Why mee goreng from Indian-Muslim stalls is extremely red

Gabriel Choo
A plate of mee Goreng sold at N M Abdul Rahim. (Photo: Gabriel Choo/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Does the red colour in a mee goreng affect its taste?

That was the question that came to mind when Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore ordered a plate of mee goreng from Indian-Muslim stall N M Abdul Rahim at Ayer Rajah Hawker Centre along West Coast Drive.

The stall, which specialises in mee goreng, has been around for 35 years. It is currently managed by Abdul Rahim, who took over the business from his father, N A Muhammad, 65, when they moved from Shenton Way in 1997.

A plate of bright red mee goreng is priced at $4 and contains green peas, eggs, and slices of cucumber on the side. During the visit to the stall on Thursday morning (17 August), owner Abdul Rahim shared the unexpected reason behind the vibrant colour.

“The red colour gives the impression that the dish is spicy, and eating with that perception in mind will somehow make the dish taste nicer,” said the 41-year-old, whose customers are commonly Malay.

“Malays like spicy food,” said Rahim, who has applied the same strategy to other dishes such as the mutton chop. And thanks to improvements made to food colourings over the years, the mee goreng is a lot redder today than it was in the past.

Abdul Wahab (left) and N M Abdul Rahim. (Photo: Gabriel Choo/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Special ingredients

Besides the eye-catching colour, close relative Abdul Wahab, 52, shared that their mee goreng contains special homemade ingredients and a secret recipe that has been passed down from generations.

Wahab, who has been working at the stall for the past eight years, further let on that the material of the wok makes a difference too. “The better material to use when cooking mee goreng is by using the cast iron wok. It’s the one that lets your food sizzle loudly when frying,” said Wahab.

“It’s like cooking satay, whether it is burnt using charcoal or using gas, the outcome of the taste will be very different,” he explained.

According to both Wahab and Rahim, the material of the wok is important in the eventual taste of the food. (Photo: Gabriel Choo/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

From humble beginnings

The family business began as a pushcart stall at Shenton Way before it moved to its current location at Ayer Rajah Hawker Centre. It is currently managed by Rahim and his brother after Muhammad retired to India in 2012. There are five other workers at the store, who either help to cook, take orders or serve dishes.

While it might be smooth-sailing for now, it wasn’t always the case for the family. In 2011, the stall almost had to fold when their supplier mixed up the mutton and beef orders. This led to them serving customers the wrong meat, which caused some to lodge complaints.

The family risked losing their business licence and was fined by the National Environment Agency. The episode happened for about a month before they managed to rectify it.

“It was probably the worst period for our stall. We even had to go to the MP for help. Thankfully, we managed to tide through that period,” Rahim recalled.

N M Abdul Rahim’s stall at Ayer Rajah Hawker Centre. (Photo: Gabriel Choo / Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

However, Rahim senses tough times ahead as none of his four children are interested in running the stall. “For now, we will just normally run the stall until we decide who should take over the business,” he said.

The stall sells nearly 150 plates of mee goreng daily and welcomes up to 500 customers per day on weekends. Well-known people such as Sitoh Yih Pin, Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir Single-Member Constituency, and Mediacorp artiste Tay Ping Hui have also given the stall a visit.

The stall is located at 503 West Coast Drive, #01-60, and is open daily from 10am to 1am. It closes fortnightly on Wednesday.

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