Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ah Kow and Tai Wah Bak Chor Mee - Hong Lim Complex

There's no doubt that my favourite Singaporean dish is bak chor mee (bcm) or minced pork noodles. I'm always impressed by the strong memory of these bcm sellers in remembering each customer's order because, as simple as a serving may look, the combination of ingredients is endless - from the types of noodles to the optional liver to the addition of chilli paste to a choice of either dry-tossed or soup, etc. Oh, and eat-in or takeaway ar?

I was rather contemplative that morning, deeply affected and concerned about the chaos that would take place in my hometown later in the afternoon. As trifling as it may seem, I related the bowls of bcm in front of me to life itself. You see, the Chinese believe that life is a combination of tastes, more specifically (and in no particular order) - sweet, sour, bitter and spicy. I can't think of many dishes that represent this philosophy. BCM is one of the very few. Sour comes from the black vinegar that, to me, gives the dressing it's distinctive character. Spicy is the dollop of chilli paste coating the noodles. Slivers of liver provide a tinge of bitterness while sweetness is in the broth simmered with pork bones, among other flavourful ingredients. Let's not forget the savoury taste of braised shitake slices and a piece of flatfish crisp. Of course, there's the quintessential, aromatic, crunchy fried lard bits. Imagine mixing all the above. Then imagine taking a bite. Now that's a taste of good life there. I had two bowls that morning but this pleasurable calm before the storm was not that much of a comfort, that's for sure.

I come to Hong Lim Complex whenever I can, to savour Ah Kow's (#02-42) version of bcm, which to me, is a complete bcm experience. Complete means a combination of springy noodles, optimal tang and appetizing aroma of the black vinegar, immensely soaked, soft shitake, sizable serving of minced pork, unlimited offering of fried crunchy fried lard cubes, a dumpling filled with pork, chives and flatfish powder (it's a very simple but thoughtful touch, it is) and a bowl of broth topped with seaweed and coriander. Surmounting all the accolades and respectable ratings that Ah Kow has garnered over the decades, it is this package, the complete, delectable bcm experience, that had me (and many others) returning over and over again.

As mentioned earlier, I had two bowls of bcm. One was Ah Kow's and the other was Tai Wah's (#02-42), from High Street. I had failed to notice this stall until now, thanks to a noticeable queue. And the buzzing Outram Park Char Kway Teow located just opposite Tai Wah. Initially, I thought it was a branch of my other favourite bcm stall, Tai Hwa from Hill Street, now residing at Crawford Lane. Apparently, they are somehow related, as I'd read from some websites. Their dressing was sweeter and lighter as compared to Ah Kow's while the noodles were skillfully cooked to a springy texture. The taste and choice of toppings (pork balls included) did remind me of Tai Hwa's, so that's good.

Approximately two hours after I'd left Chinatown, a group of fellow countrymen were having a picnic at the nearby Hong Lim Park. A much quieter affair compared to the other cities that joined in the call for a fair and clean election back home. I don't believe that it's an impetuous act, but one that is rational, responsible and noble. Had I been informed, I would have dropped by to say hi, at least. Seriously, to oppress, in the most distasteful way, the articulation of national issues and reformation for the better is utterly foolish.

15 comments:

LiquidShaDow said...

Been wanting to try the BCM from this stall for quite a while. Never found the time to go down.

HairyBerry said...

liquidshadow, me too. weekdays are impossible for me, so it's only on weekends that i can afford the time. but it's worth the trip, i think. i've been wanting to try outram park ckt too. and perhaps, some bread from barcook bakery. :)

His Food Blog said...

Ah Kow FTW!... Unless I dropped by during dinnertime when he's closed and I have to make do with Tai Hwa.

ice said...

A-kow's BCM is awesome! It's my favorite BCM, vinegarish with excellent Teochew dumplings & free flow pork lard lol. Very Teochew indeed. Haven't tried Tai Wah's BCM at Hong Lim yet, I think it's the brother's son's stall (super confusing haha), but I heard Tai Hwa at Crawford Lane is much better.

choi yen said...

What noodle they use, it seem like wonton mee to me? Do we have it here at KL?

Extreme Power said...

Uncle brown recommended one is it? aha...

UnkaLeong said...

If there is one dish I will not leave SQ without trying, it's BCM. But the type I can get access to during my short jaunts down south are those by Amoy or Lau Pasar. Either that or those served by Food Republic or some other fast food outlet at the malls.

*sigh*

HairyBerry said...

his food blog, yeah, ah kow does not cater to the dinner crowd. that's why i have to go on weekends...but for a man his age, he's still working very hard. respect! :)

ice, ah, yes! you've just reminded me that i'd forgotten to add in my post that it's a good representation of Teochew cuisine. thanks! :) as for the dai hua/tai wah/tai hwa saga, i can just say WAHHHH!!!! haha. well, as long as they all taste good, it's good for us, right? hehehe....

choi yen, it's very similar to our wantan mee, but with less or no lye water, i think. the thicker version is called mee pok, which i think is available some hawker centres and kopitiams in kl. check it out. :)

extreme power, haha, i sure remember mr. brown's bcm podcast...that was classic stuff. hilarious!

unkaleong, yeah, those are actually not bad but if time permits, let me bring you to my favourite bcm stalls. i think you'll like it. pssst, i brought one of our friends to ah kow's and she liked it also. :) a side note - woah, you come to sg more often than me going back to kl eh? hehehe...

BonyW said...

MM , I have not tried this meal , but am almost 100% sure that I am going to love it! If I could only have a try :)!

Handy Moves

J2Kfm said...

I think Tai Wah was the one we were aiming for, but to no avail since time did not permit. There's one that's near Golden Mile Complex too, is that the same? Under some flats.

HairyBerry said...

j2kfm, i think you are referring to the one at crawford lane. yes, that's my favourite tai wah! opposite golden mile tower is the food complex which has lots of good food to offer, but not bcm, i think. hope you get to try tai wah soon! :)

Life for Beginners | Kenny Mah said...

Methinks from this post I'm learning that I need to hit more hawker centres and food courts the next time I visit Singapore. There's life away from Orchard Road (only place I'm familiar with - not cos of the shopping, honestly) after all. :)

And while things get dirtier back home, there's this sense of possibility too, that's heartening, my friend.

HairyBerry said...

kenny, oh yes, there's definitely more than just orchard road. i also realise that we always meet in shopping malls when you drop by singapore. tell ya what, next time you are here, we'll go for hawker food. we'll start with bcm! :)

i definitely sense this new, cleansing feeling in the air back home. and that's heartening indeed, bro! :)

Life for Beginners | Kenny Mah said...

Hooray for hawker food! See you there the next time! :)

HairyBerry said...

Kenny, sure! Just lemme know your dates! :)