Prawn Mee That’s Big in Name, Size & Flavour!

Fresh off his win in cooking competition Masterchef Singapore Season 2 earlier this year in April, Derek Cheong revealed that he was a huge fan of a stall called Loyang Way Big Prawn Noodles. Known for his “mad scientist” culinary prowess and mastery over Asian flavours, I immediately sat up and paid attention. If it was good enough for a Masterchef, it was certainly worth the meandering forty minute drive from West to East to locate this far-flung stall.

Everything one needs to know about the stall is in its name. Found deep in a Loyang industrial estate, they specialize in dry and soup noodles, featuring prawns of a certain size. After getting slightly lost, I finally arrived at a nondescript canteen, sitting solo amongst factories and offices. Hardly an auspicious start to my foodie adventure, but one look at the prawn noodle stall confirmed my taste buds were about to get lucky.

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Even at 8am, Loyang Way Big Prawn Noodles’ menu board was brightly lit, tempting customers with its variety: Big Prawn Noodles ($5, $7, $9), Pork Ribs Prawn Noodles ($5, $7, $9), Abalone Prawn Noodles ($8, $10) and XL Big Prawn Noodles ($13.80). Add-on ingredients were also available, everything from to prawn ($2 each), to abalone ($3), to pork ribs and other piggy parts like skin and intestines ($1 to $3) and the intriguing sha dan (literally sand egg in Mandarin, but described as a runny-centred egg, so-named for dim sum restaurant molten saled egg bun, liu sha bao, $1).

If I had had my way, I would have blown the budget and my belly by including them all in my order. But I was a woman on a mission to recreate a big prawn noodle experience worthy of a Masterchef. Derek had recommended that I go for the biggest portion of unadulterated dry prawn noodles with soup on the side, promising flavours both intense and umami.

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Fiery-Hot Old School Wanton Mee

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If you think spice is nice and are looking for dishes that really turn up the heat, then this wanton mee stall is for you. Fellow hot head and foodie friend Chef Shen Tan of OG Lemak recommended I try the Eunos branch of a Dunman Food Centre stall that’s famous for serving up some of the spiciest noodles in Singapore. I gamely placed my asbestos taste buds at the mercy of Mr Sam Ng, whose family owns the two Dunman Char Siew Wan Ton Mee outlets. He’s in charge of the Eunos branch, which opened in March of 2019.

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Good Fishball Mee Made by Indian Hawker!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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And that is exactly what I did…

For the full story, to download the podcast and to watch the video, click the links below:

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Irene Ang Recommends Shiok Old-School Laksa

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Click to listen/ download podcast of this week’s spicy, lemak episode!

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70d24b6d-95ac-47ea-94a5-6d4d41b944d6This week, our Makan Kaki, Fly Entertainment CEO and owner of Bar NKD, Fry Bistro & Soi Candy Thai Noodle and Seafood Bar, Irene Ang returns with a recommendation I really had to persuade her to share. This is her (until now) secret, go-to place for one of her favourite local dishes, LAKSA!

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Due to the recurring F&B COVID-19 restrictions, when she’s not ordering in, she’s been making it a point to explore the Ang Mo Kio area near where she lives to support hawkers as much as possible. She joked that she was reluctant to reveal her Laksa place because she knows people will complain that they’ll have to queue for longer than before once word gets out! Fortunately for us, I managed to twist her arm and she finally shared that she has to visit this humble stall at Mayflower Food Centre at least once a week for her spicy, lemak fix. It’s a stall that’s been there for a long time and according to Irene, is usually run by an old uncle who only accepts standard orders for his coveted Laksa, because the queues are usually long.

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Of course, I had to go check it out for myself and after doing a little research because Irene could only tell me the location of the stall, but not its name, I discovered that Quan Xing Mei Shi is the only stall at Mayflower Food Centre that sells Laksa. For some reason, it was closed the 2 times I paid it a visit – both times on a weekday morning at 9am, right smack in the middle of their alleged opening hours. Persevering, I was third time lucky. At the stall were an affable man and woman, but no sign of the “old uncle” Irene mentioned. Turns out, the younger gentleman is the son and he was the one who served me. I quickly dapao’d two portions to go (both for me, just in case – I’d worked so hard for my Laksa!).

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Thoughtfully packed separately in bags (I paid extra for the reusable bowls in these photos) – the blanched noodles, beansprouts, sliced fish cake, a dollop of chilli paste and a generous scoop of laksa leaves went into one bag, whilst the hot gravy, thick-cut taupok (tofu puffs) and cockles went into the other. I would have preferred that the cockles were packed with the noodles instead to prevent overcooking, but they were so generous with the little shellfish (I counted at least 12), I really couldn’t complain. At least they were sweet and fresh and didn’t end up rubbery!

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As Irene was telling me, the stall doesn’t usually accept any special orders – you take your Laksa as they make it – absolutely no permutations, except you can choose between yellow noodles or thick bee hoon (chu mi fen). Even without the old man there, I didn’t dare push my luck with his son and obediently went with their standard, which was a good portion. Irene loves that one can have a whole bowl of this Laksa and not feel too full or jelak.

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Beef or Seafood – Best of Both Worlds in this Hor Fun!

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Hi Makan Kakis, Talking Point’s Steven Chia is back with another recommendation and this time it’s where he’s been enjoying the delights of zi char staple, fried hor fun. This place may be all about specialising in one noodle dish, but it’s also all about variety, so whether you like surf or turf or both, Hin Fried Hor Fun delivers! Theirs is the “dry” version, blanketed in a thick gravy for maximum coverage. The starchy sauce clings lovingly to every curled, broad flat noodle piece that has first been tossed in a screamingly hot wok, for that distinct breath of smoke (wok hei).

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Shrimply Scrumptious Pork Rib Prawn Mee!

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photo via moonbow.sg

Hi Makan Kakis! This week, we welcome a new Foodie Friend, whose Modern European restaurant on Dempsey Hill features lots of Asian touches and beautiful ceramics designed and created by the chef himself, Heman Tan.  The co-owner and chef of Moonbow has an interesting story to tell, in the beautiful plates of food he creates and also on a personal level. His is a story of overcoming dyslexia and other obstacles in life to get where he is today – doting family man, triathlete, ceramics artist, celebrated chef and mentor to his team in the Moonbow kitchen. He shares a little bit of that story in our 2-part podcast and also recommends a delicious hawker favourite of his.

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Why have one when you can have 4 types of noodles? Dry prawn mee featuring kway teow, a mix of yellow mee & beehoon, as well as mee pok (not shown: mee kia)!

Chef Heman’s recommendation is part nostalgia, part pragmatic and AAAALL delicious! He loves prawn noodles, especially if there’s the added bonus of pork ribs. His go-to place for his bakut hae mee fix? A stall he’s been patronising since his younger days spent hanging out in the Tiong Bahru & Redhill areas.

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Denise had to give Chef’s recommendation a try. Her verdict? It’s SHRIMPLY delicious!

Located in the now-famous Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre, Min Nan Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle has been there for many years and Chef Heman has seen how they’ve evolved. He recalls buying satay from them back in the day, but now their focus is on prawn noodles, with the very welcome addition of pork ribs. And for Chef Heman, it always has to be the dry version. For one, it’s absolutely delicious but his main reason was of a more pragmatic nature.

Chef Heman’s ultimate choice – dry pork rib prawn mee using yellow noodles & bee hoon.

Continue reading “Shrimply Scrumptious Pork Rib Prawn Mee!”

Laksa Lemak Worthy of a MasterChef!

Hey Makan Kakis! Look who we have as this week’s guest? Fresh from his triumph at MasterChef Singapore Season 2, Winner Derek Cheong joins Denise online & on-air to chat about his journey to being Singapore’s new MasterChef.

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  • Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 1) – Derek talking about his reaction to his win in the MasterChef kitchen, his thoughts on the judges, the biggest lessons he’s learnt along the way and what he’s doing with his $15,000 cash prize (only what a “mad scientist” would buy!).
  • Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 2) – How Derek put his 3rd year engineering studies on hold to join MasterChef, who his culinary hero is, which culinary books have inspired him, the first dish he ever cooked and his ideal dinner party guest/ meal.
  • Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 3) – Derek recommends his go-to place for his ultimate comfort food, Laksa and reveals his exciting new job.

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Despite his reputation as a fine-dining chef and “mad scientist” with a penchant for molecular gastronomy, MasterChef Derek Cheong maintains that he’s still a “Hawker Boy” at heart. So when he’s in need of a bowl of coconutty comfort, this famous Laksa brand is his absolute go-to. 328 Katong Laksa is one of the handful of Katong rivals for good reason. It really is very, very good.

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Penang-Style Char Kway Teow & Fried Chicken?

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Hello Foodie Friends!

Today, our Makan Kaki is Host of Talking Point, Steven Chia, who has previously regaled us with tales of his investigations into bread, instant noodles and bubble tea. This time, he joins us to talk about FRIED CHICKEN!

Why can’t Singaporeans get enough of it? Just how many varieties are out there in the market? Is there such a thing as healthy fried chicken? And what happened to Steven when he subjected himself to a Talking Point experiment to eat fried chicken everyday for 2 weeks straight?

Steve gives us a little taster of what to expect in his  2-part Talking Point special – catch it this week (15 April) & next (Thurs 22 April), 9.30pm on Channel 5 or via CNA!

And with all his food adventures, we had to ask him – where he goes for his favourite foods. Keep reading for his makan recommendation!

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One of Steve’s family favourites is a Malaysian-Chinese restaurant in the West Coast area that serves up classic Penang-style dishes. In particular, Steve loves Penang Island Kitchen’s char kway teow ($12). It’s not too oily nor sweet, has lots of wok hei and is fried with lots of egg and bean sprouts, just the way Steve likes it. Packed with a generous poriton of lup cheong (chinese sausage), sliced fish cake and prawns, this noodle dish really hits the spot!

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Continue reading “Penang-Style Char Kway Teow & Fried Chicken?”