article #7 .

Leaf Wrapped Hokkien Mee fried
over Charcoal fire
Page Ah Chiu at 9-2193098

Fried Hokkien Mee is a favourite of all Sinaporeans, and there are dozens of stalls each claiming to be the best, and each with their own group of loyal supporters. But for fried Hokkien Mee that is distinctive, try the one in the coffee-shop at the corner of Serangoon Road and Beatty Road.

Called the "Original Serangoon Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee" , it has quite a long history. Thirty years ago, it was on the opposite side of the Road, beside one of those Bars that were popular among the blue-collar class before the advent of Karaoke lounges. Then, the man frying it was a reed-thin grumpy man, whose long hours of frying had caused his right arm to be significantly bigger than his left. There was more take-away business than eat-in, as the coffee-shop was dingy and too crowded, and the rows of cars parked and double-parked on the side of the road sometimes caused a traffic jam. Seven years ago, this man died, and I lost track of this Hokkien Mee for a while. Three years ago, I re-discovered it at its present location, and was pleased to see that the old man had passed his skills on to his assistant -the one who wrapped the Hokkien Mee. The relationship between the Old man and his assistant Ah Chiu was like that betweeen a Kung-Fu Master and his disciple. Ah Chiu or Tony as he now calls himself told me that it took six years befor the old man would let him really fry for the customers.

Anyway, what is distinctive about this Hokkien Mee is that I think its the only one in Singapore still fried over a Charcoal fire. The taste is different partly due to this. Tony said that the heat a Charcoal fire was more evenly spread over the wok, while a gas fire was concentrated at a few points of the wok undersurface.

It is definitely a less oily version of Hokkien Mee, and the noodles used had a different texture, sort of half Bee Hoon-like in texture.

The prawns, cuttle-fish, pork, were all fresh and the use of lard, although unhealthy, made it even tastier.

I liked the generous amount of lime, fresh cut red chillies, and sambal belachan given. You can eat it it there, or even better, take it away. Why? Because unlike the others who wrap it in waxed paper, Tony wraps ypur Hokkien Mee in leaf-or rather, the dried straw-like leaf of the Nipah Palm or is it Nibong Palm, or is it the leaf of the Betel-Nut tree? What I know is that this is called "opay" in Hokkien Mee. By the time you get home, the Hokkien Mee will be infused with the fragrance of the "opay'" leaf, and this kind of take-away beats a Burger or a Pizza anytime. Thats why we are so lucky in Singapore

The third distinction about this stall is that that instead of waiting a long time for your Mee, you can page Tony and tell him what time you are coming to fetch your take-away. I have his business card, and it says "Original Fried Hokkien Mee Srangoon Tony Ng Hwa Chiu Pager 9-2193098. But I wonder why the reverse of the card says "Yipin Art gallery". Could Tony also be an artist?

- brought to you by our feature writer Ng Tian Khean

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