Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wantan mee: KL Style in Singapore?

with family

Malaysia and Singapore may be brothers (or sisters?), and we share history, culture. Food which are present and enjoyed in one country is usually also enjoyed in the other. But with a twist...a different style, emphasis, or ingredient often makes the geographical variations very interesting.

Wanton mee, a wheat and egg flour noodles, in soup or dry with a little gravy is one. Probably invented in Hong Kong, where the standard is the soupy version I blogged about here, this is a mainstay either as a snack, breakfast food, or main meal. Even in Hong Kong, the dry version - known as kon lo is available. And in Singapore and Malaysia, the kon lo is indeed preferred.

The main difference between HK and SEA is the noodles. In HK, many shops, at least the traditional ones like Mak's and Kau Kee, make their own noodles. The noodles are thin, springy, and have a kind of tough consistency. In KL, the noodles are fatter...sometimes almost flat - wider than it is thick. And many of the best, when cooked al-dente have a tough-ish, springy consistency. In Singapore, where most of the noodles are supplied by possibly one factory, they are thin, and a bit powdery.

But more than just the difference in noodles, KL wanton mee is drenched in a black soy sauce, and heaped with fragrant pork lard...both in liquid form as well as bits of crunchy crisps. Chilli is never added as a paste to the noodles, and if desired, pickled green chilli, sliced into pieces and accompanied with light soy sauce is prescribed. Whereas in Singapore, we favour some chilli in the noodles, or tomato ketchup. And the appearance of the noodle is pale - showing the real colour of the wheat and egg base.

I have come to enjoy both varieties for what they are. But growing up in Penang, eating KL style (wanton mee is a Cantonese dish, and Penang being predominantly Hokkien lacks the cultural sensitivity to develop its own, but to borrow from KL), I often long for the black wanton mee. None in Singapore serve this variety well, but some get quite close.

Lucky Wanton Noodles in Tanjong Pagar Food Centre is one example.

The black noodles, and the wonderful fragrance of the pork lard whifts into the nostrils...sending nostalgia to my brain...the char siew looked pale, insipid even - a dry, lean mess. In taste, the char siew leaves much to be desired - it was dry, and insipring. I wish to combine some Alex's char siew. If you remember...Alex serves a mean char siew, but his noodles are Singapore style, complete with chilli paste. Not bad, but a different style.

The wanton is very nice. I detected pork and bits of flounder within. This version does not come with shrimps, just pork and flounder. Mak's in HK is also similar, but comes with a succulent piece of fresh prawn. Lucky's wanton skin was light, soft, delecate. Mak's was a bit springy, had a nice smooth texture, and firm-ish.

Despite the misadventure with the char siew, the wanton mee is quite enjoyable.

The deep fried version was just that. The same wanton wrapped tighter, and deep fried. The skin was crispy, but just so. I would have preferred crispier skin, and more punchy flavour in the filling. In contrast, the deep fried wanton typical in a tim sum stall in HK was lighter, and very crispy. I suspect in HK, they use a different skin when deep frying than when in soup.

To wash this down, we had some ice kachang with peanuts.

Annie's version was covered with bits of ground peanuts. Dig inside, and one is rewarded with a fairly generous helping of jelly, red bean and other bits. The jelly was of the right consistency, though I think different pieces of different consistency and chewiness would have added one more dimension to the dish. the red bean was de rigeur, and I wish they could use Japanese type red bean...though I guess the cost of the Ice Kachang would easily triple. A scoop of vanilla ice cream would also be interesting. I looked in vain for the atap seeds, a favourite of mine, but in vain. No attap seeds! This is an outrage. There should be a law to ensure that Ice Kachang come with atap seeds. Overall, despite this ommission, the Ice Kachang was quite nice.

Read ieat's view of Annie's Ice Kachang.

Lucky Wanton Noodles

Annie's Peanut Ice Kachang
10.30am to 7.15pm Weekdays
10.30am to 6pm Weekends

Blk 6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza
Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre
Singapore 081006
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