Tank-to-table prawn noodle
There are two types of prawn noodles soup: Good and lousy - I'm leaving out those not even worth being called "lousy".
Then the connoisseurs get all worked up over whether the soup is clear or murky. There is also discussion by picky experts on whether the prawns used are tiger prawns or banana (ang ka) prawns.
I'll add another consideration to that list: Whether the stall uses live or chilled prawns.
It's been a while since I've come across prawn noodle stalls that offer live prawns.
There was a stall at the defunct Kim Seng Plaza in the late 90s, which had huge temperature-controlled pails of shrimps, crayfish and little lobsters for its stunning bowl of noodles. The rich, clear soup had a sweet hint of herbs.
This Feng Yun stall did very well, and opened a few branches. It exited the scene in 2010 despite the positive media response. I miss that prawn noodles.
Then the heavens took pity on me. Not too long ago, I stumbled upon this humble little stall that had a cooled water glass tank of shrimps jumping about.
"That's my signature and I think I am the only one selling this with live prawns now," says Madam Seow Toh Chio, 53, who has been a hawker since she was a teenager.
"About four years ago, I switched to this recipe with live prawns".
I've eaten it thrice. And the soup seems better each time.
"Yes, that's how it is. I make the stock in the morning and of course it is best by lunch," Madam Seow says.
But even at breakfast time, I found the stock quite acceptable.
What floored me and brought back nice memories was the prawns: They were fresh and immediately blanched upon order. They were gorgeously sweet, springy and crunchy.
When I had it for lunch last week, it was how Madam Seow meant her prawn noodles to be: Sweet, briny and redolent with shrimp flavour and hints of rock sugar, with some onions and garlic in the soup.
Huge fresh prawns sit over noodles in the bowl (for $5, it comes with 100g of those), sprinkled with bits of fried shallot and lard crackling.
Some customers just order the live prawns blanched in the stock, Madam Seow tells me.
She says her prawns are supplied daily and they are sold out by closing time.
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates Asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.
Kallang Cantonese Prawn Noodle
Block 51, Old Airport Road
- 8am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm
- Closed on some Tuesdays