He refused to serve me as he sold his last portion for the day (at 2pm) and was ready to nurse his cup of kopi-o. “ Please, I heard a lot about your dish and came from far away (I admit, I was lying) to try this. Don’t know when I will be back again”, adding I want to tell my friends on social media. I was glad he did not know I had been hammering out my column here for over 12 years now and he reluctantly took out a chilled bag of chai po and hit the wok. And man, did he ever. He brought the wok of oil up to full heat, fried half the bag of sweet chai po (cured radish bits) till his little stall was reeking of that humbly addictive ingredient.
Then he oiled up another wok and roasted a portion of hor fun, seared it over high heat till the wok-hei was evident, before he flavoured it with his special concocted soy and fish sauce mixture. He sprinkle a fat spoon of the fragrant chai po bits over and pressed the noodle flat onto the wok, like a pancake. Then, magic,- he poured beaten eggs around the sides of the noodle and let it slide into the base of the pancake hor fun before he flipped it over and serve topped it with prawns, lard croutons and spring onions.
Chef Ng Tham Siew paid his dues working and learning in top hotels like the Shangri-la and Kim Huat restaurant in Clementi before settling here some 8 years ago. And that signature Preserved Chai Po Hor Fun ($5) is not some induction wok or basic stove fired dish- you need high powered flames to bring out the qualities of the ingredients. I was so amazed that I had it again a few days later just to confirm it was no fluke nor dream. The sweetness of the hor fun noodles, hot seared with a splash of soy sauce with the sweet chai po in that eggy concoction, was supreme- top Chinese restaurant can’t even offer that. “I used to cook the Teochew chai po kway teow but when I came here, I took it further and created this version.” This sweet, salty, roasty kway teow combination went so well with his other “signboard signature” dish- the Ha Cheong Kai ($7) or prawn paste chicken. This is one of the best in the market- I immediately brought back a sensation I had forgotten with this dish. The batter was crispy gummy and the one-day marination resulted with the flavour permeating the chicken too.
The other dishes I will come back for is the Moonlight Hor Fun ($4.50). He does it instead, with the hot wok seared hor fun placed over the beaten raw eggs on the base of the plate. Stir it quick and the resultant ultra smooth hor fun was a delight. And since you now know he is a hor fun noodle master, go tear into his Dry Fried Hor Fun. I think the only reason you won’t come back for more, is because you are hor fun intolerant.
01-89, Empress Hawker Centre, Off Farrer Road