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Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle – Great Bak Chor Mee in Singapore

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**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2010/11/hill-...

Bak chor mee (rou cuo mian 肉挫面) is a great dish that was one of my “must have” dishes on my latest trip to Singapore as I remember it very fondly from when I studied abroad in Singapore. It is a chiu chow (chao zhou / teo chew) dish that consists of flat yellow noodles called mee pok (mian bao 麪薄) that is garnished with minced pork, pork slices, pork liver slices, sliced mushrooms, bean sprouts, bits of deep-fried lard and a piece of sliced fried fish. It’s usually served “dry” meaning the soup is on the side and you can get it with or without chili sauce. There is also a really good vinegar on it. It’s a pretty popular dish in Singapore.

Tai Hwa is a really old vendor that I think started in 1932 according to their website. It’s very famous and I decided that I would try this place as my one place to get bak chor mee (unfortunately, I was only in Singapore for 3 days, so I had to pick wisely). The restaurant is located in a hawker center that is sort of in an apartment building, it’s not really close to anything so we took a taxi there. The place seemed pretty local and is totally jammed, I had to wait around 20 minutes to get to the front of the line. A guy comes and takes your order in line, they don’t really speak English from what I can tell, but you could definitely just point if you don’t speak any Chinese. It’s quite an interesting scene once you get close enough to watch them as there are four guys going at a break neck speed preparing the ingredients and cooking the food (you can see it around 2:20 of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcieQi...).

Anyhow, the noodles are awesome; they were perfectly al dente and springy. The version here is a bit different than other versions as it’s not sweet whatsoever; other versions that I’ve had were slightly sweet. You really just taste the vinegar and the chili oil, both of which are excellent (the chili sauce is particularly good). The pork slices, minced pork and pork liver slices were good although they were a bit drier than I like. The soup on the side is quite good as well, a pork stock soup that is sort of cloudy, goes really well with the noodles. My gf didn’t like it that much as she was turned off by the liver, but I like liver so it suited me well. Overall, I thought this place was very good.

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  1. Yes, this place at Lavender is still the best in Singapore - you can REALLY taste the difference, compared to other "pretenders". There was an interesting family feud which made the headlines in Singapore last Feb:
    http://www.soshiok.com/article/3396

    Yep, the "bak chor mee" folks take their trade REALLY seriously here!

    4 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Agree, this is the best in town. Don't forget its dumplings too.

      1. re: FourSeasons

        oh yah? i dont think i got any dumplings in mine

      2. re: klyeoh

        wow didn't know there was a whole family feud going on

        still a very good place though

        1. re: Lau

          I think the uncle from Crawford outlet sued his nephew (son of his older brother) at Vivocity for using the famous Tai Hwa name, although it was pin-yinised into Lau Dai Hua.

          But he lost his lawsuit, so the nephew can still sell under that name in Vivo.

      3. Had the chance to try this place over the weekend. I was rather embarrassed when I found out where it was, as I commute to and from Lavender everyday on the way into the CBD.

        Great, fabulous, words run into superlatives. Noodles (mee kia) were nice and springy, sauce wasn't too greasy and with just the right amount of vinegar adding a hint of acid. The pork balls were succulent and tasty with a beautiful texture, and my jaw dropped when my friend told me they saw the lady behind the counter cutting them out of a freezer bag! The soup was pure meaty umami-packed goodness, no doubt helped by chunks of dried saltfish and clumps of seaweed. Even the wantons played their part, their flowing off-white robes billowing carelessly on the surface of the stock and adding a soft, comforting texture. Mince and liver were cooked without being overdone. My only criticism is that the default version somewhat lacks spice, but that can be easily fixed by asking for more chilli. I'm definitely coming back here to try it with mee pok, which I generally prefer.

        Hounds might be able to help me - next door, at 465(?) Crawford Lane, there was a stall in an HDB food court calling itself Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. It's not on the Tian Tian website, but the design and colour of the signboard, etc. is so close that it's either a branch or a creative misappropriation of intellectual property.

        (This was really a wine and hawker food adventure, but I have deleted the wine references to keep it relevant to the thread title. Wine pictures and tasting notes are here for those interested: http://julianteoh.blogspot.com/2012/0...)

         
         
        10 Replies
        1. re: Julian Teoh

          Welcome to the Tai Hwa fan club - I see you also upsized your order? ;-)

          Interesting to note that their rival, Tai Wah of High Street, was one of the "legendary hawkers" invited to set up shop in the foodcourt of Changi Airport Terminal 2's transit area.

           
           
          1. re: klyeoh

            Gawd...is that what passes for an upsized order these days? My friend did the queueing and ordering (hence the mee kia) so I don't know what happened - next time I'll just bring a bucket and ask them to fill it up ;)

          2. re: Julian Teoh

            hey Julian Teoh - glad you enjoyed Tai Hwa...i think its really good and seeing the pictures sitting here in NY kills me since there is no way to get the real deal bak chor mee here. need to get back to singapore soon

            1. re: Julian Teoh

              I went to Tai Hwa a month ago. It was my 3rd visit after all these years. Had to queue for 20-30min. Not worth it. IMHO it is decent but nothing so special to worth that wait.

              1. re: FourSeasons

                Kudos to you (and Julian) for braving Tai Hwa's notorious queues, whilst sweltering in Singapore's Dante-like infernal heat & sauna-level humidity - all for a humble bowl of Chinese linguine with minced pork :-D

                Mind you, FourSeasons, I'd tried some other well-touted "bak chor mee" (e.g. that Farrer Road market stall, pre-upgrading) which turned out pretty "bleah". In comparison, Tai Hwa and its "family feud" rivals (Tai Wah) stood head and shoulders above the rest in the taste and texture of their noodle dishes.

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  FourSeasons - which BCM place do you like? I'm always keeping a running list of this stuff for my next trip to Asia. my experience is similar to klyeoh's, but its been a long time since ive lived in Asia and I only visit every other year or sometimes every year

                  1. re: Lau

                    @klyeoh: I have tried Tai Hwa many times but luckily, most of the time my friends packed it for me and I ate in the comfort of my dining room. Never had I queue like the last visit so that was an unpleasant experience. But the texture of the noodle is not the main feature though, I would say that apply across the board in all the noodle sold in the hawker/kopitiam in Singapore, not just Tai Hwa, because of the price and convenient factor, all noodle here is factory-made. But I do agree that the taste and flavor here is quite good though for BCM.

                    @Lau: Don't get me wrong, Tai Hwa is a very good place for BCM, that is if you don't mind to travel all the way there and queue for 20-30minutes under humid hot condition. Maybe we are spoiled living here, but BCM is sold pretty much everywhere here. My go-to place for BCM tends to be the stall at Food Republic in Wisma Atria, which is almost as good as Tai Hwa (maybe except the soup which TH is much superior). It is not the best but certainly a more convenient and comfortable place for me.

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      yah i hear you, i guess for me when i'm there its like a special occasion since its almost impossible to get stuff like this in the US and i dont care if i have to wait when im there.

                      Btw i agree with you, i thought the soup base was excellent, i probably didn't elaborate enough on that in my original post b/c i think soup base is probably the thing that is hardest to get right. if you have a good factory made noodle you can get that good al dente texture and i honestly don't think you're going to massive notice vs a handmade noodle, but the soup base is so easily screwed up. getting a good fragrant broth is much harder

                2. re: Julian Teoh

                  Hot soup? In this weather? You must really like to try the noodles.

                  1. re: M_Gomez

                    That's what this site's all about, isn't it? Enduring pain and discomfort for the best food you can find :)

                    But we had three lovely bottles of white wine on ice to keep us company so we had some "climate control".

                3. Back to Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles today. I don't know, it's still the same chap cooking but somehow the noodles don't have the exceptional flavours I'd always associated with Tai Hwa. Even the pork balls and soup seemed blander - maybe it's the current exceptionally hot, humid weather in Singapore that's affecting my palate/appetite?

                  Address details
                  =============
                  Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle (吊桥头大华猪肉粿条)
                  Tai Hwa Eating House
                  Block 466 Crawford Lane #01-12
                  Singapore 190465
                  (Behind Immigration and Checkpoint Authority Building)
                  Nearest MRT Station: Lavender

                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                  12 Replies
                  1. re: klyeoh

                    oh really? hmm hopefully it was just an off day, i would pay about $50 for a bowl of tai hwa's bak chor mee in the US right now...im starting to get ansy to go back and eat in Asia

                    1. re: Lau

                      An elderly, grey-haired Chinese lady (the chef's wife?) comes by to take orders from the queue - and she speaks in English, too. You don't have to speak Chinese to order, unlike your previous experience.
                      I'd not had a good "bak chor mee" since my move to KL 2.5 years ago - I suspect now that my palate may have been affected by the wondrous (and sinful) flavours of KL's Cantonese street food!!

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        ah the guy who took my order was a shorter, younger guy with longer hair. i started speaking to him in english and he gave me a totally blank look and had no idea what i was saying, so i switched chinese at which point he asked me if i wanted it spicy or not and then things went smoothly. however, there was many workers working there so someone else taking the order doesnt surprise me

                        was it still the same guy cooking as in the video? he was the one cooking when i was there and always seems to be the guy cooking in all the videos ive seen
                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcieQi...

                        how is bak chor me in KL?

                        reason i ask is that while clearly there is alot of discussion and probably consensus that singapore's traditional food culture (hawker food, hokkien / teochew food) is rapidly declining. However, it seemed to me that chicken rice and bak chor mee seemed to be things that were not really declining as opposed to dishes like char kway teow, carrot cake, satay bee hoon where you need many years of cooking skills (mastering frying etc) to master it or is a pain in the ass to make (making satay sauce)

                        1. re: Lau

                          Yes, the chef's Tang Chay Seng himself. I didn't queue up for the food (a friend did that), so I only managed to snap a pic of him from a distance. His nephew, Tung Yang Wee, runs the rival Lau Dai Hua chain with outlets in food-courts based in malls like Vivocity and ION Orchard.

                          Bak chor mee in KL differs from Singapore's in that vinegar is omitted from the dressing for the "dry" version, but only dark soysauce, lard, garlic-onion oil and sesame oil - very Cantonese-style (whereas Singapore has predominantly Teochew/Hokkien influences). The best-known in KL is Seng Lee which is about 10 minutes' drive from my place but, ironically, I'd never been there yet, since they open Mon-Fri at 11.30am-2.30pm whence I'm in office. On Saturdays, it'll be filled to the brim with customers so I'll avoid that. It closes Sundays and public holidays:
                          http://www.timeoutkl.com/food/venues/...

                           
                          1. re: klyeoh

                            Ok, so curiousity got the better of me - I finally got round to trying the KL version of pork noodles at the 20-something-year-old Seng Lee pork noodle stall (Seng Lee coffeeshop itself dates back longer to 1977).

                            Totally different taste and textures from Singapore's:
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/916903

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              ahh cool i just commented on it

                    2. re: klyeoh

                      It may have to do with the huge number of huge meals you have been consuming, judging from your recent prolific posting! ;)

                      I have been on a bit of a binge recently and the law of diminishing returns is certainly starting to apply in my case.

                      But seriously though, there is a turning point in the career of a cook with respect to the quality of food that he can produce. Much like professional athletes, the precision, the economy of movement, the speed may no longer be there. Maybe Mr Tung has crossed that point? I certainly hope not because I would like to return and enjoy the same quality experience that I had before.

                      1. re: Julian Teoh

                        I suspect it's more because my palate's now Kuala Lumpur-ised! Street food in KL relies on the old method and not as sterilised like Singapore's.

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          interesting, so you think its just your tastes have changed vs hill street is going downhill?

                          1. re: Lau

                            I suspect it was also an off-day for the chef - eventhough his task was to repeatedly prepare one type of dish over and over.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              i certainly hope so!! a downhill alert would be very dismaying!

                              1. re: Lau

                                I think every chef has an off day. Maybe Tai Hwa's chef is thinking of horse races :)
                                Many chefs in HK are into horse racing as a stress reliever. Cooking is a stressful job, working long hours in uncomfortable conditions. At least hawkers get to see the sky and sunlight. In many restaurants, the kitchens are windowless and people work 12-18 hours a day.