Noodles. It drives people crazy. Originating in China, it has been adopted as the food of comfort and sustainance for many cultures. Be it Ramen in Japan, where the quest for a bowl of steaming hot ramen can be one's life quest. The word ramen itself is a transliteration of the chinese "la mien" or pulled noodles (as opposed to other Chinese noodles which does not require pulling in its manufacture...like kway teow. The Japanese have made it their own, with innovations and tastes which only Japan can offer.
Or in Italy and the Little Italys across the large cities in the US, especially NYC and Chicago, where the mafia guard their pasta recipes even more jealously than their drug or prostitution turf. The Italians had learnt the art of making noodles from the Chinese with just flour and water, and have made their own noodles unique; and can call this as their own cuisine.
But the subject of today's blog is Chinese noodles. You can have it any style you like, boiled, braised, in soup, fried with gravy, fried dry. But the supreme form which captivates the Fried Hokkien Mee fanatics in my office, uses yellow flour noodles mixed with plain rice noodles. The double fried noodles, oozes in a gorgeous slimy gravy, and brings a taste of heaven to one's palate.
We had gone almost all the way across the island from the office to Joo Chiat, and sampled the highest form of the art of Fried Hokkien Mee. The stall was famous because the owner, Ah Kim made his name with the 1970s as a towkay hawker...dressed always in a long sleeved shirt, and sporting a solid gold Rolex, he unleashed his own genius into the dish, and created oyster and abalone fried hokkien mee.
And today, I returned with my family, armed with my camera, to savour and relive the experience.
We started with a plate of Kankong Belachan. This is a standard in a cze-char shop in Singapore.
The dish was a little on the salt side, but this provided good flavour. My usual peeve with sambal kankong that the vegetable used is often too old, is pleasantly not the case here. Young, succulent water convolvulus, is quickly stir fried in a mix of belacan, chilli and oil. An extremely strong, powerful fire is essential to impart the wok hei - the fragrance of the wok, into the dish.
The Ha Cheong Kai (prawn paste chicken) is also very special.
Comprising only of the two joints of a chicken wing, this was generously coated in the prawn paste, and deep fried. The salty, crunchy crust was a delight to bite into. Each bite revealed a juicy chicken wing. The chicken must have been quite large, as the wing was a generous size. I still preferred the Ha Cheong Kai at Loy Sum Juan, but this one packs a great punch, and makes a worthy adversary.
Finally the piece de resistance. XO Fried Hokkien Mee...this was not one laced with brandy, but with extra oysters. And extra oysters indeed. Huge, fat, succulent, and many in numbers (forget to count)...these reminded me of the fresh French oysters available in many Parisian restaurants from early afternoon during the winter months.
Note crispy bits of crunchy deep fried lard bits at the side...a must for great hokkien mee...provides a great crispy counter flavour and added bite. The chilli is served on the side, so as much or as little may be added as desired. This is a dangerous dish...full of cholesterol...fortified with liberal use of lard, pork bits, oysters, eggs...and all else that promises to block your heart. Excercise moderation, and exercise exercise after a plate of this.
The plate was gorgeous. The huge, fat succulent oysters,generously sprinkled over the noodles, provided the richness and melt in your mouth feel. Certainly great mouth feel. The gravy glistened and beckons. The large prawns and sliced squid provide crunchy accompaniment to the rich, soft oysters. The noodles were also perfectly fried...in fact the process involved double frying of the noodles...the first pass to prepare and season the noodles with a superior stock,and remove the kee. And when the order is place, each plate is individually fried, more specially prepared stock is added and allowed to absorb into each strand of noodle. The super-power fire provided the encouragement for the ingredients to blend and bond. Corn starch is then used to thicken the mixture, together with eggs, and other ingredients. The resulting concoction is worthy of the journey. (hmm...in Michelin parlance, this would make it 3 star eh?)
This is the most satisfying Hokkien Mee I have tasted. I know there are many more to taste...but for the time being, this was the king to beat.
As we left, I spied the huge Sri Lankan crabs at one corner of the restaurant...someday, I will return to eat these creatures...they looked like they would make a fantastic meal.
I leave you with a huge picture...to savour the Fried Hokkien Mee...click on the following link will open up another window, use the zoom features to explore the plate of noodles.
Kim's Place Seafood Restaurant Pte Ltd
37 Joo Chiat Place
(Junction of Tembeling Road)
Photo note: As can be seen in the picture of the shop, an bright orange awning provides the shop with shade from the fierce sun. But this imparts an orangy hue over the pictures. White balance was a challenge, I finally decided on auto white balance in the Adobe Camera Raw. The final pictures still have a orangish hue, but I decided to leave that, as this more or less accurately reflects the ambient. I also tried the mid-range sample dropper on the plate, but the resultant pictures had a green cast - a case of over-correction.