Cheap & Good

Indian Hokkien Mee with wok hei

The Indian Hokkien Mee comes with slivers of chicken and cubes of firm tofu.
The Indian Hokkien Mee comes with slivers of chicken and cubes of firm tofu.PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

So many hours of my day are spent in the office that at lunchtime, when I can get away, I try and go as far away from Toa Payoh North as possible.

I rarely eat near the office and when I do buy food from the office canteen, the vendors say they have not seen me in a long time.

Then a colleague tells me about the Indian Hokkien Mee that a coffee shop stall across from the office has started selling.

Indian Hokkien Mee? It sounds too intriguing to pass up.

The stall, simply called 786, got a little famous last year during the General Election, when the PAP's Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC candidate Chee Hong Tat posted a Facebook photo of himself eating its vadai.

  • 786 PRATA STALL

  • Block 203 Toa Payoh North, Hai Fong Restaurant, open: 6am to 1.45pm (weekday), 6am to noon (Saturday), closed on Sunday

    Rating: 3 stars

I have not had any of its food, so the Indian Hokkien Mee ($3.50) is a great introduction.

Like Hokkien mee, the Indian version is a mix of yellow noodles and beehoon. There is a lot of wok hei, but the noodles are also moist; a happy balance between the almost soupy style from some stalls and the very dry version that others serve.

What is different is that instead of prawns and pork, this version has slivers of chicken and cubes of firm tofu. A handful of greens round off the dish. It is served with some ceremony, with a salad of sliced cucumbers in what tastes like thinned-out ketchup, a fried egg and a very bracing chilli sauce which has belacan, ground-up anchovies and lemon juice in it.

The stall owner, Mr S.N. Raja, 65, whom my colleagues have nicknamed Sean Connery because they think he looks like the Scottish actor, says he came up with the dish because customers tell him they do not want very spicy food in the current heatwave.

He makes sure the noodles are a little "wet" so it does not hurt raspy throats. A food seller who listens to feedback and acts on it? That is laudable.

Maybe I should not lunch so far from the office after all. It might be time to try his vadai and I hear he makes a good briyani.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 27, 2016, with the headline 'Indian Hokkien Mee with wok hei'. Print Edition | Subscribe