New noodle joints with Thai, HK twist
RAMEN has pretty much displaced the humble noodle in Singapore's Japanese-obsessed food scene. Can a spate of new noodle shops challenge its dominance?
5001 Beach Road, #B1-08 Golden Mile Complex
12pm to 9pm daily
Like something straight out of Fear Factor, Thai boat noodles or kuai teow ruea boasts pig's blood as the crucial ingredient that gives it flavour. Used to season the soup, the animal blood is mixed with salt before being added, and lends a reddish hue to the dish.
You can find the full experience only in Thailand, as the ingredient is banned in Singapore, but Noodle Cafe at Golden Mile Complex offers the next best thing: authentic Thai boat noodles minus the controversy.
Says Jason Ho, business development and marketing executive for the cafe: "We've modified our version of boat noodles to taste as close to the original as possible. We make up for the lack of blood in the recipe by boiling the beef and pork bones for a much longer time, and it actually creates a more intense flavour. We have Thai people commenting that they can't really tell the difference. That's the thing about operating in Golden Mile Complex, or 'Thaitown' - if you aren't authentic, you won't do well."
The Braised Pork Noodle ($6) is a bestseller and, like all the other dishes, is customised to the individual and cooked on demand. Customers can choose from five types of noodles imported from Thailand, levels of spiciness, and whether the noodles are served wet or dry.
If you are not sure what to have, just have it all for $1.90 for tasting portions (available for most dishes).
Noodle Cafe is owned by three Thai women in their 30s who married Singaporeans and settled here. Having learnt the recipe from one of the famous boat noodle stalls in the Victory Monument area in Bangkok, they wanted to bring it to their new home, explains Mr Ho.
The first outlet to offer boat noodles in November, Noodle Cafe has influenced a host of other stalls opening around it and serving the same, but not many can boast the kind of crowds that gather outside the cafe - which can seat 30 people at a time - every day.
Says Mr Ho, 30: "The outlet is actually quite small, so we decided to open another one in April with more space that's wheelchair-accessible and child-friendly. It even has outdoor seating."
The 48-seat cafe at Sim Lim Square is modelled on the success of the former. Its chefs are deployed only after six weeks of training at the main outlet, four of which focus on getting the soup base right. "We're proud of being the most authentic boat noodle place in Singapore, and we really make sure we maintain the quality so our customers come back for more," adds Mr Ho.
The Centrepoint, #01-63/64
11am to 10pm daily
Mak's Noodle, from the famed noodle chain in Hong Kong, opened to the public at 3pm on Saturday. Mak's Noodle here is a joint venture between third-generation owner Tony Yung and new food and beverage company Asia Gourmet.
According to an earlier report, Mr Yung is the son-in-law of the second-generation owner, and his daughter will eventually take over the business.
Mak's Noodle, started in Guangzhou in 1920, has six outlets in Hong Kong. The chain is known for its springy noodles, served plain or with prawn roe, and its wonton, packed with chunky prawns.
For its Singapore outlet, the noodles and wonton skin will be imported from Hong Kong. Chef Dicky Chen, who comes from the Wellington Street outlet, is manning the kitchen here for two years.
A bowl of wonton noodles costs $6.90, while the most expensive item on the menu is a side dish of beef brisket and beef tendon for $16.50.
When The Business Times Weekend visited the 900 sq ft, 40-seat restaurant on Friday, it was open to friends who were seen sampling the beef brisket noodles.
Shoppers who were passing by were invited to sample a bowl of wonton noodle soup. The noodles had the same bite and the dumplings were full of chopped prawns. With chef Chen at the helm, the food should be of the same quality as the Hong Kong outlets.
If it takes off the way Tim Ho Wan did in Singapore, wonton noodles might well be the next big thing after ramen. Time will tell, but Mak's Noodle is already prepared - it opens its second outlet at Westgate next month.
THE BUSINESS TIMES