Xin Mei Xiang Zheng Zong Lor Mee (新美香正宗卤面)

Growing up, the idea of having lor mee (lit. braised noodles) never really appealed to me. It’s only in the last five years that I’ve developed an appreciation for its garnishes – raw chilli, garlic, coriander and vinegar. Not things that fast food-loving kids would take kindly to, I’d expect.

Lor mee, a Hokkien dish that hails from Xiamen in China, was introduced to our island in the 1950s. As with all Singaporean dishes, our version of lor mee has been radically reinvented to suit local tastes and bears only the slightest resemblance to the original dish. A plate of lor mee comprises a thick gravy stewed over low heat for hours, poured over thick and flat yellow hokkien noodles. Toppings include slices of lor bak (braised pork) and ngoh hiang (a sausage-like creation consisting of minced pork seasoned with five spice powder encased in a crispy beancurd skin), half a braised egg, and slivers of fried fish meat.

Lor mee, $4.00 for the medium portion.

Xin Mei Xiang serves one of the best lor mee I’ve tried. Not too fond of yellow egg noodles because of their alkaline taste, but the noodles here are just faintly alkaline and nicely al dente. The lor bak is tender, and the ngoh hiang aromatic and firm to the bite. Generous chunks of fresh fried angkoli or red snapper top the dish and make for a splendid sight. One thing to note is that fish is only served with medium ($4.00) and large ($5.00) portions of the dish.

Starchy goodness.

The make-or-break factor of a bowl of lor mee lies in its starchy gravy. Although the idea of starch upon starch may send a nutritionist into convulsions, the gravy at Xin Mei Xiang successfully achieves an optimum viscosity of being just thick enough to coat every strand of noodle. Under the hands of a less skilled chef, the gravy would be gooey and too heavy to drink on its own. No such complaints from us, as the owner of the hand featured in the photo above slurped up every last bit of the gravy in her bowl, as though it were a soup.  The black vinegar added a pleasant zing to the gravy which derived umami from the prawn-based stock, and the whole experience was made just a little spicy by the red, green and storemade chillies.

Long queue even at closing time.

The queue at Xin Mei Xiang one Sunday afternoon stretched for metres, and didn’t show any sign of letting up as closing time approached. This despite the torrential downpour that drenched me completely as I ran from the MRT station to Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, making my Sunday a very gloomy one indeed. The things we do for food. If anything, I’ve learnt that there’s nothing like a piping hot bowl of lor mee in cold weather.

Xin Mei Xiang Lor Mee
51 Old Airport Road
Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, #01-116
Singapore 390051

Opening hours: 7.00am – 3.00pm daily. Closed on Thursdays.

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