Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Qiu Rong Ban Mian -Great noodles, great price





Intro:
While most of the food we typically cover on this blog fall within the mid-range price category, there is an undeniable case to be made for enjoyable food on a budget. Singapore is blessed with its hawker culture, making great-tasting food accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic background. Although hawker food usually lacks the more refined presentation and sophisticated taste of more expensive options, they do not detract from their core strengths of deliciousness. This is definitely the case with Qiu Rong Ban Mian, a humble ban mian store in the basement food court of Roxy Square II.



This way to great ban mian!
Ambience:
Being located in a small food court, Qiu Rong Ban Mian doesn’t have much of an ambience to speak of. At times, I do feel that the food court is an extension of the stall instead of the stall being the food court’s component, upon looking at the sheer percentage of customers eating from orange or pink bowls of noodles, which signifies its popularity. During peak periods, this stall enjoys long queues, while the rest of the food court’s stalls appear to be looking forlornly on.



Sterile food court environment

Quality and Taste:


Mee Hoon Kuey ($3.00)
What’s most striking about this bowl of noodles is its deceivingly simplistic exterior. It really doesn’t look like much. The cloudy soup (a hallmark of a well-done bowl of ban mian) however is the first indicator that beneath its unassuming fa├žade lies a dish of truly potent proportions. The ikan billis is flavourful, strong and crispy, and remains crunchy for a surprisingly long time while submerged in the soup (do try to eat it as soon as possible though –nobody wants soggy ikan bilis). I particularly enjoy digging for the egg yolk, and with its similar colour, find it akin to digging for gold. Indeed, it’s one of the highlights of my meal, with its tendency to explode in mouths of hungry customers, filling them enjoyably with warm eggy goodness infused with a fair serving of tasty broth.

My mee hoon kuey looking good for the camera
It’s a rarity these days to find stalls making their own noodles, with most preferring to buy them from suppliers. Qiu Rong Ban Mian does this however, with their own noodle-making machine in the stall. The noodles (or in my case, mee hoon kuey pieces) turn out nicely supple and soft (which isn’t to be confused with the effects of overcooking them).



Freshly-made noodles

Although it’s unelegant-looking, the minced pork meat is well-marinated, and has a nice texture to it. That being said, it does taste much better the longer it’s left in the broth, as it soaks up its flavours as well as lends the broth its own. Consequently, I like leaving mine alone until the end of the meal when it’s at its best, flavourwise.

The soups of ban mian stalls tend to belong to either of two extremes –being rather diluted and flat (some of which are barely differentiable in taste from tap water), or having copious amounts of MSG added to them. Qiu Rong Ban Mian’s however is extremely robust, tasting like a hearty blend of what I’m guessing to be pork, anchovies, tapioca, and a whole lot of ingredients undiscernible to me. It has an undeniable character to it, one which thankfully isn’t derived from MSG. While it’s understandably not as heavy as the broth of a good Ramen, I’d rate it right up there in terms of taste.

Murky soup, a hallmark of great ban mian
I also ought to mention that in the 5 years or so of my patronage, the ban mian’s taste has not changed one bit, which is an impressive testament to the dedication as well as masterful cooking of the China owner-chefs.

Value:
If you can look past the lack of a classy ambience, I’d say that $3.00 is money very well-spent, considering the sumptuous meal you get at this very low price. I often leave the food court feeling very satisfied and bloated even, with the generous portion of ban mian.

Conclusion:
Qiu Rong Ban Mian is one of those fabled hidden gems, being located in the basement of a shopping mall that has seen better days, and a gem it truly is, with its unpretentious, delicious ban mian. I’d go so far as to say (and I’m sure that its band of loyal patrons will agree) that it is the quintessential ban mian, worthy of anybody’s visit.

FOODIE’S RATING
Quality & Taste(75%)
8.0
Tasty and filling, this is definitely a meal worth having
Value (15%)
8.5
A true steal for the price
Ambience & others (10%)
5.0
At least the food court looks reasonably sterile
Total
7.8
Great taste, great price, it's tough to ask for more

Address:
#B1-01, Roxy Square, 50 East Coast Road

Opening Hours:
Daily, 9:30am to 9pm

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