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拉面 La Mian World

the quest for the perfect noodle

Tag Archives: shopping center

It seems that La Mian has peaked in Singapore. Anyway an endangered species in China where it originates from, it looks like that it is going downhill with the art of hand-made noodle pulling in the Lion City.

The still beloved Noodle Star opened several outlets during the past year but soon stopped having a life La Mian chef in its Jalan Sultan restaurant and never had one in the Bugis one.

Imperial Treasure La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Marina Square seems to have closed for good and so does Crystal Jade in Suntec City. Now we all know that the Pearl Center is marked to be torn down this August. This will see another two La Mian stalls go.

La Mian World needs YOU to support your local noodle chef! Go out and visit a La Mian Restaurant today wherever you live.

Maybe try the ever popular Ju Hao in Lavender Food Square or hop over to Jakarta to try Imperial Treasure’s La Mian Xiao Long Bao restaurant there. It is located in one of Jakarta’s most glitzy shopping malls, the Plaza Indonesia. It looks and feels almost like in a Singapore shopping center with only a bit more traffic to get there.

Imperial Treasure La Mian Xiao Long Bao, Plaza Indonesia, 1st Fl Unit J 113, Jl. M.H. Thamrin Kav. 28 – 30, Jakarta

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So this is something new to me: the single strand noodle or Yi Gen Mian. Wandering around one of Singapore’s endless shopping malls (which sometimes have as many floors underground as they have above plus several roof top areas) I stopped in awe when I saw this young man pulling what seemed to be an endless string of noodles.

According to the menu of the Din Gi Noodle House, which features this open kichen concept, Yi Gen Mian originate from Shanxi province in central China. Shanxi together with neighboring Shaanxi (yes, there is one more “a”) are both famous for its noodle making and noodle dishes (in both cases with two “o”).

It is quite an impressive process to produce this longest of long noodles. First, one chef rolls long half finger thick strands of noodles and lays them out in a spiral in a metal bowl. When patrons order their noodles the Yi Gen Mian chef starts pulling this spiral into thick spaghettis and placing it into the boiling water. The dough seems to be of a different consistence from La Mian since they will boil in the water seemingly longer. However, in essence they also tasted a lot softer than my favorite al dente made classic La Mian. Maybe some shorter cooking process next time, dear Yi Gen Mian chef?

Unfortunately there is not much to be found out about Yi Gen Mian in the internet in any language that I am capabale of understanding. Yi Gen Mian however, are not to be confused with Yi Mian or Ee-fu Mian which originate from the south of China and are made with eggs instead of only flour and water[1]. They are referred to as longevity noodles. Due to its length the Yi Gen Mian would also make a lot of sense to be considered longevity noodles. I shall have them as my birthday meal next time in any case!

Din Gi Noodle House (鼎记面馆), #B2-50-51, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238839

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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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After a series of disappointing visits to some places that did not fulfill the very strict criteria established by La Mian World, I took a break from experimenting and had the real deal at Imperial Treasure La Mian Xiao Long Bao located at Marina Square mall. Yes, it is a bit tiring, that you end up in another shopping center and sit in the middle of the buzz of shoppers around. But also, yes, they do have excellent, fresh and expert made, hand pulled noodles here.

With this soothing experience giving me peace of (noodle) mind, I was excited to travel to Taipei. The capital city of Taiwan must hold some La Mian secrets for me to discover as it is, for starters, the home of Din Tai Fung. Their La Mian is decent and we don’t have to talk about the quality of the Xiao Long Bao.

I started searching the web (as Apple’s Siri would say: “I don’t know what you mean by La Mian. May I search the web for you?”). To my surprise it proved to be more challenging to find a La Mian place in Taipei than I expected. It seems that, first of all, the Taipeinese are not as food blog crazy as the Singaporeans. Or, if they are, they may write in Mandarin, which I happen to neither speak nor read.

After endless crawling through web searches and hours of walking through the fascinating streets of Taipei I ended up at Xiao Liu La Mian located close to the Technology Building metro station.

I must have been the first customer of the day as I entered the small restaurant shortly after 11 in the morning already hungry for some carbs infusion. The interior looked more than promising with an open, glass window kitchen with space for the chef pulling the noodles in view of the patrons. The walls were decked out with murals depicting the art of La Mian pulling. The friendly lady and only staff in the entire place seemed to me as if she would be the one pulling it off here. However, to my great disappointment, she was pulling no dough nor was any other chef appearing miraculously.

My beef La Mian was prepared with already pre-pulled noodles. The soup and noodles were good. But after all the effort and time I put into searching and finding this one place I was utterly disappointed about the missing pull here.

I shall come back to Taipei and get some professional help next time to find the right place!

Imperial Treasure La Mian Xiao Long Bao, 6 Raffles Boulevard, #02-138J Marina Square, Singapore (up-date March 2013: this restaurant is closed)

Xiao Liu La Mian, 223 Heping E Rd, Sec 2, Taipei City, Taiwan

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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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Ramen is the Japanese version of La Mian. Although there seem to be different schools of thought whether the word Ramen is actually derived from the Chinese La Mian or some other words of Mandarin or Cantonese dialects,  fact is, it is a fantastic dish. In the very rare case I might get tired of La Mian, Ramen is a perfect substitute.

Ramen comes in a very wide variety. The soup base can be predominantly pork (Tonkotsu), “all in” (Shio), Soya Sauce (Shoyu), Miso or a combination of the before. The noodles may have different shapes and the toppings of the soup may include seaweed, flavoured eggs, corn, spring onions, ground sesame and many more. Basically every Japanese region, subregion and town seems to have its own version of Ramen.

Singapore is a very good place to eat different versions of really good, original tasting Ramen. One place is the Ramen Champion that features different famous Ramen stalls in one spot and I talked about before. There are many, many more:

The other day I walked through Mandarin Gallery on Orchard Road. This up-market mall is usually quite empty and you rarely see the usual long queues during lunch or dinner at the restaurants. This particular evening I ventured to the end of the fourth floor and was met by this massive line of people waiting for a seat in Ippudo Ramen Noodle Restaurant. I just learnt from a friend that in Singapore people sometimes queue up for what they think must be an amazing food stall, only to stand in front of Tom Cruise for an autograph after some hours of waiting.

Since I was sure that this line would guarantee me some good Ramen I was taking my place at the end of the corridor. Only forty-five minutes later I was shown to my table and I ordered the Ippudo Original Tonkotsu Ramen Shiromaru Motoaji with flavoured egg. I love eating my Ramen with loads of sesame on top. At Ipudo they have one of this mini pepper mill like sesame grinders, so I could add and add and…

I ordered my noodles hard. They came fairly al dente but could have been a bit more to the point for my taste. All in all the broth was very tasty, the egg o.k. and I finished it almost to the last drop.

To the last drop finished and additional noodles (kaedama) ordered is what happened at another, and for me the best, Ramen place in Singapore: Tonkotsu King Keisuke. Talking about queues this is the place you can witness lunch queue craziness every day of the week. I outsmarted the long wait (with a special VIP pass) two days in a row because the food is just so fantastically tasty.

This small restaurant is very simple and down to the basics. Only Ramen, Tonkotsu based, and in just some little variety. You get presented with a small piece of paper where you mark your choice of dish, choose how strong you want your soup, how oily and what consistency the noodles shall be in. Then you can use the waiting time to grind some sesame in your grinding bowl, eat some free eggs or watch the chefs preparing your bowl of wonderful Ramen. Wow, I love it!

Ramen Champion, Iluma Bugis Level 4 and Changi Airport Terminal 3 Basement 2, Singapore

Ippudo @ Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Road, #04-02/03/04, Singapore 238867

Keisuke Tonkotsu King, 1 Tras Link, #01-19 Orchid Hotel, 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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