Hawker ringers: Whose food is tops

Hawker ringers: Whose food is tops

For years, these hawkers toiled to establish a name and a following for themselves but, over time, their food legacy has been shadowed by infighting and feuds. The scions are setting up their own fiefdoms, often under the same name, sometimes within a stone's throw of one another. Taste testers Timothy Goh and Rei Kurohi enter the fray to see which version is really better.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Where: Block 466, Crawford Lane, #01-12
Opening hours: 9.30am-8pm daily, closed every 1st and 3rd Monday
Dish tried: Dry minced pork noodles (bak chor mee)
Cost: $5

Lau Dai Hua Minced Pork Noodle

Where: Food Opera@ION Orchard, #B4-03
Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily
Dish tried: Dry minced pork noodles (bak chor mee)
Cost: $5.50

This family feud has been chronicled even in The Straits Times.

In the 1930s, the late Tang Joon Teo started a pork noodle stall in Hill Street. For more than 40 years, his second son Chay Seng has run Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, which relocated to Crawford Lane in 2004.

In 2010, Chay Seng fell out with his older brother's son, Arthur, over an advertisement that the latter ran in a Chinese newspaper to promote his minced pork noodle stall, Lau Dai Hua, in VivoCity.

The advertisement said the stall "Dai Hua", "formerly from... Hill Street" had "moved to VivoCity".

One brother claimed it was misleading and sought legal advice.

Lau Dai Hua currently operates a branch at Food Opera in the basement of ION Orchard.

Note: A relative of theirs runs High Street Tai Wah Pork Noodle in Hong Lim Food Centre, Chinatown.

Tim: The Crawford Lane bak chor mee was vinegary and rich, with tender minced pork bits and wontons - a pleasant surprise. But not so pleasant was the hefty price of $5.

Who charges $5 for bak chor mee, I wondered. Then I tried the counterpart at ION Orchard.

One bowl of bak chor mee, $5.50. Well, it is Orchard Road. What's the extra 50 cents for? Air-con?

The portions were slightly smaller than those at Crawford, but came with firm pork slices and bouncy meatballs.

Still, you get a certain ambience at a coffee shop that ION's Food Opera lacks.

Rei: I don't usually bother with broth, but Tai Hwa's was so thick, you could see the cloudy strings of pork swirling around as you stirred it. How could I resist?

And the noodles were really good. Fresh liver, heady black vinegar, mee pok that didn't have the weird yellow noodle aftertaste.

But all things considered, the dish was a little overrated. Call me a heretic, but I don't enjoy the national pastime of queueing. No bak chor mee is worth waiting half an hour for.

As for the ION stall, I wasn't expecting much. The best hawker food is found in hawker centres.

But Lau Dai Hua's dish was quite decent. The black vinegar is an optional addition (which is good for those who are not fans), and the chilli oil was spicier.

The ingredients were quite fresh and the noodles were tasty, but the broth was nothing to write home about.

Not a bad option if you get a hankering while shopping, but the best bak chor mee in Singapore?

I think Tai Hwa deserves the title.

Verdict: Hill Street Tai Hwa scored with both writers, even if they complained about the queue. The kopitiam ambience won out.

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