Out of my countless food tastings at Sethlui.com, this particular one had me waking up at 7am — my earliest! The mission was simple: venture into the neighbourhood of Ghim Moh in search of 老潮州 (Old Teochew), a hawker stall that specialises in satay bee hoon and mee siam.
Exploring a hawker centre I’ve never been to is one of the simple joys of my job. After a 10-minute walk from Buona Vista MRT, I reached 20 Ghim Moh Road Market & Food Centre.
Being a matured estate, the place was filled with senior citizens and their foreign helpers. The whole atmosphere had an old-school charm to it which I loved.
What caught my eye here was the striking green-hued signboard with its large Chinese characters 老潮州, which translates to Old Teochew or “lao chao zhou”. A small queue had already formed in front of the stall, and I rushed to join in.
As I was patiently waiting in line to order my food, the notice pasted on their stall dampened my spirits. It stated that on Thursdays, they do not sell satay bee hoon (only mee siam)… and you can already guess what day it was.
“Oh well, I shall not let this get me down and just make the best out of the situation”, I thought to myself.
The friendly aunty asked me 2 simple questions: “Do you want tau geh?” and “Chilli or no chilli?”, to which I replied a double yes.
The stall has been in operation for the past 6 years by 64-year-old Mr Quck and his wife. Before this, they had a business for 30 years which dealt with photo printing.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Mr Quck was actually the winner of the 2012 Golden Age Talentime show which used to air on MediaCorp’s Channel 8— who knew that the humble Mr Quck is a man of many talents!
“We decided to try something new and opened our very own hawker stall”, replied his wife with a smile.
What I tried at Old Teochew
I ordered the one and only dish that was available, the Mee Siam (S$3.50). It came with a boiled egg cut into 2, tau pok, tau geh, ku chye, a dollop of sambal chilli and bee hoon doused in a thick reddish gravy.
Initially, I assumed that I was served a pile of fried shallots on the side. But upon closer observation, I realised that it was actually fried tiny dried shrimps. Unlike the fat mini shrimps that I’m used to, these paper-thin golden morsels were sakura ebi, and a refreshing change to my dish.
Like what I’d do with yusheng, I mixed everything up, combining all the different ingredients into one colourful and beautiful mess.
I’ve not had mee siam with dried shrimps in my life. But moving forward, I’d want them every single time!
It was as if the fried tiny shrimps were strategically placed, hitting you with mini flavour bombs of smoky umami-ness with each bite.
The fine strands of bee hoon were glistening with the reddish glow of the gravy, enhanced by the luminosity of the morning sun. They slithered down my throat with ease and possessed the perfect bite— an indication that they were cooked to perfection. The tau geh and tau pok made each mouthful more interesting with their varying textures.
The homemade sambal had so many dimensions of taste to it. It was slightly sweet, salty, smokey and gently spicy. Its subtle spiciness did not steal the limelight of the main dish, it complemented it like a team player instead.
To be honest, I’ve only had my grandma’s mee siam growing up. Now that she has dementia and no longer cooks it, I’m glad that I had asked her for the recipe when her mind was still crystal clear then. Oh, how I miss her specialty dish.
I’ve tried to cook this dish and the gravy has tamarind and gula melaka in it, amongst other ingredients. To taste Old Teochew’s rendition and come to the conclusion that it’s almost identical to my grandma’s is something next level.
The sauce had the right balance of sweet and sour and the bee hoon was the perfect vessel to absorb all of its flavour.
If their Mee Siam impressed me so much, I’m now curious and excited about their Satay Bee Hoon (S$4.50 for small, S$6.50 for large).
For a couple who was dealing with photo printing just 6 years ago, you wouldn’t expect to find such mind-blowing mee siam here (I even emptied my bowl). I queued up again at 9.45am after finishing my meal to da bao for my parents, and the line was 3 times longer than before! I just didn’t want them to miss out on this goodness.
I wouldn’t mind travelling all the way to Ghim Moh just to have a taste of Old Teochew again, hopefully with satay bee hoon the next time.
Expected damage: S$3.50 – S$6.50 per pax
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20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-18 , Singapore 270020
20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-18 , Singapore 270020