Last Sunday afternoon, my dining partners and I headed to Hei Bai Chao which is located at the Grantral Mall @ Macpherson. It’s a food stall within the M. Connect Food Court, which specialises in Malaysian-inspired dishes such as KL Dai Lok Mee & San Lou Bee Hoon.
Hei Bai Chao is the brainchild of Claire and Alex, a pair of siblings who also happen to be the owners of Daruma Tavern at The Brooks II along Springside Green.
After I ordered my food from the friendly staff, I watched as one of the chefs worked his magic on my KL Dai Lok mee. The strands of noodles somersaulted in mid-air as he tossed the wok over the open blue flame. It was mesmerising to watch!
What I tried at Hei Bai Chao
We commenced with the first dish, the KL Dai Lok Mee (S$8.80). The plate consisted of rich-brown noodles stir-fried with thin strips of pork belly, prawns, cabbage, pork lard bits, and fishcake.
About 3 years ago in Kuala Lumpur, I had my first encounter with this dish and I remember being blown away by its intense flavour. And so I had a high benchmark for what I was about to taste.
As I lifted the plump strands that resembled Japanese udon, my nostrils caught whiffs of aromatic smokiness which emanated from the piping-hot vapours.
The noodles were filled with wok hei and tasted subtly sweet from the dark soya sauce. The pieces of cabbage added crunchy textures while the firm prawns were fresh.
Although the fried bits of lard added some fragrant creaminess between bites, I would’ve preferred if the noodles had fully absorbed the umami-ness of the pork fat. This to me, felt like 2 separate entities with just the sprinkling of the pork lard on top.
I then moved on to the Fried Hokkien Mee (S$7.80), which had a combination of stir-fried yellow mee and bee hoon tossed with strips of sotong, prawns, pork belly, and mini nuggets of pork lard.
I took my first mouthful of noodles and everything went silent for a few seconds (no, I didn’t pass out). The noodles had absorbed all that needed ‘wok breath’ while possessing satisfying notes coming from the pork belly and lard— this was lacking in the previous dish.
Spritzing the golden drops from the calamansi gave the noodles an instant vibrant personality, which made me experience another side to it.
The sambal was definitely not for the faint-hearted. It packed a spicy punch which gradually intensified, coupled with a robust taste of belacan, and a little acidity thrown in the mix.
Don’t… I repeat, don’t eat it in large quantities unless you want to get your sinuses cleared out.
The golden-brown chunks of pork knuckles were sitting on the glass display, doing its utmost in the art of seduction. Alas, I succumbed to temptation and ordered the smallest Crispy Pork Knuckle (S$10).
The meat was chopped nicely into pieces, and served with a dollop of American mustard.
The pork knuckle had a nice ratio of meat to fat, but the skin was the pièce de résistance of the dish. Just imagine… the satisfying shatter of crackling produced by your teeth as it disintegrates in your mouth. It’s the stuff of dreams!
Dipping the phenomenal pieces of pork knuckle into the American mustard added a tinge of sweetness, mellowing its rich depth.
We ended things off with the Crispy Bee Hoon (S$9.80). This dish has other aliases: ‘San Lou bee hoon‘ and ‘chao tah (burnt) bee hoon‘. The fine strips of rice noodles were protected by a browned crust topped with pork lard bits, calamansi and sambal.
Who would’ve thought that those burnt portions of bee hoon that were lumped together at the bottom of your grandma’s wok in the past would one day become Malaysian specialty dishes?
I prodded the crust with my chopsticks and spoon to reveal hidden treasures of prawns, green veggies, fishcake and pork belly.
As fragrant as the crust was, the bee hoon, however, turned out to be rather lacklustre. It didn’t possess the wok flavour that I’d normally get at other establishments. What a pity.
Overall, despite some hits and misses, I had a satisfying meal at Hei Bai Chao. Do pay them a visit if you’re in the vicinity of Tai Seng. I’ve given my honest feedback to the owners, and I’m looking forward to a return visit in the future.
Expected damage: S$7.80 – S$12.80 per pax
Order Now: foodpanda
The post Hei Bai Chao: San lou bee hoon, KL Dai Lok mee & crispy pork knuckle at Macpherson appeared first on SETHLUI.com.