Chronicles of MPT: Opera

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I’ve been a regular at Bedok South Hawker Cenre’s Opera for a long time. The auntie who took order would take one look at me and tell me my order immediately. It’s too bad she’s not there anymore, but the auntie who makes the noodles is still there.

What I love about this stall is how healthy and clean everything tastes. It’s not your usual fishball noodle nor bak chor mee. It’s invariably full of fresh ingredients like baby romaine lettuce (which other stall uses baby romain?), sprightly beansprouts and incredibly fat free minced pork. Coupled with homemade fried shallots, good chilli sauce and excellent vinegar,  the dry version is heavenly. I could eat here every day. In fact, I see lots of old-timers order their daily fix from this stall. (For the record, it’s not the one with the queue, I personally can’t see why people like the famous fishball stall with the long queue.)

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I also ask for extra vegetables for $0.50 more and they give me a much bigger bowl of soup plus extra fishballs and other ingredients. This is worth my while because it’s the only accompanying soup worth drinking. At other places I invariably leave the soup untouched because it’s just msg and water. Here, things are quite different and I always finish every drop of the soup. It’s fantastic.

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What’s not so great about it? The meatballs are only a notch above run of the mill and the meepok can sometimes be soggy. Go for the meekia or meesua, both the dry version. Both are excellent.

Opera
#01-175
Blk 16 Bedok South Road Hawker Centre

Chronicles of MPT: The One Next to Mustafa’s

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DC, a man after my own stomach, had been looking up MPT places as he was concerned about the recent lack of Chronicles of MPT posts. He found this place at Verdun Road that supposedly used buah keluak as one of the magic ingredients in its chilli sauce. Of course we had to find the next opportunity to go!

The stall is nestled in a coffee shop just by Mustafa’s, that emporium of everything you need in this world (except MPT). We ordered a bowl each, DC being a purist for my blog’s sake ordered meepok, while I on advice from some reports went for the meekia.

Each bowl came with a generous topping of fish dumplings, pork mince, sliced pork, fishball and a piece of crisp dried sole. I liked the gluey fish dumplings and didn’t mind the fishball. DC didn’t like the fishball though, he felt that it tasted too mass-produced. He was also pretty unlucky because his pork was undercooked and noodles soggy. For the former, he simply pushed the offending pink pieces away, but for the latter he had no choice but to slurp up the  soft pap. Why? The chilli was heavenly. I think it’s by far the best MPT chilli I’ve had. It was smoky with deep earthy buah keluak flavour and had plenty of kick. Complemented by the crisp lard pieces and a splash of black vinegar, this combination is to die for. Do yourself a favour and order the meekia. Mine was perfect. The best in a long while.

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Ah Hor Teochew Kway Teow Mee
12 Verdun Road

August in China: Xiamen’s Gulangyu

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I flew from Xian in the central north to Xiamen at the southern coast. The weather immediately became much more humid like at home. Even the people on the streets looked a lot more like Chinese Singaporeans, not surprising seeing as a majority of Chinese Singaporeans are from the Fujian area.

My first stop was at Gulangyu, an islet famous for its pretty colonial architecture. I crossed over in the evening by ferry. Not sure why, but it was free in the evenings. A local guy told me not to bother paying so I paid by admiring the view.

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The dusk view was rather pretty as there was a nice contrast between the colonial houses on Gulangyu…

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… and the bright neon lights of the office buildings opposite in Xiamen itself.

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I had a bit of a problem getting a bed initially as the most popular place on the island was fully booked. There was a bit of a red herring moment when a “friendly local” showed me a dingy room and wanted to charge way over my budget for it. Thankfully I found another less popular but still clean and decent place that fit my budget nicely. Lesson learned: always google accommodation beforehand and get the phone number of the place, it’s not always easy to find a place from its address alone. The locals aren’t always the most informative and building numbers can be jumbled.

The next morning I had a little wander around the island. There was lots of pretty though not particularly memorable architecture…

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… and a glimpse of the most famous site on the island.

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Domestic tourists like to trek up to the top of the rock where on a clear day one can see Taiwan, or more accurately, the Jinmen Islands. It had been especially popular in the past when no one at all from the mainland could set foot on Taiwan. Having lived in Taipei for two years, of course I didn’t want to crowd with the rest of the people and was content to watch from afar.

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After a little sojourn around the islet, I headed for the famous Gulangyu fishballs stuffed with minced pork. It was a little anti-climactic though, the fishball wasn’t bouncy and the meat not very flavourful. I much preferred the Singaporean version. I think us immigrants did far better at improving on the recipe. Oh well.

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Chronicles of MPT: Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim Mee Pok (Simpang Bedok)

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I went for breakfast at Simpang Bedok and was surprised to find Jalan Tua Kong’s Lau Lim opened a stall here. The story goes like this: the old man running 132 originally set up at Jalan Tua Kong. He had a helper, Lau Lim, who learned the trade from him. The old man had to retire due to health reasons and let Lau Lim take over the Jalan Tua Kong stall. Later, the old man got better and started up 132 again at Kembangan, which then moved to its current location opposite the petrol station. Lau Lim, on the other hand, moved out of Jalan Tua Kong because the rents increased and someone else now dishes out mediocre stuff at the Jalan Tua Kong stall. Incidentally, the mee pok tah at the coffeeshop next to the monsoon drain at Siglap Centre is a pretender too. It used to be good but is now awful. Don’t bother.

Back to Lau Lim’s mee pok tah. I was pretty sceptical as my experience at 132 wasn’t the best. To be fair, I ordered the wrong thing, so I’ll just have to go back and try again. The one here, a $4 portion with normal chilli, was very excellent. Noodle-wise, it’s the best so far! Better than Joo Chiat Chiap Kee, though the chilli sauce there still wins. I liked the texture of the noodles and how the chilli and lard bits worked very well together. The prawns weren’t the freshest, though they were springy and almost crunchy. 132 wins for prawn freshness even though theirs aren’t that fresh either. The fishballs were quite typical. Nothing to complain about. But the soup was awful. Don’t bother. It tasted of msg and dishwater. Yuck.

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Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim Mee Pok
308 Bedok Road (Simpang Bedok)
Bedok Shopping Complex

Chronicles of MPT: Joo Chiat Chiap Kee

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Joo Chiat Chiap Kee is great for meepok tah. It’s at the flower market at Bedok Central, also known as Bedok North hawker centre (though there are loads of hawker centres at Bedok North). It’s the one further down NTUC, towards ShopnSave.

This place usually has a queue which moves very fast. It’s a family business and run pretty efficiently. They also sell raw fishballs for takeaways ($1 for 7).

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The best part of the MPT here lies in the sauce. The noodles, which are average, take in the spicy chilli, belachan, and whatever other secret ingredients very well. The now-rare addition of taugeh (beansprouts) add crunch and freshness to the dish. I always finish my noodles first here, the combination is that good.

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This place is very generous with their fishballs. The $2.50 serving comes with five fishballs and one meatball. Count for yourself. The fishballs are homemade and very fresh. I like the fishy flavour and good bounce. The only downside is the very slight whiff of ammonia, probably added to give more bounce. The meatballs are pretty meaty and don’t have too much flour.

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All things considered, this isn’t perfect but is my current favourite place.

Joo Chiat Chiap Kee
#01-31
Bedok North Hawker Centre
Closed Wednesdays

Duck at the Lagoon

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It was the fourth day of Chinese New Year and lots of hawker stalls were still closed. Nonetheless, we braved it to East Coast Lagoon to get some lunch. To our relief, Cheok Kee Duck Rice was one of those open. Shockingly, there was a queue even though we got there at 2pm and the rest of the hawker centre was quite empty.

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Dad and I shared a ginormous plate of braised duck, gizzard, pig’s small intestine and tau kwa. I wasn’t expecting too much because I’d eaten there lots and never thought it was that fantastic. This time, the duck impressed me. It was stewed just right, till firm tender and absorbed the flavour of the black sauce. And it tasted robustly of duck. Yummy duck. The gizzard was pretty decent too, but Dad and Mum took most of it so I didn’t get a chance to properly taste it. Intestines were decent, better than the ones from the Amoy Street kway chap stall. The tau kwa was another winner: soft, creamy and full of black sauce goodness. ($15 for the plate of stuff and two bowls of noodles.)

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Check out the kway tiew dry. Enticing right? They were good, especially with the sambal chilli.

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Here are Mum’s fishball noodles. They’re from the stall nearer to the beach in front of the toilets. She said they had standard. I believe her. Check these out.

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I noticed that Zhen Jie from Amoy Street has a branch here, so I made sure I got my dessert fix. The peanut and black sesame cream ($2) is mighty good! The peanut part is very aromatic, you can tell they toasted the peanuts to make this. Thick and yummy. Dad liked the sesame part a lot because the sesame flavour was very strong. It’s a new favourite now that Yee Ku at Chinatown stopped making it right about 10 years ago.

The pulut hitam ($1.50) is good too. Thick, full of pulut flavour and topped with a good drizzle of coconut milk. They even ask you whether you want coconut on top. Tastes like how Mum would make it (if she bothers to).

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