My friend Bryan (of Food & Fun Johor) and I recently paid a visit to the Ngew Seng Kwi 阿贵 prawn noodles stall at the third storey food centre at JB's Larkin bus station.
Ah Kwi's humble stall is one of the oldest prawn mee stalls in Johor.
Ah Kwi's dad used to run his prawn mee stall on a push cart in 1950s Singapore. One day in 1964, Ah Kwi's dad pushed his push cart stall right across the Causeway and settled down along Jalan Wong Ah Fook in Johor Bahru.
In a twist of fate, that was simply how the only authentic Singapore style prawn mee left today, ended up in Johor Bahru.
This is Ah Kwi in 1971. The stall had neither electricity nor running water. Ah Kwi's prawn mee push cart stall remained in Jalan Wong Ah Fook until they were moved to Larkin in 1995 to make way for JB downtown redevelopment.
Looking at Ah Kwi today, the man hasn't aged that much. Guess his secret for staying youthful is his friendliness and cheerfulness.
For Ah Kwi's stall, I suspect not much has changed since the 1970s except, of course, the location, convenience of electricity and running water, and needless to say, the price.
When I was a child in Singapore's old Toa Payoh lorong 5, we used to buy our Singapore prawn mee from the food centre nearby. We would eat the noodles for lunch, and save the soup which we will add rice inside, and that will be our dinner. We were happy because the deep brownish hued, tea like prawn broth was so, so tasty.
Ah Kwi's prawn mee is not quite the Toa Payoh prawn mee of the 1970s but it is probably as close to old style Singapore prawn mee as you can get in JB, or for that matter, Singapore today.
The main ingredients of Ah Kwi's prawn mee are of course prawns and then there are also thin slices of pork. The pork slices were slightly firm and its flavour was likeable though unremarkable.
The stars were, of course, Ah Kwi's prawns. Ah Kwi uses fresh sea prawns from nearby Pontian, which he bought from the Larkin wet market downstairs. And, Ah Kwi prepares his prawns in the time honoured laid back way. Ah Kwi keeps the fresh prawns chilled in a small container of ice water and cooks a handful only when there is an order.
This is NOT Ah Kwi's way
This photo shows how it is done at the average prawn mee stall (not Ah Kwi). The prawns are normally cooked and shelled in bulk, leaving the shelled prawns exposed to air until they are sold and eaten, sometimes hours later.
Here, Ah Kwi shells his prawns one by one and serves them to the customer right away.
Bear with me as I parade more shots of the prawns :)) I just love them, these plump juicy fresh sea prawns from Ah Kwi.
Ah Kwi's broth is a blend of pork and prawn stock with the latter being the dominant flavour. The savoury umami flavour from the sea prawns was robust.
Chili padi lovers, remember to ask Ah Kwi for this green chili padi. These little fire crackers are stinging hot and let go a pleasant fragrance when we bite into its crunchy pulp.
Like his prawns, Ah Kwi cut his chili padi only when there is an order. In this way, the customer gets fragrant fresh cut chili rather than those "rusty" oxidised and shrivelled ones we normally get elsewhere.
For friends who may be interested, Singapore Media Corp artistes are sometimes seen at Larkin in search of the old style Singapore prawn noodles at Ngew Seng Kwi stall.
Larkin bus station food centre has several interesting old food stalls that had been here for many years. The environment is bright and clean. I will be here, food spotting for a few more times.
->> If you are a Singapore old timer and want to reconnect with the old Singapore prawn mee, you got to come here.
Thanks brother Bryan for the good food tip off.
Restaurant name: Ngew Seng Kwi 阿贵 (prawn mee stall)
Address: Larkin Bus Station Food Centre, 3rd storey
Hours: 11:30am to 2:30pm
Date visited: 31 Jan 2013
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