Recently, I revisited my favourite Old Airport Road Food Centre and finally decided to visit J & J Special Beef Noodle, a stall I often pass by but have never had the chance to visit.
The stall was set up in 2008 when 73-year-old William was retrenched from his job and decided to delve into the hawker trade.
With a crown of jet-black hair that left us wondering whether it was dyed or a natural marvel, William’s remarkably youthful appearance nearly caused my dining partner, Lily, and I to choke on our sugarcane drinks when we learned of his age. Perhaps both of us are vampires who bathed in the fountain of youth (wink wink).
I found out that the initials ‘J & J’ actually stand for June and Justin, which are the names of his 2 kids— sweet, isn’t it?
The stall has many awards plastered all over its signboard, including local radio station, Class 95’s 2019 Foodie’s Choice for ‘BEST BEEF NOODLES’.
What I tried at J & J Special Beef Noodle
Upon a quick Google search, I discovered that J & J Special Beef Noodle had received reviews from several major publications prior to 2020. With an open mind, I was determined to see if Uncle William has maintained consistency over the years.
I started with the S$6 small bowl of Braised Beef Noodle and, after consulting Uncle William about the available beef options, decided to add Tendon for an extra S$2.50.
I’d like to give a quick shoutout to Uncle William. His warmth and friendliness reminded me so much of my own dad. He graciously thanked me and wished me well as I received my food; truly a delightful gentleman!
Unlike the traditional Hainanese-style with its thick bee hoon and dense, sticky sauce, the Braised Beef Noodle had a bed of thin kway teow instead served with beef shank slices, tendon, sliced white onions, tau geh, Chinese celery and fried shallots doused in a thick, dark gravy.
With each toss, the thin ivory kway teow sheets transformed, taking on an increasingly enticing reddish-brown hue. The beansprouts provided some crunchy bits, creating a delightful contrast with the soft, silky kway teow.
The raw onion slices, with their slightly-spiced pungency, were a personal favourite of mine; they balanced the richness of the overall combination.
As I lifted the jiggly piece of tendon with my chopsticks, Lily couldn’t help but comment, “Wow, it’s so shiny!” Indeed, it was a sight to behold, glistening against the bright sunlight that streamed in beside us.
What caught my eye even more was its remarkably bouncy and jelly-like appearance. I’ve savoured tender, melt-in-the-mouth tendons before, but this texture was unlike anything I’d ever encountered.
Having relished it, I can confirm that it truly fulfilled its visual allure, delivering a taste and texture that matched its enticing appearance.
The slices of beef shank didn’t disappoint either; tender and well braised.
If I were to credit one standout element of the dish, it would undoubtedly be the gravy, masterfully uniting all the ingredients. This velvety concoction boasted a rich beefy essence, harmoniously complemented by subtle sweet undertones, which struck a flawless balance with the savoury elements.
Costing nearly twice as much, the Wagyu Beef Rice (S$13) consisted of short-grained rice which was bathed in beef stock, explaining its enticingly rich colour. Thinly-sliced wagyu beef was adorned on top with sliced onions, egg and Chinese celery.
After thoroughly mixing the bowl, both Lily and I found the rice to be somewhat lacking in flavour and depth. I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to a traditional Japanese donburi, often featuring onion slices, egg, and savoury gravy over rice.
Although the wagyu beef slices were reasonably tender and had nice fatty layers, I felt that they were a tad overcooked and underseasoned. Personally, I would have preferred them to be served medium rare, but it’s possible that this is Uncle William’s customary preparation method for this dish.
Fortunately, I had helped myself to the chilli sauce at the stall’s front and it didn’t disappoint. It was delicately spiced with a subtle acidic kick which injected a lot more character into the wagyu beef slices.
Don’t miss out on Uncle William’s golden broth, served in a small bowl alongside your main dish. His innate talent for making broth shines through; it’s sweet and richly beefy— true liquid gold!
Without doubt, I’ll be back at J & J Special Beef Noodle for another taste of their unique Braised Beef Noodle with out-of-this-world beef tendons.
Hopefully, on my next visit, I’ll have the opportunity to ask Uncle William about the secrets behind his ageless appearance.
Expected damage: S$6 – S$13 per pax