Hainanese Beef Noodles
It has been a few years since I’d spoken about Singaporean hawker fare, but I think it’s high time that I reopen this chapter! For those of you who’re following me for Melbourne eats, just bear with me while I indulge in this joyous post.
Back in Singapore, I used to love eating at Odeon Beef Noodles inside Scotts Picnic Food Court near Orchard Road circa the 1990’s. That was way back when I was a dorky Secondary school kid… Yeeks! In fact, that’s not where this hawker began, I hear that the Odeon legacy began in Odeon Theatre in the 1970’s, before I was born…
Stall in Bendemeer Rd Food Centre | Mixed beef soup
Toa Payoh – Hwa Heng Beef Noodle
Blk 29 Bendemeer Rd, #01-01
Bendemeer Road Market Food Centre
(alight at Boon Keng MRT Station)
Wed-Fri: 10am – 5.30pm
Sat-Sun: 10am – 2.30pm
Closed on Mon & Tues
Details up to date as of June 2014
But this very stall that’s now in Bendemeer Rd Food Centre is actually part of that family legacy of said beef noodle vendors. I hear it’s run by the younger of the two brothers who own the business. I love that there are hawkers out there that keep the age-old heritage and recipes alive.
The stall’s old location, in Maude Road
As you know, hawkers move from place to place over the decades, so this was Hwa Heng’s old premises (circa 2010) before they moved to Bendemeer Road. Yes, I’d continued to follow the trail of Odeon Yummyness right through the years. And regardless of location, the quality of the beef noodles have remained consistent. They’re awesome.
Our family (and most Singaporeans) prefer the dry version of this beef noodles when we eat here. Dad just simply calls it ‘gu bak’ which is Hokkien for ‘beef’. And when we’re talking about the soup version, dad would call it gu bak kway teow (which translates to beef with flat rice noodles).
The classic version of this dish comes in a beautiful, dark and thickish sauce that hides a slippery tangle of perfectly cooked thick rice noodles (the type that you’d get with Singapore Laksa). A bed of lightly cooked rare beef sits above the noodles… and to top it all off, there’s a sprinkle of coriander, bean sprouts, salted vegetables and a dash of white pepper. The noodles boasts a firm bite without stretchy resilience and the gently herbed, hearty sauce coats the slippery noodles very nicely.
Top: chea bak (rare beef)
Bottom: Sek bak (cooked beef)
There are various types of beef that you can have with this noodle, but my family prefers rare beef (chea bak). Looking at the collagen-streaked sek bak (cooked beef), you can already tell that it isn’t as great a cut of meat. And when mum or dad orders, they’d make sure that the hawker serves our chea bak nice and rare.
And this is how I like to eat my beef noodles… with the chea bak, noodles and a bit of the tangy fresh-made chilli sauce all on the one spoon. You can also squeeze a piece of calamansi lime over the noodles to help lift its flavour.
To be honest, it’s such a yummy offering that the whole bowl is gone within three minutes. I find it almost impossible to act civilised when eating this.
Note to self: next time I eat this when I’m back in Singapore, I need to control myself and enjoy every bite…!
To supplant our bowls of dry noodles, dad would normally order a cleansing, piping-hot bowl of mixed beef soup, once again specifying that the rare beef be just briefly blanched before serving. The nuanced, brothy soup here is as wonderful as the dry noodles. They compliment each other very well.
From left: beef stomach | tendon
The mixed beef soup also includes beef tripe, tendons and beef stomach (but dad would specify that they don’t include beef balls).
Dammit… just writing this post up makes me want to jump on a plane and slam into this gorgeous bowl of gu bak again. It’s funny how overseas Singaporeans can’t stop loving the food that we grew up eating.
By the way, if you’re looking for the elder brother’s stall (who used to be in Scotts Picnic), he’s now located in Ion Orchard. It’s just as good, but pricier simply because of its premium CBD location.