J99 Eating House, Block 186 Toa Payoh Central (facing Courts)
Open: 6am to 9pm, closed on Sunday
Rating: 3.5 stars
During lunch on weekdays, you will see a middle-aged man furiously cooking four pots of ban mian simultaneously at a coffee shop facing Courts in Toa Payoh Central.
The orders keep coming and what I admire is how the hawker's daughter is so unflappable as she deals with the many, some not-so- patient, customers. She takes the order, collects money and delivers the food to your table.
I had originally ordered pork yee mee ($3.50) and wanted to change it to pork ban mian. She let me do it with nary a complaint.
A while later, as I walked to her to change the order to sliced fish you mee ($4), she politely told me that the food is ready. She suggested I come back and try the noodles with fish another day.
I was so impressed with her attitude that I did. And it was not just the service that I liked.
Try as I might, I can never finish a whole bowl of bian mian at one sitting.
The serving of the homemade thick noodles and finely cut lettuce is so generous that the soup is usually in danger of spilling.
I like the soup version as the broth is light, but flavourful. The vegetables are still crunchy. The snakehead fish slices are cooked just right and they remain tender to the bite. The dried ikan bilis adds depth to the flavour of the broth.
The dried version is equally good. All it takes is a squirt of what looks like homemade black sauce to make the noodles smooth and tasty and they are good to go.
If I have to nitpick, it is that the egg is usually overcooked. It is always placed in the pot and cooked together with the noodles, so the result turns out a tad too hard for my liking.
That is easily rectified. When I place my order, I make it clear I do not want the egg overcooked and it comes to me fluffy and nice.
For now, the coffee shop stall has become the go-to place for my ban mian fix.
This article was first published on Jan 25, 2015.
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