Once upon a time, almost every coffeeshop has an anchor tenant, and chances are that it is a noodle stall. It could be Teochew Fishball Noodles or Hokkien Bakcho (minced meat) Noodles or even the Cantonese Wanton Noodles. One can take this at any time of the day. It could be for breakfast, break, lunch, dinner or supper. Or for that matter when you are hungry. In my lifetime so far, I started out eating a bowl of the noodles at 20 cents for noodles with soup and 30 cents for noodles that are called as “dry” (translated from Hokkien or Teochew’s Ta, such as Mee Pok Ta, the famous dish that would come out from any typical Singaporean Chinese about what he or she misses when away from home. Now it is S$2.50 or S$3.00 to start off. In airconditioned food court, the prices are higher, but not equal to the taste.
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- It's got the taste
Ah, and so, I was and am still on the prowl for good noodles. At least to my taste. The soup, the noodles – it has to be boiled just nice with the Q factor, the fish cakes, the fish balls (It is sad that most stalls would order these from the factory. They used to make their own!) and yes, for the “Ta” version, the chilli gravy has to give that umph! For chilli, the taste really differs with different people. So, one’s chilli could be the other’s yuks.
The latest that is my favourite so far (since some 5 years) is this stall at the coffeeshop at Blk.58 Lengkok Bahru. Talk about memory, this guy who cooks the noodles could remember all the orders – no notes. And yet, he could still have conversations with many people at once. Most of the customers are in the neighbourhood or the sales guys from the car showrooms nearby. And so, it was always an order, some chat, and some playful chit and themes could run.
There’s only one stall here and because of the size of the coffeeshop, one just has to find a place where he or she could put a bowl of noodles on and a cup of coffee, perhaps. The coffee here is good. Again, a hard find these days.
It is the time of the year, the 7th month of the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. This year, the 7th Month falls on 10 August and will last till 7 September 2010, which is the 29th of the 7th Month. The Chinese would call this month as the Zhong Yuan Jie. Some call it the Ghost Festival. Someone else coined it the Hungry Ghost Festival.
In the old days, when most people were poor, Zhong Yuan Jie was one of the festivals that apart from making offerings to the deceased (the ancestors) and also to the wandering souls, that were said to be coming back to the earth realm, it was a time for great makan, as far as the kids were concerned. The poor parents might have to scrapped their savings or even borrow money to make a decent offering to their ancestors. To us kids, it was a time when we could taste chicken and duck and an assortment of fruits.
7th month is normally around August and it is probably the hottest season in Singapore. It is also a season of many local fruits. I always remember the 7th month with Buah Duku (the local Chinese would call it maluku, a mis-pronounciation of Buah Duku?) followed by Buah Langsat, and there’s the Duku Langsat (a cross?). Rambutans, mangosteen and durians too. For various reaons, Durians were never (almost never) offered to the Ancestors nor the Gods.
Makan Singapore is undergoing another metamorphosis. It will take a while. Watch out for any signs of further life.