SEDUCTIVE NOODLES AT HUMBLE PRICES
Not only does Li Fa Yun Tun Mian in Serangoon Avenue 3 serve up springy wonton noodles with a seductive sambal chilli paste, but it also has good laksa, making it unnecessary to queue for the famous one in Jalan Berseh.
Best of all, the stall's range of food is economically priced, offering value for money because of the quality ingredients and skilful cooking.
I suggest you order the wonton noodle ($3.50) and add on chicken feet ($1.50 for two).
Madam Sharon Teo, 51, who helps her husband run the stall, painstakingly removes the claws of fresh chilled chicken feet which are deep-fried and then braised in-house.
The noodles are slightly thicker than what you will find at other wonton stalls, but they are springy, have no pungent taste of alkaline and come simply tossed in oyster sauce, dark soya sauce, shallot oil and pork lard oil. If you are lucky, you get crunchy bits of the pork lard that is fried in-house.
Stall owner and head cook Pun Kia Chuan, 53, slices and fries shallots instead of buying ready-fried ones.
He also prepares his own sambal chilli paste and laksa paste using ingredients which include top-quality dried prawns that cost $28 a kilo.
The laksa ($3.50) is fairly basic. I suggest you add at least $1 worth of cockles. The tau pok is tender, the gravy is aromatic, even more so once you stir in the sambal chilli paste. The gravy, made using both evaporated milk and coconut cream, is light and not cloying.
For sides, try the crispy fried wonton ($3 for 10 pieces) and dumpling soup ($3.50). The dumplings are not fancy - they contain no crunchy vegetables, but they are made using fresh chilled pork. A light hand with the seasoning allows the natural sweetness of the meat to dominate.
WHERE: Stall 5, 01-130 Block 237 Serangoon Avenue 3 MRT: Serangoon OPEN: 6.10am to 4pm daily. Closed on second and last Fridays of every month
CURRY CHICKEN NOODLES WORTH THE CALORIES
Choose your favourite cut of chicken to go with curry noodles at Sheng Kee Curry Chicken Noodle at Berseh Food Centre.
With his brush cut hairstyle, stall owner and head cook Teo Yee Sim, 48, looks slightly intimidating when stirring his vat of simmering hot curry, but he is pretty courteous and amiable.
Customers get a choice of three types of noodles: Laksa noodles, yellow noodles and beehoon. Prices start at $4.
Splurge a little and go for the $5 version, so that you can get a whole drumstick or whole wing with your noodle of choice.
Mr Teo's control of cooking time for the chicken, noodles and even the tau pok is precise. The noodles are blanched in boiling water before they are placed together with the cut chicken and further blanched three times in the hot curry.
His personal favourite is a combination of yellow noodles and beehoon. These are separately blanched so that the yellow noodles are not overcooked. This is the level of attention to detail given by Mr Teo, who used to work as a restaurant head chef.
The curry gravy itself is aromatic with spices and flavourful because of the sweet chicken stock. One secret is the use of Thai chilli oil in the curry gravy. The chicken meat is firm and juicy, the noodles bouncy.
But the piece de resistance is Mr Teo's housemade sambal chilli paste which he takes pride in preparing from scratch - all 55kg of it, every three weeks. It is packed with top-quality dried prawns which cost $32 a kilo.
WHERE: Berseh Food Centre, 02-45, 166 Jalan Besar MRT: Farrer Park OPEN: 6am to 3.30pm Mondays to Fridays; 6am to 2.30pm Saturdays and Sundays. Closed on the third Monday of every month
CLASSIC CHINESE RESTAURANT FARE AT HOME
With a pair of scissors and some reheating, you can dine on traditional Chinese restaurant dishes available in frozen packages from Pin Si Kitchen, in the comfort of your own home.
Impress your family and dinner guests with these dishes, which typically require much labour to prepare.
If you have an air-fryer, you will do well to get the prawn roll ($9), traditional ngoh hiang ($8) and premium coffee pork ribs ($8.80).
The prawn roll comes cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces while the ngoh hiang comes in short rolls - so you have a choice of serving them whole or sliced to a size of your preference.
Both dishes are prepared using pork collar and water chestnut for the filling. The key difference is the ngoh hiang contains five spice powder.
For the premium coffee pork ribs, I suggest you air-fry the ribs for about 10 minutes at 200 deg C. Cook the coffee sauce, which is packed separately, in a pan until it reduces by about half. Add the pork ribs and toss it in the sauce before serving. The sauce is made with apple jam which balances the bitterness of the coffee.
The braised chicken with chestnut ($19.80) is a whole chicken with rib bones removed and generously stuffed with chestnuts. The chicken comes wrapped in a lotus leaf that makes for an elegant display.
For dessert, try the gingko yam paste ($6.80). Each packet serves two. Do drain off the excess water in the pumpkin puree before steaming.