In my hunt for the best ban mian, I thought I had tried all possible variations from dry to tom yam to Malaysian-style.
Then Ms Koh Li Keng, whom I interviewed in 2010 for a story on vegan families, sent me a text message recommending Xuan Miao Vegan's ban mian in Paya Lebar Square.
The carnivore in me was immediately sceptical, although the vegan said the stall is popular among non-vegetarians as well.
No meat? How would the soup taste? No ikan bilis too? But I admit I was intrigued and had to give it a shot.
After a quick Google search, I found out that the stall has had a steady following since its days in Circuit Road Food Centre.
XUAN MIAO VEGAN
Cantine Food Court, B1-51 Paya Lebar Square, 60 Paya Lebar Road (Vegetarian Cuisine)
Open: 10am to 9.30pm daily
Rating: 3 stars
It also has an outlet at Block 735 Pasir Ris Street 72. True enough, there was a constant stream of customers at the halal-certified stall in Paya Lebar Square's Cantine food court.
I joined the queue and ordered the vegetarian you mian ($5). Other noodle options include ban mian, bee hoon and mee hoon kueh.
My order came with a generous portion of spinach, vegetarian fish maw and mock meat slices.
The bowl was topped with what looked like mock ikan bilis, and it was fried sliced mushrooms. It is my favourite part of the dish for its much needed crunch and the salty flavour I normally associate with the ikan bilis.
I had high hopes for the soup, but I found it to be rather bland. Even without the use of fish, chicken or pork for a stock, a soup made with corn, carrot or soya beans can taste good.
What made up for the soup was the spicy chilli sauce, which had a sour kick to it. I added it to my spoonfuls of noodle and dipped the fried mushrooms and other ingredients into it. Do note that the chilli sauce contains garlic.
The dry ban mian ($5.50) option is also popular as the noodles come tossed in a dark, slightly vinegared sauce, served with a side of the soup and mock meats.
While Xuan Miao does not serve the usual ban mian, it is a good vegetarian alternative.
But I think this is as far as I will go with a vegetarian diet.
I notice a small menu on the counter stating that the stall also sells vegetarian bak kut teh ($6) and vegetarian chicken rice ($5).
I consider ordering them, but chicken out.