Every Asian nation has a soupy noodle dish tagged to its identity. For Japan, it is ramen, for Vietnam, pho, for Malaysia, it is laksa, and so it goes. Apart from signifying its native food culture, these noodles all share a common thread — the quality of the broth is of utmost importance.
If we run with that thread and canvass Singapore’s food landscape for a fitting candidate, we will land on prawn noodles. Prawn noodles, also known as hae mee, is a ubiquitous hawker centre dish that rarely gets as much attention as, say, fishball noodles or bak chor mee on the international circuit, but to locals, this rich bowl of umami is a labour of love that many are willing to spend half a day queueing for.
The lengthy list of ingredients that go into the broth — prawn heads, spices, pork ribs, and various Asian sauces — belies the simple, straightforward pleasure a good portion of prawn noodle soup offers the diner. With the dish being so common, however, prawn noodle soup can be a hit-or-miss experience, particularly the latter if you don’t know which hawker stalls stock the good stuff.
We at Lifestyle Asia take great pride when it comes to being in the know, so we’ve rounded up some of the best prawn noodles in Singapore to try on your next trip.
The best prawn noodles to indulge in Singapore:
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Ask a Singaporean for prawn noodle recommendations and there’s a high chance you’ll get directed to Beach Road Prawn Mee. This East Coast-based eatery has earned its stellar reputation with its sweet, balanced broth that doesn’t overwhelm with MSG, the generous portions of fresh prawns that top each bowl, and the melt-in-your-mouth ribs that finish the holy trinity in your bowl.
Queues may be long all day, especially over the weekends, but the stall owners are thankfully very efficient.
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Also known as Zion Road Big Prawn Noodle (formerly known as Noo Cheng Adam Road Big Prawn Noodle), this humble stall has a Bib Gourmand accolade from the Michelin Guide, and one well deserved too. You can taste the time it took to simmer the broth to its final, near-creamy state of briney goodness with every mouthful, and if that is not enough of a treat, you can opt to order its premium servings, priced at S$20 and S$25, where the prawns that dress your noodles come jumbo-sized.
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Joo Chiat’s Da Dong Prawn Noodles have attained a cult following, with hordes willing to line up from the break of the morning just to try its topaz broth brimming with flavour – the product of a longstanding family recipe the owners keep hush-hush.
Though many prawn noodle broths are beloved for being seriously thick and heavy in profile, Da Dong manages to make its broth rich, yet light enough so you don’t feel like you need a gulp of water to assuage the salt after every few spoons.
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The prawn noodles served by the hawkers at 545 Whampoa is as simple and as hearty as it gets. There are no frills, just simple whorls of egg noodles swimming in a pleasant, prawn-rich broth, topped with peeled crescents of shrimp scattered and pieces of lean pork. The stall owners have been doing this for three generations, and have attracted the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Massimo Bottura and Julien Royer to its front. We’ll let that speak for itself.
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Hoe Nam’s prawn noodles have withstood the test of time. Still as good as it was in 1971, the stall now has expanded its offerings to over 20 versions of the classic dish, with accoutrements that span baby abalone to offal.
Of all the reasons Hoe Nam is a favourite, the one that recurs most often is its broth. The owners fry off prawn heads in hot oil to tease out its goodness before letting them simmer for eight hours to create a stock that genuinely fills you with chagrin once you’ve reached the final scoop.
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If you like your broth thick, you’d find yourself quite in love with the prawn noodles at Blanco Court Prawn Mee. A sip of the murky broth and you’ll find a distinct sweetness from the prawn shells, elevated only by a briny, almost nutty aftertaste from the prawn oil. Here, traditionalists can opt for the classic yellow egg noodles, but kway teow, vermicelli, thick bee hoon or a mix of noodles are available options on the menu as well.
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