She who stirred us with her mellow voice.
Her style was exemplary of when J-pop meets K-wave; blonde curls matched with stylishly colourful pieces. She might be wearing platforms and not know the customers by their names but her grace was comparable to the maître d’ of some reputable fine dines. Seriously. Her voice, my oh my, gentle as breezing whispers with lightness of fluffy cotton candy.
Just because it’s Geylang doesn’t mean that good service is solely conformed to the more explicitly entertaining lanes. It can be found in many restaurants in this vibrant district as well. The lady boss (or so, I assume) was amazing. Despite a small table of just two diners, she took time to describe the signatures and reasoned the plan of when each dish would be served. I should add affordable prices too. When friends asked of my Old Mother Hen experience, I’d never failed to include a few words of praise for the lady boss. She was the absolute highlight of our dinner.
For the sake of convenience, I could have gone to the Jurong branch but it was a dish served exclusively here that got me taking the MRT all the way to Kallang from my ghetto in the west, pushing my way into a bus to Sims Avenue and braving (I held my breath for as long as I could) a few fruit stalls displaying a frightening amount of durians.
Only, and only for the love of KL-style Hokkien Mee.
Honestly, I was just hoping for an average taste to satisfy my craving for comfort food. I mean, just when authentic Hokkien Mee is on the verge of extinction in KL, what are the chances of me discovering a good one in an island majoring in Teochew cuisine? Like most dai chow (tze char) stalls, it lacked origin/identity. To simply put it – typical construction of fried noodles with soy sauce, squid, prawns and pork. Don’t get me wrong. It’s tasty, especially when greased and glistened with an impressive amount of lard. I walloped the whole plate, almost. The gravy was nicely reduced too, unlike many that left it awfully soupy. But to call it KL-style would be like seeing Mickey Mouse dresses up as Minnie Mouse. Kind of misrepresented, I thought, especially in the absence of the quintessential elements of the charring aroma (wok hei) and ground dried flatfish. Then again, most Hokkien Mee stalls in KL have already forgotten these 2 elements anyway. How sad.
Old Mother Hen is famous for her claypot rice. In terms of ingredients, they scored. There was a nice mixture of flavourful ingredients like waxed sausages and salted fish to whip up the appetite. Liked the well-cooked rice too. I’m not much of a claypot rice fan, so I really can’t distinguish the good from the average. Maybe it’s all about the ensemble of everything, including the condiment of chopped cili padi soaked in soy sauce and the choice of dark, semi-sweet soy sauce because rice by itself, is bland. I still don’t get the idea of the use of charcoal for cooking rice. Does a claypot, which has higher heat capacity, render a better texture of the rice? Perhaps I will find out when I visit the famous stall in Clementi, which I’ve been wanting to visit since forever!
Among other dishes that we had were the perfect ten (十全) herbal soup and the signature deep-fried tofu with a topping of overwhelming oyster sauce taste. I liked the soup because it was dense - an indication of a good, prolonged simmer.
There are many other unexplored dishes on the menu including stir-fried fallopian tubes of sows and steamed freshwater fish. Too many choices, too little brainpower after a day at work. But I’m sure the lady boss is more than willing to lend a hand on that.
Old Mother Hen Traditional Herbal Soup (十全老母鸡小吃店)
136 Sims Ave
(between Lorong 17 and 19)
Tel: (+65) 9128 2793 (Jimmy)