SINGAPORE - Wonton mee is a perennial favourite with Singapore diners. Some prize the texture of the noodles over the condiments, while for others, the true test is the dumpling. Even the chilli and the soup can play a part.
Various versions have emerged over the years and variations now include Thai, Hong Kong and Malaysian takes on the dish. Here is The Straits Times' list of where to go for this Asian favourite.
1. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
CRAB MEAT WONTON MEE
I will risk slipping on the startlingly greasy floor of Sin Fong Restaurant, a coffee shop at the corner of MacPherson Road and MacPherson Lane, to have a plate of deep-fried crab meat wontons ($5) from Crab Meat Wonton Mee, one of the stalls there.
The wontons spurt juice with every bite and it is even possible to taste the sweetness of the crab in them.
Apart from minced pork and crunchy water chestnuts, owner Raymond Tan uses Australian snowcrab meat in the filling, after finding flower and Sri Lankan crabs lacking.
Ask him how he got the recipe for the wontons and the answer is surprising and funny: He Googled it and then made tweaks. This is what hawking in the Internet age is like, I suppose.
But that must be one heck of an online recipe because the well-seasoned wontons are really the reason to check this stall out.
There is a good amount of filling in the dumplings and they are cooked in a small deep fryer set in one corner of his stall. He serves them with mayonnaise, but that is superfluous. The crisp treats are best eaten as is.
However, the noodles ($4 and $5) can be much better. On the day I have them, the mee kia is perfectly al dente but the dressing lacks depth and complexity. Aside from dark soya sauce, he also adds light soya sauce and sesame oil, but it is lacklustre. Ditto the generic char siew.
A sign on his stall says: "No Awards Yet! Hoping For One Soon!"
Mr Tan already makes great wontons. If he comes up with a killer sauce for the noodles, he might just get one.
WHERE: Crab Meat Wonton Mee, Sin Fong Restaurant, 560 MacPherson Road
MRT: Tai Seng
OPEN: 7.30am to 11.30pm (Monday to Saturday) or until sold out; closed on Sunday
INFO: Go to www.facebook.com/crabmeatwontonmee/
2. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
WONG KEE NOODLE
To be honest, I had never heard of this wonton mee from Maxwell Market, but it is really good.
No wonder, then, that this stall has one of the longest queues at Timber+ in Ayer Rajah.
But that could also be because owner Kelly Wong takes a bit of time cooking the noodles with a helper arranging the char siew piece by piece so that each plate is Instagram-worthy.
The noodles not only look good, but they are also springy and do not clump.
I tried the Spinach Wanton Noodles (from $4), which come drenched in a delicious sauce. The wontons - two deep-fried and two boiled - are above average with plump fillings of pork and shrimp, and I like that the char siew is sliced thick.
But I think it would be even better if there is a bit of fat in the pork.
WHERE: Wong Kee Noodle, Timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, 01-06
OPEN: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday
3. Rebecca Lynne Tan recommends
LO CHAN KEE CANTONESE WANTON NOODLES
I was introduced to a Cantonese-style wonton noodle stall called Lo Chan Kee at Holland Drive Market & Food Centre and boy, is it a great find.
The noodles ($3) remain springy until the last mouthful.
The chilli, while piquant and a beautiful orangey-red colour, does not overpower. But make sure you ask for more chilli. The usual amount is barely enough to coat all the noodles.
The dish comes with a decent amount of leafy greens, char siew and handmade wonton.
Order a bowl of plump sui gao or prawn and pork dumpling soup ($3) to go with the noodles.
The dumplings have generous fillings, with chunks of prawn mixed with well-seasoned minced pork and wood-ear fungus, and boast good flavour and texture.
WHERE: Lo Chan Kee Cantonese Wanton Noodles, 02-23 Holland Drive Market & Food Centre, Block 44 Holland Drive, tel: 9111-6614 (for takeaway dumpling orders)
MRT: Holland Village
OPEN: 6am to 2pm, closed on Monday and Friday
4. Eunice Quek recommends
The bubbly Peter Mok, who owns Noodle Evolution, a stall at Lau Pa Sat, is a graduate from the Hawker Master Trainer pilot programme. It is a collaboration among the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), National Environment Agency (NEA), property firm Knight Frank and The Business Times.
I like his enthusiasm. First, he explains that his Premium Noodle ($3.80), which is basically wonton noodles, is different from other versions. The springy noodles are tossed with a meat-based gravy - no salty dark sauce or ketchup. Some of the pork cubes from the gravy are served with the noodles, along with char siew, xiao bai cai and wonton.
While the char siew and wonton are average, I can definitely eat more of those tasty pork cubes.
There is no sliced green chilli to go with the noodles either. Instead, I scoop up a special green chilli paste, which Mr Mok insists I take more of.
The garlic mushroom noodle (from $4) packs a garlicky punch and comes with a generous serving of sliced stewed mushrooms and black fungus.
The small menu also includes other dishes such as chicken cutlet noodle (from $4) and herbal duck bee hoon soup (from $4.80).
WHERE: Noodle Evolution, Lau Pa Sat, 18 Raffles Quay, Stall 29
MRT: Raffles Place
OPEN: 11am to 9pm (weekday), noon to 9pm (weekend), closed on alternate Sundays
5. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
TANJONG RHU WANTON NOODLE
I was at the Lorong 7 Toa Payoh hawker centre to check out a popular fishball noodle stall, but it turned out disappointing.
Feeling unsatisfied, especially since the $3 bowl was not very substantial, I walked around the hawker centre seeking more food. That was how I chanced upon the Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle outlet.
I've enjoyed the wonton noodles at its original stall in Jalan Batu, but that HDB enclave near Tanjong Rhu is not an area I frequent. Neither do I go to its other branches in Marine Terrace and Old Airport Road.
Food at the Toa Payoh outlet was good. The springy egg noodles were what I liked most.
They did not clump together, yet were not hard. The chilli sauce was well-balanced and there was a distinct fragrance of lard. Crispy bits of fried lard added to the appeal.
A small plate costs $3. But for $4, you get three boiled wontons that boast smooth, thin skins as well as two crispy deep-fried ones. The char siew slices were lean, but not dry.
While the wontons were rather small and the minced pork filling was under seasoned, this was, for me, one of the better wonton noodles I've eaten in a while.
WHERE: Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle, Block 22 Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, 01-49
MRT: Toa Payoh
WHEN: 7.30am to 2.30pm (Wednesday to Monday), closed on Tuesday
6. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
It is pretty much a race to get into Mak's Noodle 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 the dumplings ($7.50 a bowl without noodles). The pork and prawn filling is generous and the dumplings have a lot of bite.
WHERE: Mak's Noodle, The Centrepoint,176 Orchard Road, 01-63/64 , tel: 6235-5778. There are also two other outlets -Westgate, 3 Gateway Drive, 02-06, tel: 6250-3858; and VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk, B2-27, tel: 6358-2582
MRT: Somerset, Jurong East, HarbourFront
OPEN: 11am to 10pm, daily
INFO: Go to www.maksnoodle.sg
7. Rebecca Lynne Tan recommends
ENG'S NOODLE HOUSE
I use to enjoy the late Ng Ba Eng's (fondly known to many as Eng or Uncle Eng) wonton noodles back when it was a simple hawker stall at Dunman Food Centre. Back in the day, he used to help his father sell noodles from a pushcart.
Uncle Eng's stall became a full-fledged coffee shop called Eng's Noodle House in Tanjong Katong Road in 2012, a year before he died, and is run by his children.
The stall has a loyal following and many customers have been eating his noodles with homemade gunpowder chilli paste for years.
A bowl of springy al dente noodles, slices of char siew, some leafy greens and a few house-made boiled wonton costs $4.50 a serving. Be sure to order an extra plate of fried wontons (from $3 a serving) to go with your noodles too.
What I, and many others, travel here for is the stall's fiery and complex chilli sauce. It is so spicy that I start sniffling each time I tuck into my noodles which I, admittedly, slather with the sauce.
Still, my wonton mee would not be the same without it. Not only does this chilli have zing, but it also has a subtle saltiness that brings the humble noodle dish to life.
May Uncle Eng's wonton noodle recipe live on.
WHERE: Eng's Noodle House, 287 Tanjong Katong Road
OPEN: 11am to 9pm, daily, closed on alternate Mondays.
8. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
BAAN BY ROCHOR THAI
The first time I make the trek to Katong to try wonton noodles by Baan by Rochor Thai, I leave disappointed.
At 1pm on a Tuesday, they are sold out of it. I can see why when I return.
Baan Wonton Noodles ($6.80 for regular, $5.30 for small) is terrific, one of the best things I have eaten this year.
The dish is much more than a bowl of wonton noodles.
Get the regular version because in addition to two plump, deep-fried wontons, which look nothing like the flat specimens in the photo, there is a generous serving of grilled pork collar. The slices are charred at the edges and springy.
Also excellent, the perfectly al dente egg noodles tossed in a savoury sauce so good, I eat slowly to prolong the pleasure.
My dining companion pipes up: "It's pork fat, isn't it?"
Yes indeed, and other ingredients such as fish sauce, oyster sauce, dark soya sauce, palm sugar, coriander roots and peppercorns.
This is one stellar bowl. I hope chef-owner Joel Ong makes good on his promise to look into opening in other locations. How about across from my office?
WHERE: Baan by Rochor Thai, 125 East Coast Road, Alibabar the Hawker Bar, tel: 9820-8739
OPEN: noon to 2.30pm, 6 to 10pm or until the food is sold out, daily
INFO: Go to www.facebook.com/ baanbyrochorthai
9. Rebecca Lynne Tan recommends
GUANGZHOU MIAN SHI WANTON NOODLE
For a midnight snack or to quell supper cravings, make your way to Guangzhou Mian Shi Wanton Noodle at Tanglin Halt Market and Food Centre, which is open until 3am, five nights a week.
The corner stall is pretty efficient, even if there is a long queue, which is often the case in the wee hours of the morning.
It offers simple, satisfying, fuss-free wonton noodles.
A serving of noodles here starts at $3. A $3.50 portion is sizeable and comes with four wontons and slices of char siew.
The char siew is nothing to shout about, while the wontons are decently meaty with chunks of crisp water chestnut.
But the one thing that stands out here is the texture of the noodles. They continue to remain springy and bouncy even when consumed slowly and do not become soggy, maintaining that bite from the first to the last strand.
I prefer the dry version, where noodles are tossed in a flavoursome and fragrant chilli paste, but diners can opt for noodles in soup too.
WHERE: Guangzhou Mian Shi Wanton Noodle, 48A Tanglin Halt Road, Tanglin Halt Market & Food Centre, 01-04
OPEN: 5.30pm to 3am (Tuesdays to Saturdays). Closed on Sundays and Mondays
10. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
HONG KONG WONTON NOODLE
Itacho Sushi, a Hong Kong chain with restaurants here, opened Hong Kong Wonton Noodle at Plaza Singapura, a few months after Mak's Noodle opened at The Centrepoint in 2015. While the noodles are not as fine as the Hong Kong institution's, they are perfectly springy.
The Prawn Wonton Dry Noodle ($7.80) has just enough sauce to coat the noodles without turning them soggy. There is a good bite to them and the wontons are plump and juicy. The soup that comes with the noodles is slurp-worthy, being made with chicken, pork, dried fish and shrimp.
The Pig's Trotter In Red Fermented Beancurd Sauce($7.80) has a gorgeous gravy full of umami and it calls out for lots of rice. The chunks of trotter could, however, be braised a little longer so they are more tender. Ditto the Stewed Beef Brisket. There is good flavour from the spices that go into it, but the cubes of meat could do with a longer cooking time.
I will not order Prawn With Dry Shrimp Seed Dry Noodle again. There is no sauce to toss with the noodles and no discernible flavour in the dried prawn roe.
However, there is plenty to go back for. Next time, I am going to order the braised pig trotters with noodles. There has to be a way to soak up all that gravy.
WHERE: Hong Kong Wonton Noodle, Plaza Singapura, B2-25, tel: 6694-0923
MRT: Dhoby Ghaut
OPEN: 11am to 10pm, daily
11. Rebecca Lynne Tan recommends
BEE KEE WANTON NOODLES
Bee Kee Wanton Noodles' first outlet is located in a coffee shop in Lorong Lew Lian, off Upper Serangoon Road. Since setting up shop here in March 2014, it has opened two more outlets - one at Market Street Food Centre at Golden Shoe Car Park, and the other at Amoy Street Market.
Bee Kee offers dishes including wonton noodles (from $3 a plate), wontons in chilli-vinegar sauce ($4) and braised pork noodles (from $4 a plate). For something a little more fancy, you can try the truffle wonton noodles ($6) -where white truffle oil has been added to the sauce. Truffle braised pork noodles costs $7.
For me, the one thing which stands out at this stall is the noodles.
They are not the usual thin egg noodles or mee kia, nor are they the Hong Kong-style wonton noodles. Instead, each strand is slightly speckled and retains its springy texture and original taste even after standing for 10 minutes. Best of all, the noodles do not clump together.
These also do not have the alkaline flavour in yellow noodles, which can be off-putting at times. Moreover, the lingering taste of the usual egg noodles can be especially overpowering towards the end of the dish.
I like that Bee Kee's noodles taste wholesome.
Owner Jo Ann Ng later tells me that the noodles have been custom-made for her with duck eggs and whole wheat flour.
Another highlight is the wontons in chilli vinegar, which I finish in a flash. The combination of vinegar and chilli is potent and addictively good.
WHERE: Bee Kee Wanton Noodles - three outlets: 2 Lorong Lew Lian, Chuen Kee Coffee Shop; 50 Market Street, Golden Shoe Car Park, Market Street Food Centre, 03-01; Amoy Street Food Centre, corner of Amoy and Telok Ayer streets, 02-130
MRT: Serangoon, Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar
OPEN: 7.30 am to 2.30pm (Monday), 7.30 am to 4pm (Tuesday to Friday), 8am to 4pm (weekends); Golden Shoe - 7.30am to 2.30pm (weekdays), closed on weekends; Amoy Street - 8am to 3pm (weekdays), closed on weekends.
INFO: Go to www. facebook.com/BeeKeeWantonNoodles
12. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
SOI 19 THAI WANTON MEE
Anyone who has had wonton noodles in Bangkok will be struck by how unadorned it is. The noodles are tossed in a bit of oil, nothing like the versions here, which might have dark and/or light soya sauces, sesame oil, sambal and even ketchup mixed into it.
In Singapore, a coffee shop stall in Ang Mo Kio is selling simple, satisfying bowls of Thai-style wonton noodles. Its name, Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee, makes reference to the popular SabX2, a stall located at Soi Petchburi 19 in Bangkok's Pratunam area.
The noodles ($3.50 or $5) are not as springy as in Thailand, but they have a delightful simplicity, being tossed in what tastes like garlic oil. Those who must have condiments can load up on chilli flakes, sliced chillies and fish sauce, laid out at the stall.
I help myself only to sinful, delightful cubes of crunchy lard. The noodles are topped with slices of char siew and two pieces of waxed sausage, both not bad but unremarkable, and two plump fried wontons, which are good.
Two more dumplings are served in soup and these manage to be cloud-like yet substantial.
The stall opens only on some days of the week, so check its Facebook page to find out when it is safe to go.
WHERE: Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee - two outlets: Block 151 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5; and Block 130 Jurong Gateway Road, 01-211
MRT: Yio Chu Kang and Jurong East
OPEN: Ang Mo Kio - 7.15am to 3.30pm (Wednesday to Sunday), closed Monday and Tuesday, with ad hoc days off. Jurong - 7.30am to 4pm (Wednesday to Sunday), closed Monday and Tuesday, with ad hoc days off. Go to its Facebook page to find out which days the stalls are open.
INFO: Go to www.facebook.com/pages/ Soi-19-Thai-Wanton-Mee/511834992185973
13. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
NAM SENG NOODLES & FRIED RICE
For a taste of nostalgia, pop in to Nam Seng Noodles & Fried Rice at Far East Square. The wonton noodle stall operated for more than 40 years from a shack next to the long gone and much beloved National Library in Stamford Road.
Recently, I paid a visit to Nam Seng, now located at Far East Square, and it was like being back in secondary school again.
Madam Leong Yuet Meng, still feisty at 88, takes orders at the counter, tells her kitchen staff what to prepare, answers questions, poses for photos and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.
The wonton noodles (from $5) at her stall is a strictly old-school version, without dark soy sauce and other frills. Sesame oil and a little light soy are tossed with al dente noodles. A generous helping of lean char siew and blanched greens sit on top. The wontons, just a bit stodgy, are served separately in a bowl of soup.
Although the noodles might be too plain for some, I like the simplicity of the dish.
The prawn dumplings in soup are excellent too. They are plump pillows filled with prawn, minced pork and chunks of crunchy water chestnut.
Also good, the fried rice, a simple dish done well. The rice is full of wok hei and studded with char siew, bits of egg and spring onions. It is terrific with lots of pickled green chillies. One friend says it reminds him of the fried rice from the army cook house. Even the seafood hor fun with the gloopy gravy is good in a retro sort of way.
Back in the day, before hipster cafes popped up everywhere, before food courts serving bland facsimiles of gutsy hawker food became the norm, this was the sort of food we relished and loved.
That we can still find it is a minor miracle.
WHERE: Nam Seng Noodles & Fried Rice, Far East Square, 25 China Street, 01-01, tel: 6438-5669
MRT: Telok Ayer
OPEN: 8am to 8pm (weekdays), 8am to 3pm (Saturday), closed on Sundays
14. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
LEGENDARY HONG KONG
Walking into Legendary Hong Kong in Jurong Point is like being teleported to Hong Kong itself.
The layout of the eatery, which opened last year, is typical of a cha chaan teng (traditional Hong Kong cafe), albeit with more space between tables. But there are the same booth seats and on its walls are brightly coloured posters advertising the eatery's dishes.
Even the buzz is the same and you can pick up snatches of Hong Kong-accented Cantonese in the conversations of some members of the eatery's staff.
The menu, however, is more than what you typically get at a cha chaan teng. Legendary Hong Kong is a dim-sum eatery, noodle-and-congee joint and roast-meat eatery all rolled into one.
Both the Wonton Noodle In Soup ($7.30) and Shrimp Dumpling In Soup ($7.30) are excellent, which is not surprising as the chef came from Mak's, probably the most famous noodle chain in Hong Kong. The noodles are springy and the wonton and shrimp dumplings are tasty and have a very nice crunch.
WHERE: Legendary Hong Kong, Jurong Point 2 Shopping Centre, 63 Jurong West Central 3, Provisional Unit 03-80, tel: 6794-1335
MRT: Boon Lay
OPEN: 11am to 10pm (weekdays), 10am to 10pm (weekends and pubic holidays)
INFO: Go to lhk.com.sg
15. Rebecca Lynne Tan recommends
NOODLE PLACE RESTAURANT
I can have wonton noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And at tea and supper time, too.
I am referring to the Hong Kong-style wonton meen tong - egg noodles with shrimp wonton in a clear broth with yellow chives - the type that one would easily find in a Hong Kong noodle shop. One that I like in particular is the tasty version at Mak's Noodle in Central, Hong Kong, that famed nondescript noodle eatery, which now has offshoots in Singapore.
But in Singapore, before Mak's Noodles came along, there was Noodle Place Restaurant. It is owned by the Prima Group and has been serving wonton noodles here for years.
The restaurant hired Mak's Noodles former head chef in2012, and since then, its offerings have been on the up.
It relocated from The Centrepoint to Orchard Gateway in 2014.
A bowl of wonton noodle soup costs $8.30. A dry version costs $9.
The clear and flavourful broth has the subtle taste of dried plaice and dried shrimp roe that makes you want to drink every spoonful. To me, the broth has a good balance of saltiness, sweetness and umami.
But should you find it a tad too salty or oily for your liking, wash it down with a swig of Chinese tea.
The noodles are springy and bouncy but not too chewy, and you get four shrimp wontons in each serving.
My trick is to eat one near the start, another when you have eaten about a third of the noodles and one more when you are almost done. Save the last wonton till the end and eat it with a dash of vinegar. Mmm.
WHERE: Noodle Palace Restaurant, Orchardgateway, 277 Orchard Road, 01-17, tel: 6733-3171
OPEN: 10am to 10pm, daily
INFO: Go to pfs.com.sg/restaurants/noodle_place/