Depending on which you prefer, this local dish can be called ‘wan-tan noodles’ or ‘wan-ton noodles’ or ‘won-ton noodles’, or shrimp dumpling noodles. In Singapore, the first two names are more common than the last one. Some of my Caucasian friends who live here are amused to hear that they are eating ‘wan-ton noodles’ – “why do you guys call your noodles ‘promiscuous’?”
I love wan-ton noodles, the dry version using mee pok (flat noodles similar to fettucine) with lots of chili. There was a period of time in college when I ate this every single day for lunch for a period of 3 months because I liked it. (I am a bit extreme – if I like a dish, I can and will eat it everyday.)
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what they like about wan-ton noodles. Some folks are particular about the quality of the char siew while others are fussy about the size and taste of the wan-tons. Me? I am fussy about the bite of the noodles and the flavour of the sauce. I prefer the Singapore version which uses tomato ketchup, chili sauce and sesame oil in the sauce. The Malaysian version omits tomato ketchup and uses mainly dark soya sauce and usually comes with deep-fried wantons. I know many friends who love this dark sauce version but I don’t. My husband prefers the soup version, Hong Kong-style.
It is sad to know that our hawker culture is gradually disappearing. I ate this plate of noodles at a hawker centre in Cambridge Road, cooked by a hawker who is in his 60s. I wonder if I will still get to eat authentic wan-ton noodles (or any other local hawker food) 10 years down the road when the current generation of hawkers retire. I guess we will still have hawkers in the future, just that they will be foreign labour and I am not sure about the authenticity of the flavors.