Big prawns, big taste
Prawn mee for bak kut teh fans.
Yes, you read right. That was my first impression after a sip of this.
Prawn mee soup, or hae mee, is not difficult to judge: It is the soup that makes or breaks it.
I know some hawkers who swear by using just prawn heads and little else (maybe a bit of seasoning and rock sugar). The trick, they say, is how you make it.
So what makes the Ah Hui version stand out?
"It is our old Long House recipe from my father," says owner James Tan. He adds that his father still runs a fishball and laksa stall just across from his stall at the food centre.
The older Tan began hawking fishball noodles back in the day and decided to add hae mee to the menu for a simple and practical reason - "can sell at higher price" - he says with a smile.
These days, they have gone one up and use only big prawns, but their prices are reasonable: From $5, using huge ang ka or sway ka prawns.
Their prawn soup has the usual prawn head flavour and aroma, but it has a distinct pork bone aroma and taste, punctured with pepper and a very gentle breeze of herbs.
I noted some light use of dang kui (angelica) too. It felt like a combo of Kuala Lumpur-style bak kut teh lurking in prawn stock.
When I was served their prawn and pork rib noodles, I was not initially blown away. Something was amiss.
"We leave the customers to spoon in the soy sauce on their own," Mr Tan explains. Indeed, a splash was all it took to bring it to life.
Admittedly, some will like the natural flavour and give the salt a miss. Just shoot some of the "gunpowder" or chilli powder to give it a boost.
But if you don't like how noodles can mar the flavour of the soup, go for their equally popular dry version, which comes with a separate bowl of soup redolent with giant prawns. My only peeve was that the sambal did not slap me in the face.
They also recently introduced Teochew prawn cakes - mashed pork neck and shoulder with shrimp, then mixed with bits of water chestnut, shaped into a patty and pan-fried in a crispy soy bean skin wrap.
It was hard to stop eating this one, especially with the chilli dip.
Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodle
411, Balestier Road, Balestier Market
- Closed on alternate Mondays