While many of his peers found jobs in restaurants after graduation, At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy alumnus Cai Jiaming, 26, chose the hawker route instead.
Almost every day, he heads to Jurong Fishery Port at 3am to pick the freshest prawns and to a wet market to get his supply of pork ribs.
At about 5am, he gets his master stock going for the day.
Six months on, Mr Cai's Ming's Prawn Noodle stall, at Alexandra Village Food Centre, has drawn a steady following of loyal customers.
The menu is simple - prawn noodles or pork rib noodles, priced at $3.50 each. Or have the best of both worlds with the pork ribs and prawn noodles for $5.
It is a rainy morning when I head to the stall, so I pick the comforting pork rib and prawn noodles in soup without hesitation.
The very polite Mr Cai asks me to pick my noodle of choice - I go for the yellow noodles.
Next question. Would I like my prawns shelled? Now, that is a very thoughtful option for people who do not want to get their hands dirty or are lazy, like me. Shelled please.
He then directs me to the tub of fried lard. I can add my own and, of course, I do.
There is ground chilli powder and sliced red chilli to spice up the soup.
On my tray, he places a (free) wet towel and cheerfully wishes me an enjoyable meal.
MING'S PRAWN NOODLE
01-01 Alexandra Village Food Centre, 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1; open: 7.30am to 4pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), closed on Wednesdays; go to www.facebook.com/mingsprawnnoodle
Rating: 4/5 stars
While the hot soup does not look as rich as others I have tried, it is still flavourful. It is light and I drink up most of it.
I get three plump prawns, along with three pork ribs. The prawns are bigger than usual and extremely fresh. While the pork ribs are slightly fatty, the meat is tender and juicy. The dish also includes beansprouts and kangkong.
Mr Cai admits that it has been a tough learning experience and that he hopes his decision to take the "more challenging" route is worth it. The chef may not be in a restaurant, but his service and cooking are top-notch. I hope he perseveres.
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