Explore Practitioners 1: Traditional Hawker – Brenda Tan

I have always been very supportive of Singapore’s hawker culture as I always visit hawker centers when I am craving some comfort food or a taste of nostalgia. Hence, for my first practitioner, I decided to approach a family friend who owns a coffeeshop, to teach me how to make one of my favourite dishes – lor mee, which literally translates to “braised noodles”.

Process Documentation 

Usually, the chef wakes up at 1am to prepare the gravy beforehand! After the gravy is done, she will move on to prepare the toppings for the noodles. Below is a short video of how a typical bowl of lor mee is prepared and served to customers. 

Preparing a bowl of lor mee involves a systematic and arduous process. Here are the steps according to the video above:

  1. Firstly, the amount of noodles and beansprouts are estimated by hand and placed into a noodle strainer, before being blanched in piping hot water.
  2. After the noodles are cooked, 1 1/2 ladles worth of thick, sticky gravy is poured on top of the noodles, just enough to cover the noodles.
  3. Next, toppings such as braised egg, fried fish, braised pork and parsley are added to the bowl. 
  4. Last but not least, condiments like black vinegar, chilli paste and minced garlic are added before serving the bowl of noodles to the customer. 

Tools used

  • Stainless steel noodle strainer
  • Thongs
  • Ladle 
  • Bowl
  • Scissors 
  • Hot water dispenser 
Thongs used
Noodle strainer used
Sketches of tools used

Worksite Documentation 

The worksite is a small and humble space, and it also very clean and organised. Below are a few photos I took of the worksite. 

Personal Insights 

After attempting to prepare a bowl of lor mee by myself, I took down some notes regarding my experience. 
The most challenging part would be straining the water out of the noodles, because I need to leave the right amount of water in the noodles, and if there is too much water retained in the noodles, it will become too soggy. In my opinion, it takes a lot of time and experience for one to master this step. On the other hand, I learnt that preparing a humble bowl of noodles is actually a very laborious and meticulous process, and almost no machines or pre-made food are used. Everything from the braised egg to the braised pork are made with love by the chef and kitchen staff.