Sunday, 29 June 2014
Singapore Hokkien Mee at Swee Guan at Geylang Lor 29 水源福建面
Hokkien mee is one of my favourite uniquely Singapore dishes. Not as ubiquitous in Singapore as chicken rice or char kway teow, and even rarer outside of the sunny island. Hokkien mee is probably one of Singapore's least exported local dishes.
Even in Singapore, the number of Hokkien mee stalls are dwindling steadily and good ones now number fewer than the fingers on one hand.
Swee Guan is one of my long time favourites, long before my blogging days.
Ironically, the Hokkien mee that left the deepest impression on me was one that I had never eaten before.
My dad, whenever he was free, used to take me on his precious little Honda cub and pillioned me around the island for his favourite food. Dad raved about a certain Hokkien mee seller who was lame and cooked his Hokkien mee over charcoal fire sitting down.
I remember we went to this Hokkien mee stall late at night around the Lavender or Serangoon area in the late 1960s - I can't remember exactly as it was over 40 years ago. I only remembered the uncle cooking sitting down, the unforgettable aroma and the sight of those last packets wrapped in opeh leaf taken away by other waiting customers.
We didn't get to eat the Hokkien mee that night as it was sold out by the time we arrived :((
Fast forward to Swee Guan in Geylang Lor 29 today.
Swee Guan Hokkien Mee 水源福建面 is a stall in Sing Lian Eating House. If you look at the above picture, you can see the queue stretching across the entire length of the coffee shop.
Fortunately, the queue clears quite fast. We got our plate of delicious Hokkien mee within 30 minutes.
The gracious boss let me photograph him at work :D
The boss making the stock that is at the heart of Hokkien mee.
Swee Guan still uses charcoal fire, honouring the tradition of the boss' father who founded the stall in 1968. (Swee Guan is the name of the current boss.)
Once the stock was ready, the boss tossed in heaps of bean sprouts, bee hoon and yellow noodles piled on top of each other.
The boss splashed several scoopfuls of prawn stock onto the huge mound of bean sprouts, bee hoon and yellow noodles which dwarfed the charcoal fired wok.
The boss made it looked easy but frying the oversize mound of noodles in the "tiny" wok is no mean feat. The boss said he was frying Hokkien mee since 1979. That's 35 years of experience at the wok!
Our SGD8 plate of Hokkien mee. Not very photogenic and photo bombed by the double dollop of sambal chilli (that looked like awkward bunny ears) :P
But, we knew Swee Guan Hokkien mee well enough to know that behind the unkempt and frumpy appearance, is a dish loaded with character, depth, flavour and taste.
Swee Guan's noodles were cooked to the right doneness. The noodles wet with the savoury gooey gravy were tender but not mushy.
The gravy had good round body and a rich, deep, layered savoury flavour nicely balanced with a slight sweetness.
I love this.
The ingredients were quite sparse. There were small bits of chopped squid, some pork lard crackles but no pork belly strips (which most other Hokkien mee stalls have).
But, there were 5 good size fresh succulent prawns though they lacked flavour as they were probably pond bred.
The mildly spicy sambal chilli was good, though not extraordinary.
Nevertheless, I am more than willing to overlook all these little shortcomings as I am totally in love with Swee Guan Hokkien mee's texture and unique gravy.
Surely one of the best 5 Hokkien mee stalls in Singapore, in my book :D
Restaurant name: Swee Guan Hokkien Mee 水源福建面 (stall in Sing Lian Eating House)
Address: 549, Geylang Lorong 29, Singapore
Hours: 4:30 pm to 11:00 pm (Closed on Weds)
Date visited: 30 Jun 2014
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