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Bao Luo Fen Noodle 抱罗粉 ● Famous Noodle from Wenchang Hainan

When I went to Hainan in China, I had in mind to get to the roots of Hainanese cuisine in Singapore and Malaysia. There's Wenchang chicken, the mother of Singapore Hainanese chicken rice. Then, there's Hainanese beef noodle, which is near extinction in Singapore.

During this 10 days which I covered Haikou, Wenchang, Qionghai, and Sanya, I didn't come across Hainanese beef noodle like those in old Singapore. The closest I could get was Bao Luo fen or literally rice noodle from Bao Luo town which is commonly found in all the cities I went to during this trip.

Tiny Bao Luo town 抱罗镇 is in Wenchang county, midway between Haikou city and Wenchang city.

Bao Luo fen stalls and small restaurants are quite common in the cities I visited in Hainan. They are open for breakfast and lunch.

As well as dinner and supper.

I gravitate towards hyperlocal experiences enjoying local favourites with locals 🤭

Bao Luo fen is a humble dish though I hesitate to say simple as the noodles are handmade and the fried beef is like a non spicy form of rendang.

When the bowl of Bao Luo fen is served, the thick round handmade rice noodles and bean sprouts are barely visible, smothered by a thick dark sauce with a gleaming surface. Toppings include julienned bamboo shoot, chopped preserved vegetables, coriander, scallion, beef and peanut.

All humble ingredients. A bowl goes for RMB10 to RMB15 in 2023.

The best thing for me in the bowl is the rice noodle. These are freshly made from ground rice, the rice paste is hand pressed through a sieve with large holes to make the thick, round rice noodle.

The soft, slurpy slippery smooth, thick noodles were mind blowing delicious.
I can taste the subtle rice sweetness. The thin film of savoury sweet slightly tangy sauce blends well and complements the noodles perfectly.

Bao Luo fen sauce is a blend of fermented bean paste, red fermented bean curd (nam yu 南乳), dark sauce sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese 5 spice, brown sugar, etc. (Every hawker has their own variation.)

The julienned bamboo shoot and sweet savoury preserved vegetables add tang and crunch to the bowl of noodles.

The noodles are eaten with fried beef or dried beef depending on the stall or eatery. It is like beef jerky, and tastes savoury sweet.

The fried beef is made by marinating beef slices with Bao Luo fen sauce and stir frying them until dry.

There's option for fried pork. Softer and lighter savoury sweet flavour compared to beef.

There's also a clear beef or pork soup version instead of the gooey starch dark sauce. I didn't try this version.

There is no fresh meat version so I am not sure how or if Bao Luo fen is related with Singapore Hainanese beef noodle (if at all).

There's option to spice up the noodles with hot chili sauce.

When you come to Hainan, besides Wenchang chicken, you may also like to check out Bao Luo fen noodle. For me, it's a memorable flavour and taste of Hainan island at the same level as Wenchang chicken.

When you come to Hainan, like it or not, you must not miss Wenchang chicken 🐔

Written by Tony Boey on 28 May 2023

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