Neighbour: Mr & Mrs Lai
Text by Stephanie Peh
Photography by Jovian Lim
Quite funnily, I have been eating mee kia tah from this stall almost every other weekend for the past 12 years of my life. It was not until I decided to write about the stall that I realised I had absolutely no clue what the name of the stall was, or the names of the couple who runs the stall and knows my order by heart. I just knew I could always count on these familiar faces to make my Sunday mornings.
Since 1992, Sin Kwang Minced Meat Noodle has been serving springy noodles, but getting the texture right is second nature to the owners; it is an instinct they have developed over time. Mrs Lai takes down the customers’ orders while Mr Lai prepares the noodles, bowl by bowl. The noodles are comforting without being overpowering, as the recipe has been refined by Mr Lai over the years, after being trained to cook noodles the traditional way during his early days. “Once you learn it a certain way, the rest is up to you to make it,” says Mr Lai, who learnt the skill from his father-in-law and reinvented it into his own signature along the way.
Every day at 6am, the couple visits the market for ingredients and begins preparations for the day. The supplier delivers the various types of noodles: mee kia, mee pok, bee hoon, kway tiao, while the couple takes stock of the day’s batch and is immediately aware of how long the noodles need to be cooked in order to achieve the perfect al dente texture, all based on a “feeling”. “You develop a relationship with the job that you chose, and you start to know these things. And of course, you have to prepare each bowl with heart,” he shares.
Visit Sin Kwang Minced Meat Noodle at 524 Hougang Ave 6 #01-125, Singapore.
Read more in The U Press N˚3 (Singapore edition).