Text and Images by Tris Marlis @ Makansutra.
Chinese New Year is probably the only time when everybody, after three lunches at the relative’s place, is happy to have salad for dinner. We are talking about one or two mouthful of “yu sheng” or raw fish salad, that dish that gets you on your feet and chanting prosperous poetry for good measure. The problem is, to enjoy this salad, you’ll need a big group to share the portion and split the big fat bill, because on this special festive season, carrot, radish and few slices of fish with some plum and lime sauce, could set you back by a hundred bucks(depending on how beautiful the plate and place is. Despite that, everyone wants to do the Prosperity Salad tango, because it’s literally obligatory at Chinese New Year.
So, how about the single foodie or the happy couple looking to consume all the luck without their friends? We found an equally auspicious and delicious alternative – Raw Fish Noodle, egg noodle with sesame, stock and soy sauce, topped with fish sashimi and garnished with ginger, scallion and fresh chillies. It’s the perfect dish to throw a small Chinese New Year party. It’s noodles for longevity and raw fish for prosperity- can’t go wrong with that.
The man behind this lucky noodle dish is Mr Chong Wei who obtained the recipe from his father-in-law and has been selling it since the 50s. He has no idea how his father-in-law came up with this dish – something not found elsewhere in Singapore, as we know. But one thing we understand, Mr Chong is probably the first and initially, only one, selling this rare dish for the past 30 years or so.
At Tong Kee Cooked Food (#02-111,Chinatown Complex, 335 Smith St, 6.30am-8pm, close on Fridays), Mr Chong still serves his original recipe. The noodle is very thin and soft, topped with fresh wolf herring, julienned green chives, red chillies, a dash of white pepper and sambal on the side. The noodle comes a little plain-looking, but do your lucky toss, toss everything well, and the taste, colour and texture transforms. The sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil and a little broth is light, the sambal adds extra kick to the dish, and the different textures of noodles, fish and chives create a symphony in the palate.
Mr Chong now hawks his unique fare at Tong Kee, as his original stall and recipe at Wei Ji Noodle House (at another end of this hawker centre) was sold over a year ago due to an old knee problem. He came back when the bounce in his knee returned and the Tong Kee folks happily partnered him at this wanton mee stall.
The new owner at Wei Ji Noodle House (#02-35, Chinatown Complex,335 Smith St, 7am-3.30pm weekdays and opens till 4pm on weekends,close on Mondays), Mr Chan Huan Kyong, is a former chef at a Japanese restaurant in the United States. This Singapore boy bought this old hawker stall and business and his version comes with extra shredded lettuce. Another version he offers is done with salmon (other than wolf herring). His noodle is more al dente and the sauce is hauntingly similar to a regular wanton mee sauce, sans the sambal. The squeezed lime gives the dish a refreshing touch. Being a Japanese cook for 7 years, he is very particular in handling his fish. “You must freeze your salmon to kill parasites. Actually salmon tastes very good when it’s a little frozen,” he says. He actually marinades his fish fillet before tops it on his noodle, we sense, with sesame oil, sugar and soy sauce.
The best part is that this lucky noodle dish is available all year long, costs a heap much less, comes with carb and is actually very symbolic too. So there you go, order a basic portion, $3.50 at both stalls, and start tossing noodles for longevity, fish for abundance, lettuce for prosperity… may we say huat ah!