We are clearly spoilt for choice when it comes to food in Singapore. But how does a visitor go about deciding what to eat? If noodles is something you want to try, this guide is certain to come in handy. These noodles can be found in most hawker centres, kopitiams, and foodcourts, but everyone has their personal favourites. Here are mine.
1. You’re familiar with … Fish & Chips
Try … Fried Fish Meat Bee Hoon Soup
This one is from … ABC Deji Fish Head Bee Hoon, ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre, 6 Jalan Bukit Merah
Visitors from the UK and Australia looking for something to remind them of home can head to most hawker centres or foodcourts for a bowl of deep fried fish meat bee hoon soup. Pieces of battered fish are added to thick bee hoon (rice vermicelli) cooked in a milky broth made from fish bones, ginger, and Chinese wine. Relatively light on the stomach (that’s what you get when you swap out greasy chips), this dish is a favourite amongst office ladies looking for a “healthier” eat. Also, a popular choice during rainy weather. There are versions with cooked fish slices and deep fried fish head too.
2. You’re familiar with … German Pork Knuckle
Try … Wanton Mee
This one is from … Eng’s Wanton Mee, 287 Tanjong Katong Road
Crispy crackling, roasted pork, pickled cabbage … stuff that make up the famous German dish. The noodle-equivalent has got to be wanton mee. No, there’s nothing promiscuous about this noodle. Wanton is Cantonese for “yun tun” (cloud dumpling). Besides these meat and shrimp filled dumplings, wanton noodles come with slices of barbecued pork (char siew) with pickled green chilli on the side. The best wanton mee, in my opinion, are those served with crispy pork lard; Eng’s Wanton Mee gives you a free flow of lard and it’s chilli sauce is infamously fiery.
3. You’re familiar with … Salad
Try … Vegetarian Bee Hoon
This one is from … Vegetarian, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street
Caveat: Don’t expect a bowl of crunchy, fresh raw veggies. What you can expect from a plate of vegetarian bee hoon, Singapore-style, is a delightful contrast of textures. Bee hoon, simply fried in soy sauce and pepper, is topped with stir-fried cabbage, deep fried beancurd skin, and a meat-substitute made from gluten to look like char siew (barbecued pork). Pickled green chilli is served on the side to give the dish a zesty touch. This is a popular breakfast choice.
4. You’re familiar with … Bangers & Mash
Try … Lor Mee
This one is from … 233 River Valley Road (same coffeeshop as Yong Bak Kut Teh)
Lor Mee is Hokkien for “gravy noodles”. If you are a fan of gravy-soaked eats like mashed potato, you will have no problem with this dish. Thick yellow noodles are drowned in a bowl of brown gravy, thickened with corn flour and egg. On top, the noodles are covered in a variety of ingredients like braised pork belly, braised hard-boiled egg, ngoh hiang (minced meat and shrimp wrapped in beancurd skin), a huge dollop of minced garlic, black vinegar, and chilli paste. Mix it all up and slurp away with gusto. Given the amount of fresh garlic used, we would recommend a mint after.
5. You’re familiar with … Curry
Try … Laksa
This one is from … Food For Thought, 1 Cluny Road, #B1-00, Tel: 6338 4848
Okay, so this isn’t a hawker centre per se but the laksa is, if I may be allowed to say so, better than the runny ones you’ll find at some hawker centres and foodcourts. Served only at the Food For Thought at Botanic Gardens, and between 8am and 2pm, this laksa is a thick spicy treat packed with rich coconut flavour. Since I’m not a fan of cockles, this laksa scores an additional point with me for not having any. Instead, it comes with a generous serving of boiled chicken, tau pok (fried beancurd pocket), and a hard-boiled egg. At $6, it is twice as pricey as the ones at hawker centres, but worth the price given the freshness of the ingredients.
6. You’re familiar with … Spaghetti Bolognese
Try … Teochew Noodles
This one is from … Ah Hor Teochew Kway Tiao Mee, 12 Verdun Road
It’s not coated in a tomato-based meat sauce but the potent chilli sauce and minced meat found here will make this noodle dish just as unforgettable as Mama’s. The noodle to order here is Mee Pok Tah. Mee pok is a flat yellow noodle, quite like fettuccine. “Tah” is Hokkien for “dry”. Here’s why it’s important to order it “tah”: the noodles will be tossed in the stall’s famous home-made chilli sauce, which is made from pork lard, buah keluak, dried shrimps, and dried chilli. Served with stewed shitake mushrooms, minced meat, fish cake, pork slices, and fishballs, this is a sumptuous meal that’s hard to match. Oh, and did I mention that you can help yourself to as much pork lard as you want here too?
7. You’re familiar with … Oden
Try … Yong Tau Foo
This one is from … Tiong Bahru Yong Tau Foo, Blk 56 Eng Hoon Street Kopitiam
Much like the Japanese winter dish that consists of several items boiled in soup, yong tau foo is an assortment of boiled food items such as fried beancurd stuffed with fish paste, fishball, minced meat wrapped in beancurd skin, and fresh beancurd. While most of the stalls you find in hawker centres and foodcourts allow you to pick and mix from a variety of stuff, this stall at Eng Hoon Street does it the old-school way. Every order is exactly the same: bee hoon with 7 pieces of items. If you order it dry, your bee hoon is served in a separate bowl with sweet sauce and chilli sauce. If you order it soupy, everything is served up in a big bowl. The stock is made from soya beans and ikan bilis, making salty with a slight touch of umami.
8. You’re familiar with … Pizza/Steak/Lamb/anything with a strong flavour
Try … Char Kway Teow
This one is from … Fried Kway Teow, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road
The name of the stall is just that, “Fried Kway Teow”. And, I think it speaks volumes about the sweet, black slippery goodness that comes out from it. It is THE definitive place for this noodle dish. For me to “approve” a fried kway teow, it has to meet TWO conditions: 1. It has pork lard and 2. It has lup cheong (Chinese wind-dried sausages). None of the “No Pork. No Lard” nonsense, please. To be honest, char kway teow tastes like nothing else in this world. Is it like a pizza because the sausages give it a sweet, smoky flavour? Is it like steak because of the rich, almost char-grilled taste from the sweet black sauce and chilli sauce? Whatever it is, your visit to Singapore isn’t complete without trying this dish.
I realise that there are more noodle dishes that are part of the Singapore’s culinary scene. Noodles like mee soto, mee goreng, bak chor mee, fried Hokkien prawn mee, mee siam, and prawn mee, are all worth eating. I promise I’ll follow up with another post covering more famous noodle dishes from Singapore! Meanwhile, happy food-hunting!