If you’ve visited Malaysia or Singapore, you’ve probably been initiated into the joy that is hawker food. From noodles to deep fried bananas, some of the best food I’ve ever tried has come from these stalls.
Most of the time, each hawker stall only serves dishes that are related, either by cooking method or ingredient. Noodle hawkers make noodles. Porridge hawkers make porridge. And so on.
Though the variety of dishes on offer may be narrow, I find the devotion to a specific kind of food to be pretty special, as it showcases the skill of the cook in using a particular cooking style, method or star ingredient.
At Noodle Forum, the devotion to noodles; wantan mee (wantan noodles) to be exact, is pretty clear. Here, chef Erich Wong makes fresh egg-based wantan noodles daily, having perfected his craft over the last 40 years.
There’s no shortcuts here, and you’ll see real eggs being mixed by hand into every batch of noodles made by chef Erich. He’s clearly very passionate about his craft – which you’ll notice easily as you watch him making noodles through the glass doors of the kitchen adjoining the restaurant.
Chef Erich may be focused on his noodles, but he still finds the time to beckon me closer and pop his head out of the door to tell me that it’s fresh spinach being added to this batch of noodles.
I only had eyes for the BBQ pork noodles (char siu mee, $11.90), which are always my pick whenever I’m eating somewhere that specialises in this particular kind of noodle.
The noodles here are thin with a perfect bite that’s probably best described as toothsome or al dente. They’re tossed in a salty and sweet soy-based sauce.
Though the noodles are without a doubt the star of the show, the char siu (or BBQ pork) is a stunner, caramelised to a deep-dark crunch along the edges, with tender meat that’s rippled with just a hint of fat, leaving each mouthful juicy.
Word of warning: this is not crisp white shirt food. You might need a bib for the inevitable caused by eating with reckless abandon.
Like all the other noodles on offer, the Crispy Check Fillet Noodle, is also a bargain at $11.90. The noodles are dressed in the same soy-based sauce as the BBQ pork noodles.
But instead of juicy pork, here you’ll enjoy crisp chunks of tender chicken thigh, which are coated in a light crisp coating. The chicken is coated, deep fried, sliced and loaded atop the noodles with a generous drizzle of chili mayonnaise (I’m guessing Japanese Kewpie, spiked with chili).
Each bowl of noodles here comes with a signature crunchy cracker – made a dough that’s very similar to the wantan wrappers chef Erich churns out for Noodle Forum’s signature wantans in soup (5 for $5.50).
I’m swooning over the whole Exmouth prawn that’s enclosed inside each wantan with a generous mouthful of marinated minced Plantagenet free range pork. The wantan wrapper is silky and smooth, and rolled so thin I’m surprised there’s not a single tear in any of the dumplings.
The wantan soup is a clear broth spiked with loads of sliced spring onions. It’s salty but a little sweet, which is always a good sign in my book, signalling long slow cooking and lots of bones in the stock (here at Noodle Forum, that means Mount Barker free range chicken bones).
Even the salty and sour pickled chillies are homemade here. A good thing too, as they’re essential with noodles like this, just ask my Mum.
I couldn’t resist abandoning J for a moment to watch chef Erich making his noodles using a huge bamboo pole. You can watch the super short video I took of chef Erich making spinach noodles below:
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Monday to Thursday: 11.00am to 5.30pm
Friday: 11.00am to 9.00pm
Saturday: 11.00am to 5.30pm