Food Picks: Handmade noodles, Hainanese fare

SPH Brightcove Video
Unlike many stalls which sell factory-supplied handmade noodles, Zhen Porridge & Handmade Noodle in Bedok North serves up noodles that are made from scratch.

Comforting handmade noodles

Unlike many stalls which serve factory-supplied handmade noodles, the noodles at Zhen Porridge & Handmade Noodle in Bedok North are made from scratch in-house daily.

Stall owner Chong Hong Chun, who is from Ipoh, prepares a fresh batch of dough daily, using a pasta maker to roll out the dough and cut the noodles to order.

The star dish is not on the menu, but regulars know to order the Handmade U-mian. For $3.50, you get a choice of either marinated minced pork collar or shredded chicken meat. The noodles, which are cooked al dente, come with an egg.

Madam Chong, 62, insists on using young spinach, which is tender but costlier than standard spinach. She switched to spinach from cai xin about 10 years ago, after a trip home to Ipoh. There, she noticed that ban mian stalls used spinach in their soups.

Her broth is flavoursome and sweet from the use of premium grade whole ikan bilis, pork bones and chicken bones, which are simmered for three hours.

She fries deboned ikan bilis of the same grade to use as a topping. Premium grade ikan bilis are cleaner and have a lower salt content.

Another must-try dish is Mee Hoon Kueh ($3.50). While the ingredients for the soup are the same as the U-mian's, the jagged squares of hand-torn noodles offer a different texture and mouthfeel. They are tender yet chewy.

The glistening squares are so smooth, it is difficult to grip them with chopsticks.

The stall also serves Hong Kong Style Porridge ($4.30) and Pork Porridge ($3.50). Each bowl comes with an egg. Add a century egg for $0.50.

Where: Zhen Porridge & Handmade Noodle, 01-142, Block 123 Bedok North Street 2

MRT: Tanah Merah

Open: 7.15am to 7pm daily

Generous portions of Hainanese fare

Hainanese Curry Rice, Hainanese Pork Chop, Prawn Cake and Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew at British Hainan. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Fans of casual home dining eatery British Hainan will be pleased that it has a new outlet in Purvis Street, which used to be part of a Hainanese enclave.

It serves a selection of signature favourites from its sister outlets in Carpmael Road and Kallang Way.

The top dish is Hainanese Curry Rice ($15.80+), which comes with generous portions of chap chye, braised pork belly and crispy pork chop doused in a thick housemade curry that is packed with spices. The accompanying plain rice was a tad too mushy, though.

Hainanese Pork Chop ($14.90+) is not made with traditional biscuit crumbs. Owner Frederick Puah says it is difficult to get cream crackers with the pale, near-white colour, like those used by his father who worked as a cook for the British during colonial times.

Instead, the 64-year-old uses breadcrumbs, which result in pork chops with an ultra crispy exterior, similar to well-made Japanese tonkatsu.

Australian pork shoulder is marinated overnight in sesame oil, salt, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce. The meat is seared before it is dipped in batter, coated with breadcrumbs and fried to order.

So customers can enjoy the crispy crust, Mr Puah covers the pork chop only partially with gravy.

Mr Puah is particularly proud of his Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew ($29.90+). The gravy is naturally thickened with Japanese sweet potatoes, which are steamed with skins on and then blended with olive oil and butter.

The oxtail is slow-cooked for up to seven hours over low heat. Each piece holds its shape when plated but is fork-tender. While I find the oxtail's odour too overpowering, Mr Puah says most of his regular customers like the strong flavour.

The stew, cooked with fresh tomatoes and tomato puree, is tangy.

Hainanese Chap Chye ($10+)- a simple combination of fried white cabbage, ground dried prawn, woodear mushroom and dried beancurd sticks - has the nostalgic taste of grandma's cooking.

Prawn Cakes ($12+) are housemade and the bouncy prawn filling goes well with the crispy exterior.

Accompany your meal with Hainan Brew Black Coffee ($4+), which is made with coffee powder from Batu Pahat in Johor. The beans are roasted the traditional way with butter and sugar. The resulting coffee has no trace of bitterness.

Seats are limited - 38 indoors and six outdoors - so it is best to make reservations. Also, be prepared to wait for your food as the eatery is facing teething manpower issues.

Where: British Hainan, 23 Purvis Street

MRT: City Hall

Open: 11am to 3pm; 6 to 10pm daily. Closed on Tuesdays

Tel: 6977-9711 or 9633-8122

Follow Hedy Khoo on Instagram @hedchefhedykhoo, and Straits Times Food on Instagram and Facebook @straitstimesfood

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.