Text and images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra
Putien Lor Mee
A friend once said to me, “nothing is black and white”. She obviously isn’t a fan of lor mee (literally means “braised noodle” in Mandarin).
Most of us are familiar with the dark or black version – yellow noodle in dark braised sauce (stock and soy sauce) top with pork belly, fish flakes, ngoh hiang, and sometimes hard-boiled egg. The lesser known white lor mee (often served in Putien or Heng Hwa stalls), although named similarly, hums to a different tune.
Also known as the Heng Hwa or Putien Lor Mee, it originates from the Putien city in Fujian, China. (Heng Hwa is an old name of Putien.) The base of the gravy is made with pork stock, which is then delicately accented with clams, dried scallop, fried shrimps and mushrooms until the stock is infused with all the flavours.
The noodle is coloured off-white and made of various flour to achieve a slightly springy and resilient texture – an important quality as it will have to be braised in the prepared stock till it absorbs all the goodness. It’s starchiness also helps thicken the stock somewhat.
One of our favourite places for this white version Lor Mee is Putien Restaurant. It comes with ample and well-executed ingredients like prawns, clams, onions, shiitake, dried scallop, choy sum, pork belly, roasted fragrant peanuts and tau pok with an immense wok hei (from the intense heat used when braising). No ingredient here plays a cosmetic role, all their flavours add up to the final sensation.
Most importantly, “the noodle comes in a sweet milky stock”, says the restaurant’s Executive Sous Chef, Mr Li Wen Bo. It comes from patiently boiling pork bones and old hens.
Those who haven’t eaten Heng Hwa lor mee in China may assume that Putien Restaurant’s rendition is more refined, decadent even. But according to Chef Li, who hails from Putien city, they have the noodles with more ingredients like oysters back at home, because it is near the coast.
But for those who like their Heng HwaLor Mee less elaborate and more rugged, Heng Hwa Seafood(cze cha stall) at Race Course Road does just that. The soup is fairly sweet from the immensely sweet and big clams, as well as cabbages and onions. The pork stock, however, is not as flavourful. Those who are used to Putien Restaurant’s style, may even find it a tad bland. Besides the usual ingredients, it also comes with prawns and bigger chunks of fried-and-then-braised pork belly (sans seaweed, mushrooms or peanuts).
Putien Restaurant 127 Kitchener Road 6295 6358
Heng Hua Cze Char 276 Race Course Road