I stay way up north in Singapore and have always complained that there isn't much good food in the area. Upon reflection, I realized that this is absolutely not true. It isn't a lack of good food, it's a lack of exploration on my part. You Huak Restaurant which serves the famous Sembawang White Bee Hoon 白米粉 is one such place which I've yet to check out.
Much has been raved about the delicious Sembawang White Bee Hoon and how customers are willing to bear with the long queues just for a plate of it. So, is it worth queuing for? BFF and I specially made a trip there to find out. Our queue started at 6.45pm on a Friday evening and we waited for an hour before we got a table. One whole hour!
Occupying a shophouse unit along Jalan Tempang, You Huak is not situated at the most convenient of location, but is made much accessible by a shuttle bus service which runs from Yishun, Sembawang and Woodlands to the Sembawang Shopping Centre which is just across the road from the restaurant. You can't missed the place with its big sign board screaming the name of their star dish, 白米粉, in Mandarin.
To call itself as a restaurant would be misleading for me as I would expect at least some air-conditioning comfort, but You Huak's only form of keeping customers cool would be the ceiling fans. The open-air eatery, whose setup is not unlike a local coffeeshop, serves a range of zhi char (wok-fried) dishes which we are familiar with. No delectable food photos or fanciful description of the food can be found on the menu, each dish is named very straight forwardly and are neatly categorized. It's helpful that signature dishes are marked with a thumbs-up sign, saving us the first timers' moments of not knowing what to order, or missing out on what we should order.
The orderly queue is maintained by this pink apron auntie who took our food, drinks and dessert orders as we finally reach our turn. A table right next to her was allocated to us and throughout my meal, the most echoed order I heard was 白米粉, 白米粉, 白米粉. There is no question that people travel all the way just to sample this dish! A quick glance around the eatery showed plates of the white bee hoon on all the tables!
Here it is, our order of the signature dish, Seafood White Bee Hoon (large-$12) served in a large portion! Essentially a moist rice noodle dish stir-fried with prawns, squids, eggs and vegetables in gravy, the white bee hoon looks similar to the hor fun dish found in zhi char stalls, but without the addition of dark soya sauce. The bee hoon is simmered in a very tasty stock, flavourful yet deliciously light on the palate. Texture wise, each strand of the thin rice vermicelli retained a nice bite, yet soft without being mushy, displaying the chef's mastery control of the cooking timing. The coveted wok hei flavor is disappointingly lacking, but it somehow gave the dish a homely feel instead. A squeeze of lime and added chilli makes the bee hoon even more appetite whetting. I found myself in a state of slurpy enjoyment with such a simple but really highly addictive dish.
The Meat & Seafood Roll (small-$10), which we usually called Ngor Hiang in Hokkein (a local dialect), is also a must-order. A mixture of minced pork, prawns and water chestnut are wrapped in beancurd sheets and sliced before going for a dip in hot oil. The resulting pieces of ngor hiang are superbly good! The fillings were very well seasoned with a slight crunch and the remarkably crispy skin made it such a delight. There is nothing unqiue about this common dish but the factor which made it stands out is the freshness of the ingredients and frying oil used. Effort must have been taken to change the frying oil regularly as no traces of nasty, stale oil odour can be detected at all, resulting in a clean fresh flavour which is seldom associated with a deep fried dish.
When the plate of Home Made Fried Beancurd (small-$10) were brought to our table, we had no idea what this was and initially thought it was wrongly sent to us. I was glad we did not send the dish back as we would have missed this little piece of mashed tofu encased in a delightfully light and crispy batter which is so enjoyable!
Prawn paste chicken wings is an usual item on any zhi char place's menu but You Huak serves up Indo-Style Fried Chicken Wing (small-$6) for a change. The wings are spiced with turmeric, with a taste not unlike those in Malay-style nasi lemak dishes. Not that this is an unwelcome change, but the dry meat does not appeal for a repeat order next time, though the skin is very crisply well deep fried and non oily.
The next dish of Sambal La La (small-$9) can be much better executed. A lack of chewy texture gave rise to the suspicion that frozen clams are used, when fresh ones would make a whole load of difference. Most of the shellfishs were also not opened up yet, making us feel that we're not getting our money worth from this dish. I quite like the sambal chilli though it is a bit sweet and not really spicy. BFF summed up the dish in one word - disappointment.
The savoury, mildly spicy flavours of Stir Fry Fish Head (small-$13) made me craved for a warm bowl of porridge! Yummy! Not everyone likes fish head though, as they find it troublesome to eat because of its many bones, but it's precisely why I love it! I relished in every moment of savouring the chopped chunks of fish head which is just nicely cooked and sucking out the very last bit of the tender meat away from its bones. Celery and onions add some crunch while the bittergourd is an impeccable pairing to fish as always.
We wanted to order the Sweet Potato Leaves (small-$7) which is one of the signature dishes but was told that it was sold out. Sambal Kang Kong (small-$7) became the substitute vegetable dish. It was competently stir fried, crunchy while maintaining an aesthetic pleasing bright green colour, but it can do with a bit more dried shrimps and a little less oil.
So, that concludes my maiden visit to an famous eatery in the northern part of my homeland. The white bee hoon is definitely worth the trip, but I would try to avoid peak lunch or dinner hours to cut the queue, especially during weekends. BFF begs to differ and told me he would bring me to eat a certain Chao Tar Bee Hoon (burnt bee hoon) in Geylang next time. But it's different lah, like you can't compare apples to oranges even though they're both fruits right? I do appreciate the simple, delicate taste of the white bee hoon. *Slurps*
Sembawang White Bee Hoon @ You Huak Restaurant
Address: 22 Jalan Tampang, Singapore 758966
Contact: +65 98434699
Opening Hours: 11.30am - 10.30pm (Closed on Wednesdays)