Back at my favourite Hong Wen Mutton Soup today. I used to eat at Hong Wen regularly when I worked nearby. This mutton soup was also our reward when we finished climbing Bukit Timah Hill on weekends. We like Hong Wen's unapologetic lamb gaminess and strong herbal taste :-D
You will rarely see a snaking queue at Hong Wen Mutton Soup - just a steady stream of loyal fans who kept Mr Tan busy for the last 50 years. (Mr Tan's father founded Hong Wen at the long demolished old Seventh Mile market 七英里 50+ years ago. Mr Tan's elder brother runs the other Hong Wen stall at nearby Bukit Timah Food Centre.)
The youthful looking Mr Tan said that Hong Wen serves the Teochew style of mutton soup. It differs from the Hainanese version by being more herbal and does not use taupok (fried bean curd). Mr Tan's looks hasn't changed much over the last two decades! I am envious.
I found the sight of stacks of lamb ribs irresistibly seductive especially with lamb and herb aroma hanging in the air.
Mr Tan also plays 1970s vintage Taiwanese love ballads blaring out from his stall. The Yu Tian 余天 songs added to the dining experience at Hong Wen which fans are mainly baby boomers.
Hong Wen uses New Zealand lamb, preferred for its texture, flavour and aroma. This justifies the relatively high price for Hong Wen's mutton soup which starts at SGD5 per bowl.
We ordered the largest SGD8 bowl of mutton soup with (good quality) fragrant rice at fifty cents per bowl.
The broth was surprisingly clean tasting and much less greasy than I remembered it. I like the broth's robust sweet, herbal and gamey flavours balanced by slight savouriness. There was also the distinct taste of rice wine and vinegar. There were also lots of shredded fresh ginger and a heap of cilantro to balance the robust gamey taste.
The lamb meat is tender and juicy with pronounced lamb flavour. Mr Tan shaved off most of the fat.
I like the tender bounce and chew of the lamb stomach.
We drank the mutton soup to the last drop which only set off a craving that can only be resolved with an immediate follow on order of a second SGD8 bowl.
This good old style mutton soup appeals to a niche but loyal market. We won't be seeing a craze for it like the salted egg yolk croissant phenomenon. But, food fads come and go like dew in the morning. Foods like Chinese mutton soup are much more resilient (we hope). We have to be mindful that it does not slip into a long slow slide into oblivion because we didn't nurture a new generation of Chinese mutton soup lovers.
Hong Wen Mutton Soup at Beauty World won't win any popularity contest but it's signature taste has it's die harder fans who are fiercely loyal.
->> This is one of my favourite Chinese style mutton soup at the moment.
Restaurant name: Hong Wen Mutton Soup 紅炆羊肉湯
Address: Level 4, Stall 04-20, Beauty World Centre, 144 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588177
GPS: 1.342314, 103.775798 / 1°20'32.3"N 103°46'32.9"E
Tel: +65 9889 8948
Hours: 11:00am to 8:00pm (daily)
Date: 28 Feb 2016
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