Jin Ji Fishball Noodle | Sembawang Hill Food Centre

What’s the best mee pok you’ve ever had?

Mine was back in the day, when Singapore was a lot more depressing. Seriously, it was dark days then, back in the late 90s. I’m sure few of us would remember the massive spate of retrenchments in 1997…you’d know friends or friend’s friends’ who overnight became no income families. To be honest, I wasn’t at all affected by it but perhaps because of that, my parents would remind us about the mass family suicide cases that would happen every other week. Anyway, we used to stay in the east, and we’d often have our weekend afternoon tea at Ah Lim Mee Pok You Mian Kway Teow Mee at the Soy Eu Tua coffee shop, and it was the best mee pok ever.

I went back a few years ago while working as a writer for failed magazine, Designare Homme – the office was in the east. Our memories are often better than in reality, right? Yup, it wasn’t very good or rather, it wasn’t as good as I recalled. Still, I continued to search for this now fabled fantasy mee pok. Did it exist? I was hopeful, but I never found it. It seemed like the market demanded a vinegar infested mushroom sauce pot of noodles, and I hated it.

And…the story would’ve ended there if not for a simple trip to Sembawang Hill Food Centre for breakfast. To be honest, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. The folks weren’t at home, and I just wanted something to fill my belly. I had just visited a week ago, and was in the mood for chwee kway when I followed diners’ mee pok bowls to Jin Ji Fishball Noodle. This stall, run by the Toh family, has been around for over three decades. It’s into its second generation already, and are currently sisters, who’re in their fifties. With such a history, you might imagine Jin Ji is popular and you’d be right: the stall sells its first bowl at 7am, and just a little after 10am, stops taking orders in order to close at 2pm for the day. I wanted to order mee pok, but was first advised that I had to wait 30 minutes, and secondly, was persuaded that the mee kia was better. I mean, what hawker advises you on their personal best? You kinda knew something great was going to happen.

From the very first taste, this was perfect. The mee kia (thin egg noodles) is cooked al dente, and the noodles which are individually tossed by chopsticks before serving, retain their springy character, almost as if they’re still alive. But it’s the balance of chili, sauces and condiments that really take the cake – it’s never overpowering, it never tries to force upon you the heavy aroma of the pork. I suck when it comes to describing hawker food, but this mee kia is virtually perfect.

My only pet peeve, I guess, is that the portions are not a lot.

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