Sheng Ji Noodles: A Rich History
Current and former residents of Bukit Merah will find Mdm Keo and Mr Goh a familiar presence in the neighbourhood. After all, they’re the folks behind Sheng Ji Noodles, and have been serving up the area’s best bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) for 37 years.
What most might not know is that this recipe is even older than that! For 50 years, Mr Goh’s father had made a living selling Teochew-style bak chor mee near the Singapore River. When the elder retired, he passed down the recipe to Mr Goh and Mdm Keo. The couple have dutifully kept the business thriving since, moving only once to their current location in Bukit Merah.
So, exactly how old is their bak chor mee recipe?
“87 years,” came the reply from Mdm Keo. Needless to say, our minds were blown even before we got down to tasting it!
Sheng Ji Noodles: No Shortcuts to Greatness
Teochew-style bak chor mee is a quintessential hawker favourite – nearly every hawker centre and kopitiam has a bak chor mee stall.
Yet, amidst a sea of similar options, folks who live and work in the area firmly stick to Sheng Ji Noodles for their bak chor mee fix. Many have continuously patronised the stall for decades. Even those who have moved out the neighbourhood make a point to travel across the country regularly for these noodles. One such long-time customer visits regularly from Tampines!
What is it that sets Sheng Ji’s bak chor mee apart from the rest? What’s the secret behind Mr Goh and Mdm Keo’s 87-year-old recipe?
Mdm Keo replied in a calm and modest manner: “No secret ingredients. Everything is just fresh.”
For all their decades of experience in the kitchen, Mr Goh and Mdm Keo have firmly stood by their philosophy – fresh ingredients simply taste better.
And, judging by the never-ending stream of customers throughout the day, people certainly agree.
Sheng Ji Noodles: Freshness is Key
First, let’s begin with the ‘meat’ in ‘minced meat noodles’. Frozen pork is becoming ubiquitous among households and food vendors, because they store for much longer. The resultant quality seems… acceptable, I guess.
But with established and experienced artisans like Mdm Keo and Mr Goh, ‘acceptable, I guess’ doesn’t cut it at all.
“Even with great cooking skills, you can still tell when the ingredients are not fresh,” mused Mdm Keo. “That’s why we insist on using fresh pork.”
Sinking my teeth into the sliced meat, a hint of fragrance comes at me, the sort that you simply don’t find in frozen pork. Each piece is tender and lightly chewy, thanks to a masterful control on cooking time.
The minced meat exhibits the same tenderness, but it also soaks up some chilli gravy like a sponge. Each time I chew, I get small bursts of spiciness from the sauces that the minced meat picks up.
The mee pok (flat egg noodles) are springy and al dente; its broad, flat shape a perfect vector for picking up every ounce of gravy. Speaking of which, the two most important components of the gravy simply steal the show – the chilli sauce, and the fried lard.
Sheng Ji Noodles: Daily Dedication
Following Mr Goh and Mdm Keo’s philosophy of freshness, the couple also diligently makes new batches of chilli sauce and fried lard daily. In a time where many eateries opt for factory-made sauces, making these from scratch is a lot of work.
However, it’s absolutely worth the trouble – the freshness of the ingredients simply enhances the flavours of the chilli sauce. Furthermore, because the chilli sauce is always new, you’ll never get that odd sour whiff that days-old sauces have.
Bak chor mee is incomplete without fried lard, and Sheng Ji fries a fresh batch every day. As a result, each morsel is always crispy and fragrant, adding a nice rich flavour to the noodles without being too cloying. It’s such a pleasant surprise each time you bite into a piece of fried lard in a mouthful of chilli-soaked mee pok.
Sheng Ji Noodles: Withstanding the Test of Time
These days, most food can be pre-made, outsourced, or bought in bulk, stored, and used over a longer time. The resultant products are not bad too, thanks to better food technology and efficient mass production, but ‘not bad’ is, well, not good either.
What sets Sheng Ji’s bak chor mee apart from the rest, is Mdm Keo and Mr Goh’s dedication to freshness. Their diligence and attention to detail elevate their product to a whole other level. That they’re such a well-known and well-loved establishment in Bukit Merah View, is not by chance or luck. Through years of honest hard work, Mr Goh and Mdm Keo made the ordinary bak chor mee, simply extraordinary.
Visit Sheng Ji Noodles 著名昇记肉脞面:
Kim San Leng F&B
Blk 116 Bukit Merah View
Operating Hours: Daily 6:00am to 4:00pm
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