If you browse Instagram, you have probably seen this mushroom head and some noodles thing.
Why are we obsessed with this man and his noodles? What’s so nice about these noodles? Are Singaporeans going meatless? Can mushroom heads be plucked off to be eaten and then regrown?
To answer those questions, we have to first know what we’re dealing with.
1. Newest Trend: Suan La Fen
Suan La Fen (酸辣粉) are potato noodles from Sichuan, that’s known for its spicy, hot, delicious, savory and sour taste.
Yes, the newest trend we’re dealing with is basically a continuation of the Mala trend.
Except, you know, it’s not Mala Xiang Guo but now in soupy potato noodle form.
Reader: But wait, if I search IG, Suan La Fen shows noodles like this:
View this post on Instagram
Spicy and sour noodles with mince // 💵12.80 I liked this place because their sweet potato noodles 👌 except it was so busy at 8pm I shared a table with two different people in the 45 minutes I was there 🍜 awkward 🙈 #酸辣粉 #noodles #spicy #sichuan #food #foodshare #foodspotting #sydneylocal #mala
Oh yeah. Those aren’t hip on IG now.
2. Correction: Newest Trend Is Instant Suan La Fen
In case you’re somehow still dreaming, restaurants are still not open yet. So where can people get their neo-Mala fix while being stuck at home?
Turns out, the answer isn’t to order from Sichuan restaurants but to order Instant Suan La Fen.
You can buy them pretty much anywhere online now, even on platforms like Carousell.
View this post on Instagram
Hottest Cup Noodle Trend to sweep Singapore .. HAICHIJIA 嗨吃家 – Sour Spicy Clear Noodles & Spicy Clam Noodles😋😅 I like them both !😍 Worth the🌶Burn😋. Have you tried them ? #haichijia #haichijiasuanlafen #haichijiahuajiafen #嗨吃家酸辣粉 #嗨吃家花甲粉 #instantnoodles #sgfood #foodsg #sgfoodie #foodie #sgfooddiary #fooddiary #sgfoodlover #foodlover #sgfoodtrend #sgfoodpic #foodpic #foodphotography #sgfoodphotography #sgfoodphoto #foodphoto #burpple #burpplesg #hungrygowhere #hungrygowheresg #singaporefoodie #stayhomefood #circuitbreakermeal #stayhomelunch
Weird, I know. Imagine buying Instant Ramen because people feel like eating Ramen, even though Ramen stalls are open for delivery.
Then again we have trends like bubble tea crabs and pancakes, so I guess anything is possible.
Here’s what is typically in the cardboard bowl:
Put everything in, pour hot water and wait for typically 6 minutes, and you can have your Suan La Fen. Note: the picture I used says it’s vermicelli, but it’s actually potato noodles.
Oh yeah, most of them are halal too.
3. The Trend Started About Two Years Ago In China
Instant Suan La Fen can already be found on Chinese media years ago.
Like this 2018 post reviewing many brands of Instant Suan La Fen.
You might even find earlier posts, but it wasn’t described as viral at that point.
We’re not sure when this exactly started or why, but in 2018, Instant Suan La fen is already described as “网红酸辣粉” or “viral Suan La Fen”.
4. HaiChiJia: Most Talked About Brand Of Suan La Fen In Singapore
The HaiChiJia brand is apparently the most-posted brand for Suan La Fen in Singapore, judging from Instagram posts. If you search sellers on the various platforms, you’ll also find that they’ll have thousands of orders for them.
But their actual Instagram doesn’t seem very popular and their first Instagram post was only 3 weeks ago.
Two weeks ago, they even had a giveaway, which spawned lots of posts on the platform. Though it’s probably safe to say that this giveaway isn’t the reason for it going viral in the first place.
View this post on Instagram
<GIVEAWAY> Thank you everyone for the support Everyday, our batches keeps getting sold out! And so we would like to host a fun giveaway, lucky winner will walk away with 1 carton of our Hai Chi Jia Sour And Spicy Noodles 🌶 Rules are simple: 1. Follow us 2. Tag 3 friends 3. Repost this post on your story and tag us, those accounts that are private send us a screenshot Giveaway will end on 31st May 2020 and winner will be announced, have fun! 🔥 #haichijia #haichijiasuanlafen #haichijiasg #haichijiahuajiafen #giveaway #singapore #sgfoodie #sgfoodporn #sgfoodies
The brand itself opened in March of 2018. Whether they started the trend or started because of the trend is not known.
5. The Mushroom Head Guy is a Hong Kong Actor
The young ones wouldn’t know about him, cause he’s pretty old school, known for his comedic roles in movies like King of Comedy and The Tricky Master.
He is Bobby Yip, more well known by his actor name 八兩金 (Ba Liang Jin, translates to eight taels of gold). But he’s not well known in English speaking communities: he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
Now, he’s also a spokesperson for the HaiChiJia brand of Suan La Fen.
6. But There Are Other Brands
Like anything popular, there are countless brands. Mothership wrote an article for 12 of these brands (including HaiChiJia), available from S$3.50 per cup, so check them out if you want to know what’s the Goodiest one to buy.
The 12 brands they wrote:
- Hai Chi Jia
- Hai Di Lao
- Tan Xiao Ai
- Shi Zu Ren
- Chen Cun
- Wei Da Da
- Bai Jia Chen Ji
- Xiao Yang
- Mo Xiao Xian
- Yu Zhen
- Jia Xiang Ren C Wei
- Hei Ren Bu Luo
7. It’s About S$19.90 For 6, But You Might Be Able To Buy Them Cheaper
YouTrip found that buying from local e-commerce stores is actually almost 2 times more expensive as compared to buying directly from their overseas retailers from Taobao.
Their comparison shows a price of S$27.49 ordering from Taobao, compared to S$44.80 from a Shopee seller.
But there’s a little workaround required to do that, and shipping will take longer. Check out their page if you want to know more.
8. The Real Thing Is Actually Simple To Make From Scratch
Hawkers in China selling the real thing can whip up the noodles in 2-3 minutes, and there’s a reason for that: it’s bloody easy to make.
Unlike other recipes where you need to fry this or stew that, all Suan La Fen requires is you just mix everything in a bowl and boil a pot of water.
Boil a pot of water, cook potato noodles according to package instructions.
While waiting for the noodles, take your bowl, place these ingredients:
- 1 tbsp of hot chilli oil
- 1/2 tsp of chilli powder
- 1.5 tbsp of light soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp of black vinegar
- 1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 1 clove of grated garlic
- 1/4 of salt or to taste
- 1 cup of hot chicken stock (if you switch this to vegetable stock, this is now vegetarian)
Mix everything together, put your potato noodles in, then top with these or whatever you want:
- fried peanuts
- fried soybeans
- pickled lettuce
That’s right. It’s basically the same steps as making packet instant noodles. Depending on your kitchen, you might also find that you already have most of the ingredients.
Here’s the video version from Souped Up Recipes:
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