Last Updated: February 14, 2021
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the #fitspo LuluLemon-wearing world of 2021 has infiltrated the sacred space of hawker food. Sound the alarm and send in the cavalry, because I’ve never thought I’ll write the words ‘keto’ and ‘bak chor mee‘ in a sentence. Oh, how the turntables have turned, (no points if you know where that is from). Lo and behold, in the very foodie neighbourhood of Toa Payoh is where you’ll find QiYin Teochew Minced Meat Noodle that peddles said noodles.
It’s no secret that hawker food is not the healthiest thing ever. Perhaps that’s precisely one of the reasons why we love it so much. After all, who would say no to a glistening plate of chicken rice or fragrant plate of nasi lemak? Hawker food is made with the intention of enjoying everything to the fullest, and ‘healthy’ is at the bottom of their list of priorities.
Still, times are shifting. With the popularity of the ketogenic diet (where you have a diet of low carbs and high fat), it was inevitable that our hawker food would eventually bite the keto bug.
So, how would keto bak chor mee work? You would simply eliminate the noodle portion, replace such offending carbs with Konjac noodles, and tuck into the servings of sliced pork, minced pork, and lard; which was precisely what I was served at QiYin Teochew Minced Meat Noodle. For the uninitiated, konjac noodles are noodles made out of Japanese yam, and apart from having little to no calories they also have a texture similar to noodles.
At first glance, their generous portions of Dry Bak Chor Mee (Keto Version with Konjac noodles) (S$6) did excite my Singaporean sensibilities. Here you have a real cornucopia of minced meat and pork slices crowned with another ring of golden fried lard cubes. Each the size of sugar cubes, it was a rather beguiling sight. I have long dreamed about having this epic shower of lard cubes on my bak chor mee, and indeed, dreams do come true. Heart disease, who?
It seems like being on the keto diet does reap certain rewards besides dropping 5kg at the snap of your fingers. Plus, QiYin will gladly top-up your bowl with some konjac noodles, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of meat and lard in your bowl. “Cannot finish, can dabao”, the auntie said to me as handed me my bowl.
I loaded my spoon a little too gleefully (and greedily) with minced meat and a mound of lard cubes. Just like the last season of Game of Thrones, what started so promising finished with an utter letdown. The pork, though lavish and generous in quantity, came up dry and bland. And this was after I deliberately coated them with the sauce.
Now, that’s another thing: the sauce. The usual magical concoction of vinegary, spicy ‘dressing’ if you will, was somewhat lacking. A little watered down, and without its usual punchiness, I would think a little more tweaking is needed for that addictive, fiery slurp.
At this point I thought: surely, my flaxen, crispy lard cubes would be the saving grace of this keto no-mee bak chor mee.
Just because I already went there, here is another Game of Thrones reference for you. You’ll remember how much we loved the character of Daenerys until they decided to do an entire 180 in the span of two episodes?
Unfortunately, I would have to say the same for the lard cubes. Yes, it was just fried squares pig fat, and some might argue any form of it will always be good. But even so, it takes a certain prowess to make something as simple as lard a transcendental experience. These were regrettably missing that decadent, shattering crunch that will indeed send you to a state of nirvana.
Lest you think I’m unfair to their keto bak chor mee, I also ordered their normal one for comparison and as a control for this bak chor mee experiment. I’m very scientific like that if you haven’t already realised.
I did welcome the addition of carbs in the form of mee pok and appreciated how the noodles could cling on to the sauce a little better. As much as I hoped that this bowl would be at least more preferable, it still fell into the same pitfalls as their keto version.
It’s disappointing because I genuinely wanted this keto bak chor mee to succeed. After all, the keto version was merely upsized versions of the best parts of bak chor mee. However, like any good hawker dish, it’s about all the parts working in tandem with each other.
It’s hard to praise this bowl when some fundamental elements are just not up to par. I will suggest you give this a miss instead.
I pen this review with a heavy heart, mostly because I usually have nothing but good things to say about hawker food. In fact, I’m not even hating on the keto thing, because if it’s done well, I’d very much welcome it with open arms.
With food, things are always in a state of flux. There is no need to be a die-hard purist, no matter how much you value hawker food. We should and must allow the space for our hawker food to evolve and change as much as we will.
While this is a misstep by QiYin Teochew Minced Meat Noodle, I admire their valiant effort and courage to venture beyond the conventional hawker food. In time, with some fine-tuning, I’m sure that everyone will be clamouring for their keto bak chor mee.
Till then, I’ll just be stuffing myself with normal bak chor mee until my jeans tell me that perhaps it’s time to give the keto diet a shot.
Expected Damage: S$3.80 – S$6 per pax
Our Rating: 2 / 5
QiYin TeoChew Minced Meat Noodle
Blk 203 Toa Payoh North, #01-1121 , Singapore 310203
Blk 203 Toa Payoh North, #01-1121 , Singapore 310203