Get that wrong and the dish will lack body. And without a strong-tasting soup to stand up against the sharp pungency that comes with the alkaline egg noodles that prawn mee is typically served with, the dish will not taste pleasant. But get the broth right and you'll get a bowl of prawn noodles that tastes intensely of umami. Every prawn mee hawker worth their weight in salt will have a heavily guarded soup recipe that yields a briny-sweet and savoury broth singing of prawns and pork ribs.
Here are five spots that got their prawn mee right.
2 Jalan Ayer
Opening hours: 8am to 3.30pm, daily. Closed on Tuesdays.
There's a special kind of comfort that comes with a bowl of piping hot noodles in the morning. The sweet aromas of prawn and fried shallots permeate the air and morning is made. Lucky for us, Jalan Sultan opens its doors as early as 8am everyday, save for Tuesdays. It is worth noting that the recipe used by Jalan Sultan Prawn Mee is over 70 years old, with its roots tracing back to Beach Road – a location synonymous with exceptional prawn mee. The original revered Beach Road hae mee was opened by the hawker's grandfather.
Tekka Food Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, #01-326
Opening hours: 6am to 2.30pm, Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri & Sun. Closed on Wed & Sat.
They've got a recipe that's over 60 years old and a young face ladling soup from massive vats in the kitchen; 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles is witnessing their third generation taking over the business. The new owner's grandfather started hawking prawn mee as early as the 1950s, operating out of a cart on the streets of Whampoa before moving into a stall at Whampoa Food Centre and subsequently, Tekka Food Centre. American chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain paid the stall a visit earlier this year for the filming of his food and travel show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Customers can choose to have their prawn mee with the soup ladled onto the noodles directly or on the side. Both versions are excellent but dry prawn mee lovers get an additional layer of complexity to the dish which varies according to the customer's tolerance for spice. Prices start at $4 for a tasty bowl of hae mee from 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles.
Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating House
370 East Coast Road
Opening hours: 7am to 4pm, daily. Closed on Tuesdays.
And here's the aptly named second spinoff that's also run by a member of the original hawker's family; another grandson, we're told. The prawn mee here tastes and looks the part. Large, juicy prawns top a delicious tangle of al dente alkaline egg noodles. Some customers gripe about the inconsistency of the prawn soup served here but the crowd at the eatery doesn't seem to ever dwindle. Head down early to get a head start on the day and to beat the crowd.
Pek Kio Market and Food Centre, 41A Cambridge Road, #01-15
Opening hours: 8.30am to 2pm, Wed to Sun. Closed on Mon & Tues.
You know business is good when the humble stall at Pek Kio Market & Food Centre has gone on to open two new branches in less than a year – a swanky establishment run by the owner's son and his business partner opened at Esplanade Mall last December hawking a range of seafood dishes and earlier this year, Wah Kee opened a third branch housed within a kopitiam near Army Market at Beach Road.
But fans will be happy to know that original stall at Pek Kio remains status quo. A basic bowl of prawn mee topped with deep-sea, wild-caught prawns, freshly fried shallots and pork lard still sells for $5.
River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles
31 Tai Thong Crescent
Opening hours: 6.30am to 3pm for lunch, 6pm to 2am for dinner, Tues to Sun. Closed on Mondays.
Here's a prawn mee stall you can visit for breakfast and supper. Customers can choose from over 20 prawn mee variations, from prawn mee with baby abalone ($10) to razor clams and pig's tail ($10) but a standard bowl of prawns and pork ribs ($4.50 onwards) is still their bestseller. It's worth noting that the soup, unlike the dark brown variants associated with the original Beach Road Prawn Mee recipe, is a delicious dark orange shade with a sweeter, more pronounced prawn flavour.