Singapore must do mee pok very well! That’s the only conclusion I could come to after an especially long hunt for the “worst-rated mee pok stall”. I had spent, literally, hours searching for one that met our criteria:
- At least 100 people must have reviewed the stall on Google
- It must receive consistent complaints about a particular aspect of the food or service
132 Traditional Teochew Noodles with its rating of 3.4 from 239 reviews (as of 12 Sep 2023) fit the bill. Still, I did a double take. Is a 3.4-starred stall really right for our worst-rated series? Taking a closer look, I discovered that the high frequency of 1-star ratings was a relatively recent phenomenon. Something had definitely changed of late, causing a downtrend in favourability.
What hadn’t really changed was the focus of the bulk of the negative reviews: slow and rude service. It was time to put on my thickest skin and bear the brunt of the supposedly terrible service for myself.
132 Traditional Teochew Noodles is located inside Chang Cheng Mee Wah coffeeshop in Marine Terrace. It’s one of those likably quaint joints frequented by aunties and uncles that you might associate with the term heartland.
The stall is situated in a corner and, when I visited in the late afternoon, was one of the few there that had a queue. Before me were 4 other people. I spent over 20 minutes in line before it was my turn to order.
That time gave me a chance to read the 2 newspaper clippings from the Straits Times and Sunday Times that have been incorporated into the signboard. The first dates to 1996 and the other to 2006.
The 1996 one tells the story of the father of the current owner who went from a barefoot tok tok mee pok boy to running one of Singapore’s most popular mee pok stalls.
He has since passed and the stall is run by his son.
What I tried at 132 Traditional Teochew Noodles
We were here for the Mee Pok (S$5.50 for small, S$6.50 for medium, S$8.50 for large) but the person before me in the queue ordered the Fishball Soup (S$5.50 for small) that looked so good that I could not help but get one myself.
The Mee Pok arrived looking very appetising. There were 2 pork strips, 3 slices of fishcake and 2 fishballs. There was also some minced pork, pork lard and sambal. A wonderful aroma rose from my bowl, combining the individual imprints of all the ingredients for a satisfying first sniff.
I prodded the noodles with my chopsticks, praying that they wouldn’t be the mushy preparation so many reviewers had complained of. They checked out – each strand had a springy body, and that was confirmed by the small test bite I took.
Oh, but the pork was where the magic was. Thinly sliced but with a gorgeous ribbed texture, each piece had just the right amount of give. I was surprised by the depth of flavour that the pieces held, selflessly imparting their sweet-and-savoury accents with each chew.
I tossed the noodles, coating them in the rich brown gravy with its tantalising aroma. That’s when my mouth really began to water. Eaten with the noodles, the broth added its own rendition of savoury pork deliciousness to the mix. It had a perfectly robust character and the hints of varied spices added a nice range of exotic flavour that had me slurping away.
Digging full-on into the noodles now, I was vindicated in my earlier assumption that they were springy. I love it when the oil makes them shiny and slippery– that’s the perfect way to be eaten, noodles! The al dente texture worked so well with its oil-soaked, sambal-smeared appearance. Note to spice wussies like me— the sambal is super spicy!
There were a few sprouts drowned in the broth. They added a nice crunch but the meagre quantity made it seem like they had accidentally fallen in (the Fishball Soup had arrived teeming with them). Floating nearby were 2 fishballs. They turned out to be supple with freshness and had a bold, decisively non-fishy taste which made them easy to eat on their own, too.
Between the springy softness of the minced pork bits, soft-firm texture of the fishballs and crisp snap of the taugeh, I thoroughly enjoyed a refreshingly diverse mouthfeel spectrum.
While my focus was undoubtedly the mee pok, the Fishball Soup was the perfect accompaniment on that rainy day. 8 individual white spheres bobbed up and down around the bowl, and between them lay a marsh of taugeh. Crowning the bowl was a smattering of shallots.
I loved the soup! The ample serving of fishballs helped, too and, if you are a fan of healthy eating, the generous helping of sprouts paired with the fishballs makes this a very appealing alternative.
It’s always great when I can end another episode of the “worst-rated” series with a ‘but’. So, 132 Traditional Teochew Noodles may be one the worst-rated mee pok stalls that we could find but its 3.4-star rating is pretty accurate for the experience.
Their rendition of the classic dish is certainly more than decent. I found the portion size to be generous, too. I’m sad that I did not discover this mee pok stall sooner – from what I have read and heard, the original version was really something.
Part of the reason is that we did not encounter some of the most common reasons for the online complaints we read. Several reviewers have complained of an overpowering alkaline taste in the noodles and stale fishballs, but our experience was really the opposite.
Food notwithstanding, the human factor is as important and sometimes even more so. I believe this stall is missing out on a huge chunk of business because they lose out in this respect. If the pair manage to streamline the operation, it will be a win-win.
That said, quality food takes time and I don’t think 5 minutes per customer is too long for a good bowl of mee pok. Since I live nearby, I’m definitely planning to return!
Expected damage: S$5.50 – S$11 per pax