Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tian Tian Lai: quintessential Singapore Fried Hokkien Mee

with office colleagues

Fried Hokkien Prawn mee is a Singapore dish if there ever was one. Versions of noodles, with a wet gravy of prawns, eggs are found in all parts of Malaysia and Singapore, but they are all different in style and substance. In Penang, what is known as Hokkien Char is a variety, but it is black, though it uses prawns and pork stock as the base ingredients, normally it is not fried with squid. And fried onions are generously sprinkled on top. In Kuala Lumpur, the fragrant, black Hokkien Chau uses fat, thick udon like noodles, fried with a thick black sauce, and plenty of lard, prawns and squid. The Singapore version is fried with egg noodles and thick bee hoon mixed into a gooey, light gravy of pork base, with sliced pork, squid and prawns. A version by Kim's even includes succulent oysters for extra oomph.

Tian Tian Lai (Chinese for Come Everyday) is an old stall in existance before the current two storey Food Center was constructed in Toa Payoh Lorong 1. In the early days, the uncle will oblidge to fry the Hokkien Mee with mee suah, which is a nice treat. But nowadays, business is rather good...as long queues testify, especially at peak lunch times.



The HKM was more gooey than others - viz a viz the very dry version served at Beach Road's
Hainan Hokkien Mee and more gooey than the Beo Crescent no name one.

Strong wok hei was present, as can be seen on the pic below, bits of the noodle is charred to black, while others are perfectly cooked.




Each strand is coated with the gooey stuff...which was bursting with crustacean flavours. The prawns were fairly fresh, and the uncle was very generous with sliced squid and crispy pork lard. Crispy pork lard always perk up a dish, fortifying the taste by anchoring it with porky flavours. Very nice.

I would rate this as second only in my taste experience to Kim's who kind of "cheats" by adding superb oysters, easily beating other standard bearers like the one in Beo Crescent and the unique one in Beach Road.

We also had the famous Teochew Handmade Pau.

Everything is 50cents a piece here...the paus were very small, bite sized.



Handmade, steamed in bamboo baskets, and then transferred to modern glass and steel steamers for display.



The Khong Bak Pau was made with lean meat, quite different from the fat, rich version served at Hokkien Restaurants around Singapore (typified by the gorgeous ones at Westlake Restaurant). But very tasty, and the meat, though lean was not dry nor tough, but flavourful. Excellent.

The char siew pau was very small, though perhaps not quite as small as the Tanjung Rhu char siew paus, and almost as good. The char siew at Tanjung Rhu was a little fatter, and hence had more flavour and mouth feel. This was made of leaner meat...um, perhaps less guilty to induldge, but still very tasty.

The siew mai is also superb. A bit less lean than its siblings from the same shop, the siew mai was very tasty, and filled with succulent pork.

The Lotus paste was quintessential.



Hidden inside the soft, fluffy pau exterior, oozes out a beautiful golden brown lotus paste...not quite very sweet, but distinctly so, and full of lotus flavour. One of the best I have eaten, safe for better pau skin at the top Hong Kong establishments.

For me, I think Teochew Handmade Pau is a worthy competitior as pau shop to the well established Tanglin Teik Kee. Teochew's paus bests Tanglin's in all categories except for char siew, which for me remains the gold standard for char siew pau.

Two excellent stores in one Hawker Center...




Tian Tian Lai (Come Daily)
Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
Blk 127, Toa Payoh Lor 1
#02-27
Singapore 310127
9.30am to 9pm
Closed on Mondays
Ordering Hotline: 62518542/96717071


Teochew Handmade Pau
Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh
#02-02
Tel: 6254 2053
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