The title of “Best Hokkien Mee in Singapore” is certainly a contentious one. Some say Nam Sing Hokkien Mee deserve the title, while regulars at Chomp Chomp pledge that Ah Hock Fried Hokkien Noodles is The One. There’s another hokkien mee stall that deserves to join the ring: Swee Guan Hokkien Mee, and I’m here to tell you why.
Known for its charcoal-fried hokkien mee, Swee Guan Hokkien Mee is located in a coffee shop along Geylang Lorong 29, a mere six to seven minute walk from Aljunied MRT. The stall first opened in 1968 and is now run by a second-generation chef who took over from the predecessor, who is his father.
I smelt the stall even before I could see it. It was the tell-tale scent of smoky charcoal and barbecue, as if I had stepped into a BBQ, that told me I had reached my destination.
Despite there being other stalls in the coffee shop (I spotted a zi char stall and a carrot cake stall), there was only one unspoken queue, which had already grown to a decent length of about six to seven people.
Wordlessly, I joined the queue for a plate of charcoal-fried hokkien mee and began waiting.
After 10 minutes, I realized why the queue wasn’t budging— the uncle fries his hokkien mee one batch at a time.
Even from where I was standing, I could see the wok steaming with wisps of smoke from the charcoal embers below. Each batch of hokkien mee starts out with a mountain of bee hoon and yellow noodles, which are drenched with a seafood-base stock, and then cooked till it is reduced to the desired consistency.
It took another five minutes before the queue finally started moving, and once I reached the start of the queue, I enquired about the prices for a plate of Hokkien mee.
“S$6, S$8, and S$10!”, the stall attendant replied curtly in Mandarin. “Even have S$15, S$20 or S$30 if you want.”
I responded in Mandarin: “Okay, S$8 then. Two packets—”
It was then I finally understood why online reviews have noted that this stall isn’t the best with polite customer service, because the stall assistant immediately barked in response: “You tell me packet, I give you tapau! So tapau or eating here?!”
Meekly, I told her I was dining in, and she swiftly prepared my orders for me in silence. Okay, well, at least they’re efficient with the food. Not so forgiving when it came to my subpar Mandarin, perhaps.
What I tried at Swee Guan Hokkien Mee
Okay, first impressions. The hokkien mee looked absolutely delicious.
It was sufficiently wet without being soaked in gravy, and there were plenty of ingredients such as prawns, sotong and egg. Do note that Swee Guan Hokkien Mee only uses bee hoon and yellow noodles for their hokkien mee, so you won’t be able to ask for a different noodle combination.
However, I immediately noticed that for S$8, it seemed as if the portions wouldn’t be filling enough, as it looked comparable to a small plate of hokkien mee.
I was blown away by my first mouthful because it was so full of flavour.
As I chewed on the noodles, I could taste the charcoal smokiness from the fire and the sweet and briny seafood broth, which had been absorbed into the noodles. This was more than just wokhei— the heady, smoky scent of the charcoal crept its way into the noodles to create a distinct rich, savoury and robust blend of flavours that knocked this plate of hokkien mee out of the park.
Though the noodles were shorter than I’d like, to the extent that I couldn’t even hold it up with my chopsticks, I really enjoyed how the hokkien mee was wet enough from both the seafood stock and the generous amount of eggs to produce an almost silky-like feel to each mouthful.
As I took bite after bite of hokkien mee, I told my dining companion: “Now, this is what a plate of hokkien mee should taste like.”
For a plate of S$8 hokkien mee, I counted about four medium-sized prawns on each plate.
Though the size of the prawns are nothing to talk about (they weren’t jumbo prawns, but at least they weren’t shrimp-sized), I enjoyed how the prawns were taut and crunchy— a sure sign that they were fresh.
While most hokkien mee stalls serve their sotong in large rings, I was surprised by Swee Guan Hokkien Mee as the sotong was already cut up into little bite-sized pieces. Though the sotong didn’t add much in terms of flavour (it probably had been absorbed by the noodles by now), I liked how it added a well-needed chewy bite to the plate of wet hokkien mee.
If you can’t handle your spice, please heed my advice and avoid the chilli. I consider myself a spice lover, but this was way too spicy for me. While it first started out as a pleasant sweetness, almost like the sambal belacan you’d get with nasi lemak, the spice slowly crawled up my throat and grew into a sharp, cough-inducing spice that even my teh peng couldn’t save.
Judging by the way my dining companion and I polished off our plates, I’d say that Swee Guan Hokkien Mee certainly deserves a go at the title for “Best Hokkien Mee in Singapore.”
Frankly, I loved everything about it. The way each plate of messy hokkien mee managed to balance out the smokiness from the charcoal fire with the savoury sweetness from the seafood stock was just perfect. Everything came together in a way that made it so easy to slurp up the noodles.
My only gripes would be the lack of lard, not-so-friendly customer service, its portion and price. My dining companion finished his plate of hokkien mee in a shocking 10 minutes (that’s faster than the time it took for me to queue for it!), while me being the slower eater, finished it off in about 15 minutes.
For S$8, I expected to be full, but unfortunately both of us were still hungry afterwards. We eventually went next door to have banh mi, but agreed that despite all its shortcomings, Swee Guan Hokkien Mee’s power-packed hokkien mee was something that everyone should try at least once in their lifetimes.
Expected damage: S$6 – S$10 per pax
Other articles you might like:
Sumo Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: Best Hokkien Mee you can find in Ang Mo Kio
Magic Kitchen: Laksa chee cheong fun + thick toasts at this old-school eatery in Ang Mo Kio
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Swee Guan Hokkien Mee
549A Geylang Lorong 29, Singapore 388060
Swee Guan Hokkien Mee
549A Geylang Lorong 29, Singapore 388060