Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hong Chang Wanton Noodles at Ang Mo Kio

Wanton noodles is one of those hawker dishes that exemplifies our hawker culture to the fullest, as it is meant to be a simple dish, made by heartlanders for the heartlanders.

After all, it is basically well cooked noodles, served with a bowl of soup dumplings and garnished with barbecued pork slices and some chinese greens. Yet, it is not always easy to get everything right.

In fact, the conundrum when it comes to wanton mee is that someone will always get one of the components right, but not everyone can get every component perfect.

And that was why when I read recently about a young hawker coming out to do a wanton mee the scientific method aka using technical means and resources to get everything right, I was rather dismayed. This is not what good cooking is about. No amount of money nor resources can replace the true skill of a good cook.

Since when has hawker food become the test bed for scientific experiments such as this? Food that is cooked well should come from the passion that a cook has, be it a hawker or a fine dining chef. When food has to be academically reproduced, it clearly shows how pedantic as a nation we have become to resort to this.

But I digress. Today's post is on a newly discovered wanton mee by yours truly that is just around the corner of my neighborhood. And thanks to Mark and Philip, I am able to share it with you today.

Located at a hawker center just a few minutes from Ang Mo Kio Hub, it looks like any other ordinary wanton mee stall, except for the conspicuous long queue that is visible even from far away. Manned by 2 ladies, I was told this is one of the better wanton mee around this area.

Exceptional Plate of Noodles

The first thing that struck me was the texture of the noodles. More al dente than most, and less soggy, it was infused with a darker than usual black sauce. When mixed well together, the savory tinge of the black sauce brought out the noodles really well, giving it a nice pop in your mouth as you devour the mee. The sauce had also a hint of mushroom earthiness, which might explain the darker color.

The char siew was ok, and nothing to shout about. But still, they were far better than the dyed and thin slices you get from most other wanton mee, and that sweet caramelized flavors of the char siew managed to bring just enough balance to counter the savory flavors of the noodles.

While it might not reach the heights of Nam Seng's wanton mee, Hong Chang's wanton mee was still a class by itself, and this was clearly evident in the popularity of the stall and that sort of explained the long queue.

Well Made Wantons

As for the wantons themselves, they were well made and had a nice flavorsome filling. Though it could have done with a little bit more generosity in its portioning, for the price, I guess you could not really ask for more.

The soup stock, however, was a revelation. Instead of the usual rather bland soups you get from the typical wanton mee, it was rather quite flavorful and somewhat rich in chicken flavors. Certainly not what I was expecting, and the broth was actually quite comforting in its own way.

At the end of the day, wanton mee is one of those hawker foods that does not need to be too clever or too complex. What you need from a satisfying bowl of wanton mee is simply a hawker who knows what he/she is doing, and making it well from their recipes and nailing it with every bowl they make.

That is why Nam Seng is so good at it, and now, I can gladly add Hong Chang to that list.

Hong Chang Wanton Noodles
Blk 724, #01-21
Ang Mo Kio Food Centre
Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6

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