It’s not a good idea to scroll through social media past midnight, especially when you come across mouth-watering reels of mala noodles and chive dumplings from A9 Noodle Dumpling.
This hidden gem has been taking over social media— and for all the right reasons. Located on the second floor of Fortune Centre, A9 Noodle Dumpling is the perfect place to go if you’re craving comfort Chinese food while on a tight budget, as everything on its menu is priced below S$5.
It took me some time to locate A9 Noodle Dumpling because Fortune Centre is filled with twisty walkways that branch off from the main area. I found the humble eatery at the end of said branched-off walkway, in the opposite direction from the main escalator.
If we’re talking about interior and ambience, A9 Noodle Dumpling doesn’t offer much. It’s filled with foldable tables and plastic stackable chairs, oozing casual and no-fuss vibes that made me wish I had turned up in shorts instead of a flowy dress.
Frankly, this sounds like a place I’d visit often if I were a student. In fact, when I dropped by for a long overdue meal, I noticed that the majority of its customers were students from nearby schools, namely NAFA and SMU.
When I first arrived, I didn’t give much thought to the lit whiteboards at the front of the casual eatery, as most of the whiteboard was filled with scribbles from past customers.
However, upon ordering, the staff mentioned that they write their daily promotions on the whiteboard— it’s customary for them to give a S$1 discount off one menu item everyday.
On the day that I happened to visit, they picked their popular Dumplings as the discounted item of the day. That means that instead of the regular price of S$4 for 15 dumplings, customers could grab this at an insane steal of S$3. That’s S$0.20 per dumpling!
Note to self: Definitely check the whiteboard before deciding what to order.
What I tried
My dining companion and I started off with A9 Noodle Dumpling’s Chive Pork Dumplings (S$4 for 15 pieces). If you’re not a big fan of chives, you can try its Cabbage Pork Dumplings (S$4 for 15 pieces) instead.
After the daily discount on this particular item, I paid only S$3 for this plate of freshly made dumplings, which works out to be about S$0.20 per dumpling. If I had paid the original price, it’d work out to be about S$0.26 per dumpling— still pretty value-for-money, if you ask me.
I was pleased to find out that all of its dumplings are made in-house (albeit with a machine to speed things up) and are freshly boiled upon order.
I helped myself to sliced ginger and black vinegar from its sauce station and sat back down at my seat, eager to dig in while the dumplings were still hot.
These aren’t fancy dumplings, but they were certainly delicious. The chive filling was savoury and earthy, while the minced pork was springy and juicy. Each dumpling was also pretty decent in size and it took me about two to three mouthfuls to finish a single dumpling.
While the dumpling skin itself was a little thick, especially near the folds at the top, this was something I could live with given its flavourful filling.
A fair note of warning— the dumpling skin gets cold quickly, so be sure to consume the dumplings while they’re still hot.
When I received the Mala Savoury Noodle (S$5), I did a double take and checked with A9 Noodle Dumpling’s staff whether I had received the right order. This looked more like dry ramen or mazesoba, especially with the addition of the two pieces of tempura.
“Yes, this is the Mala Savoury Noodle,” they insisted.
It was only when my dining companion started mixing the noodles that I finally identified the mala element— the noodles were coated in a red oil, and I could also smell the distinct fragrance of the spicy mala oil.
Spicy, salty and with a pleasant numbness, these noodles were simple and comforting, and the generous amount of sesame seeds, chives and chopped onions added a nice pop of texture. I could see myself having this for supper, and if I were a student, I’d definitely buy this on rainy days.
I’ve got to say, as a major mala fan, I was slightly disappointed with how A9 Noodle Dumpling’s mala noodles lacked that distinctive savouriness that comes with most mala xiang guo dishes. Plus, it was more oily than I would’ve liked. I wish there had been more umami flavours in this dish as opposed to just being salty, oily or spicy— perhaps they could’ve added minced meat or fermented soybean paste to recreate mala’s iconic full-bodied richness.
The addition of the two tempura pieces were quite confusing and I wasn’t a huge fan of them— I’d rather have sliced meat, meatballs or minced meat in my mala noodles instead. Plus, after being coated in the mala oil, the tempura had become soggy and doughy.
The last item I tried was A9 Noodle Dumpling’s Pork Meatball Noodle (S$4).
It came with four meatballs, seaweed, spring onions, noodles, and large pieces of dried ikan bilis.
Despite being a Chinese eatery, this particular dish had strong Japanese influences. The soup was most definitely dashi broth and tasted identical to that of udon noodles. It had a smooth and light texture, with a savoury and mildly sweet flavour that had plenty of depth, and I could also taste a briny saltiness from the added seaweed.
For S$4, I’ve got to say that the meatballs were decent in size and you’re certainly getting more bang for your buck. The meatballs had been pan-fried before being placed in the bowl of soup, so the result was a soft and juicy meatball that had a tinge of grilled smokiness.
I’ve got to admit that it was a little odd eating pan-fried meatballs that had been soaked in broth. Plus, the remaining elements of the dish— the noodles, seaweed and ikan bilis— were pretty nondescript, but for its affordable price point, I couldn’t complain much about this simple yet comforting bowl of noodles.
If you’re looking for a quick and satisfying bite that won’t hurt your wallet, A9 Noodle Dumpling’s the way to go. Its offerings are not restaurant standard, but they’re certainly low-fuss— the kind I could see myself eating if I were craving something simple.
Its affordability is also a huge draw, especially for those working or studying in the area— I mean, how often can you say that you’ve had dumplings that cost S$0.20 to S$0.26 each?
Expected damage: S$3 – S$5 per pax
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