Cheap & Good

Wonton mee from a 70-year-old recipe

When the queue for a hawker stall is perennially long, it usually means the food it serves is pretty good.

At Yi Shi Jia Wanton Mee stall at Kovan 209 Market & Food Centre, the snaking line of customers never ceases, even on weekday afternoons.

While the stall serves above- average wonton noodles, I soon learn that customers also keep going back for more sentimental reasons.

The family-owned business has been around for more than 70 years, dating back to the 1940s when it was a street stall in a Kovan alleyway.

When it moved to its permanent location at the Kovan food centre in 1982, the Cantonese Tung family, which runs the business, was adamant about sticking to the same recipe and using the same techniques. That means people living in the Kovan neighbourhood have been eating the noodles for decades and it is a common sight to see multi-generational families enjoying them together.

The stall sells wonton mee soup as well as three dry versions (above, from $3 each) - with sweet tomato sauce, spicy chilli sauce or dark soya sauce. The boss, Mr Tung Mun Keong, 61, says he sells more than 300 plates each day, with the chilli sauce version being the hot seller.


    Kovan 209 Market & Food Centre, Block 209 Hougang Street 21, 01-57, open: 7.30am to 4.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday

    Rating: 3.5/5 stars

But my go-to order is the dark soya sauce version, which is similar to Kuala Lumpur-style wonton noodles.

The generous serving of noodles is always cooked perfectly al dente and best eaten with pickled green chillies. However, the char siew on top of the noodles is too lean and dry for my liking.

Each dish comes with two small wontons in soup on the side and they are packed with flavour despite their size. Handmade every day, each ultra-thin-skinned wonton contains succulent minced pork. Occasionally, I opt for more wontons instead of having char siew.

The soup, made with ikan bilis and pork bones, tastes slightly fishy, but is comforting nonetheless. Mr Tung says there is no MSG in the broth, adding that the flavour enhancer is a "huge taboo".

Even though I moved to Kovan only five years ago, I have already made it a point to eat a plate of these wonton noodles every Sunday. I may end up becoming yet another Kovan resident who eats this for years to come.

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'Wonton mee from a 70-year-old recipe'. Subscribe