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拉面 La Mian World

the quest for the perfect noodle

Tag Archives: food court

If you think of Asian mega cities what comes to your mind? Buzzing markets, hordes of people crowding the streets, unbelievable traffic jams and a city life that never stops, twenty four hours around the clock?

This might be true for some places or some areas of these Asian megalopolises. However, take a closer look. Although many cities boast some more or less famous night markets with rows of exotic food stalls, meal times for many are actually early. In Singapore restaurants are jam packed between six and eight in the evening. Finding restaurants that still serve dinner after ten p.m. can be a challenge.

But here comes Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant to your rescue. It opens from six to six. That is in six in the evening to six in the morning. So, whether you come at your regular dinner time, whatever that might mean in your cultural environment or after a night out, they will be there for you. Swee Choon Dim Sum in the new trend area of Jalan Besar serves excellent dumplings of all sorts and of course boasts a La Mian chef pulling away the dough during the night. This place is as good for food as for people watching at the wee hours.

After night comes day. Thanks to one reader of this blog I could see light in the La Mian scene in Singapore after heading all the way West to Clementi. Just behind the usual over-air-conditioned shopping center is the HDB lined food court, wet market and community shopping area.

Most likely I am lacking some language skills here but why you would call a food court Bgain 442 Eating House does not become very clear to me. Maybe Bgain is short for bargain?

In any case the Xinpeng La Mian Xiao Long Bao stall must be considered famous in Singaporean terms since it for sure had the longest queues to be seen around there. I can confirm that it is worth waiting in line. The expertly stretched La Mian are spaghetti thin and have excellent al dente consistence and taste!

Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant, 183-191 Jalan Besar, Singapore

Xinpeng La Mian Xiao Long Bao, Bgain 442 Eating House,  Blk 442, Clementi Ave 3, #01-121, Singapore

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The best La Mian in 2012!

The time around New Year’s is the time of new year’s resolutions, bucket lists, reviews, best-off’s etc. Here at La Mian World we also sat down to look back on the past year of 2012 and collected some statistical facts. This is it:

I ate La Mian in four different countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand.

I consumed approximately 50 bowls of La Mian, of these 47 were consumed in Singapore.

I betrayed the cause of La Mian World by eating Japanese Ramen, Vietnamese Phở and Italian Pasta an uncounted number of times.

Running through the list of places I patronized I decided to nominate the top five best La Mian stalls, restaurants, shops and hawkers in Singapore. Just to remember, the La Mian World criteria for excellency in La Mian are

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.

This is the La Mian top five billboard chart hit list:

Which is your favorite La Mian outlet in Singapore or any place around the world?

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Some trace back the history of modern-day shopping centers to the grand bazaars of the Orient. Through the retail evolution from downtown via main street shopping to mega malls, the concept has taken over the entire globe. Asia replaced the USA as the location with the largest, craziest and especially most fancy shopping temples. Today the world’s most gigantic malls are found in communist China. Asia loves luxury brands, brands in general and chain stores especially. This is not only true for the consumer’s love for cars, clothes or watches. It is also true for food.

Fine dining restaurants of celebrity chefs evolve into global chains like Wolfgang Puck’s Cut or Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne, which touched down in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands’ The Shoppes. The Shoppes are themself a gigantic mall with a collection of high-profile names’ restaurants and sporting the Pangea night club. The latter reportedly serves Asia’s most expensive cocktail at 32,000 Singapore Dollar per glass.

La Mian World is dedicated to the quest for the perfect hand-made noodle. This quest started with the hole in the wall noodle stalls in China. This simple shops for fast food in its literally meaning never fail to impress with the quality of their food, amazing flavours and perfectly hand crafted noodles. Even in Singapore nowadays, a city hailed for its cleanliness and organisation you can find these simplest of places of Northern Chinese influence in and around the Pearl Center in Singapore. The next step towards commercialisation is the Hawker Centre. Ultimately the search will bring you to one of the malls. The Shoppes own food court has a La Mian outlet with a chef pulling the dough. However, the most common evolution of the La Mian stall is the restaurant or of the the chain restaurants serving the Shanghainese cuisine with a string of La Mian incorporated.  Din Tai Fung, Crystal Jade, Imperial Treasure and others have outlets across Asia(‘s malls).

Kuala Lumpur is mostly underestimated when talking about Asian mega cities while Hong Kong, Manila or Jakarta jump into mind immediately. As  any Asian city with some self-respect, Kuala Lumpur has a mind-boggling concentration of mega malls just within walking distance of its center: KL City Center, Berjaya Times Square and Pavillion Kuala Lumpur to name just a few.

No wonder a quick internet search for a place to have some La Mian for lunch brought me to a MALL. Not the usual candidate like Crystal Jade, a restaurant by the name of dragon-i caught my eye. As was to be suspected also this is not a single-outlet-only place. With a very similar menu to Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao it throws in some Sizchuan and Beijing dishes. The interior of the dragon-i in Pavillion Kuala Lumpur feartures some interesting red plastic brick walls and  Xian soldier sculptures standing around. Overall it looks a lot more fancy than Crystal Jade and they seem to have sense for special effect and drama as can be witnessed in their La Mian pulling video: dragon-i la mian drama

I tried their seafood La Mian and the Xiao Long Bao. Although the presentation, juicyness and looks of the XLB were not entirely convincing, the taste was very good. The La Mian were pulled in the open kitchen by a seemingly very experienced chef. I felt that it took him only nano-seconds to produce my noodles. I enjoyed my bowl of freshly made fare and dreamt of some hole in the wall noodle shop in China….

Dragon-i, Pavillion Kuala Lumpur, Lot 1 .13, Level 1, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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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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Hungry for undiscovered La Mian spots I was roaming through the massive People’s Park Food Centre in Singapore’s China town. The residential tower of the People’s Park complex is quite a landmark with its distinct bright yellow colour and the green finishing on the top floor.

The number of hawker stalls in the this food centre always amazes me. So does the crowd that frequents them. Here you can see people queuing across the whole floor-width for one particular hawker who is famous for his chicken rice, char kway teow, meat buns or whatever it is.

After I walked the complete centre from stall to stall I figured there is only one option for the La Mian aficionado: Zhong Hua Mian Zuan.

I ordered the You Po Che Mian. Seeing the chef stretching the dough into these extremely broad and nicely chewy noodles was what attracted me to the stall in the first place. Not really paying attention, my bowl was handed over to me and to my disappointment they had replaced the broad band you po noodles with Dao Xiao Mian. Not that I do not like Dao Xiao Mian, which are shaved noodles. But this is not how it is supposed to be! They must have thought the angmo will not realize it anyway. Well, I was already starving at that point in time. The dish was put together in the right way with hot oil poured over the noodles and loads of chili flakes on top. So I dug in and the flavor was fantastic but also fantastically spicy.

By the way: You Po Che Mian 油泼扯面 might also be called Biáng Biáng Mian 彪彪面 and vice versa. This noodle dish is said to have its origin in the province of Shaanxi.

Zhong Hua Mian Zuan, 32 New Market Road, #01-1052 People’s Park Food Centre, Singapore

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I have a personal new noodle star in Singapore: It is the Noodlestar!

On a weekday in The Shoppes of the Marina Bay Sands you encounter three floors of emptiness. Empty luxury brand shops, only filled with some human life in the form of the sales and security staff both equally dressed in black.

However, one place is abuzz with people and that is the basement foodcourt next to the artificial ice rink. Finding a table to sit can be a challenge and Singaporeans and visitors alike queue for the best stalls like in a hawker centre.

I heard about this foodcourt having a la mian stall before, and also, that this was to be considered not as good as the one at Lavender Food Square. So I finally had to try it myself. I ordered the beef la mian and some xiao long bao. The chef is skillfully pulling the noodles in front of you at the stall and quickly I was ready for the tasting.

It was excellent! The soup’s flavour just as I like it with a Lanzhou taste to it, the noodles smooth and not too soft.

All in all I am ready now for my first hit list of la mian in Singapore. All are great, but some I like better – here you go:

1. Noodlestar in The Shoppes Marina Bay Sands

2. Xi An Xiao Chi Zhuan Mai Dian in Pearls Centre

3. Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Great World City

4. Ju Hao in Lavender Food Square

5. Paradise Dynasty in Ion Orchard

6. Din Tai Fung in Wisma Atria

7. Lanzhou La Mian in Smith Street

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During my stay in China in 1999 I experienced the feel of the Peoples Republic in the once small town Chuan Cha, now a metropolitan suburb, that is rapidly changing to become part of an ocean of urbanity called Shanghai.  After a couple of weeks I decided to move to the heart of that complex itself and found a flat in a new looking apartment building sitting next to the Huang Pu river in Shanghai Pudong.

Similar to my hotel experience the entrance to the apartment building was all marble and gold. However, my apartment was already run down, although probably barely one year old. After three freezing nights (it was March) my first acquisition was a woolen blanket from the shopping centre close by. This massive cube of concrete was at that time considered to be the largest mall in China: the Ba Bai Ban or Nextage. Colossal shopping centres and food courts are nothing out of the ordinary for Shanghai nowadays but in 1999 this was still something not to be found around every corner.

The top floor had a food court and I soon discovered that it also had an excellent La Mian chef. After trying a couple of the other food stalls I returned only to eat at my new La Mian supplier several times per week. All other outlets were way inferior to the outside mall food available in that area. And this area of town was rapidly changing:

In front of my building the street was being turned into a four lane road. New apartment high-rises were under construction across the road in a huge open space. Behind my house a patch of the relatively old remained. Three storey houses connected by narrow lanes which were occupied by a busy all day market. Noise and dirt everywhere. Bicycles crisscrossing the maze. All of this was soon to be replaced by more high-rise buildings and wider roads, or maybe another mall. But for the time being the La Mian hand-made noodle business still survives in modern Shanghai, hopefully for a long time to come.

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