Singapore Noodles from Tan Tan
I lived in Singapore four-and-a-half years and transited through there off and on for another two while I was living in New Delhi, but I have to confess: I never ran into anything called Singapore Noodles in Singapore.
Singapore Noodles were, in fact, invented in Hong Kong. Being a melting pot mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian cultures and cuisines, Singaporean food, like Texas food, is known for its spiciness and use of chili peppers. The Hong Kong recipe calls for the dish to be seasoned with yellow curry powder and chili slices. It is believed that Hong Kong chefs assumed that Singapore Noodles would be spicier than traditional Cantonese dishes.
I first heard Singapore Noodles mentioned in the not-so-great Clark Gable/Rita Hayworth movie Soldier of Fortune; in it, the little hole-in-the-wall Hong Kong restaurant next to Tweedie's Bar served the dish. I used to lay over in Hong Kong back in the day, after Deng Xiaoping decided it was a good economic policy to allow us free-spending, technology-vending capitalist running dogs into the People's Republic. I always wanted to locate the site of Tweedie's, one of the most perfectly portrayed seedy bars in any movie ever about the Far East.
Anyway, when I spied Singapore Noodles on the menu on my first-ever visit to Tan Tan (6816 Ranchester, 713-771-1268), I couldn't resist the temptation to order them. When the dish was brought to our table, my dinner guest literally let out a gasp after the first bite.
"Oh, my god, the spice is just perfect!" she said, shoveling the dry fried noodles with bits of dried beef and tiny shrimp into her mouth.
The beauty of Tan Tan's preparation is threefold: It has exactly the right amount of curry seasoning, the noodles are ultra dry, and the dish is prepared and presented with a perfect simplicity. There is nothing busy or distracting in this dish. We'll be ordering it often.
We ate the leftovers for breakfast. Yes, Tan Tan's Singapore noodles are that good.