Shenyang Feng Wei: Chive Talking
By KF Seetoh - Monday, May 12, 2014
He said a Taiwanese customer once told him his Zhajiangmian (minced meat noodles) was the best he’s ever had. For starters, this hawker makes his own hand-made noodles (shoukungmian). But that was not what blew me over. I had been eating at this stall for over 4 years now and I just noticed these other dishes only recently.
I makan their dishes better than I read his all-Chinese menu. The fading pictures on the wall gave me no idea what it could be either. The unappetising brownish green bits sticking out of some pancake picture was a turnoff… until some makan pals ordered it at a casual lunch we had there recently. We had it while waiting for the uber famous Tai Hwa bak chor mee next to them, where it can be 40 minutes before your turn is up.
“Initially, I get quite a few of their customers who order my food while waiting for the noodles,” Mr Gao Pan says, “but today I get a lot of my own regulars too.” This Singapore permanent resident who hailed from Jilin in China began slogging in a buffet restaurant in Singapore about a decade ago. He is adept at Western and Chinese fare but decided to go back to basics at this humble little kopitiam stall. His wife helps out in between minding their three little kids.
What he does with chives, is a secret I should keep, but no, I’ll do a wikileak. Old granny tales will say that this green is bad for the knees and should be taken in moderation and only once in a while. So we ordered almost everything Mr Gao did with the chives (knowing this won’t be a weekly habit). I asked and he replied with ease, “For Singaporeans, I simply use less oil, salt and make them less heavy (like what you normally feel after a meal at a grease-spoon-salt-happy Chinese eatery in Chinatown).” I avoided the usual meat guotie (pot stickers) and jiaojie (steamed dumplings).
The cong you bing (scallion pancakes) came like a pizza or a roti prata heavily speckled with bits of chopped chives. One bite in and you’ll notice the “less oil” effect and the filo pastry texture. It was fluffy and flaky. The chives gave a very savoury green sensation that was lightly salted and with some garlic and onion oil infusion. Indeed, I spotted no deep wok fryer and he pan-fries them in a thin layer of oil and controls texture like a hawk. The result shows. His simple fried noodle dish came with a generous dose of chives which lent such a refreshing accent to the usual fried noodles we get at the hawkers.
He also has a xian bing (stuffed biscuits), essentially a pan fried little roti stuffed with garlic and chopped chives – I especially liked this one. We also tore into the chive guotie and jiaojie and realised that these are made upon order and done exceedingly well. The steamed skin was thin enough and translucent and the guotie had a crispy base done thinly and did not feel too oily. We ordered two portions of it.
Take note also of his little snack platter of spicy sour shredded potatoes and the sweet ending should be his less-sweet red bean cakes – just note how well he does the light fluffy and crispy sesame seed flecked pastry.
Shenyang Feng Wei
Inside Tai Hwa Eating House
Blk 466 Crawford Lane, 01-12