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

I’m not sure what it is about the ubiquitous bowl of bak chor mee (BCM, a.k.a. minced pork noodles) that’s so attractive to the new generation of hawkers, but @mincedpork.bros have decided to squeeze into the overcrowded niche of noods.⠀

Out of their quartet of offerings, the Teochew Modern Pork Noodles appealed to me the most. At six dollars a bowl, the Teochew BCM adds dried sole fish chips, half a soft boiled egg, and a whole abalone to the traditional ingredients of assorted pork products. The mee pok (flat, wide egg noodles) were boiled a few seconds short of being al dente, and as such they boasted a harder, chewier bite.⠀

The sauce mix that seasons the entire BCM is what makes or breaks a bowl of bak chor mee, and the Bros made it. It’s distinctly vinegar forward, with the Bros using high quality black rice vinegar that defines & felicitously flavours the BCM. The sharp acidity of the vinegar is tempered by the fermented, almost soy sauce like savouriness of the vinegar. The addition of soy sauce, chili and a splash of the broth that all the meats are cooked in complete the sapid, flavourful sauce. ⠀

The ingredients were all well cooked and fresh. The abalone was cooked adeptly, boasting a desirable bounciness, the minced pork & sliced pork were poached perfectly, retaining just a little of that porky scent for extra flavour, the soft boiled egg was nicely flavoured from being boiled in a soy broth, and the extra dollar I spent on adding prawn paste wasn’t a bad idea. ⠀

The most memorable thing here is definitely that piquant pork ball, which had a truly interesting texture. Biting into the ball reveals that the meat inside the ball is layered, almost like a thinly sliced pork mille-feuille. The mouthfeel is intriguing, with a dense, hard bite that gives way to a soft bounciness once you’ve bitten in far enough.⠀

What holds the Bros back from perfection is the dismally diminutive portion. Six bucks getting you a whole abalone ain’t bad, but I would’ve gladly swapped it for a standard sized serving of BCM. Perhaps I should’ve just gotten the four buck big bowl of Classic BCM. This is delish, but the portions ain’t cutting it chief.

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@sambaesg are sambal specialists, but that didn’t stop them from having menu items that aren’t related to that spicy sauce. Their chicken nanban side was a rather unexpected option, but it’s a sensationally stellar one. For just $4.90, you get six humongous chunks of deep fried chicken (karaage).⠀

The batter cocooning the chicken is utterly incredible. Just take a peek at how craggy the surface of the deep fried chicken is, and you already know that batter is razor thin, startlingly crisp, and just all round ethereal. The chicken encased within that batter is exquisitely juicy, and so incredibly tender. To retain the moisture of a chicken chunk this thick while cooking it all the way through takes a lot of expertise, and fortunately Chef Noel is a poultry pro.⠀

The chicken itself is very lightly seasoned, but that doesn’t matter as it relies on the abundance of homemade tartar sauce for most of its flavour. I’m not sure if the traditional vinegary nanban sauce is applied to this chicken, so I’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist. What is very tangible, however, is that tasty tartar sauce. It’s charmingly creamy, satisfyingly salty and has an appealingly chunky texture with the bits of hard boiled egg & chopped onions in there.⠀

The result is a deliriously delectable deep fried chicken dish that demands pride of place on every single dinner table. The chunky, savoury sauce gets into every crag of the juicy fried chicken and stays on it even as you bite down. The perfect combo of creamy, salty & crispy is present from the first bite to the last, and the mouthfeel of the perfectly fried chicken is downright divine. There’s bound to be a fair bit of tartar sauce to spare, so make it rain all over your rice.⠀

A minor suggestion would be to make sambal tartar sauce to tie it into the Sambae concept, but this is already perfection. Absolutely excellent work, @sambaesg. Thanks for having us!

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I always take beautiful women to bed with me. Yes, all the ladies love getting into bed with me, and I have taken four vixens at once. Can you blame them? @b.e.d_sg is an upmarket foodcourt that has Erdinger on tap, a decent selection of wines, and their food options ain’t too shabby.⠀

@curryboysg is one of the tenants to set up shop in the foodcourt. They are a Japanese-Singaporean fusion concept, and their Signature XL Pork Panko Curry ($8.90 nett) is the paragon of this concept. It’s yet another Japanese katsu curry rice…but you’d be wrong. Sure, the panko crusted pork cutlet is most definitely Japanese & is nothing noteworthy, but the starchy, stew-like Japanese curry is replaced by a rich, luscious Nyonya curry that mitigates the leanness of the pork cutlet.⠀

While the tonkatsu is a tad bland & unappealing on its own, the spicy, coconut-y & felicitously fatty Nyonya curry flavours & lubricates the pork cutlet extremely well. The curry is dummy thicc, and there’s more than enough of it to lube up both the pork & the rice. Not a fan of the catastrophically overcooked fried egg, but it is what it is. It’s not a groundbreaking fusion dish, but it is a well executed one that works relatively flawlessly.

Fellas, get out there and live your best life. Wine her, dine her, and get her gushing in B.E.D.

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Besides the wondrous wanton noodles, Kwang’s Black Char Siew ladles up what is possibly the most divine dumpling soup in Singapore. I’m not exaggerating, this really is a spectacular bowl of soup, and all it cost me was a green note ($5). I’ve already reviewed the wantons, and while decent, they are admittedly a little forgettable. So, why is this bowl of soup so incredibly exquisite?⠀

Firstly, most of you will have noticed the translucent white chunks in the soup. That’s correct, Kwang’s simmers radishes in their soup to give it a clean, crisp & delightful sweetness. Secondly, notice that the soup is a darker colour than the vast majority of wanton soups out there. I can’t confirm this, but I highly suspect that this soup starts out by boiling pork bones, which would explain the deep, delectable sapidity & rich body of the soup. And lastly, the more eagle eyed of you may have spotted the addition of more cubes of pork lard in the soup. It’s unhealthy, but unbelievably delicious.⠀

Kwang’s wonderful wanton soup is definitely not your bog standard, vaguely pepper flavoured water that holds a bunch of soup dumplings. No, this is the gold standard of all wanton soups out there, and every wanton soup aspires to be this titan of taste when they grow up. With wanton soup this phenomenal, imma weigh one ton pretty damn soon if nobody restrains me.

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I never recognised Kovan 209 Market as a place for wonderful wanton noodles, but ever since I discovered Kwang’s Black Char Siew stall dishing out wanton noodles, it’s become my default option. Their specialty is their signature black char siew, but they make a real mean bowl of wanton noods too for just five buckaronis.⠀

As expected of a char siew specialist, Kwang’s char siew is stellar. While not as black as advertised, the well marinated pork was still stunningly smoky & sported a charmingly charred crust. The sweetness from the honey that’s been slathered onto the pork accentuates the sapid spice rub that’s marinated deep into the meat. While the fat marbling in the char siew is a bit spotty, the meat tender & moist, and when you do bite into a fatty piece, a gluttonous glee will be sure to overcome you. Every slice of char siew is a satisfyingly savoury experience, possessing a deeply pleasurable chew that can only come from a tender cut of meat.⠀

The portlier-than-usual wantons held up their end of the bargain decently. While the wanton wrapper was a little thick in some spots, it was cooked expertly. The filling within was seasoned adequately, and possessed a delightful crunch from added bits of water chestnuts, providing a much needed contrast to the soft textures present in the bowl of noodles. Absolutely perfect with a slice of sour, slightly spicy green chili.⠀

The sauce mix of soya sauce, sambal chili, sesame oil & a little soup is more than delicious enough to flavour the plain hor fun (flat rice noodles), but what makes these noods so mesmerising is an unexpected ingredient. Y’all see those little golden bits on the left? That’s right, they added fried pork lard to their wanton noodles! Fat is flavour, and on god this bowl of wanton noodles has a statue in the middle of Flavortown. So, so incredibly delicious, I tell you.

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Eating at Asia Western Food is a nostalgia trip from anyone born before the 00s, as the food is straight out of the past. For the RIDICULOUSLY low price of FOUR DOLLARS, yes that’s right, a pair of two dollar notes, you get the classic Hainanese Western rendition of fish and chips.⠀

It’s the quintessential fish & chips that has been tweaked for Singaporeans, from the slightly too thick but decently airy batter to the simply seasoned but firm, flaky fish encased in the batter. There isn’t much to say about this dish, but the taste & textures awaken blissful memories long buried, and that in itself is an experience to savour.⠀

That’s why Singapore’s hawker heritage is more than just great flavours & perfect cooking techniques, our hawker heritage is also about bringing back memories of the good old days. And that is something that can never be quantified adequately.

Eight dollars at Asia Western Food will get you a big chungus chicken, deep fried to golden, greasy supremacy. Sure, eight bucks will only get you a fried spring chicken without a side of fries or coleslaw, but there’s no denying the incredible value you’re getting here.⠀

A larger than normal chicken is coated in a simple flour mix and then deep fried till it’s cooked just right. Deep frying a whole chicken ain’t easy, but the elderly gent running the shop has been dishing out spring chicken for more than forty years. Needless to say, the cook was perfect. The thighs & drumsticks retained all of their moisture, which leads to a cascade of juices dripping all over with every bite. Even the normally dry & stringy breast meat was surprisingly moist and it was easily edible.⠀

The meat is great, but the battered skin is utterly breathtaking. The skin has morphed into a tremendously thin & crispy cocoon around the moist meat, and it definitely makes for one of the most splendid fried chickens in town. The seasoning may be simple, but salt, white pepper & perhaps a hit of five spice is all this sterling spring chicken needed. Yes, it might just beat out several of the famous fried chicken merchants in town, that’s how incredible this spring chicken was.⠀

There’s really no way to sugarcoat this, but you have to try it for yourselves as soon as possible because we never know when the elderly uncle will cease operations, and another piece of Singapore’s hawker heritage is gone forever. Go soon, don’t have regrets this new year.

Recently, some of you may have heard of Asia Western Food, a humble Hainanese western food stall that’s run solo by an elderly gentleman with a hunchback. It really does sound & seem incredibly pitiful, but he still silently toils on. Asia Western Food is known for affordable & appetising fried food, which is possibly the closest thing Singapore will get to a chippy.⠀

The chicken wings ($1.20 apiece) were suitably sized, and they were deep fried expertly. Crispy, gloriously golden brown on the outside, the meat within was moist & satisfyingly salty. Sure, these ain’t the best tasting chicken wings in town, but they are the cheapest, and they’re a throwback to a bygone era. An era when the future was rosy, the world wasn’t too shabby, and we still had some hopes & dreams.

I’ve tried every single BBQ seafood stall at Chomp Chomp and Hai Wei Yuan is definitely my runaway favourite. Yep, competition is tough there, but Hai Wei Yuan is clear of the rest.⠀

The main attraction is doubtlessly the stellar sambal stingray, which is priced at eighteen dollars flat for the biggest serving that’s ideal for two to share among other dishes. Streets won’t forget you, Steve Irwin, and I’ll eat the seas while you watch the skies. The meaty flat fish features lots of glistening, firm & moist fish flesh that’s barbied to sublime succulence.⠀

Of course, the meat wouldn’t be as memorable if it wasn’t charitably slathered in a scintillating sambal. The spicy chili paste is superbly savoury and utterly umami, and the oiliness seeped deep into the fibres of the smoke kissed, compellingly charred stingray and flavoured it fantabulously. Pair that with a judicious squirting of the zesty calamansi provided, and the sour & pungent cincalok (Malay fermented shrimp sauce), and you have an all expenses paid trip to Flavortown.⠀

Hai Wei Yuan ain’t a one trick pony, oh no. Their sambal sotong (starts from $12) stars the same scintillating sambal stir fried with some fabulously fresh squid. Also, the sambal lala (Venus clams) which also feature the same superb sambal but this time on juicy & sweet clams. However, the stealthy stunner is undoubtedly the stir-fried kailan. I don’t know what unholy concoction the sauce is besides garlic, shallot oil & possibly soy sauce, but these are the best tasting veggies at any hawker centre in Singapore by far. Yep, these veggies are that sublime.⠀

Hai Wei Yuan is my go to BBQ at Chomp Chomp. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

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I’m almost certain that the first post I ever did see about Da (big in Mandarin) Dong Prawn Noodles (大東蝦面) was from @veronicaphua, and then my feed just went absolutely wild with nothing but Da Dong swinging around. I know from personal experience that having a Big Dong is absolutely awesome, but I simply couldn’t understand why everyone was losing their minds over Da Dong’s, well, 大东.⠀

I have failed in my quest to survey Da Dong twice before, so I made sure I was up bright and early to get the full Da Dong experience. I got a bowl of their standard pork rib prawn noodles ($8), and made sure to order thin vermicelli so as to avoid interfering with the legendary broth. Well, that was apparently a really good idea, as the broth turned out to be milder than most other prawn broths.⠀

It’s a lot less forward on the briny sapidity that only seafood can deliver, instead relegating the seafood umami to the copilot’s chair. The captain here is definitely the pork bones that have been painstakingly boiled down into the stock, which results in a lighter and cleaner, yet richer & fattier broth. You are far less likely to get overwhelmed with Big Dong than any of its contemporaries, but the deeply savoury broth is no less satisfying as it slides into your guts.⠀

As you can see, the $8 bowl is pretty miserly especially compared to any other famous competitor out there. Sure, the prawns were fresh & the pork ribs were terrifically tender, but nobody other than people with small appetites are gonna be full for long on this. Still, I’m glad to have enjoyed this famous prawn star, and now I completely understand why so many people are lusting for Big Dong.⠀

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Bendemeer Prawn Noodle is one of the better stalls in Bendemeer Market, but that isn’t saying much. Sure, the prawn broth is undeniably umami, but it ain’t mindblowingly spectacular, and the noodles are, well, standard yellow noods.⠀

The prawns are sparing in serving, but they are acceptably fresh. The pork ribs are probably the most memorable element here, with a fatty felicitousness as it melts in your mouth ever so slowly between chews.⠀

Bendemeer Prawn noodles are decently delicious, and considering that they go for five bucks a pop, it’s hawker fare done right.

@salt.oldairport has only gone and done it again. The first time around, they opened up a herbal soup stall that was a sleeper hit, and this time, they’ve gone with everyone’s favourite fried Indian carbohydrate: roti prata. Yup, not sure why they called their stall dedicated to deep fried dough Light, but it is what it is.⠀

Besides plain ol’ prata, they’ve got a little fusion shenanigan going on in the form of their Signature Wrap-tas. As one may have already anticipated, they treat a piece of prata as a pita and load it with toppings. At a respectable five dollars flat, I bagged myself their chicken cutlet Wrap-ta. The prata is probably frozen packaged stuff, so not much to comment on there besides Light deftly managing to mercifully moderate the grease levels.⠀

The chicken cutlet is the undisputed leading lady here, and those who’ve had the pleasure of eating Salt’s acclaimed chicken cutlets will know why. An ethereally light yet considerably crunchy batter is levitating around the juicy, splendidly salty chicken fillet. Each bite earns you a compelling crunch that elicits a scandalous serving of pleasure, just before the soft, savoury moistness of the chicken satiates your carnivorous inclinations. And of course, artificial nacho cheese sauce is there to seal the delicious deal with it’s salty, processed goodness.⠀

Light’s chicken curry is satisfactorily serviceable, but it only comes with every order of regular prata. So, what do we do? Well it’s simple, we order a piece of regular prata and a wrap-ta. Then, we head over to Ren Min for a pint of beer or five. The wrap-ta is perfect drunk food, and I’ll be damned if I don’t have a beer on hand while scarfing down this greasy, fried fabulousness. And that, ladies & gents, is a wrap.

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

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