If instant noodles were not so bad for health, I would eat them all the time.
There is something so comforting about a bowl of hot soupy instant noodles, never mind that it is usually full of artificial flavouring.
I often indulge in a bowl after a long day at work on Fridays, when we are especially busy in the newsroom. For me, it is the perfect supper meal.
Evidently, many people feel the same way.
A friend tells me of a popular coffee shop stall in Bukit Panjang that is known for serving instant noodles in the middle of the night (it opens at 2am).
That stall is apparently such a hit with the post-clubbing crowd that the average waiting time for a bowl of noodles is more than an hour.
My curiosity is piqued, but the thought of making a trip all the way to the west in the wee hours of the morning is not appealing.
Can any bowl of instant noodles be worth the trek when I can cook my own?
After a Google search, I discover that the stall has another outlet in a Yishun coffee shop. This branch opens at 6am and caters to the breakfast crowd.
I decide to venture to this one on a weekday morning and see whether it lives up to the hype.
HAI XIAN ZHU ZHOU
Address: Choh Dee Place, 233 Yishun Street 21;
Open: 6am to 3pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), closed on Wednesdays
Some people may find it difficult to locate the stall in the coffee shop at first. The stall's name, Hai Xian Zhu Zhou, means cooked seafood porridge in Mandarin. It does not help that the sign on top reads "'porridge".
And while the stall does offer a variety of porridge bowls (from $3.50 a bowl), no one in the eight-person queue that morning orders porridge. Everyone is there for the noodles.
The stall uses the Koka brand of instant noodles, but the broth is made in-house and not from the instant soup packets.
I order the pork noodles with egg ($4; $3.50 without egg), and it is ready in about 10 minutes. I collect the bowl from the counter and am pleasantly surprised to see it is filled with so many ingredients that the noodles are almost entirely hidden from view.
Besides tender pork slices, the bowl is also topped with generous helpings of green vegetables, minced meat and thick chunks of pork liver. Liver can sometimes be chewy and overcooked, but here, it is perfect.
I sip the pork broth and it is much lighter than it looks. It is even a little bland - perhaps I had been expecting it to be as salty as the typical instant noodle soup from the packet.
At least this version tastes a lot healthier. I still prefer my own MSG-laden version of instant noodles any day, but this would be a good alternative for when I crave instant noodles and don't want the guilt that comes with eating it.