Makansutra: Beef up your noodles at Hometown Hainan Fen
These noodle dishes from a People's Park stall are just like the ones in Sanya, China
A few years ago, I went to Hainan for a makan expedition in the city of Sanya.
I had Hainan fen (noodles), and at once I knew the origins of our gooey beef noodles.
It came with a soft and slurpy beehoon with a thick meat sauce that was livened up with sour vegetables, peanut, bamboo shoot and some meat.
So it was a pleasant surprise when I came across Hometown Hainan Fen at People's Park Food Centre.
It is an unassuming stall that offers Hainan fen by two petite Hainanese women with the same modern migrant food story and who now call Singapore home.
Ms Zhang Yan, who operates the stall with her sister Zhang Ya, said: "For the longest time, we could not find authentic Hainan fen here, so we made the decision and here we are."
The signature Hainanese Fun ($3.50 for pork; $4 for beef) was like how I remembered it was in Sanya.
It was not overly beefy, with a touch of sweetness from the vegetables used in the stock. Yet it was also infused with prawn paste for that umami taste in the stock base.
The bamboo shoot and peanut gave it extra texture and flavour - great for those who find the usual beef noodles too, well, beefy.
My only beef was she should have placed more salted vegetables to sharpen the flavours, and a "just ask next time" was her reply. She uses the thinner laksa beehoon, which tastes like the Sanya version but is not as slurpy soft.
She lamented: "It will be too expensive for the old folk and heartland crowd if I import it."
The cold or room temperature Hainan Pickle Fun (from $3.50) came "drier" with less sauce and a "wheatier" noodle.
The sauce and toppings are similar but when I spooned the freshly blended garlic chilli over, the skies opened.
The spiciness spiked down and lent such a nice touch to the meaty sauce.
My third bowl was the Beef Brisket and Pickle Cabbage and this came a notch beefier (using a different stock base).
Again, there was the gooey sauce, topped with beef tripe, pickle cabbage, brisket and bamboo shoot. The sourish vegetables atop were a refreshing touch to the same old Hainan beef noodles.
Despite most of us being budget-conscious, I think there will be foodies willing to pay that little extra for the real Hainan beehoon.
There are those who eat and those who appreciate, and both should be catered to.
Hometown Hainan Fen
#01-1100, People's Park Food Centre
(next to OG)
10am to 7pm, closed adhoc, twice a month