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Dec 12, 2010 01:49 PM

Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodle (星洲炒米粉) ... the most bastardized dish in all of SGV?

I was supposed to be in the Midwest this week but a confluence of events (incl. weather) nixed those plans.

So I was sort of left to my own devices and as it would happen I had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on your perspective of things) of sampling alot of Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles (or 星洲炒米粉).

What is Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles, you ask? Well, first, despite its nomenclature, it is not fried rice. The "rice" -- you see -- is an adjective and not a noun in that tongue-twister of a name.

Thus, Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles is really a Singaporean take on that delectable and perhaps more well known version of stir-fried rice noodles popularized by Taiwanese joints, i.e. "tsao mi fun" if you speak Mandarin, or "tsa bi whun" if you are OG and speak in Taiwanese, or if you are hardcore and read/write Chinese ... 炒米粉.

But, wait, there's more. Here in the States the versions of Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles is not really Singaporean. Huh, you ask? Well, in Singapore (or most of SE Asia) from what I understand this dish is made with ketchup and chili sauce.

But having traversed the Pacific to make it here, the Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles you find here in SGV is made with (get this!) curry -- and not even real Indian curry powder, but that packaged curry paste stuff you find in the dry goods aisle in your favorite Ranch 99 Market, Hong Kong Market, etc..

Ok, enough with the pointless history lesson.

Here's a very limited rundown on some of the Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles you can find in SGV.



HARBOUR KITCHEN -- Best in show and taste
1411 S Garfield Ave, Alhambra
(626) 289-2328
Noodles are cooked just right, not chewy but still tender. Vegetables are al dente, meaning they are crunchy and not greasy at all. In fact, the whole dish is not greasy. The meats -- pork, shrimp, chicken and scallops (?), are all well-seasoned. A nice touch. Good spicy flavor overall.

BACCALI CAFE & ROTISSERIE - The raison d'être of Baccali
245 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra
(626) 293-3300
Baccali's been around for so long they probably pre-date when Hillary Rodham's mother was a student at Alhambra H.S. (yes, did you know she was an alum?), and the food here -- while passable -- has never been very good. But one thing it does well is the Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles. Good curry flavor, not very greasy and the biggest portions you'll find on this list.

LITZ -- It's why Sriracha makes so many bottles every year
201 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park
(626) 288-8882
The Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles here is, to put it bluntly, very very bland. And it's dry. If you take big mouthfuls you run the risk of a choking hazard -- it's like swallowing mouthfuls of dry haystacks run through the dryer. How do you cope? Play Etch A Sketch® on the plate of noodles with Sriracha.

SAM WOO BBQ -- The Honda Accord of the group
140 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel
(626) 572-8418
It'll never awards for the Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles, but then it'll never lose customers because of it either. Solid rendition of this dish. Not greasy, good flavor, could use more fixins (like meat and eggs) but that's nitpicking. Good sized portions as well, fills up one those styrofoam to-go boxes easily.

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  1. Great quest, Ipse. I've wondered about the origin of this dish. Only ever had it at Hong Kong-type L.A. Chinese restaurants (like Hop Woo BBQ on Olympic, which is good) as "Singapore fried noodles", as you write, and it's invariably this bright yellow mess.

    So where is this thing actually from, and is it an only-in-L.A. dish??

    5 Replies
    1. re: cant talk...eating

      I've had this style of Singapore Fried Rice Noodles in London and, strangely, Malaysia, so it would seem to be prevalent outside of Singapore.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        In London, is it made with curry paste or ketchup/chili?

        1. re: ipsedixit

          In London it was identical to what we get here (curry), except that it was the best version I've ever eaten.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            The best I've ever had was in London as well, so good that I crawled out of bed in the middle of the night to finish my leftovers in my hotel room so they wouldn't go to waste. I've been dreaming of that dish. (I had it in the West End and now every time I see a show I think I should be eating these noodles.) I haven't found anything in LA that measures up. Too heavy of a hand with the curry powder/paste here, and usually the meat is relatively unseasoned or overcooked.

      2. re: cant talk...eating

        The first time I had this was in Oakland California about 35 years ago. One time I was in a Chinese restaurant in Arizona and asked if they could make it for me. The Chinese chef came out and seemed disappointed that I wasn't Asian. He couldn't believe a caucasian would ask for this dish! I still love it, whatever it's origins. My Singaporean friends here in Chicago argue amongst themselves whether there should be curry or no curry in the noodles. (I prefer curry.)

      3. Yep, Singaporean style fried rice noodle, I believe is an invention that came out of Hong Kong. Similar to how you can find Yanzhou fried rice in HK but you ask for it in China and they would be like "huh"?

        Even worse, in Singapore there's a stir fried ho fun noodle fish called Char Kway Teow 炒粿條, but in Cantonese they call it Chow Gwai Diu (not to confused with the pronounciation of the F word in Cantonese). You order Chow Gwai Diu in HK or a HK cafe, and you'll get....get this...a ho fun noodle stir fried version of the Singaporean style fried rice noodle :-o.

        I definitely prefer a Taiwanese style stir fried rice noodle (Tai si mi fen) over the HK cafe rendition of the confusing named dish.

        1. After returning from my first trip to Singapore, I ordered this dish at Sam Woo, and was totally thrown off by the curry. As you mentioned about the ketchup/chili sauce version being more authentic in Singapore, I did like the curried version, but was not at all what I was expecting. Do you know of any places that actually do Singapore-style noodles like back in the old country (I think 1963 was the birth of Singapore, so I guess maybe slightly kinda little-bit old country is more apt)?

          1 Reply
          1. re: bulavinaka

            Litz will actually make it for you w/o curry using their housemade chili oil/sauce if you ask, but I have no idea if this is what it is like in Singapore.

          2. My experience in Chinese restaurants is they use that powdered Madras brand curry powder not the paste stuff. They add the same curry powder to make tomato beef chow mein into tomato curry beef chow mein.
            Sam Woo does a credible job.
            Maybe "Singapore Style" means the curry style kind?
            Not sure I'd like the real stuff.

            1. From my SE Asia travels, the curried version is unheard of in Singapore and the ketchup/chili sauce version is actually typical of Malaysia especially in Penang and is a little saucy. In Singapore, 星洲炒米粉 is actually a rather plain dish with just bee hoon (aka mǐ​fěn / 米粉​) stir-fried with dark soy sauce, egg, usually with some bean sprouts, a little char siew or even luncheon meat (the budget version) and is quite dry.

              From my research, the curry variant originally came from the cha chaan tengs (茶餐厅) in Hong Kong.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Mr. Roboto

                A HK origin makes sense - I'd never seen this growing up on "old-fashioned" Chinese food in L.A./Pasadena, and it's definitely not served (that I've ever seen) in the mainland Chinese places I now frequent in the SGV.