Last Updated: March 7, 2019
CBD peeps, this one’s for you! I can totally imagine how mundane lunch options can get, with the same ol’ salads, sandwiches, grain bowls and the occasional local fare.
But fret not, as a new Penang speciality shop has opened up near Tanjong Pagar. Jia Yi Wan 加一碗 offers authentic Penang flavours to keep your taste buds tingling. Now you can change up your mid-day meals from the usual dreary routine!
Not only will their dishes delight you, the replica murals in Jia Yi Wan hope to transport you to the streets of Penang (but with air-con).
We’re all too familiar with Char Kway Teow and the usual debate when it comes to which stall serves the best version. Unfortunately, their Penang Char Kway Teow (S$5.80) arrived looking rather uninspiring.
I dove right in, expecting that familiar wok hei fragrance and taste. There was only a very mild hint, and the noodles stubbornly stuck together despite trying to pry them apart by tossing.
I only realised I missed out on adding the sambal midway through the entire meal. By then I had already chosen my other favourite dishes, and I didn’t bother finishing this mediocre dish.
I have my personal favourite place for bak kut teh, so I was eager to find out if Jia Yi Wan has a version that could rival it.
The Signature Bak Kut Teh (S$7.80) looked quite confusing as I couldn’t see any meat in it. Stirring the bowl a few times, I dug up some morsels of pork ribs.
It had a sheen of oil on top, which was unappealing to me, but I gave it a go anyway. There are always two camps of bak kut teh lovers: peppery or herbal. I belong to the former, but this one strangely fell in neither.
There was no striking taste of rich pork broth, nor was there any impressionable notes that I could put my finger on. Save for the tender pork flesh that tore off the bones easily, the broth wasn’t really exciting for my taste buds.
I had never heard of Claypot Mee Tai Mak (S$7.80) before, so dissecting this dish was quite fun for me. A quick Google search taught me that this dish uses short rice flour noodles (that resembles a rat’s tail) and it’s commonly cooked with minced pork and a raw egg.
I’m partial to dishes with runny eggs, so I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the ingredients come together to create a gooey, yummy dish. This one had a more prominent wok hei taste, and I love how slippery and savoury it was.
I wouldn’t typically use the word ‘gao‘ to describe a non-liquid dish, but that’s exactly how I felt about it. The egg yolk really brought all the sweetness and smokiness of the ingredients together.
Squeezing the lime over the dish also brought some much-needed acidity and sourness to cut through the fat, and that completed the dish.
Prawn noodles are an easy favourite, and the Penang Prawn Noodles (S$6.80) was no exception. Using both vermicelli and yellow noodles, it soaked up all the natural sweetness of the prawns and slight fattiness of the pork.
What I liked about this version is that it wasn’t overly greasy. There was also a sour tang on the finish of each sip of soup. With generous amounts of the ingredients, the portion here is worth every cent.
Curries originate from many cultures, and in Singapore alone, we have curry contributions from all three major races. I’m more used to the Indian curry (all thanks to my sinful consumption of one too many pratas), but the Penang Curry Noodles (S$5.80) got a vote from me as well!
It was served steaming hot, which is a huge bonus. I could really taste the coconut milk, although it made the noodle dish more jelak than I would’ve liked, especially with the yellow noodles. It was still enjoyable, but I could easily see myself sharing this if I’m ordering other dishes as well.
Speaking of ordering other dishes, I also had the Special Homemade Prawn Balls (S$3 for three, S$6 for six). These sizeable spheres consists of a mix of prawn meat and minced pork. One look at them, and I could tell they were rather greasy.
I did take a bite out of one, and they were quite firm and less springy. I liked the chewy texture, but the grease coated my palate a little too much for my liking. In the end, I could only manage a single ball.
From what I’d tasted, I would say go for their Penang Curry Noodles and Claypot Mee Tai Mak. I doubt you’d go wrong with these two, as they were the only ones that I was willing to finish and carb-load on their noodles.
They may not present the best version of Penang dishes, but when you’re in the CBD and looking for something different, Jia Yi Wan is one of the better gambles.
Expected Damage: S$10 – S$12 per pax
Our Rating: 3 / 5
Jia Yi Wan 加一碗
7 Hoe Chiang Road, Singapore 089313
7 Hoe Chiang Road, Singapore 089313