Tony Johor Kaki Travels for Food · Heritage · Culture · History

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Origin & Father of Bak Chor Mee. Singapore Hawker Culture Heritage 新加坡肉脞面的历史.驼背面


Bak chor mee or minced meat noodle stalls are everywhere in Singapore, yet are less heralded than chicken rice, bak kut teh, Nyonya laksa etc. The humble bak chor mee has been in Singapore for nearly 100 years though its present forms have evolved much from its original version. The original, that "father of bak chor mee" is a uniquely Singapore dish, a truly intangible cultural heritage.


Bak chor mee is Hokkien for minced meat noodles and it is literally just that.

It's a bowl of pork bone soup, a clutch of noodles topped with blanched minced pork, wanton (minced pork dumpling) and garnished with fried garlic, scallion, coriander, and bak pok (lard crouton). The dish is flavoured with Teochew fish sauce.

This most basic form of bak chor mee first appeared in the Chai Chee area (in the east of Singapore) in the 1920s. The dish was sold by one of the two-basket hawkers who carried their kitchen, charcoal stove and all ingredients on their shoulders and walked the streets to hawk their food.

From such a rudimentary stall set up, the food was by necessity, simple. Customers at that time too couldn't afford much. (Image of street hawkers in 1920s Singapore courtesy of NAS.)

陈联福 from Zhao'an county in China's Fujian province went to Chaozhou city in Guangdong province in the late 1910s. There he learnt the trade and became a noodle hawker.

In the 1920s, 陈联福 came to Singapore. He settled in the Chai Chee area and did what he knew best - sell bak chor mee. 陈联福's version of bak chor mee is unique to Singapore. It is found neither in Zhao'an nor Chaozhou. It is also not found across the Causeway in Johor Bahru, known also as "Little Swatow".

陈联福 will go to wherever his customers were, such as at wayang or street theatre shows. Carrying the kitchen and supplies on one's back is literally back breaking work. The heavy load caused 陈联福's back to bend, and his two-basket stall became known as 驼背面 "Hunchback Noodle". (Image of wayang courtesy of NAS.)


Hunchback's bak chor mee was well loved and had over the last nearly 100 years spawned dozens of BCM stalls in Chai Chee, Bedok, Tampines, Eunos ran by family and former workers. Today, there are eleven bak chor mee stalls run by 陈联福's descendants and former staff.

This stall at Hong Lee coffeeshop at block 7, Eunos Crescent just beside Eunos MRT station is run by Ler Jiewei, the great grandson of 陈联福 i.e. fifth generation of Hunchback noodle hawker.

It's been nearly 100 years, a lot of things have changed. Bak chor mee stalls now no longer ply the streets at the mercy of Singapore weather. The stalls are now in hawker centres or coffee shops with proper shelter, water supply, electricity and comfortable seats for customers. Customers have also became more affluent as Singapore progressed.


Over the years, on top of the original basic minced pork noodles, hawkers added fishball, pork ball, fried wanton, mushroom, scallop, even canned abalone.


A "dry" version emerged in the 1950s and is today more mainstream than "soup" bak chor mee.


Former banker Ler Jie Wei left his Shenton Way career, taking over his mother's bak chor mee stall at block 7, Eunos Crescent to preserve the legacy of his great grandfather's Hunchback Noodle.

Jie Wei still serves his great grandfather's original "father of Singapore bak chor mee" version.

I don't know.... personally, the story behind a dish adds another layer of flavour to the taste and so this most basic Hunchback bak chor mee is the most delicious to me even though it does not have scallop, oyster, abalone.


The clear soup that holds the dish together is made by slow boiling pork bones to extract the flavour from its marrow. It tastes gently savoury with subtle underlying sweetness.


Fresh minced marbled pork is cooked by blanching with the simmering hot pork soup. It is crucial to use fresh pork as its natural flavour adds a layer of natural sweetness to the savoury-sweet soup (but without any porky taste).


The wanton is made by wrapping minced fresh marbled pork with thin wheat flour dough. There is tee po (扁鱼 dried sole fish) inside to add a savoury flavour to the pork's natural sweetness.


The minced pork inside the wanton without its skin 😄 I took away the skin to show you the filling inside lah - we are supposed to eat the wanton together with the skin and meatball inside lah.... 😄


Small but crucial details. The caramelised fried garlic adds aroma and savouriness to the dish. There is also a slight toasty taste from the caramelisation.

The bak pok (lard crouton) adds a bit of crispness and lard's unique taste that takes the dish to the next level.


And, at the heart of it all, the noodles. Hunchback had only one type of noodle - slightly thicker than slender wanton noodles, and it was flat.

Eating it at Jie Wei's stall, the noodles were smooth and wasn't stiff, wasn't mushy but hit that golden sweet spot of tender chewiness. Chinese call it QQ, Ang Moh (Westerners) call it al dente.

The noodles had a subtle wheat sweetness if you pay very close attention. The special noodles also had a gentle saltiness which diffuse into the soup, giving it an added layer of flavour. The flat strands picked up the sweet savouriness of the soup very well, and together they were marvellously slurpy delicious.


In the early days, 陈联福 family stalls were ran by the men and the ladies would hand make the bak chor mee noodles at home from scratch. When business grew, 
陈联福 partnered a noodle maker to supply bak chor mee noodles according to his specification.  陈联福 passed his recipe to his noodle partner.


When 陈联福's noodle partner emigrated to Canada in the 1990s, the recipe was handed over to Lau Boon Heng Food Manufacturing in Chai Chee. Lau Boon Heng still faithfully makes bak chor mee according to Hunchback's specifications and supply them to all eleven of 陈联福's descendant stalls. Lau Boon Heng also make the skin for the wantons.


A dash of traditional Teochew fish sauce completes the dish with its signature robust savoury-saltiness.


Cut raw chili padi is optional but I found the hot sting which sharpens my taste buds enhances the taste of the soupy bak chor mee a lot.

I am working my way, eating through the 11 Hunchback related bak chor mee stalls. I will share my experience as I progress. Here is what I have done so far.

If you have any favourite or insights, please share with us in the comments.

Restaurant name: Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian 兴记肉脞面 👈 click
Address: 85, #01-07 Bedok North Road, S460085 (Fengshan Market & Food Centre)
Hours: 12:30pm - 12:30am (Thurs off)

Address: Block 7 Eunos Crescent, Singapore 400007 (inside Hong Lee coffee shop, steps from Eunos MRT station)
Tel: 8100 6553
Hours: 6:00am - 7:30pm

Date: 20 Oct 2020


  1. I like to see further what your experience on the other related hunchback BCM. I grew up in Bedok North in the mid 70s and Block 85 market BCM was the first BCM I know then. Quite a few of my friends those days work part time for that stall. Those days there was only three BCM in Bedok. The famous one in 85 in front that open at around 9pm and another one inside that open in the morning till afternoon. The other one is in Bedok South block 12 coffee shop.

    1. Yes yes looking forward to continue this bak chor mee exploration. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  2. Tony, good write up. Assume you will be trying both stalls at 58@Marketplace.

    If you haven't, do try and share your opinion. The popular stall opens only on Tues, Thurs, Sat & Sun. You will know which is popular by the queue. Opening hours 6am to about 1pm++. Personally I am willing to queue upto 45 mins for my noodles. The other stall at 58@Marketplace shares the back wall. I.e. stalls are back to back. Theres definitely a difference in taste.

    Recently found another similar stall at Simpang Bedok. Its at "The Bedok Marketplace", upper level. On top of the 24 hour Giant Supermart. One lady show. Not bad and opens late till 9pm.

    Looking forward to your reviews of the remaining stalls.



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