It is no coincidence that one of the first hawker stalls ever to boast a Michelin star serves Bak Chor Mee — a humble noodle and pork dish rumoured to be of Teochew origin and now wholly adopted by Singapore.
Springy noodles are tossed in a salty-sour sauce of black vinegar, pork lard, chilli and soy sauce, and topped with marinated minced pork plus a host of other ingredients. It has to be culinary alchemy of some kind because a bowl of Bak Chor Mee is so much more than the sum of its parts. Complex in taste, it is a conduit to childhood nostalgia, delicious sustenance in the middle of an office day, or sometimes, a semblance of control. When nothing else in life seems to be moving to your will, there’s a bowl of comforting Bak Chor Mee, waiting to be ordered just the way you like it. Dry or broth-y? Thin egg-noodle (mee kia) or flat (mee pok)? Pork heavy—what many call the purist version—with sliced pork, pork liver, pork balls, and pork dumplings, or perhaps, the fish-leaning version with sliced fish cake, fish balls and fish dumpling (herh keow)?
In Singapore, partisan politics don’t evoke as much contention as the debate over which is the best Bak Chor Mee stall. And there is much to pick from. Almost every hawker centre, coffee shop, and food court has a minced pork noodle stall, sometimes two. Local aficionados hotly debate over the good ones, comparing notes on the texture of the noodles, the right balance of condiments in the sauce and just how perfectly the minced pork is cooked. The best stalls often have wait times extending more than an hour and they’re always worth the wait.
In this latest episode of Makan Makan Faceoff, we follow Chef Mac to his favorite Bak Chor Mee stall—Boon Kee Noodle Store in Tong Bee Coffee Shop at Jalan Senang. For more than 40 years, the same family has served regulars bowl after bowl of Bak Chor Mee, with beautifully marinated minced pork, bouncy saito fishballs made with yellowtail, tender yet toothsome noodles and a side of soup. Watch the video and be ready to salivate!
MAKAN MAKAN FACE OFF is a new video series in which we celebrate & feature local hawker food! (or other cool food places, really)