Makansutra: Chye poh hor fun doesn't get any better than at Poh
This sweet, salty and roasty dish from Poh will have you returning to Empress Road Market and Food Centre
Chef Ng Tham Siew refused to serve me as he had sold his last portion for the day at 2pm and was ready to nurse his cup of kopi-o.
I pleaded, telling him I heard so much about his dish and came from far away - I admit, I was lying - to try it and did not know when I would be back again, adding that I wanted to tell my friends on social media.
I was glad he did not know I had been hammering out my column here for over 12 years now, and he reluctantly took out a chilled bag of chye poh (cured radish) and hit the wok.
Chef Ng brought the wok of oil up to full heat, fried half the bag of sweet chye poh till the aroma of that addictive ingredient filled his little stall.
Then he oiled up another wok and cooked a portion of hor fun, searing it over high heat till the wok hei was evident, before he flavoured it with his special soya sauce and fish sauce mixture.
He sprinkled a fat spoon of the fragrant chye poh bits over and pressed the noodle flat onto the wok, like a pancake.
Then, magic happened - he poured beaten eggs around the sides of the noodle and let it slide into the base of the pancake hor fun before he flipped it over and topped it with prawns, lard croutons and spring onions.
Chef Ng worked in top hotels such as the Shangri-La and Kim Huat restaurant in Clementi before settling here at Empress Road Market and Food Centre some eight years ago. And that signature Preserved Chye Poh Hor Fun ($5) is not some induction wok or basic stove-fired dish - you need high-powered flames to bring out the qualities of the ingredients.
I was so amazed, I had it again a few days later to confirm it was neither a fluke nor a dream.
The sweetness of the hor fun, seared with a splash of soya sauce with the sweet chye poh in that eggy mix, was supreme - even top Chinese restaurants cannot offer that.
Chef Ng said: "I used to cook the Teochew chye poh kway teow but when I came here, I took it further and created this version."
This sweet, salty and roasty kway teow combination goes so well with his other "signboard signature" dish - the Har Cheong Gai ($7), or prawn paste chicken. This is one of the best in the market, bringing back a sensation I had forgotten with this dish. The batter was crispy gummy and the one-day marination resulted in the flavours permeating the chicken.
The other dishes I will return for is the Moonlight Hor Fun ($4.50), which he does with the wok-seared hor fun placed over beaten raw eggs on the base of the plate. Stir it quick and the resultant ultra smooth hor fun is a delight. And since you know he is a hor fun master, go tear into his Dry Fried Hor Fun.
The only reason you would not come back for more is because you are hor fun intolerant.
#01-89, Empress Road Market and Food Centre
Opens 10am to 3pm, closed on Mondays