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At first glance, newly-opened Xiao Mei Ban Mian looks like your typical ban mian joint. Take a closer look at the menu though, and you’d realise that it actually sells fusion-style noodles with a Myanmar twist. The girlish, diminutive hawker behind it is 32-year-old Khine Zar Lin, who was born in Yangon and now a Singaporean citizen. She opened her kopitiam stall on April 19 in Woodlands a couple of months after she lost her job as an application engineer. She named the stall Xiao Mei Ban Mian after, well, herself. “People always call me xiao mei ’cos I’m young and quite small,” explains the 149cm-tall millennial. The mandarin phrase usually means little sister, but can mean little girl in this context.

Her stall dishes out both Singaporean-style ban mian in a robust broth flavoured by pork bone and ikan bilis, alongside Myanmar kyay oh (pronounced “jay oh”). The latter noodle dish, topped with pig’s offal and quail’s eggs, comes in two versions: doused in a homely broth comprising just pork bones and garlic; or dry, tossed with garlic, lard and soya sauce. Though vaguely similar to ban mian, Khine tells us that kyay oh is an altogether different dish whose name directly translates to “bronze pot”, the cooking implement it’s traditionally cooked in. To cap it off, she also serves a fusion version of the noodles with Myanmar-style toppings and Singapore ban mian-style soup. 

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