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拉面 La Mian World

the quest for the perfect noodle

Tag Archives: dumpling

When I arrived to the city of Mumbai or Bombay (as you are allowed to say once you get more intimate) there was only one locale to go to in terms of nightlife. Not that it was the only place but it was THE place. In Mumbai life is fast and THE place changes as fast as the tides. Before the sub-suburb crowd finds out about THE place and is allowed in, THE place is filled with the rich, beautiful, famous and, which sometimes is the same, Bollywood stars.

Back then I knew exactly nothing about Bollywood and its stars. Even after several months, still I had difficulties distinguishing the Khan’s, the Kapoor’s, the Bachchan’s and all the others. After chatting with a friendly Indian lady at a bar one night over a drink I  found out the next day (only), that I had been talking to a Bollywood celebrity.

To make it short, THE place at that time was “China House” in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bombay’s Santacruz suburb. Why I am telling this story here is that China House is not only a hotel bar, dance club and celebrity hang-out (these times are long gone, however) but it is also a great Chinese Restaurant one floor up from the club area.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is kind of like in a movie set for a Bollywood style rural China thriller market night scene: sacks filled with all kinds of spices, dark wood and dimmed lights. Adding to the chill is the notoriously freezing air conditioning. The food which is prepared in several open kitchens throughout the restaurant is excellent authentic Chinese. You would have guessed by now, yes, they do have hand-pulled noodles on the menu. Unfortunately there is only one dish and that is Dan Dan Mian. Although they claim in the menu that they are hand-pulled noodles I failed at several occasions to see any chef pulling La Mian there. Nonetheless, when you are craving for a change from the butter chicken fare head to China House for your dose of great Chinese food. Or maybe fancy some dumplings and dim sum, try Royal China in Bandra.

China House, Grand Hyatt Mumbai, Off Western Express Highway, Santacruz East, Mumbai, India

Royal China, 92 Turner Road, Bandra West, Mumbai, India

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When I was a little boy, I saw the Columbia sitting on the ramp in Cape Canaveral. After that I wanted to become an astronaut for many years. Though I did not become one, I managed to make NASA send me a number of nice space shuttle mission photographs from the US all the way to my home in Europe.

Discovery is the name of NASA’s second space shuttles. It also was my motto for last weekend’s food choices. Well, maybe not in terms of the kind of food, but in terms of location. I am still working on trying out all the La Mian places, that the Epicure magazine considers the ten best in Singapore. This time I ventured to Tanjong Pagar’s Kampong Bahru Road.

Along a stretch of shop houses are the usual sleazy-bars next to cheap eateries and, to my surprise, two amazingly trendy looking cafes. However, the actual target for discovery was the Savor Rey La Mian Xiao Long Bao Restaurant off Epicure’s list in one of these shop houses.

It starts to dawn on me that my understanding of the best La Mian and that of the guys of Epicure may significantly differ. I asked the friendly waiter at Savor Rey whether the noodles would be freshly hand pulled and he said, they are ‘home made’. What does that mean?

It is time to get serious about things! What are the La Mian World criteria for any eatery to be considered in the best La Mian category?

1. Freshness: The noodles have to be hand pulled freshly for every dish served,

2. Craftsmanship: When you look at the noodles you must utter: ‘wow, that is amazing how evenly sized they are, although he just pulled them in front of my eyes’ (bonus points for front-of-the-eye-open-kitchen-la-mian-expert-chef-pulling),

3. Experience: In your mouth the La Mian are blowing you away with their balanced composition of texture, al-dente-ness and flavour of the dough,

4. Composition: Neither the sauce, soup, meat or whatever it is the dish consists of, can dominate over the noodle. The La Mian speak for themself but are complemented with superior sides.

Ticking through the list, Savor Rey does not fall into the best La Mian category. Not that I did not like the noodles that I ate here, and for sure nothing can beat their prices, but I would not put them on my favorite La Mian list. Since this is not a sell-out food blog, like… some others in Singapore, I don’t have to rave about every place I go to.

Walking back, I entered into Stranger’s Reunion Cafe attracted by its raw wooden door as well as accumulation of funny vintage chairs and table arrangements inside. Great coffee, cool ambience and good cake – this is what I rave about!

Let’s pull it together and forget about the Epicure list. I continue to go out to discover on my own the world’s best La Mian!

Savor Rey La Mian Xiao Long Bao Restaurant, 3 Kampong Bahru Road, Singapore

Stranger’s Reunion, 37 Kampong Bahru Road, Singapore

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Just as I realized my lack of commitment over the past weeks towards the ultimate goal of finding the best La Mian in the world I stumbled upon this article in the Epicure magazine titled Best La Mian in Singapore. This is their list:

ZI YEAN RESTAURANT, which I heard about. But not so much for noodles as more for dim sum,

SHANGHAI REN JIA, which I only knew as the name of a restaurant in Geylang serving very good Beijing duck,

JING HUA RESTAURANT, who‘s noodles did not convince me entirely,

SWEE CHOON DIM SUM RESTAURANT, I have not heard about,

IMPERIAL TREASURE LA MIAN XIAO LONG BAO, to which I never went so far,

LAN ZHOU LA MIAN, which was last on La Mian World’s 2011 Singapore La Mian ranking,

CRYSTAL JADE LA MIAN XIAO LONG BAO, which I love but find the Great World City branch the best,

LAO BEIJING, which has a lot of great northern Chinese food,

SAVOR REY LA MIAN XIAO LONG BAO RESTAURANT, I don’t know,

SHOU LA SHOU BEIJING RESTAURANT, and another one that I did not know.

Shockingly I had not even heard about or visited half of the places on this list. Time for some serious carbs infusion!

I started with Zi Yean Restaurant. It is a short walk from Redhill MRT station on the ground floor of a HDB block. It is quite sizable with an outdoor and an indoor air-conditioned section. I ordered some dumplings, dim sum and of course a bowl of stewed beef La Mian. It comes in a small bowl and is the perfect size to go with a selection of other dishes. The noodles were nice and good tasting. However, I am not entirely sure if they were made fresh on the spot. I did not manage to see or find the La Mian chef pulling the dough. I will have to review La Mian World last year’s list of the top La Mian places in Singapore. I am not convinced yet that the Zi Yean will make it in the 10 best. However, it would make it in my dim sum list for sure, if I would start one.

To compare against last year’s number one champion, I went to Noodlestar’s outlet in Bugis. It has a minimalistic, casual dining restaurant flair. But to my disappointment there is no open kitchen with the La Mian chef visibly performing his noodle pulling art. However, the La Mian of my bowl with in-house stewed pork rib were as amazing as in the food court stall of the Noodlestar in The Shoppes and in their Jalan Sultan restaurant. The pork was, wow!, quite fatty, but still I loved the dish.

The La Mian with minced pork and mushroom sauce was found to be fairly oily and the overall taste not up to the minced-pork-sauce-mark found in other places around Singapore. Still, the Noodelstar noodles outshone it all.

Now it is off to the gym again before heading to the next joint on Epicure’s list!

Zi Yean Restaurant, Blk 56 Lengkok Bahru, #01-443, Singapore

Noodlestar, 233 Victoria Street, Bugis Village, Singapore

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After settling down in a city, one seems to stick to going to the same familiar places, sometimes even not leaving the close-by neighborhoods.  Now, one sunny day I took to the adventure of taking the MRT aaaaaaall the way out to Singapore’s East coast and went to Parkway Parade Mall.

It is not like there are no shopping centers all over the place in Singapore, but this one houses the Koo Kee Dumpling & Ramen House. The name is a bit misleading since it does not serve Japanese Ramen. In fact it features a La Mian chef pulling nice and fresh noodles. However, all their La Mian dishes are called Ramen. So I had the Seafood Fried Ramen which were very tasty, only I realised, that I am not a big fan of fried noodles any more. The only type of fried noodles that I love nowadays are the fried beef  dao xiao mian from Formosa Delight.

The second part of the name of this restaurant was also tried and tested. The Xiao Long Bao of Koo Kee are excellently juicy and tasty. More for the eye than the palate are the Four Season Dumplings, which come in a square steam basket, are square themself and feature four different toppings on a minced pork filling. Very nice to look at but a bit disappointing taste-wise.

The absolute highlight of my meal was the Spinach Beancurd with Mushrooms. It obviously did neither contain La Mian nor Dumplings but was just simply magnificently good! All in all its worth a visit to this basement eatery out in the wild East.

Koo Kee Dumpling & Ramen House, 80 Marine Parade Road, #B1-125 Parkway Parade, Singapore

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After being closed for quite a while I was happy to find out that the great Qun Zhon Eating House in Neil Road in Singapore’s Chinatown had reopened. Passing by after a day of sightseeing with visitors I was ready for a re-fill of dumplings and noodles!

The name in Chinese changed to Jing Hua Xiao Chi I was told and they expanded to two shop house ground floors. As it used to be, the menu is not very extensive but what they serve is excellent. The xiao long bao (usually called soup dumplings in English) live up to their English name and are quite sizable, very juicy and with loads of soup inside. The pot sticker dumplings (Guo Tie) or marvellous, the Chinese Pizza crispy and the Zha Jiang Mian (noodles with minced pork and soya bean paste) also not bad. The noodles are actually not the greatest, but well, in total everything is super tasty. For desert my favorite pancakes with red bean paste are delightful as ever.

In principle the same kind of menu plus some more options is served in Hua Yi Kitchen in Orchard Road. A small and affordable place amidst the cazyness of Orchard shopping I recommend it for repeat visits as much as the Qun Zhong Eating House.

Qun Zhong Eating House / Jing Hua Xiao Chi, 21 Neil Rd  Singapore 088814

Hua Yi Kitchen, 360 Orchard Road, #02-11 International Building, Singapore

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Singapore’s Orchard Road is hollow under ground and you can walk it. There is a huge long stretch of underworld, starting from Shaw House to Wheelock Place, through Ion to the Orchard MRT. Further below Wisma Atria into Ngee Ann City and Takashimaya Department Store. Here you have to resurface.

Not only is there one mall next to each other on the city’s glitzy shopping boulevard, but you will also find the world’s highest concentration of Apple i-something stores, Chanel and Hermès boutiques, Topshops and of course: food courts. There is food republic, food opera, food empire, kopitiam as well as countless stalls in the less fancy malls like Lucky Plaza or Orchard Towers.

Now I discovered a new tunnel that connects Orchard Central, at the east end of the main Orchard mall concentration, to The Centrepoint on the other side of the road. You end up in basement two of The Centrepoint and there is a koptiam food court and, coming to the essence of this story: A La Mian stall!

I was so happily surprised that, although not hungry, I decided to try it. The la mian chef studied me and said: “spicy minced pork noodles!”

Ok, if my face looked like that, than I should have exactly that, I figured and ordered. The noodles he pulled where not la mian but the broad belt style ones. When everything came together, the dish I was served was you po che mian. It had some pieces of meat in it, which to me did not look like minced pork and tasted like beef. Well, talking about taste: It was fantastic, but indeed SPICY. I enjoyed my new discovery and will come back for sure.

Chef Wang’s La Mian & Dumpling, 176 Orchard Road, B2 at The CentrePoint, Singapore

Edit Nov 2016: has since moved to Vivo City, Basement Kopitiam

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The Lao Beijing chain of restaurants in Singapore dishes up what you are craving for in terms of northern Chinese cuisine. To my excitement a long time favorite of mine, 京酱肉丝 Jing Jiang Rou Si, can be enjoyed here.

The small pork strips in a sweet bean sauce taste excellently authentic. The only difference to the original from Beijing is that you won’t be served the “wallpaper” tofu as a wrap but flour pancakes.

Lao Bejing’s dumpling and noodle dishes are also great. Recently I ordered their Dan Dan Mian.

担担面 Dan Dan Mian, to my knowledge up till then, is a quite spicy noodle dish originating from Sichuan province in western China. Minced meat nicely mixes with the very potent hot sauce and noodles.

In the case of Lao Beijing, Dan Dan Mian seemed to be a variation of this dish where the Sichuan sauce was replaced by a mild broth which contained sesame paste or peanut butter. According to wikipedia this is the Taiwanese or American version of Dan Dan Noodles. Still, I enjoyed it a lot also in this variation.

Lao Beijing, e.g. in Velocity@Novena Square, #02-11/12, 238 Thomson Road, Singapore 307683

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