Cheap & Good

Food review: Gravy makes Yong Ji's hokkien mee good till last bite

Yong Ji, a Hokkien mee stall in Albert Centre, does not open until 11am.

But for Mr Zheng Zhiqiang, a cook from China who tends the stall, the day starts at 7am, when he makes stock for Hokkien mee from prawns and various pig parts from skin to bone.

By the time the stall opens near lunchtime, the stock has simmered for hours. Ladled into a hot wok over noodles, whole prawns, sliced squid and sliced pork, the stock thickens further, transforming into the all-important gravy that Hokkien mee lives or dies by.

Flavourful, sticky but not gummy, the gravy holds the dish together and keeps it good till the last bite.

Around the gravy, the noodles, shrimps, squid and pork - cooked with care and control by Mr Zheng - are as they should be, and a splash of tart chilli sauce adds heat to the dish.

Incidentally, Mr Zheng, who was born in Fujian province and speaks Hokkien-accented Mandarin which is hard to distinguish from the local accent, didn't grow up on Hokkien mee.

"I learnt it here," the 26-year-old permanent resident says of the dish, which was created in Singapore and Malaysia in varying versions by his predecessors, early immigrants from Fujian.

For the record, he follows a recipe by his Singaporean employer, Mr C Gim Teck, who runs another Hokkien mee stall in Redhill Market.

Mr C, 44, who oversees a vat of prawn and pork stock at his other stall, sums up his method: "We don't cut corners. Everything that should be in the dish is in it."

woeiwan@sph.com.sg