Does a charcoal fire really make a difference to the taste of the food? I know that a charcoal grill definitely imparts a smoky flavour to satay and other BBQed meats, but how does a charcoal fire actually impart taste through a wok to Hokkien Mee? Some would argue that it is the intensity and the wider distribution of the heat that makes the difference. Personally, I think that it is just a novelty and novelties attract attention.
I’ll bet that when the first gas stoves came out, people said that food cooked over gas was more tasty. It’s just like HDB homes. When they first came out, all the people living in the Kampungs rushed to get the HDB flats. Nowadays, the situation is the other way around, although, the Kampung hut would have to have nice toilets, air-conditioning and broadband connection before I would trade my home for it.
You don’t commonly find Hokkien Mee cooked over a Charcoal Fire nowadays, so when I saw the banner advertising this newly opened stall at Telok Kurau Road, I just had to go investigate. It turns out that they are related to the Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee which also uses Charcoal Fire and the stall over at East Coast Road also known as “Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee”.
The old lady frying the Hokkien Mee certainly looks about right for the role. Still spotting a sleeveless blouse with a hanky sticking out of her armpit, she had been frying Hokkien Mee for over 20 years at the Geylang Lor 9 stall. This might explain why the Qiu Ji Hokkien Mee over at Lor 9 did not quite meet up with expectations the last time.
Standing there watching her fry the Hokkien Mee is a treat which you would not want to miss. It’s got that old fashioned, nostalgic feel about it. Everything gets really messy as the noodles are flagrantly swirled around the wok with some rogue bits escaping off the rim. The expectation builds as the stock gets added to the noodles and the cover is placed over the wok. Then the long minute before the lid is finally lifted you are rewarded greeted with the blossoming fragrance as the noodles and the stock merge to become the familiar yellow-brown gooey mass. Finally the prawns are added and the noodles are unceremoniously scooped onto a plate that is way too small. Absolute magic!
Hokkien Mee fried over charcoal somehow does give it a bit of an edge in taste. Whether it is psychological or not, I am not sure. The noodles are nice and gooey but not overly rich and they use the thin bee hoon which absorbs the stock very well. For $3 you get a generous portion with three good sized prawns. The only let down was the pork lard which was not crispy which lowered the ratings by a quarter of a point. 4.25/5
Bit of a Heritage Hokkien Mee with a good lineage. It’s only been opened for a month, so do try it and let us know if it meets up to your standards.