Yanan Ban Mian Noodle: Ex-Westin Hotel chef turned hawker, the story 1 year later

Some people are cautious while others throw caution to the wind and take the road less travelled. John Yeo is definitely one of the latter. Owner of Yanan Ban Mian Noodle hawker stall at Telok Blangah Food Centre, he got here after giving up the comfort and security of an executive sous chef position at The Westin Hotel.

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That would be a brave move at any time but John’s transition came at a point when the pandemic was raging around us, making it especially unpredictable. We spoke to John at the start of his journey and loved his infusion of orderly Western culinary techniques into the hawker scene.

He also told us about how every dish is made from scratch. Assisting him in the kitchen is the eponymous Yanan, a dumpling specialist who honed her craft in China before making her own transition when she moved to Singapore.

Fast forward a year from the interview and we decided to check on him anonymously. More importantly, we wanted to see if the food was still as good as before.

What I tried at Yanan Ban Mian Noodle

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It’s hard to come across an exotic name like Seafood Combo Premium Soya Sauce Toss Noodle (S$5.50) and not try it. All the more so here where it is the signature dish. There are 6 different noodle options— mee sua, brown beehoon, instant noodle, handmade noodle, handmade flat noodle, handmade mee hoon kway— but I like the standard handmade ban mian.

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The stall serves this with 2 boiled prawns, 2 sizable pieces of fried fish, 1 dumpling, 2 minced pork balls, and then adds a topping of shallots and ikan bilis. Yanan invited me to help myself to the jar of ikan bilis sitting on the counter but I decided to stick with the original serving. The dish also came with a bowl of clear soup speckled with a dash of pepper.

My ban mian noodles were nice and springy, coated in spicy shrimp sauce with a nice consistency. This very flavoursome character is a product of using dry shrimp to produce the sauce in-house.

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The prawns were unremarkable but I enjoyed the deep-fried fish. Make sure to keep them off to the side, away from the rising heat of the noodles because they get soggy very quickly.

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For me, the minced pork balls were the highlight of this bowl. They were balanced just right between springy and tender, and every bite brought with it a dense wave of flavour. Each delicious globe of goodness is handmade using fresh pork at the stall every morning.

The deep-fried wanton had a nicely crispy shell while the filling was tasty but maybe just a bit on the meagre side.

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I also ordered the Chive and Pork Dumplings (S$5 for 8 pieces) because I enjoy having a mix of textures with my meals: here, the soft and tender noodles, fish and pork balls stood in contrast to the crisp crunch of the dumpling shells.

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The dumplings are served with a tangy dark sauce but I would have preferred a chilli sauce like it came with last year instead. Still, the filling was nice as the chives and pork work well together. These dumplings are a fine snack on their own or as a side dish.

Final Thoughts

John has been in the industry for over 20 years, starting at the wok in a small Chinese restaurant before moving on to 5-star establishments such as The Westin and St. Regis hotels. The depth of experience and variety of techniques learned along the way give him an edge and it shows.

His recipe for the signature dish I tried is one passed down over generations and tweaked for the modern Singapore palate. It’s easy to explain the longevity of the recipe once you taste the end result.

Much of it is helped along by going the handmade route with virtually everything. You can taste the difference. It’s obviously a labour-intensive process that also eats into the stall’s profits so the affordability factor here is another major plus point.

When we met John late last year, he was already 6 months into his new role as hawker. A year on, things are not altogether that different. There is a steady stream of customers and the food is as good as ever.

There isn’t greatness, though, and I feel that maybe the location is the issue. Despite the coverage John has received for the unusual career trajectory, I don’t see that many people going out of their way to visit Telok Blangah Food Centre. Perhaps a change of scenery will breathe a new lease of life into this brave venture.

Expected damage: S$3.50 – S$5.50 per pax

Other articles you might like:

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Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Yanan Ban Mian Noodle

79 Telok Blangah Drive, #01-29, Singapore 100079

Price
Our Rating 4/5

Yanan Ban Mian Noodle

79 Telok Blangah Drive, #01-29, Singapore 100079

Telephone: +65 9068 6548
Operating Hours: 7am - 7pm (Mon to Fri), 7am – 3pm (Sat & Sun)
Telephone: +65 9068 6548

Operating Hours: 7am - 7pm (Mon to Fri), 7am – 3pm (Sat & Sun)

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