Prawn Mee Bros Showdown: Noo Cheng Adam Road, Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road, Adam Road San Ge

“Mummy, I’m going to do a showdown between 3 brothers who sell hae mee.”

You know what’s hae mee, so let’s get straight into it. All rooted in that iconic prawn noodles store on Adam Road, these are not your ordinary bros.

2 out of 3 stalls — Noo Cheng Adam Road Big Prawn Mee and Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle — are helmed by twins and have attained the acclaimed Michelin Bib Gourmand for multiple years. The last, Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle, is a relatively new venture by the oldest brother.

Notably, all 3 stalls use elements from their father’s original recipe and add their own unique twist.

aik hua, aik cheng, jack
aik hua, aik cheng, jack

To help you understand my process of deciding the winner of this showdown, here are 4 factors that I will be prioritising in this long journey: Broth, Prawns, Pork Ribs and Value for Money.

Aficionados know that the cornerstone behind every prawn mee is the broth. And why Prawns and Pork Ribs? I believe the best can master not only one, but two core ingredients of this dish. I also like Prawns with Pork Ribs the most LOL. Don’t worry, I will lightly touch on the noodles too.

How about Value for Money? Taking into account the quality and quantity of ingredients, I want the best for your wallet amidst Singapore’s rising costs.

Siao ah. Easier said than done,” my mum replied when I told her about writing this crazy article.

Orh, try lor.

Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle

It seems befitting to start with the dai lou. 

adam rd san ge - jack
adam rd san ge - jack

Don’t be confused, despite having “Adam Road” in its name, Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle is located at Newton Food Centre. Struggling to find the stall in this touristy maze? Just look out for a man in a neon green polo shirt. 

That’s Jack Teo, 63, the eldest brother. 

Jack boldly believes that he is more experienced than his siblings. Picking up the prawn noodles trade from his father at age 13, Jack used to helm the evening shifts at the original Adam Road Prawn Noodles for over 20 years. Additionally, before embarking on his solo venture last year, he was also a roast master at Alex’s Eating House. Justified? 

Attributing his stagnant business performance to limited customer awareness, Jack harnesses this setback by improving his recipes “bit by bit”. “我希望明年可以拿米其林 (I hope that my stall can get Michelin next year)!” he chuckled. 

adam rd san ge - prawns + pork rib prawn mee
adam rd san ge - prawns + pork rib prawn mee

Sure, let’s find out if this prawn noodle with pork rib & prawn (S$7) is Michelin-worthy.

I had my first bowl of hae mee at Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle, and I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed. But something changed. The broth was thicker than expected. Did I arrive at the wrong time? Jack did mention that his prawn soup (inspired by his father’s recipe) is regarded as “古早 (traditional)” and hard to appreciate among younger generations as it is simmered over a long period of time. 

adam rd san ge - broth
adam rd san ge - broth

Hmm. While it might be cloying to some, I’m fine with it. Bursting with incredibly rich umami and an unexpected twinge of spice, this golden liquid is infused with the aromatic essence of flower crab, scallop, and, oh, pig skin. IMO, the crunchy shallots (which weren’t present previously) struck a fine balance with the broth’s heavily briny taste profile. 

adam rd san ge - broth ingredients
adam rd san ge - broth ingredients

Generously portioned (very filling), the yellow noodles were simply your regular kind, but we all know that this is not what I’m here for. Then what?! 

THE PRAWNS. 

They never fail to impress me. “This is ‘hotel prawn’ standard. I submerge it in ice instead of serving it straight,” said Jack while proudly pointing to containers brimming with ice cubes and seafood.

Honestly, I’m not sure what’s hotel standard, but I’ll take his word for it. 

adam rd san ge - ang kar prawns display
adam rd san ge - ang kar prawns display

These Ang Kar Prawns were huge and extremely succulent. Most importantly, they are fresh. Don’t believe? Talk to my hard-to-please mom with years of wet market experience; she approved it. Unlike the prawn soup, the quality of the half-peeled prawns remained consistent with what I tried on my first visit here. 

adam rd san ge - ang kar prawns
adam rd san ge - ang kar prawns

Not the pork ribs, though. It was better than before. GOTCHA! Together with sparse stalks ofkang kong, the tender ribs did a marvellous job of soaking up the full-bodied broth. I appreciate that there was an ample amount of flesh on the bone too. 

adam rd san ge - pork ribs
adam rd san ge - pork ribs

Before we leave Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle, do you know why Jack is always clad in a highlighter-esque shirt? 

The answer is that he wears a piece of history that shaped him; he used to wear the same outfit at Adam Road. And there’s a practical side to this as well: the neon green conceals oil stains. 

Paiseh. Enough tidbits, let’s get serious. 

500 Clemenceau Ave North, Newton Food Centre, #01-16, Singapore 229495
+65 9777 8813
Mon to Sat: 9am – 2.30pm & 5.30pm – 9.30pm
Closed on Sun

Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle

I have always heard comparisons between Zion Road’s and Adam Road’s hae mee.

This is based on word-of-mouth ah. Controversially, the “better one” is said to be Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle at Zion Riverside Food Centre. Although it was raining heavily that day, this didn’t stop me from meeting the older twin brother, Teo Aik Hua59.

He low-key looks like Jackie Chan, haha.

zhi wei xian zion rd - aik hua
zhi wei xian zion rd - aik hua

As with Jack, he used to help his father out when he was 13 years old. Prior to setting up his stall at Zion Road (which has been around for 20 years), Aik Hua was a coffeeshop and restaurant owner. And he has dabbled in cooking dishes, such as Fried Hokkien Mee and KL Tai Lok Mee

Nevertheless, he chose to focus on the prawn noodles trade. This is because the preparations are less tedious as he ages and also because it is something that he knows so well. According to the multi-preneur, he can now “translate flavours to the ingredients used.” Wow. 

“What sets you apart from your brothers?” Aik Hua responded with a smile, “Actually, I’m nothing special leh.” 

zhi wei xian zion rd - prawns + pork rib prawn mee
zhi wei xian zion rd - prawns + pork rib prawn mee

I doubt so. Cue that Pork Rib & Prawns Prawn Mee (S$8).

Perfumed with the natural sweetness from prawn heads, the broth at Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle was extremely addictive. It was light, clean-tasting and easy to sip on during the rainy weather.

Explaining that his broth is thicker than Adam’s but thinner than Newton’s, Aik Hua said, “Simmering for 6 hours is normal; 10 hours will spoil the broth.” Dang! 

zhi wei xian zion rd - broth
zhi wei xian zion rd - broth

What really took the cake for me was the chunks of savoury pork lard and flaky shallots coyly nestling on the bed of springy yellow noodles

Win liao lor

He offered me a new piece of lard to eat on its own, and I was surprised to find that it had a smoky crisp to it. Imagine that with the oh-so-moreish prawn soup. Perfect.

If you are wondering how it differs from the original recipe, it’s the emphasis on “bringing out nature’s best”. Aik Hua no longer uses cuttlefish in his broth for fear of overpowering the sweet prawn flavours. 

zhi wei xian zion rd - red tiger prawns
zhi wei xian zion rd - red tiger prawns

For S$8, the Red Tiger Sea Prawns came with not only the head but also the whiskers. Interestingly, they were smaller than Ang Kar Prawns. Taste-wise, while the reddish prawns were juicy, I honestly preferred the fresher ones at Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle.

“Depends on the supplier. I sometimes use Grey Farm Prawns as it’s readily available,” he shared. So, the quality fluctuates from time to time. 

zhi wei xian zion rd - bkt pork ribs
zhi wei xian zion rd - bkt pork ribs

I can’t forget the Pork Ribs, right? I almost did. (The pork lard distracted me). This isn’t even fall-off-the-bone; it’s already-off-the-bone. That was how tender these were. What wowed me again was that Aik Hua’s rendition of Pork Ribs is the Bak Kut Teh kind.

Sheesh…Now we have a seamless blend of sweet, savoury, peppery and garlicky in a piping bowl of prawn mee!

zhi wei xian zion rd - bkt pork ribs
zhi wei xian zion rd - bkt pork ribs

Okay, here’s an intriguing point: “It’s not about 谁比较好谁比较不好 (who is good or not); it depends on the market,” Aik Hua said. He states that while his prawn mee is more catered to the current market, Jack’s “old-type” has its own uniqueness that younger diners may not appreciate. 

大同小异吧, 我跟 Adam Road’s 比较相同 (My prawn noodles are similar to Adam Road’s),” he concluded. Let’s see.

70 Zion Rd, Zion Riverside Food Centre, #01-04, Singapore 247792
+65 9006 4655
Tue to Sun: 11.30am – 3pm, 6.30pm – 10pm
Closed on Mon

Noo Cheng Adam Road, Big Prawn Mee

The OG.

adam rd noo cheng - storefront
adam rd noo cheng - storefront

Taking over his father’s now 60-year-old stall, Teo Aik Cheng, 59, is the younger twin brother behind Noo Cheng Adam Road Big Prawn Meeat Adam Food Centre. “Does he look like Aik Hua?” my dad laughed. Abit lah. Anyway, my conversation with Aik Cheng changed the trajectory of this entire article. 

“No, my father did not sell prawn mee. He sold laksa,” he said, correcting me when I asked what changes he made to the original recipe. HUH?!

There’s no original recipe; it’s Aik Cheng’s. HUH?! “我先 start . Then, 他们 follow (I first started, then they followed me),” he continued. HUH?! Paving the way for his brothers, Aik Cheng perfected the hae mee recipe after a lot of research and trial-and-error. 

Contrary to popular belief, Jack and Aik Hua did not learn from him. They formulated their own recipes. I SEE.

My dad and I had high hopes for Noo Cheng Adam Road Big Prawn Mee, of course. However, we had a 30-minute wait for our Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle (S$7) due to the Sunday lunch crowd. 

adam rd noo cheng - prawns + pork rib prawn mee
adam rd noo cheng - prawns + pork rib prawn mee

Was it that good?

Agreeing that Aik Hua’s prawn mee is more “modern,” Aik Cheng believes that his prawn soup is traditional as well.

What defines a “古早 (traditional)” broth? “The use of pig oil, pig bone, and pig skin,” he replied. Aik Cheng keeps his ingredients as simple as possible to respect the taste of authentic prawn noodles. Don’t be fooled; it’s “mafan” to prepare. This contrasts with “现代 (modern)” broth, which can be cooked efficiently as lots of seasonings are involved. 

No wonder he needed to take a one-week break. Tiring sia

adam rd noo cheng -broth
adam rd noo cheng -broth

Back to the prawn soup: I could definitely see similarities to Aik Hua’s. Topped with a teaspoon of pulpy shallots, Aik Cheng’s broth was clear and straight to the point. I could discern elements from Jack’s too; the base included stalks of kang kong and had notes of pepper cutting through the prawny sweetness.

You can say that this was a power combination between the brothers. To put it frankly, I found it decent at best. 

Wishing that it was just my taste buds, I was crestfallen to hear that my dad agreed too. 

I was hoping that the Ang Kar Prawns at Noo Cheng Adam Road Big Prawn Mee would be a saving grace of sorts. Compared to the previous two stalls, these fleshy prawns lacked a reddish colour that’s commonly associated with the friendly crustacean. I needed to know why. 

adam rd noo cheng - wild-caught ang kar
adam rd noo cheng - wild-caught ang kar

像人嘛, 没有这样好看的. 那穿 makeup lor (Like humans, it cannot be so good-looking. Wear makeup, lor),” he answered. Despite the rarity of wild-caught prawns, Aik Cheng opts for them over farm-caught ones.

He explained that while the first is “very pink”, the latter is “very red”. Heh, I learned something new today. Looking at the same price point now, taking the smaller portion of yellow noodles into account, I would say Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle champs over this.

adam rd noo cheng - pork ribs
adam rd noo cheng - pork ribs

Among the 3 stalls, that singular Pork Rib was definitely the biggest. In terms of tenderness, it was a close fight with his twin brother’s pork ribs. Fortunately, the rib at Adam Road was much softer! Now this was the power combination of the bros, fork-tender and meaty at the same time. 

During my visits, the Noo Cheng Adam Road Big Prawn Mee stall had a significantly longer queue than the Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle and Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle stalls. Looking back, I wonder if the hectic lunch hour affected the prawn noodles’ quality here. 

What do you think?

2 Adam Rd, Adam Food Centre, #01-27, Singapore 289876
+65 9693 7961
Tue to Sun: 11.30am – 4.30pm, 6.30pm – 9pm
Closed on Mon

Verdict

This was the longest and hardest article I’ve ever written (sorry, Rex). [Editor’s note: Grrr]

I had the wise words of the 3 prawn mee brothers floating around in my mind as I typed:
Jack: “Everyone has different cooking styles.”
Aik Hua: “Every chef has his own character.”
Aik Cheng: “Different ingredients, different recipes.”

Coupled with the secrets they kindly shared with me, I struggled to decide what should be said and which parts left out. It seems wrong to make comparisons between siblings but I needed to finish what I started.

The title of Best Broth goes to Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle. Rounding the naturally sweet prawn broth with crisp chunks of pork lard, this liquid gold was highly addictive and very slurp-able. If you’re looking for something soul-soothing, the full-bodied broth at Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle is perfect for you. 

zhi wei xian zion rd - prawns + pork rib prawn mee
zhi wei xian zion rd - prawns + pork rib prawn mee

Regardless, the addition of pork lard to Aik Hua’s broth sealed the deal for me.

The Best Prawns title goes to Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle. These “hotel-standard” Ang Kar prawns were amazingly fresh and succulent. Size-wise, Jack’s prawns were definitely the biggest of the three.

I award the title of Best Pork Ribs to Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle. I was torn between the 2 twin brothers’ pork ribs. While both the ribs at Zhi Wei Xian Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle and Noo Cheng Adam Road Big Prawn Mee were tender, the peppery and garlicky flavours of the ribs at the former stole my heart.

Bak Kut Teh in Prawn Mee? Say no more.

Value for money? That goes to Adam Road San Ge Prawn Noodle. Soaked in the aforementioned rich broth, you can enjoy a generous portion of mee, pork ribs, and BIG Ang Kar Prawns for S$7. I clearly remembered Jack telling a customer he would “close the shop” if he had to sell “small prawns and lousy pork ribs”. The dedication. 

adam rd san ge - prawns + pork rib prawn mee
adam rd san ge - prawns + pork rib prawn mee

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. And so do these 3 bowls of hae mee. I leave it up to you to decide who emerged as champion in this fierce prawn mee bro showdown.

I can hear the commotion already. No clear winner?? You waste my time!

Read between the lines, and you will figure it out. While you’re at it, I think I’m heading back to meet Jack, Aik Hua, and Aik Cheng for a cup of kopi.

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