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Mala started as a humble dish of Sichuanese origin. To boost the body constitution of ancient boatmen who spent long hours in damp conditions—and possibly to mask the scent of the rivers— aromatically sharp Sichuan peppercorns and ginger were cooked together and served in a soupy concoction.
Hundreds of years later, mala has evolved into a sauce for many other food items, and its popularity does not seem to be abating any time soon. Not only is a Mala Xiang Guo stall now considered a kopitiam staple in Singapore, the flavour has also infiltrated into food we already know, like fast-food (Burger King we’re looking at you), potato chips and even mooncakes!
This September, local favourite White Restaurant is bringing back a popular dish, the Mala White Seafood Beehoon. This fusion dish marries the original White Seafood Beehoon with mala sauce and will be available at all six of their branches till the end of the month.
The more important question here is, can we still call it white beehoon when it clearly isn’t going to be white?
No professional photography. This is how the Mala White Seafood Beehoon (medium, $16.80) looked like when it first landed on the table. It’s a fiery orange, with dried chillis and visible amount of peppercorns swimming in the sauce.
My companions and I performed unplanned bobblehead nods of approval as we caught the sharp whiff of spices mingled with the original aroma of the seafood stock. As a mala lover, the dish naturally whetted my appetite, but I was also surprised to find the two non-mala-lovers on the table exclaiming, “Smells quite nice ah!”
Personally, the portion looked smaller than expected, and seemed perfect for maybe one very hungry patron.
There is no satisfying burst of salty flavours in the mouth, because this is not what this dish is about. Instead, the dish takes you through stages.
First, the sharp aroma hits your nose and your tastebuds are tickled. At entry, the sweet seafood stock floods your tastebuds. The beehoon is smooth. You chew, and the sauce-drenched eggs, squid and sweet prawn release tiny explosions of flavour. If you’re careless, you might bite into a peppercorn and regret it. The spiciness slowly creeps in as you chew, not overwhelmingly, but just enough to remind you it’s there. A mouthful later, you might regret needing to share the dish.
Speaking of sharing, we also ordered the restaurant’s namesake White Seafood Beehoon (small, $6.00) and the Sambal Clams aka La La (small, $12.00).
There is a reason why this restaurant is famous for its White Seafood Beehoon. The secret lies in the charred aroma of a good wok-hei, the strands of beehoon that don’t clump together, and the perfected seafood stock and slurry proportions. For such a simple-looking dish, the amount of satisfaction you can derive from it is surprisingly high.
The Sambal Clams, on the other hand, felt like it’s just going through the notions. We ordered it because we were in a seafood restaurant; the chef cooked it because it was on the menu, and that’s all there is to it. It wasn’t bad nor fantastic, but it was at least fresh.
If you are a hardcore Mala Xiang Guo enthusiast, this is not it. However, the Mala White Seafood Beehoon delivered a satisfyingly spicy and enjoyable meal to both opponents and casual fans of mala. The portion could be a bit more generous, so go in a group to try more dishes from the restaurant. The Mala White Seafood Beehoon is worth queuing for, but exercise some caution as it might set off a longing for the next time it would be made available.
22 Jalan Tampang S758966
Tel: 6257 2002
Opening hrs: 11.30am to 10.30pm (Closed on Wed)