I have to admit that i may have been wrong when i said Fried Bee Hoon was, to me, the national dish of Singapore, because now I am of the opinion that Bak Chor Mee (minced pork noodles) may be even more commonplace. Often times, Fried Bee Hoon is only sold as a breakfast item, whereas Bak Chor Mee is sold throughout the day.
It took me a while to appreciate Bak Chor Mee, because i never had vinegar in my food since childhood. I never liked Bak Chor Mee during my first twenty years in Singapore. Once i got used to vinegar though, i came to love it! The taste is rather strong, and i would say you either love it or hate it. This uniquely Singaporean dish is not found in Malaysia. No, not even in JB.
You will invariably find a Bak Chor Mee stall in every food court and kopitiam, but the quality obviously varies a lot. To me, the worst of the lot are those with two dollops of ketchup on the noodles. I mean, hello, anyone can do the same at home without any effort.
I’m not going to tell you where you can find the best Bak Chor Mee in Singapore, because i have no idea, but i thought Lam’s signature noodles (pictured above) is a good example of Bak Chor Mee. The two most important elements of Bak Chor Mee are the noodles and the sauce. Lam’s noodles are cooked to order and it is very Q (chewy). The sauce is very tasty. I can’t think of a better description, but it is unlike some others that just taste overwhelmingly spicy. The fish balls are fried, which is better than non-fried ones. Nothing special about the thin-sliced pork. I would grab a bowl always without thinking twice.
It isn’t difficult to make Bak Chor Mee at home either. There are many recipes posted online, and i would say they are more or less the same. I could have made Bak Chor Mee without referring to any recipe, but i browsed and noticed that there was the interesting step of blanching the pork slices and minced pork in pork broth instead of plain water, and maybe that makes a difference.
I thought my Bak Chor Mee turned out really well. To me, it boils down to 3 key ingredients in the sauce to arrive at authentic Bak Chor Mee – vinegar, chilli and lard. I have omitted soy sauce entirely, as i didn’t want my pork broth to be infused with soy sauce, and i think the Bak Chor Mee turned out fine.
I prefer Mee Kia for my Bak Chor Mee, and the closest to these i could find in a supermarket are chilled Hong Kong style noodles. They were pretty good. You may be able to get fresh and authentic Mee Kia from a wet market, if you’re particular.
To get really good pork broth, nothing beats doing it in a slow cooker overnight. I made my pork broth from pork soft bones that have already been used for making soup before, and the slow cooker was still able to extract a rich pork broth out of those “spent fuel”. In any case, I think if one is lazy, it is probably OK to skip the pork broth and to blanch the pork slices and minced meat in plain water, as long as they have been thoroughly marinated.
I have a feeling i will be having home made Bak Chor Mee quite often from now on.