Wok on Inn is a noodle bar chain that specialises in hawker style (street food flavour) noodle dishes from various South East Asian countries but also giving you the option of mixing and matching the type of noodles, the sauce, and the toppings for unique combinations to satisfy whatever taste craving you may have.
With $10 lunch specials and the regular menu, or make your own, noodles costing $10-$15 (all generously sized and weighty) you will end up with a fulfilling full feeling. A selection of sides, the usual drinks, and some alcoholic beverages are available for additional cost.
Part One – The cooking class
I was lucky enough to attend a special event hosted by Wok on Inn recently at their Zetland branch located on the ground level exterior of East Village Shopping Centre. The decor is designed to accentuate the hawker style street food experience with bamboo poles hanging across the ceiling and bright neon signs glaring high along one wall.
Arriving five minutes before the scheduled start I was surprised at being the first to wok up (prepare yourself - there’s more where that came from). The scene that greeted me was a well put together makeshift kitchen replete with multiple gas burners, woks, traditional mortar and pestles, and various plates of ingredients.
Following the arrival of my fellow guests and some pleasantries it was time to wok on so we were introduced to Chef Nut Kunlert who ran us through the ingredients of some popular Thai and Malaysian sauces. It is important to note here that the sauces used at Wok on Inn are prepared in Thailand and Malaysia from their respective local ingredients to ensure authenticity of flavour.
Next up was for us to make ‘pad ki mao’ otherwise known as ‘drunken noodles’ starting by grinding our own pastes on the stone (or if you prefer, ‘wock’ – yes, I went there) mortar and wooden pestle. Starting with the harder ingredients first, and moving progressively to the softer ones, the paste consisted of palm sugar (1 tbs), lemongrass (1tbs), Chinese ginger (finger ginger, 3 fingers), garlic (1 tbs), zest of kaffir lime (2 knuckle sized pieces), vegetable oil (1 tbs), chilli (however hot you like it), salt and pepper to season.
My ‘pad ki mao’ paste – needs more chilli? :-s
With vegies, flat rice noodles, sweet tamarind sauce, and chicken already prepared it was time to get our flame on and rock out with our woks out. First adding some oil to the wok we cracked in an egg which we gave a quick stir before mixing in our freshly prepared paste and smelling the fruits of our labour. The other ingredients soon found their way into the heat and some kick arse wok tossing action ensued. More chilli and basil were added just before plating up and then it was time for lunch.
Part Two – The eating
Time to devour our masterpieces but, of course, we also got to taste what Wok on Inn had to offer with various menu items served as appetisers to our pad ki mao.
My ‘pad ki mao’, spicy chicken dumpling in the soup spoon, and calamari with sriracha mayonnaise
Spicy chicken dumplings – Chicken dumplings served in a spicy soy sauce. A siu mai style dumpling with a good weight to size ratio with all the flavour you want without too strong a fatty taste to have you feeling guilty afterwards.
Calamari with sriracha mayonnaise – Exactly what it sounds like. Crispy fried calamari with the sriracha mayonnaise (looks like thousand island sauce but tastes a thousand times better) is a match made in Nirvana.
Pad thai – Pad. Thai. Good. Chewy noodles coated in an almost creamy-tasting sauce, soft chicken pieces, crushed roasted peanuts, and crisp bean sprouts. Om, nom, and nom.
Cashew nut noodles with chicken and chicken pad thai
Pad ki mao (drunken noodles) – Despite using the same ingredients and cooking for roughly the same amount of time each of our pad ki mao ended up
distinctly different from each others. One had a runnier sauce which was sweet, another I found had a much stronger lemongrass and garlic flavour, while a third was quite mild on all fronts. Mine ended up with the sauce coating the noodles well without dripping, moderately salty and sweet, with hints of the various spices and a good smack in the face of chilli – pretty much how I wanted it to turn out (would have gone well with a crisp, cold beer).
Part Three – The aftermath
I knew about Wok on Inn from some of its other branches I have eaten at, and already love it. They offer fan favourites and the option to satisfy whatever combination of taste and texture you have so if you are in the mood for noodles you can’t go wrong.
Although cooking our own food was fun – I’m sure it would be popular activity if they made it a mainstream part of their business, it gave us an appreciation of the skill required to make such delicious food.
Getting to try dishes that I hadn’t before further reinforces my belief that whatever noodle cravings you have you can find (or create) the solution at Wok on Inn.
As a last note, I have refrained from scoring dishes as I feel this food, hawker style food, is just meant to be yummy and doesn’t need to be scored. It just needs to be cooked well, be tasty, and give you a happy feeling – like your Mum’s (or Dad’s) cooking.
Please note this blog was written by QHL. QHL was a guest of Wok on Inn for this event. All words, photos and opinions are QHL's.