Makansutra: Sin Ming hawker stall injects colour into ban mian
Yue Lai Xiang's ban mian dishes are full of twists and colourful turns
In desperation, Ms Joy Yeo wrote to me about how she had to terminate her stall at the social enterprise Jurong West Hawker Centre some months ago because of the low footfall and poor business.
Her cost of operation was eating into her revenue - the 20 cents tray return system, where tenants had to compensate customers for every tray they return, cost her around $700 a month.
According to Joy, she had customers who took two trays "just for one order of our ban mian", and described how they would later ask for more chilli sauce and chopsticks and use a second tray.
But she has moved on and relocated to the Sin Ming area, and is now negotiating the contract termination penalty with her previous landlord, Koufu.
Yue Lai Xiang's Hakka ban mian dish, handmade noodles served in soup, is a delicious and happier story, with twists and colourful turns in the hands of Joy, who is a Nyonya gal.
She said: "I am averaging double in revenue and the rents are about the same, minus the ridiculous extra rules and clauses."
To keep her costs low, she gets some of her ingredients from Johor, and one key edge is the use of teepo (dried sole fish bones) in the broth.
It adds a light Teochew touch to the pork bones, garlic, soy beans and ikan bilis used.
But the main magic is the rainbow-coloured noodles.
Joy said: "I realise the purple and blue pea flower or bunga telang version makes the dough a little softer and smoother."
She makes her own hand-torn ban mian noodles and it comes in five hues and indeed, different flavours.
The blue pea flower version ($4.50) is as colourful as the fresh bloom she uses but it hardly lends any taste or aroma, just that softener effect.
You can tell they are natural colours as they lightly tint the broth after a while.
The green spinach ban mian ($4.50) has bits of blended spinach dotting the pasta, lending a refreshingly light garden aroma to the bite.
Her beetroot rendition ($4.50) has a delightful sourish hint infused into the umami in the broth.
The toppings of crispy ikan bilis, pork, egg, daun mani greens or seafood versions with prawns, fish or clams all add another dimension to the overall flavour.
The yellowish pumpkin ban mian ($4.50) introduces softly sweet notes and she also offers the regular plain dough version.
There's even more good stuff - the side order of fried daun mani ($1.50 with any order of noodles) is rare and moreish, dusted with fried shallots and hae bee.
Her new dry chilli version ($5) uses a Nyonya-style sambal and it's rich, spicy and savoury, with hae bee blended in.
I only suggest she drops a 64 deg C soft boiled egg over it to enhance the sensation.