Makansutra: A well-sauced story for the holiday season
Madam Annie Cheong's Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles ooze flavour and sincerity
I once asked Madam Annie Cheong of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle Rice at Beauty World Centre why so many queue for THAT Michelin-starred Chinatown soy sauce chicken.
And with her most diplomatic answer, plus perhaps a wink as she smiled, I learnt something new.
She said: "Don't ask me, I have not tried (it). But in a good version, the marinade doesn't just sit on the skin - mine goes into the flesh too."
In my book, a good soy sauce chicken noodle - and I have tried many, including in chicken noodle homeland Guangzhou, China - must have a few qualities.
The noodles must have that springy resilience that is not necessarily undercooked but made that way.
The chicken should be ultra smooth and perfumed with a rich, dark, herbed and spiced soy sauce.
The noodle sauce should be cooked with soy sauce, both dark and light, herbed and perfumed with a dash of sesame and fried shallot and lard oils.
So I joined the line for Madam Annie's Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle (from $3.30) and it checked all my boxes.
I did not see the usual row of dark, shiny soy sauce chickens hung and lit up at the stall front. Instead, she strung up just one or two, and placed the others in a pot of her secret recipe soy sauce, soaking in all that goodness till it was time to be served.
While the chicken did not look like much, I could taste the herbed soy beyond the skin, and it was light, juicy and smooth.
The noodles were as described and the sauce did not overwhelm, although it had a little smear of sambal blended in.
Then she brought out the order of sui kow, or prawn dumpling soup ($3.30).
I took a bite of the huge sui kow and I had that Matrix bullet-time moment where everything stopped momentarily and I could see and sense all around me.
I sensed at least two sweet, crunchy and decent-sized prawns inside, held with minced pork and further textured with black wood ear fungus.
The sound of each bite was like my favourite Motown hit and the texture and flavour were the double bass and saxophone solo.
Suddenly, I realised I never had a sui kow as good as this in my life. I can taste it as I write. Beyond that, I could sense the authenticity and sincerity of Madam Annie and her daughter Wei Wei in making the meal.
It is not easy to get it right and on point, day in and out. Kudos to them and I will be back for my fourth time soon.
With Christmas around the corner, I would like to remind all that there are no rules saying we must eat turkey during this time.
In fact, countries around the world have their own way, like babi putar (pig roast) in Manado, Indonesia, or fish in some parts of Europe.
Over here, your main meat to carve or chop up can be a whole soy sauce or tandoori chicken, roast duck, a whole baked salmon with whatever sauce, even a suckling pig.
Here's wishing readers a blessed Christmas and festive season ahead.
Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle Rice
#04-51, Beauty World Centre
Opens 11am to 6pm, closed on Wednesdays