Such is the lure of these noodles that on my most recent visit there, I meet two foodie friends, spiffy in their office togs, who live nowhere close but have stopped by for a bowl before work.
You will be asked when you order if you want chilli and ketchup. Say yes to the chilli, no to the ketchup.
It will overwhelm the perky chilli sauce, which clings beautifully to the strands of beehoon, my choice for prawn mee because I am not fond of yellow noodles.
Compared to those Rococo bowls of prawn mee, these noodles seem almost plain, but all the necessary components are there: a decent number of halved prawns, sliced lean pork and the twin pleasures of crisp lard pieces and deep-fried shallots.
Somehow, the chilli, pork fat and shallots mingle to make magic on the palate. There is crunch, there is spice, there is lard, there is umami. There is nothing more that anyone needs.
The accompanying bowl of soup could have a deeper flavour, to be sure, and as the day goes on, it will concentrate as it simmers in the pot. But it is just rich enough at 7.30am.
I marvel at how a humble dish can be so nuanced. But that is the great triumph of our hawker food. Often, the dishes look like random ingredients chucked on a plate or bowl. One of my teachers in junior college once described char kway teow as a "road accident on a plate".
The class laughed raucously, but as I get older, I appreciate that the skill it takes to turn simple ingredients into food that connects with the soul is immense.
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.