I’ve never quite understood why food establishments like to incorporate the word ‘famous’ into their names. I mean, fame doesn’t come immediately once business starts, so it always seems a little counter-intuitive to me.
But famous or not, Ah Lipp Famous Penang Prawn Noodles serves authentic Penang-style prawn noodles that are rather swoon-worthy. Located in the heart of Bukit Batok, this kopitiam stall is Penang Culture’s first venture into hawker territory.
If you’re wondering who or what Ah Lipp is, it’s a nickname for Penang Culture’s head chef Wong Thin Lipp, who was born and raised in Penang. His recipes are, therefore, assuredly authentic.
Starting with the Big Prawn Noodles ($10) – because how could one not – I was greeted by two giant-sized prawns sitting atop a bowl of fragrant prawn noodles.
$10 may seem a little outrageous for a bowl of noodles in a kopitiam, but let’s not forget that you’ll be served two outrageously humongous prawns, so no complaints there.
As with any bowl of prawn noodles, the defining factor to its greatness is its broth. But perhaps before I get into the specifics, I’d thought I would highlight what makes Penang-style prawn noodles distinct from our local version.
First and foremost, Penang-style prawn noodles generally feature richer, more full-bodied broths. The broth is recognisable by a deep orange sheen that is usually absent from the usual prawn noodles.
Second, Penang-style prawn noodles are always served with chilli paste to be stirred in the broth. Third, Penang prawn noodles are, in my completely unbiased and highly objective opinion, just better.
Before I got a taste of the broth, I mixed the bright red chilli paste into the inviting orange-hued broth – it would simply be vulgar not to. After this essential step was complete, I took a big gulp of broth and waited for the magic to happen.
Sure enough, my palate was charmed by the powerful, robust flavour of the aromatic broth. Rich with the essence of prawn, the broth was incredibly full-bodied and carried hints of sweetness and spice that provided a more complex flavour.
Each mouthful increased my appetite for the next, and I just couldn’t stop indulging in the umami-filled, flavour-rich broth.
There is something a little unique about Ah Lipp’s prawn noodle broth – it’s sweeter than most. This is achieved by simmering the broth together with, get this, flower crab. The crabs not only impart a gentle sweetness, but also a smoky richness to the broth.
Of course, prawn noodles must also be judged by the quality of the actual prawns. Apart from being outrageously large, Ah Lipp’s prawns were delightfully fresh.
Peeling the shell was an easy task, and sinking my teeth into the firm but succulent flesh of the prawn was more than satisfying. With two delicious, meaty prawns, a generous mix of yellow noodles and beehoon, as well as a stellar broth, this bowl of Big Prawn Noodles truly hit all the right notes.
For those who’d like a little more variety, go for the Pork Rib Prawn Noodles ($6). This features a couple of pork ribs and two regular-sized prawns.
The ribs were tender and rich with flavour, while the prawns were, unsurprisingly, fresh and succulent. I like to call this the Asian Surf ‘n’ Turf, as it features both meat and seafood – plus starch!
Besides prawn noodles, Ah Lipp also offers Assam Laksa ($3.50). In Singapore, assam laksa is usually served with thick white beehoon (粗米粉). But at Ah Lipp, conventionality is thrown aside and the dish is served with special noodles imported from Penang.
These noodles are thicker and denser than regular laksa noodles, and they do a better job of soaking up the laksa gravy.
I must establish that it is essential you request for a good amount of prawn paste to be added into the gravy, for it truly enhances the flavour of the dish.
Afterwhich, you’ll get a delicious blend of sour and spicy that can only be enjoyed in nothing less than huge gulps.
I loved the lingering sourness of the gravy, as it made the dish very addictive. It hit the sweet spot between sweet, savoury and sour, which made for a truly delicious broth.
I do wish the broth was a little thicker, because then, the flavours would have been more concentrated. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this was one yummy broth!
The texture of the noodles was reminiscent of udon, but softer and a little less starchy. I thought that the thickness of the noodles provided for a good mouthfeel, especially when slurped together with the broth.
Ah Lipp’s assam laksa is also a little different in the way the sardine is incorporated. Instead of the sardine being served in small shards, Ah Lipp’s sardine is served in huge pieces.
I liked how chunky they were, but I’m sure there are some people who’d disagree with me. Well, to each his own.
Ah Lipp is definitely a great option for a quick, affordable and delicious lunch! If you don’t mind the lunch crowd, don’t hesitate to visit the stall because you’ll certainly be in for a satisfying meal.
Expected damage: $3.50 – $10 per pax