If imitation is the highest form of flattery, the original Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle must have really been something special. Today, there are several wanton mee stalls that sport the same name all over Singapore, including some that are part of franchises. I visited Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle at Old Airport Road to see if the hype was worth it.
This stall is also one that is part of a franchise. You can identify the branches of this chain using the ‘Since 1986’ tagline after the name. Considering their reputation, I was surprised at how simple and unassuming the stall was. It is situated practically right on the main road and is marked by the standard almost-tacky but slightly quaint Formica tables bolted to the ground.
I have to admit that sitting there with cars driving past a few metres away, and aunties pushing their grocery trolleys to and from the neighbourhood NTUC store just across the street, my hopes weren’t very high. Then again, the heartland is known for its hidden gems and I have been wonderfully surprised before.
Which would it be this time?
What I tried at Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle (Since 1986)
It was the wanton noodles that had drawn us here so there was no real discussion about what to order. Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle’s forte in the dry version that is so popular in Singapore. We chose the smaller bowl of Wanton Noodles (S$4) but the stall also sells a larger bowl for S$5.
You can’t expect wonderful plating at a hawker stall but our bowl of noodles was a pleasant sight with its bed of thin yellow mee (egg noodles) on which sat bright red char siew contrasting against the light green cai-xin. The dish was topped with a crispy fried wonton. The dumpling soup contained two steamed wantons and was sparsely garnished with shallots.
I also caught glimpses of the spicy brown sauce at the bottom and quickly ordered a calamansi drink in anticipation of the fireworks on my tongue that were sure to follow.
Picking at the ingredients in my bowl, I saw that the char siew had been heaped on generous portions.
When I pulled up the noodles with my chopsticks, they jumped about with an appetising springiness. Every strand was delicious, coated in a savoury-sweet flavourful and lard-y sauce without any of the oily taste and feel that can so easily ruin a dish.
I found the soup mild, which is very different from it being diluted. Rather, it was easy on the seasoning and complimented the mild sweetness of the char siew (which had a very nice bite) very well. Altogether, a very nice preparation of dry wanton mee. I can understand its wide appeal and popularity.
As a side dish, we also ordered a plate of Fried Wanton (S$4) that came with 10 wantons and a dollop of mayonnaise. I loved the crispy little buggers but found them a tad on the slaty side. With a dip of mayonnaise, though, they were a great accompaniment to the noodles.
I was quite pleased with Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle’s signature dish. They apparently grill and marinate their own char siew, and marinate and wrap each wanton in-house. The pork lard and chilli is also all made at the stall using their special recipe.
It comes together really well, and is a very enjoyable dish, especially if you order the side dish of fried wantons. That said, I think the smaller S$4 portion will be too sparse for most and I recommend you go for the larger S$5 bowl.
I want to add that despite my earlier misgivings about the rather plain location as an outsider, I discovered that Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodle is actually situated at the perfect place on the junction of Old Airport Rd and Jalan Tiga.
For someone like me visiting for the for the first time, it is easy to spot right from the main road and there is no shortage of affordable parking within walking distance of the row of stalls. That row includes the handmade fish ball noodle next door, a carrot cake stall further down, as well as a store that specialises in mee siam, mee rebus etc. on the corner.
To top it off, it’s a short walk from the neighbourhood NTUC FairPrice which I could actually look into as I had my wanton mee. What else could local residents want than to have a range of delicious food options just a stone’s throw from their weekly shopping?
Expected damage: S$4 – S$9 per pax
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