When people think of dishes that best represent Singapore, most would probably name chicken rice, laksa and chilli crab.
I would like to nominate the humble minced pork noodles.
It can be found everywhere in hawker centres, coffee shops and food courts, but a good one is hard to find. That is because it takes skill to get the texture of the noodles just right, to properly balance the condiments that make up the sauce and to cook the pork perfectly.
MacPherson Minced Meat Noodles, in a coffee shop at the corner of Serangoon Road and Opal Crescent, gets it all right.
I am late to the game. My friends have been going for years but after checking it out some months ago, it has been difficult not to plot a visit there when I'm in the neighbourhood.
MACPHERSON MINCED MEAT NOODLES
1382 Serangoon Road open: 6am to 2pm (Wednesdayto Monday), closed Tuesday
Rating: 4 stars
Singaporeans are equal opportunity eaters who are as comfortable in a humble coffee shop as they are in a high-end restaurant. This is on full display at the coffee shop, where some customers roll up in luxury cars with drivers in tow.
At 7.30am, the place is more than half filled and regulars know to order a yellowtail fish cake ($2) to nibble on while waiting for the noodles. The torpedo-shaped fish cake is softer than most and tastes more of fish than flour but I would rather save space for the main dish - minced pork noodles ($4).
My noodle of choice is never mee pok because the noodles are so thick and wide that they are all I taste, rather than the sauce and the other ingredients in the bowl.
Mee kia, skinny noodles, is what I usually order, but the version this stall uses is thicker than usual.
So my default choice here is mee sua, wheat noodles that are usually cooked for birthday celebrations. Usually, the noodles are too salty and clumpy but at this stall, they are just about perfect.
Each noodle strand is slicked with the perfect balance of soya sauce, chilli and black vinegar. I never have to ask for extra vinegar because the sauce has plenty of zing. There is no clumping, no mush- iness. It makes me fall in love with what I think of as a stodgy noodle.
Thick slices of pork, just cooked, have a natural sweetness. Other goodies include two slices of pig liver, sliced fish cake, a chewy fish dumpling and stewed mushrooms.
When I am ravenous, I also order a bowl of fishballs and fish dumplings ($3.50). Despite their chewy texture, there is something very compelling about the translucent fish dumplings. I do wish they are more plump though.
The fish balls are smaller than at other places but like the fish cake, taste more of fish than flour.
Morning is the best time to go. It is cooler, especially when there is a breeze blowing. The place is packed at lunch time and although the closing time is 2pm, the smart eater will get there at about 1pm or risk not having any noodles at all.