ON THE MARK
It is pretty much a race to get into Mak's Noodle (01-63/64 The Centrepoint, tel: 6235-5778) before the very long queues form. So I get there about 20 minutes before the 11am opening time and find I am hardly the first in line. But the wait is pleasant because there are seats for waiting and before long, the early birds are ushered into the restaurant. The queue moves quickly too, because this is a place where you order, eat and go. No lingering here.
This Hong Kong wonton noodle institution does not warrant queuing up for hours, but it serves a pretty good bowl of Wonton Noodle Soup ($6.90).
The serving is tiny - the noodles and wontons are piled into a bowl about the size of the ones use for serving rice. But the noodles are thin and springy, and not full of gansui, as I had expected. In fact, it is barely discernible. Prawn-filled wontons are the signature and a friend who eats there a couple days before me says the prawns are very springy. Mine are less so but they are not bad at all.
Even better than the wontons are dumplings ($7.50 a bowl without noodles). The pork and prawn filling is generous and the dumplings have a lot of bite.
MUMMY'S THE BEST
After reading - and salivating over - my colleague Eunice Quek's review of Mummy's Mee Siam (01-3749, Block 161 Bukit Merah Central, Stall 3A), I decide I have to try it. So I find myself in Bukit Merah Central, ordering from the very compact menu. Since there are only three dishes, I order them all: Mee Siam, Mee Rebus and Lontong (all $3 a bowl).
My parents and I love the Mee Siam and Mee Rebus, although I have to say I prefer my mother's version more. Still, this one is very good. The little bit of coconut milk in the gravy makes it rich but not too rich. It is still wonderfully tangy. Just as good is the Mee Rebus with a thick, flavourful gravy. The generous sprinkling of fried shallots on top adds another layer of glorious flavour to the bowl. The Lontong is not bad too, with vegetables that are not cooked to mush. But it is a little oily. If they fix that, the dish will be perfect.
At a time when the hawker trade is in danger of fading as old hawkers retire, it is reassuring to know there are people wanting to go into what must surely be a hard slog job. Ms Lili Sng, 34, and her sister Denise, 45, quit their jobs to open the stall, serving food made from recipes by their mother Chew Siew Eng, 62. They put a lot of love into their food and it shows.
I know it is ironic to be waxing lyrical about luncheon meat in a column called MsPoshNosh but I have to confess, I sometimes hanker after slices of it, fried to a crisp.
That is how my mother would cook it, and we would have it with rice and vegetables for lunch. These days, when a luncheon meat craving hits, I make a sandwich. The bread must be white, soft and untoasted, everything I hate about bread, but which is very appropriate here. I used to spread butter on the slices but now, I use Japanese mayonnaise.The Kewpie brand is good. Oh and I have to have slices of crunchy cucumber in the sandwich too.
There are many brands of luncheon meat in supermarkets and growing up, we had either MaLing or Tulip. I buy Golden Bridge now, a locally made product which is not too salty,
With little effort, my trashy snack is ready. The sandwich, with its soft, squishy bread, salty luncheon meat with a crisp crust and those cool slices of crunchy cucumber add up to something quite magical, definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the pleasures of dining at Shinji (02-20 Raffles Hotel Arcade, tel: 6338-6131) is having a little bowl of rice mixed with uni and topped with chopped fatty tuna and salmon roe. It is a tiny serving but it costs a hefty $50 and you can request it as part of your meal. The restaurant does not serve it on its own.
When you load a bowl up with all these goodies, it is bound to taste good. However, at Shinji, they take care over the little details. The uni coats every rice grain evenly, there is a little dab of wasabi to cut through the richness and the ingredients are top notch.
Sushi purists would shudder at how over the top it is, but sometimes you just need to splash out and this is how I do it.
OLDIE BUT GOODIE
There was a time when every restaurant seemed to serve deep fried calamari, even if they did not serve Italian food. Some versions were great, others soggy with oil.
Recently, while lunching at Da Paolo Pizza Bar (44 Jalan Merah Saga, 01-46, tel: 6479-6059), my friend asks if I want to share the Deep Fried Calamari & Chili Mayonnaise ($22) with her as a starter and I say yes.
Some things never go out of style and calamari fritti is one of them. The version at Da Paolo is excellent, with not a trace of grease on the squid. There is crunch aplenty and the chilli mayonnaise, which can do with more kick, adds some creaminess to the crunch.