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Hawker Hits

Hawker Hits

In a land full of glorious hawker nosh, it's hard to find the best of them. This is a list of my best finds.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

Dog goes woof, cow goes moo, duck goes...straight into my stomach. Soon Kee, which was at Longhouse for the better part of a decade before bouncing around and finally settling in Balestier, has been a family favourite for almost as long.

Their braising sauce is T H I C C and ultra unctuous and umami, and it goes well on the tender, delicious duck, the slightly dry but unquestionably delicious rice, the porridge, the noodles...yeah, it goes well on just about everything.

While my annoyance at the duck getting sliced up too thinly still goes unaddressed, the duck itself, despite having its texture somewhat marred, is smashingly savoury from being slowly boiled in that brilliant braising sauce. That sumptuous, sapid sauce just serves to heighten the gluttonous gratification of the duck.

Also, their fried chili is the best in Singapore. Slightly sweet, superbly savoury & rounded off with a feisty fire from the chili, it’s absolutely addictive and impossible to resist.

Is Soon Kee the best braised duck rice in Singapore? Yes, quite possibly so.

5 Likes

Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei has won the Michelin Bib Gourmand award for the fourth year straight, so naturally I had to go and investigate if it was worthy of the almost-Michelin star, or if someone somewhere had been paid off.

Based on taste alone, the answer would be a resounding “why the hell doesn’t this have a Michelin star yet?” The laksa gravy was quite possibly the richest, most luscious laksa gravy I’ve ever tasted. With just enough heat to get you hot & bothered, it was remarkably redolent.

Zhen Shan Mei definitely lost the chance for a star with their portion sizes, however. This is the five buck portion, and apparently someone thought it would be an absolutely hysterical practical joke to call it the ‘medium’. It ain’t nothin’ but a snack, lemme tell you that right now.

The four cockles within apparently suffered from crippling dwarfism, and the solitary shrimp was decidedly lonely. There’s an alright amount of shredded chicken within, which is definitely un-traditional af, and an attempt was made to compensate by giving a bit more tau pok.

It certainly seems that the six dollar portion would be the only way to go. Considering just how doggone delicious this luscious laksa is, it’s probably worth it.

5 Likes

At the recommendation of @that_dex & @coolheart, I waited for about an eternity and an hour on a Monday night for this legendary plate of $8 hokkien mee.

So how does Yi Sheng stack up to Hong Heng, which is my other favorite? Well, Hong Heng’s noodles are definitely more satisfyingly sapid, but Yi Sheng has Hong Heng beaten handily in the wok hei category.

However, the one thing that makes Yi Sheng’s Hokkien Mee so legendary is that supremely scintillating fried chili on the side. Powered up by the inclusion of ikan bilis into the marvelous mix, the chili has some serious pumped up kicks. Plus, it’s ridiculously redolent and absolutely addictive, and mixing it up with the noodles is what makes this hot mess so undeniably and unforgettably umami.

5 Likes

I’m real glad to say that Wow Wow West’s chicken chop is still real good eatin’ 10 years later. Unlike their once fantastic fish & chips which have suffered from an appalling drop in standards, their chicken chop is still a winner at $7.50.

The chicken chop is a bit on the skinny side, but the meat is juicy and superbly seasoned. The skin is done just right, with the sub-dermal layer of fat all cooked out and with charred bits in all the right spots. The chicken may have been thin in thickness, but the size is stellar and a surefire satisfier.

Not a fan of the crinkle cut fries getting changed to their more straight-laced counterparts, but alongside the slaw & the baked beans, it’s still an acceptable accoutrement. You could definitely do a lot worse for $7.50, kids.

5 Likes

Penyet Project is located in ABC Brickworks’ Muslim row, and is practically engulfed by all of its competitors offering ayam penyet. So how on earth does a stall run by two young Malay men manage to stand out from all other stalls run by makciks and enciks?

That’s simple, they make their fried chicken gloriously great. Just on looks alone, that juicy chicken leg is a stunner. But wait, there’s more! The batter encasing the chicken is absolutely amazing. It’s deep fried to perfection, and it’s titillatingly crispy. Better yet, the batter is thoroughly seasoned with a medley of Malay spices that makes it scintillatingly savory. The chicken within was decently moist and also superbly seasoned, and the skin is a delight to devour.

Of course, it wouldn’t be as outstanding as it currently is without that stellar, spicy sambal on the side. It’s perfectly balanced, as all things should be. It has enough spice to get you all hot and bothered, but it’s not overpowering and won’t obfuscate any of the other fabulous flavors on the plate. It’s spicy, savory and slightly sour, a perfect refinement to the awesome ayam penyet. The chicken rice on the side was redolent & rich, but a little too moist and soggy.

Chicken rice is brilliant, but I like ayam penyet more. It’s just that good, don’t @ me.

4 Likes

Whenever I am feeling low, I look around me and I know
there’s a place that will stay within me, wherever I may choose to go. I will always recall the stall where they serve up the best roast meats, and that is Fatty Cheong.

At $8 for the holy trinity of roast duck, roast pork & char siew, it’s a shocking steal. Y’all already know all about their fatty, smoky and savory char siew is, how unbelievably unctuous their sio bak is, and of course, y’all know all about that ridiculously redolent roast duck. But that dark, delicious gravy just holds it all together oh so perfectly, and floods the steamed rice with flavor.

This is home, truly, where I know I must eat. Where my dreams wait for me, where the gravy always flows.

7 Likes

Fatty Cheong has opened up a new noodle stall right at the back of ABC Hawker Center, and for five bucks, you too could get a plate of sapid shui gao (soup wonton) hor fun.

While the shui gaos aren’t the best as the skin is too thick, it’s still quite quaint in its own right. Due to the generosity of Fatty Cheong (who I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume is the owner), those shui gaos are pretty plump and sensationally superb. The hor fun is done al dente, and the standard issue chili is rather redolent and spicy. Of course, Fatty Cheong’s sinfully stellar char siew makes everything better.

Hey, if you liked the noodles at the OG stall, you’re gonna love this one.

4 Likes

Hong Kong Soy Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle is new chicken rice stall in ABC market, and yet another one with Hong Kong in their name just to add to the confusion. But the real question is: do they have their chicken game on point?

On first inspection, it doesn’t look that impressive. The guy brandishing the chopper is sadly lacking in terms of knife skills, as the chicken drumstick is viciously hacked into uneven portions. The chicken’s already dead my dude, there’s really no need to chop it up like that.

That’s where it all gets better though. The chicken was juicy and full of flavor, and the skin was well and truly impregnated with the sapid soy sauce the bird was stewed in. Better yet, the herbal and satisfyingly savory sauce is splashed over the plate of chicken rice, giving you that extra kick of deliciousness.

The char siew, while losing outright to Fatty Cheong’s, is still superb char siew in its own right. Moist, fatty and delicious with a slight tinge of sweetness from the honey in the marinade, you’d be robbing yourself if you didn’t try it.

For a grand total of five bucks, this is some good eatin’ right here at ABC.

1 Like

I’m gonna be honest, I’m kinda addicted to soya sauce chicken. So it really was kinda inevitable that as I was walking down Bugis with an empty stomach, I would end up eating Choo Chiang’s magnificent meats. According to the assorted newspaper clippings, they used to be located in Yishun, so I suspect that they could very well be the long lost roast meats stall I used to frequent a lifetime ago.

The soya sauce chicken was tender, juicy and terrifically tasty. The thick sauce was healthily herbal and full of savory flavors, and there’s a generous amount of marvelous meat to go around. The roast pork was another winner, with its well cooked fat and thoroughly seasoned meat. Of course, the crackling was the main event, and it was unarguably stellar. Crunchy and utterly smashing, when you bite into a slice of siew yoke, everyone within a five meter radius is gonna know about it.

The char siew could give all the other roast meats stalls out there a hell of a run for their money, save for the fact that the guy swinging the cleaver has the aim of a bad guy in an 80’s action movie. The superb slices of char siew are very unevenly sliced, one slice would be paper thin while the next would be supremely chunky. Of course, everyone knows that when you slice char siew too thin, the texture is ruined.

Fortunately, there were a few joyously thick slices of char siew, and I can confirm that they are truly tender and incredibly moist. The mildly sweet and stunningly savory seasoning lathered onto the meat pre roasting has thoroughly infused every last molecule of meat, and every bite was a truly sapid sensation.

Only problem is that this three meat combo will set you back by a whopping $9.50, so expect your wallet to get absolutely pounded. While there’s far better value out there, Choo Chiang’s meats have me firmly aboard the taste train to Flavortown.

2 Likes

Xing Li Cooked Food’s orh luak has earned so many accolades from so many different people over the years despite the long wait times. That can only mean one thing. It means that it’s time to investigate those claims and see if Xing Li is the real deal, or if it’s just another case of “thank u, next”.

Long lines at the stall? Oh yeah, most definitely. That’s mainly due to the fact that the old proprietor has a tiny little flat wok that’s physically incapable of cooking up more than four portions at a time, and his practice of jumping on the gas valve to close it off and take his orh luak off the heat every few seconds.

With that much attention to detail given to frying up the fried oyster, I was expecting orh jian so indescribably indulgent that it could bend reality, but it fell flat on its face with a splat, just like the orh jian itself. If you like your fried oyster extra wet and gooey, boy you are in for a treat.

However, if you like it perfectly balanced as all things should be with the gooey goodness of the fried starch balanced out with an abundance of delightfully crispy chunks, you might feel somewhat cheated. I definitely felt that way despite the fried oyster being rather redolent and loaded with dazzling deliciousness.

But, there is salvation for this plate of orh luak. I‘m Mr Brightside as I always try to look on the bright side of food, and Xing Li’s orh luak definitely has quite a few redeeming factors. First of all, the $6 portion had a most agreeable abundance of plump, juicy oversized oysters hidden beneath the gooey globs of starch.

Secondly, their zingy, garlicky chili might easily be the best orh jian chili in Singapore. A good amount of heat, a delightful dose of garlic, a bit of acidity to break up the richness of the orh jian, and a solid smattering of spicy sapidity makes this chili the GOAT of chili sauces.

If Xing Li wishes to compete with the likes of Ah Chuan for the title of Singapore’s Orh Luak Overlord, then he must make his orh luak crispy again. A small price to pay for salvation.

2 Likes

Beef brisket noodles are an underrated dish in singapore, especially the Cantonese beef brisket noodle variant. While they haven’t quite gone the way of the dinosaurs, it’s still a rare find, and requires going out of the way to places like Mei Ling Market.

Fortunately, Lao Jie Fang’s beef brisket noodles ($5) are worth the effort. Springy thin egg noodles are tossed in a mouthwatering mix of potent chili and that sapid sauce that the beef is slowly braised in. As for the beef itself, there’s a generous portion of meaty chunks of brisket that gently pull apart under slight pressure.

Not only are they tremendously tender, the flavorful sauce has fully permeated every last morsel of beef, and each bite is a gentle explosion of solidly savory flavors. The beef tendons in the bowl are a few seconds away from melting on its own, and each gelatinous bite is brimming over with pure deliciousness.

A mildly interesting thing about Lao Jie Fang is just how fastidious the proprietor is about the cleanliness of his stall. It’s easily the cleanest stall in the entire hawker centre, and I’m positive I saw the guy wipe down the countertops about a half dozen times while I was slowly reveling in the redolence of this bowl of beef brisket noodles.

3 Likes

It’s been a couple of years since the Tastemakers’ Guide to Tiong Bahru was published, so someone (read: your boi) had to revisit some of the hawkers featured in the guide to make sure that they were still up to snuff.

Fried Kway Teow • Fried Oyster was the stall that served up char kway teow with wok hei so obscene it etched itself deep into my food flashbacks. Needless to say, it was the first stall to receive a thorough spot check.

The slight sweetness from the dark soya sauce was still there, along with the eggy oodles of smooth rice noodles. The ever delicious and universally pleasing lup cheong was also in attendance, and the cockles were buried underneath that mound of carbs.

However, there was one thing distinctly missing from the mix, and that was the obscene wok hei that forcefully grabbed my attention and burned its place into my memory the first time. There was wok hei in the dish, but it was muted this time around. Someone different was behind the wok this time if memory serves me right, and that dazzling wok hei simply wok-ed away from the plate on this occasion.

It’s still an acceptable plate of char kway teow, but it’s changed, and is no longer the same one I fell in love with. Sorry darlin’, it’s not me, it’s you.

4 Likes

Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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