As I enter the Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre in Woodlands Drive 71, it is hard to ignore the never-ending queue for Zai Lai Ah Ma Mee Sua. And as I make my way past numerous diners slurping mee sua, my food envy continues to grow.
But I stay focused, as my intention is to check out other stalls for this column. After my planned meal - let's just say it is decent - I still cannot shake the mee sua from my mind.
So I join the queue, berating myself for keeping to my initial plan.
I order the signature Ah Ma Mee Sua ($4, add 50 cents for tau chiam or soya bean noodles) and it is a huge bowl of goodies. There are sliced pork, stewed mushrooms, thick liver slices and an egg. My favourite ingredients are the large meatballs with bits of spring onion and just the right hint of flavour from salted fish.
My only gripe is the liver, which is on the powdery side.
Final touches to the dish are more spring onions, coriander and ginger so finely sliced, it is almost like string. Just before the bowl gets pushed out, it gets a generous drizzle of Chinese wine - adding more flavour and fragrance to the soup.
ZAI LAI AH MA MEE SUA
02-21 Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre, 676 Woodlands Drive 71; open: 10am to 3pm, 5 to 9.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 8.30am to 3pm (Sundays)
I am pleased that I get plenty of soup as well - as every ingredient contributes to making it tastier. Despite the heat, I finish it and am very satisfied.
There are just two other items on the menu, Ma Ma Sheng Mian ($4) and Mee Tai Mu Soup (from $2.80).
Though it is called sheng mian, this is not the crispy noodles we normally think of. Instead, the yellow noodles are more like a thick mee pok, similar to what is sold at ban mian stalls. The noodles come with prawns, sliced pork, fishballs and fish cake.
The broth is made with dried prawns and is a lighter and sweeter version compared with the more meaty and robust soup for the mee sua.
When I return to try the sheng mian, I notice a familiar face at the stall. It is Mr Ong Chye Lye, who also runs noodle stall Zai Lai at Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre & Market. Like Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre, Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre & Market is also run by social enterprise NTUC Foodfare.
Mr Ong's stall at the Bukit Panjang food centre specialises in lor mee and prawn noodles, both of which I had enjoyed back when the hawker centre opened in 2016.
Seeing him is added affirmation of this stall's standard. Simple, no-frills, but hearty and delicious - just like what Ah Ma would make.