Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles - Size Does Not Matter

OK, I take it back. On a previous post, I lamented that Wah Kee was probably over-hyped with its expensive range of prawn noodles. And in a way, that is still true.

But I am man enough to admit that I was wrong not to give it a try. And I have Kumes to thank for that. He messaged me that I should at least give it a fair shake before making a judgement.

With that in mind, and Kumes in tow, I headed once again to Pek Kio and lo and behold, they were opened.

And to clarify, when I complained that they were never opened the last few times I visited the food centre, there was a legitimate reason. The uncle who runs the stall with the wife, had an eye operation and was closed for quite a substantial amount of time.

It just so happened that when I visited Pek Kio those few times, it was during his recuperation period. Perhaps it would have helped if they had put up a sign, but thanks to Kumes, whose diligent probing from the neighboring stall, he managed to uncover that vital piece of information.

There was a visible queue during mid morning, and be prepared to be slightly intimidated by the lady boss there. She can be quite fierce, but somehow, I think she's a softie underneath.

Dry Prawn Mee

I was informed again by Kumes that the cheapest bowl is the $3 one, which serves standard sized prawns and largely caters to the older crowd. It usually runs out quickly, and provides a price conscious option for those not willing to fork out more than they would for a regular bowl of prawn noodles.

His advice was to go for the $5 bowl, and specifically suggested savoring the dry version instead. I was a bit befuddled initially, but after a couple of mouthfuls, I began to realize why. The prawns were served separately in the broth which was placed in a larger than usual bowl, and hence there was quite a hefty amount of soup to go along.

The revelation was in the dry noodles itself. Garnished with a generous amount of fry shallots and lard, there was a delightful and aromatic crispiness about the entire mixture. The noodles were also flavored with a nice balance of acid, which I suspect is vinegar.

There was also chilli involved in this culinary concoction, but it was certainly not overpowering. And no hint of ketchup and cheap chilli sauce being used. Kumes mentioned that the owner would drizzle some of the prawn stock into the noodles itself to give it a very distinctive crustacean flavor.

On the whole, the textures and the flavors really came together really well, though it did take a few mouthfuls to really appreciate the final combination. On its own, the dry noodles was probably the best bowl of dry prawn mee that I have had so far.

Big Prawns Broth

As for the broth, it was also unique in the sense that no pork bones or ribs were used in the flavoring of the stock. It was purely shrimp all the way and probably seasoned with some spices or chilli to accentuate the flavors further.

On a personal level, well I did enjoy the sweetness of the broth, I still prefer the combination of pork and prawn to give it a better balance of ocean and meat flavor that sits better with me.

As for the prawns, they were pretty huge and succulent. It was a tad overcooked for my liking, but I am sure anyone would be pleased with the freshness and sweetness of the prawn flesh. On its own, I might not enjoy it as a great bowl of prawn broth, but pairing it with the noodles, this was a very comforting and satisfying dish.

As for the pricier $10 and $20 versions, I presume the same broth is used. It is only substituted by using larger and better shrimp. Will I pay for the premium prawn noodles? Unlikely.

On a given day, I think either of the cheaper versions will be most satisfying for any prawn mee aficionado. In that sense, the higher priced bowls still reek of hype to me. But there are folks who go for premium stuff, so I guess Wah Kee have all their bases covered.

The Silver Chef's recommendation is to go for the dry noodles, and just settle for the standard prawns. Size, indeed, does not matter.

Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles
Pek Kio Market and Food Centre
41A Cambridge Road

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