are several South-east Asian versions, this variety has its roots firmly in China’s Fujian (Hokkien) cuisine, but reached its evolutionary peak in Singapore, thanks to the culinary resourcefulness of early settlers. Before it got its current name, Hokkien Mee was known as Rochor Mee, for the stretch of road where the dish was first created and sold by Chinese immigrants from the Fujian province.
One origin story mentions Chinese sailors who congregated along Rochor Road and thriftly used excess noodles from factories in the area to create hokkien mee using flavours from home. Though this romantic historical account can’t be verified, most won’t dispute that Rochor Road was synonymous with the early days of hokkien mee. Such noodle stalls are now found all across the island, though only a few really stand out. Thanks to recommendations from Gold 905 listeners, we checked out two popular stalls. One brought the fat, one brought the fire, but both absolutely brought the flavour.
SEE: When it comes to where the best laksa can be found, foodie feuds and fierce debates abound – everybody has their own opinion. So when Gold 905 listeners voted for a National Day series featuring Singapore’s best local dishes, laksa came in a solid second with several favourites coming to the fore.
To be clear, we’re referring to laksa lemak – noodles in a coconut-based curry soup and often served in proud Peranakan homes. Recipes may vary from kitchen to kitchen, but most agree that the spice paste, or rempah, has to have the right balance of herbs, spices and seasoning (my mother’s laksa lemak recipe has 15 ingredients for the rempah alone!), along with good quality coconut milk, hae bee (dried baby shrimp) and seafood stock (fish or prawn), to make a rich, tasty curry soup.
Tau pok (fried beancurd puffs), fishcake, cockles and beansprouts have also become standard ingredients, along with thick bee hoon (rice vermicelli) and a sambal (chilli paste) as a condiment on the side. But perhaps the most important ingredient, known for its distinctive aroma and flavour, is daun kesum. The herb is also known as laksa leaf for good reason.
Over the years, different hawkers found fame with their own special version of laksa lemak. So whether you prefer your laksa without hum (cockles), or a gravy that’s thick and creamy, or noodles eaten with a spoon instead of chopsticks, here are three places recommended by Gold 905 listeners that we think are noteworthy:
Chef Anthony Yeoh of Summer Hill French Bistro at Sunset Way is back to recommend a place he’s been going to for his late-night supper fix. It’s a restaurant called Formosa Delights and they specialize in Taiwanese & Sichuan Cuisine, which means lots of Mala dishes, so this is a place to try if you like your meals spicy and literally tongue-numbing! They do lots of quick and tasty rice or hand-made noodle sets and even if your tolerance for spice is low, there are other yummy dishes you can enjoy.
This week, let’s bring on the best of both worlds and combine cooking at home with hawker quality wanton mee, all in a DIY kit delivered straight to your doorstep. You may already know Bee Kee Wanton Noodle in Lorong Lew Lian for their truffle & traditional wanton mee and now you can reproduce the latter in the comfort of your own kitchen!
I filled up a quick online order form for the Bee Kee wanton noodle kit, consisting of 10 bundles of their fresh thin egg noodles, 40 freshly wrapped pork wantons and 3 jars of sauce – homemade chilli, fragrant oil & signature soy sauce. Delivery was prompt and I received a text message with cooking instructions that were easy to follow and foolproof. I managed to turn out delicious wanton noodles of my own in less than 5 minutes!
What else can we stay-home circuit breakers order in or takeaway with just a budget of $20 enough to feed 4 people? Da Jie Niang Dou Fu & Hainan Chicken Rice is worth a try! No prizes for guessing what they specialise in, but what’s unique is – their food is halal. For a family with different tastes, I’d say go for their Yong Tau Foo – for a minimum order of 5 pieces at 80 cents each, you get a massive variety of ingredients to choose from within their refrigerated display. Whether you love deep fried goodies like wantons, chicken nuggets, prawn wrapped in potato and yam rolls, or toufu stuffed with fishpaste, fishballs and beancurd skin, or veggies like eggplant, lady’s finger, bittergourd, chinese cabbage, xiao bai cai, kang kong, as well as instant noodles, chewy glass noodles, mushrooms, sausages and more. Best of all, everything 6 different flavours, including tom yam & their healthier soup option.