Simpang Bedok is shaping up to be a hot spot for mee pok fans.
There are three stalls selling the noodle dish tossed in chilli sauce and one more is opening later this month.
The three existing stalls, which are in coffee shops just a short walk away from one another in Simpang Bedok, are Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim, Ming Fa Fishball and Jalan Tua Kong Ah Lim.
A fourth outlet will be opened by the owner of Jalan Tua Kong Ah Lim.
Called Ah Lim Mee Pok, the airconditioned casual restaurant will sell zi char dishes as well as its signature mee pok, but with premium ingredients such as abalone. The standalone unit can seat 100 diners indoors and outdoors.
The new outlet will add to the mee pok battle which has been brewing for a decade in the area.
In January 2006, The Sunday Times reported on a similar mee pok war, where four brands - located from East Coast Road to Bedok Road - were vying for attention.
That fight included Lau Lim, as well as the original Ah Lim, which is still located at Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop in Jalan Tua Kong, along Upper East Coast Road.
In Simpang Bedok, the pioneer is Mr Lim Kim Heong, 49, who has been running Lau Lim with his wife, Ms Linda Goh, 44, since 2004.
He is unfazed by the competition and admits that he may have lost customers to the other mee pok stalls, especially when diners are unwilling to wait for their food.
"But those who prefer our noodles and chilli will still return to us," he says in Mandarin.
On Ah Lim opening its new branch, he says: "We don't need to be scared of them. Since they decided to open two in the same area, they are fighting with themselves. I have my own regular customers."
He picked up his deft mee pok cooking skills from the founder of 132 Mee Pok Kway Teow Mee, Mr Chan Sek Inn, who is said to have trained other mee pok hawkers too. 132 Mee Pok is currently located in Marine Terrace.
Ah Lim's second-generation owner Jeffrey Lim, 39, has been selling noodles in Simpang Bedok since 2005 and, in addition to mee pok, he will also serve zi char dishes at his new shop.
Currently, the foodie enclave is buzzing with halal eateries such as supper haunt Spize, as well as the revamped hawker centre called The Bedok Marketplace.
Mr Lim says in Mandarin: "We felt that serving zi char dishes would be suitable for this area. So the new Ah Lim's will cater to those looking for something different, as well as fans of our mee pok."
The eatery's signboard features a caricature of Mr Lim's father, Mr Lim Teck Seng, 67, who has retired.
The senior Mr Lim's hawker days date back to 1962, when he sold everything from noodles to rice dishes.
The younger Mr Lim has an elder brother and younger sister, both of whom are not in the business.
He does not rule out an expansion of the zi char concept and introducing more air-conditioned outlets in other locations, as well as opening a central kitchen.
Ming Fa Fishball has also been expanding and has nine stalls selling a range of noodle dishes including laksa and bak chor mee.
The chain has branches in Upper Thomson Road, Chai Chee Road and Chinatown, where it first started as a pushcart in 1946 selling fishballs. It also has a central kitchen in Defu Lane which produces items such as fishballs and sauces.
Ming Fa was started by the late Lim Chye Kang and the brand is now run by his grandson and third-generation owner Jerome Lim, 29. The junior Mr Lim's father, Mr Lim Gek Meng, 64, is semi-retired.
Calling Simpang Bedok an "eating village", Mr Jerome Lim says the other mee pok men are not his only competitors.
He says: "Lau Lim and Ah Lim are very strong players and they have their own pool of customers. Plus, the competition is heating up as diners have lots of food options to choose from. This pushes us to ensure quality food at reasonable prices."
The mee pok battle aside, diners whom SundayLife! spoke to just want to slurp up noodles from their favourite stalls.
Company director Tea Yeow Chong, 43, has been a loyal follower of Lau Lim, since its days in Jalan Tua Kong.
Mr Tea, who eats there at least once a week, says: "I feel the standard of the mee pok is still the same as before. I started ordering the biggest portion because sometimes, the waiting time can be up to 45 minutes and I would be hungry by then. Now, that is my standard order.
"I've tried the other stalls in the area, but I feel that their mee pok cannot compare with Lau Lim's. I love Lau Lim's soup and spicy chilli."
Taxi driver Robert Tan, 56, who was at Ming Fa Fishball, says in Mandarin: "This is my favourite mee pok because I feel that it is not as spicy as the others and the noodle is cooked well. When I'm in the area, I'll drive by for a bowl."
Some customers, such as Mr Darren Yam, 27, who runs a transport and logistics company, are still confused by the stall names.
He says: "At first, I thought all the stalls might be run by the same owners. My preference is Ah Lim as I've tried it before and stuck to it. I don't mind trying its new outlet when it opens. At least I will have other options."
But for long-time resident Evelyn Yap, 53, who has frequented the area for the past 15 years, the arrival of a new contender will add to her parking woes.
She says: "I hope the authorities will improve the parking situation in the area. In addition to the hawker dining crowd, there is also the supermarket crowd to contend with. Residents in this area deserve better parking options."
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