When a friend of mine heard that I was going to be spending some time in Singapore on holiday, she made a point to get in touch and tell me about the Golden Mile Food Centre and their star dish, fried Kway Teow Mee. My love of Asian food is no secret. I enjoy wok-fried, greasy noodles, pork and vegetables from time to time.
However, I am always eager to try out healthier, tastier options. I pencilled in the Golden Mile Food Centre in my travel itinerary. First things first: What is Kway Teow Mee? It’s a delicious combination of Chinese sausage, cockles, eggs, vegetables and other Chinese ingredients which vary depending on chef.
The mixture is traditionally fried in a wok using generous amounts of lard. For the health-conscious, there are restaurants that use either less lard than usual, or a different kind of fat all together. The Golden Mile Food Centre is located at 505 Beach Road.
I made my way to it not knowing what to expect. Would it be a typical restaurant? A sort of stall? It turned out to be a bit of both. Golden Mile Food Centre is one of two stalls that are located in a two-storey building.
On the upper level is a stall that serves dishes that are pretty similar to the Golden Mile which is on the lower basement level. It is run by a friendly, elderly couple and I must say straightaway, I felt I was in for a treat.
The older generation tends to have a better grip on food. Especially when it comes to cooking with traditional ingredients like the ones that are used in Kway Teow Mee. I assume through trial and error they have toyed with over the years, learning how to measure, mix and cook recipes to get the best out of them.
What Makes This Kway Teow Mee Different? The signage at Golden Mile claims that it’s the healthiest in Singapore. This only added to my curiosity. As many foodies know, adjusting traditional recipes in any way in order to make them “healthier” can affect their taste in a major way.
What was once a guilty pleasure, can turn into a bland meal. I asked to talk to the elderly couple; I wanted to ask them the difference between their healthy version of Kway Teow Mee and the traditional one. They explained that the only change they made was to reduce the amount of lard that they use in the dish.
Some restaurants, such as the stall directly above Golden Mile, didn’t use lard at all, preferring instead to use healthier fats. If you have ever substituted lard in a recipe, you know just how much of a difference it makes. While other oils may be healthier, lard brings out tastes and aromas like nothing else will. Golden Mile Kway Teow Mee… simply delectable
My hunch proved right. I ordered a plate of Kway Teow Mee from Golden Mile and another from the stall upstairs where instead of lard they use vegetable fat. I wanted to compare the two side by side so that I could make a fair assessment. Boy! Was I surprised! The Golden Mile Kway Teow Mee was literally miles ahead (forgive the pun) in terms of aroma, taste and texture.
There was a subtle sweetness from the black sauce on the noodles, a salty deliciousness in the fleshy cockles and the vegetables had been tossed in the wok for a few moments leaving them perfectly crunchy. The whole dish smelled wonderful. As the lard fries in the wok, it creates an aroma that’s difficult to describe, let alone duplicate.
So, what’s the secret? I’m sure there are a few other ingredients that go into the Kway Teow Mee at Golden Mile Food Centre. However, I didn’t want to press the old couple for their exact recipe for obvious reasons.
For those who’d like to make this at home, additional ingredients usually include sambal chilli, sweet soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce and cockle juice. However, each chef uses these differently to produce their own unique flavours.
I ordered Kway Teow Mee a few more times at different restaurants during the rest of my time in Singapore. I found that there are many variations to the dish. Some add crunchy pieces of bacon for extra bite, while others include tiny bits of “chai po” or Chinese radish.
Some restaurants serve it very wet, almost saucy, while some lean more towards the dry side. My Kway Teow Mee was served with stir-fried vegetables on top of the dish rather than mixed into it. The vegetables contained tiny bits of dried, silver fish to add a bit of crunch.
I had to add a little more chilli in this particular restaurant because the dish felt the usual “kick” that I was growing accustomed to. Kway Teow Mee… a guilty pleasure worth indulging in Kway Teow Mee is one of those dishes that are hard to forget. In some places in Asia you will see long queues of people all waiting for theirs patiently.
Chefs prefer to cook one or two plates at a time to make sure that they get the ingredients right, which can lead to long waits. I would definitely make Kway Teow Mee at the Golden Mile Food Centre one of my regular stops if I lived in Singapore. I’m not sure I would choose the healthier option from the stall upstairs, though.
The taste compromise just isn’t worth fewer calories. I’d rather eat the traditional recipe that’s made using lard and put it an extra half hour at the gym. If you will be going to Singapore (or live there) I recommend that you set aside some time to visit the Golden Mile Food Centre and try out some Kway Teow Mee.
It’s a vegetarian friendly restaurant, serves lunch and dinner and you can also order takeout. Although it has a rather limited menu, every dish is expertly prepared and served. Even for a big portion, it comes at a very affordable price.