Dining Out 2 minutes 22 March 2019

Behind The Bib: Tai Wah Pork Noodle

This bowl of tangy, spicy bak chor mee has satiated Singaporeans for generations.

Tai Wah Pork Noodle
Blk 531A, Upper Cross Street
#02-16 Hong Lim Market & Food Centre

Up on the second floor of Hong Lim Market & Food Centre, this is a daily sight: two long lines of people mirroring each other and snaking around the corners of Tai Wah Pork Noodle and Outram Park Fried Kway Teow. Both of these famous hawker stalls, situated directly opposite each other, were bestowed with the Bib Gourmand recognition in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 last year, but their queues are not a new development.

People have been flocking to Tai Wah Pork Noodle for years now since it moved into the market in 2004, when third-generation successors Gerald and Jason Tang took over the reins from their father, Tang Chai Chye.

The family legacy of bak chor mee, or minced pork noodles, began in the 1930s with founder Tang Joon Teo hawking the noodles from a street cart in Hill Street. In 1939, he moved his business into a coffeeshop. “In that era, working from a kopitiam was considered a luxury,” he says, laughing. He recalls helping out at the stall as a child, alongside his two older brothers. “Like all kids back then, we started helping our parents from a young age. You didn’t have to be taught, you just picked things up by helping out.”

Inheriting their father’s recipe, second brother Tang Chay Seng continued to helm the original Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle stall (now in Crawford Lane), while Tang Chai Chye went on to open High Street Tai Wah Pork Noodle in the Bestway Building along Prince Edward Road. The latter’s son Gerald Tang then opened Tai Wah Pork Noodle in Hong Lim Market in 2004 when his father retired.

In 2016, when the MICHELIN Guide was launched in Singapore, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle became one of the first two street food locations in the world to be awarded a Michelin star. Last year, Tai Wah Pork Noodle was also awarded the Bib Gourmand recognition in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018.
For Gerald Tang, the journey to becoming a successful hawker began from the most basic of chores to mastering every aspect of cooking and running a business. “Collecting bowls, washing dishes, wrapping dumplings and chopping meat — you cannot cut any corners. You just have to do things step by step till it all becomes familiar over time.”

“Customers often come back for our food and they eat it until their children come back for our food,” says Gerald Tang. “There’s a great satisfaction when you see that, like you’ve become friends.”
What To Order
There’s just one thing on the menu here and that’s bak chor mee, in a soup or dry-tossed in a proprietary chilli sauce. The noodles come in $6, $8 and $10 portions and while both options are delicious, the dry version is what Tai Wah is famous for.

Choose from mee pok or mee kia — the wider flat egg noodles (mee pok) have more heft but the latter thin ones (mee kia) hold more sauce in every mouthful. The noodles are blanched and tossed in a mixture of chilli sauce, vinegar and lard oil. The black vinegar is what gives Tai Wah’s bak chor mee its signature tang, while crispy pork lard adds fragrance to the dish.

Pork slices, a heap of minced meat and tender slivers of pork liver crown the noodles and the dish is garnished with pieces of crispy fried sole fish. Each serving comes with a bowl of sole fish soup brimming with fat, bobbing wontons, pork meatballs and seaweed.
A Bowl For Generations: Tai Wah Pork Noodle

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