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Traditional Food In Singapore

Traditional Food In Singapore

Featuring Maxwell Food Centre, Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry, Golden Mile Food Centre, Tong Heng Confectionery (Chinatown), Dona Manis Cake Shop, Ji Xiang Confectionery, Teochew Handmade Pau (Toa Payoh West Market & Food Centre), Traditional Haig Road Putu Piring (Geylang Serai), Upper Boon Keng Market & Food Centre, Xing Xing Tapioca Kueh/Ondeh-Ondeh (Maxwell Food Centre)
Susana Tan
Susana Tan
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Date visited: 23/5/2018 (3pm)

This food centre is actually famous for its kambing soup.

But this place is where one of my favourite char kway teow stalls in Singapore is located.

Penang Fries Kway Teow is one really underrated stall, just like Ping Ji Bo Bia (@Berseh Food Centre).

Unlike the typical dark, sweet version of char kway teow we commonly come across in Singapore, the char kway teow here is different. It is savoury!

It comes with a sprinkling of greens veggies, lup cheong, a few prawns, and a generous amount of bean sprouts and egg.

The first time I tried it, I was wowed. IMHO, the auntie whips up one of the best plates of char kway teow I ever had.

But I always make sure I tell the auntie that I want it MORE SALTY. This is the only place in Singapore where I will request for my food to be more salty. I'm not sure but I think the elderly population there like theirs bland.

I can travel all the way to this food centre just for this char kway teow alone.

If you have not tried savoury char kway teow or you don't like yours (too) sweet, you got to try this out!

Date visited: 23/5/2018 (2:55pm)

Quiet, lazy afternoon at Upper Boon Keng Market.

Was very gian (read: craving) for luncheon meat bun lately, but this classic bun is increasingly hard to come by these days.

Walked around the market to look at the bakery stalls to check out the bread rolls and stumbled upon this simple bun!!!

At Boon Keng Bread stall, there are no fanciful buns made with exotic ingredients.

What I found, were the classic, simple buns that I used to spot in traditional bakeries; red bean, kaya, coconut, curry, cheese/ butter, sausage etc

Prices range from $0.80-1.20 per bun, depending on which flavour you choose.

Anyway, back to the luncheon meat bun. The bun was (still) warm, very soft, and so subtly sweet! Exactly what I was looking for!

Such a simple bun, yet such a satisfying experience.

I cannot exaggerate and say that this is the best luncheon meat bun, but sometimes, the simplest things in life (like a couple of luncheon meat buns like this) can make me really happy.

So satisfyingly good!!!

Date visited: 19/5/2018 (Sat, 12:30pm)

Ngoh hiang (dialect for “five spices”) has its roots from the Hokkien and Teochew dialect groups.

The Hokkien-style ngoh hiang stalls are very rare these days and they offer classic items like meat roll (popularly known as “ngoh hiang”), liver roll, pink sausage and egg slices. I didn't choose the liver roll though.

For the three classic items chosen, they were all handmade by the stall.

My favourite was the egg slices. They were crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside.
The pink sausage had a good balance of lean meat to fat ratio.
The meat roll was meaty and flavoursome.

However, the chilli sauce was too watery.

Date visited: 15/5/2018 (Tue, 4:45pm)

There was a short queue of about 4-5 people when I reached. I rather see a queue actually so that I know what I'm getting is made-to-order.

I read reviews on their FB page where people complained that the ones they got pre-packed; their rice cakes were stuck together due to condensation. Also, the gula melaka (coconut palm sugar) leaked and were over the rice cakes.

I rather have my steamed rice cakes on the spot, piping hot.

The ones I had appeared thinner than the ones I have tried elsewhere, but the soft, warm and fluffy rice cakes, accompanied by the caramel flavour of gula melaka that melted in my mouth was definitely a sweet treat!

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The humble goreng pisang is one of the very traditional local snacks that has gone out of fashion in recent years.

Kee's Crispy Goreng Pisang is nowhere to be found on the list of 'The Best Goreng Pisang Hawkers in Singapore'. But I think the quality of their goreng pisang is pretty good.

For its fried banana fritters, Kee only uses pisang raja bananas that are ripened. You can tell the banana is ripe when it has a slightly black centre.

The stall offers fried banana fritters in different sizes- small ($1), medium ($1.20), large ($1.50) & extra large (king-size banana aka 香蕉王, $2).

Pisang raja is my favourite banana for banana fritters.

It has a high water content and is suitable for frying as it is still juicy after frying.

Kee's (fried) banana (fritter) had a soft texture. It was a touch overripe, juicy, creamy, and had a full custard-like flavour. Also, it had a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. It has a rich taste, yet does not taste overly rich due to the slight acidic taste.

The coat of batter that encased the banana was thin, crispy, but not hard (characteristic of the Chinese-style goreng pisang) and it had a very subtle saltiness to it.

The banana melted in my mouth along with the batter. Woah!

They also sell other varieties of fried fritters like tapioca cake ($1), yam/ taro slice ($1), and sweet potato slice ($1), but looking at the amount of fried pisang raja neatly displayed, I would say their flagship snack is still the pisang raja.

I also tried the (green/ pandan) tapioca cake ($1) because it is one of my personal favourites. The kueh has a nice, soft, and slightly chewy texture which contrasts well with the crunchy, thin batter. Excellent!

Most fried stuff become soggy/ greasy after a while, but the batter of Kee's fritters remains crispy for a long time. The pisang goreng here is very good and worth trying. Worth the calories!

For the $1 items, you can get 6 pieces for $5.50.

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Date visited: 19/5/2018 (Sat 1:45pm)

After hearing/ reading so much about this stall's peanuts soup, this item is on my must-try list at the Maxwell Food Centre.

I reached the food centre at 12:20pm and walked around for a while.

When I walked past 75 peanuts soup, all 3 types (peanuts/ tau suan/ red bean) of soup were still available.

But at 1:45pm, after my lunch, when I walked over to the stall to order my peanuts soup, it was out of stock! Why? Why?? Why??!

I had tau suan instead. Also good. (Teochew: Bo Her Hei Ma Hor aka 没鱼虾也好) One of the better tau suan I have tried. I like!

But I will be back for the peanut sauce soup!

$1 per bowl of soup
$1.20 for takeaway
$1.50/ $2 to add tangyuan (aka glutinous rice balls), depending on how many you choose to add.
$1.60/ $2 for takeaway (with glutinous rice balls)

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Date visited: 19/5/2018 (Sat, 8:30pm).

While waiting for my chicken chop, I walked around to look for this muah chee 'stall'. I definitely wouldn't have noticed it if I had not chanced upon a recommendation on burpple.

Kim Satay is right at the front of the food centre; the very first row facing the main road.

Their muah chee is very soft and springy. Their glutinous rice balls have a QQ consistency. I really like their muah chee. The peanut mixture they are coated in would have been perfect if it is a tad more sweet. I like my muah chee subtly sweet.
Still, I will buy from them again! No doubt about that.

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Date visited: 20/5/2018 (Sat, 12:20pm)

The kueh lapis sagu was not bad, had a QQ consistency but didn't stick to my teeth. I wouldn't say it wowed me like the steamed tapioca kueh/ kueh kosui though. The layers/ slices could have been a little thinner.

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Date visited: 20/5/2018 (Sat, 12:20pm)

Like the steamed tapioca cake, the kueh kosui is soft, bouncy, and aromatic. The taste of the kueh kosui is pepped up with the mellow sweetness of gula melaka. There is a slight hint of caramel in the taste of the kueh kosui. I also like that this kueh is sufficiently sweet without being cloying.

Like its steamed tapioca cake, Xing Xing kueh kosui was also coated with salted fresh grated coconut. Besides giving it a twinge of saltiness, the grated coconut also gave an extra texture to it.

I didn't think that I would order the kueh kosui, because I'm just not a fan of it. However, I decided to buy just two purely because of the rave reviews on Xing Xing's kueh kosui. I had no expectations partly because I really didn't think I was gonna like it.

But I was wowed! I am a changed person. I love it when my attitude towards/ perception of a certain food is changed like that. In a snap, or should I say, in one bite.
It suddenly dawned on me that it wasn't that I didn't like kueh kosui, but I just haven't tried a kueh kosui that I like.

This is a really really well-made kueh.

Date visited: 20/5/2018 (Sat, 12:20pm)

Supply of kuehs was low when I reached.

There was no more ondeh ondeh on display when I reached. But, I just checked with them... Just in case.
And I was told there were 2 pieces left!

Immediately, I replied that I wanted them! Oh yes!

Cut the long story short, Xing Xing ondeh ondeh is very good. However, compared to Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry, Galicer's ondeh ondeh has a slightly more complex flavour profile.

Xing Xing steamed tapioca cake (蒸木薯糕) is not the cloyingly rich/ sweet type and that's one reason why I love their steamed tapioca cake!

The kueh is soft, bouncy, and subtly sweet.
Also, it is coated with salted fresh grated coconut that gave a twinge of saltiness to the kueh.

In fact, it is by far, the best steamed tapioca cake I have tried!!!

The kueh literally melted in my mouth. I can seriously eat a box of these and not be surfeited.

This steamed tapioca cake alone is worth my trip to Maxwell Food Centre today. And this alone, can make me come all the way back again. It is that good.

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Date visited: 12/5/2018 (Sat, 12.45pm)

I managed to buy the last box of soon kueh (only 3 left in box).

Soon kueh was very delicious. Skin was really soft, not too thick, and slightly chewy - not the translucent/ slightly transparent Hakka-type of skin that I don't like. Turnip filling (aka mang guang filling) was fantastic; fragrant and flavourful. Really love their soon kueh! It is something I will buy again.
Wish there's more filling though. But at $1.20 per handmade soon kueh, I'm not complaining.

The box of mini ang ku kueh was ok. Skin was soft with a good QQ consistency. Out of the assortment of flavours I got, I actually prefer the coconut filling one; more flavourful than the rest. Sweet mung bean was normal, but then again, sweet mung bean filling was never my favourite. I usually love anything yam-related though(anything with Orh Nee). But the yam one was like the sweet mung bean one; it was actually difficult to tell the filling apart from the skin. Maybe I should have gotten the normal-sized ones.

The kuehs are good to keep for 2 days. If you can't finish them on the day you bought them, in the evening, keep them in the fridge and you can still enjoy them the following day (the last day you should eat them).

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Date visited: 12/05/2018 (Sat, 935am).

Only 1-2 customers in front of me when I went to queue.

The good:

Baos (as in the skin of their baos) are smooth as they use caster sugar. Heard they also added lard oil to the dough to make it tastier.
I do like the fact that the skin of the bao wasn't too thick.
Fillings (esp ingredients like meat, fish etc) are fresh.
They make their baos with the awareness that more people are more health conscious and they tweak their recipes as time changes.
Their da bao is the average size of a normal char siew bao while the rest of the baos come in bite-sized pieces (read: itsy bitsy teenie weenie). I think it is good if you just want to try out the different baos to 塞牙缝, but also want to eat something else as well. In Teochew, we call it 'jiak teek tor' (aka eat for fun) :)

About their baos:

Their signature item - kong ba bao.
Stall uses leaner pork.
Pork is flavourful, but find it a tad dry.
I had better ones at funeral wakes.

Red bean/ lotus filling is smooth, and they don't stick to my teeth. They taste ok la. (Read: average).
I have tasted MUCH better (read: dark, very smooth, almost cream-like consistency, fragrant and unforgettable) tau sar filling:
(Singapore Bao, #01-61, Blk 29 Bendemeer Food Ctr)
But from what I know, Sg Bao no longer sells baos; only loh mai gai and siew mai.
Haven't found a match for Sg Bao tau sar filling. Really the best I had thus far.

Fan choy is not bad/ quite nice. Char siew is fresh, quite well-marinated, and not too fatty. Rice is moist, slightly soft but properly cooked. Slightly sweet, yet a tad savoury.

Siew Mai
Slightly sweet. Pork used was fresh; no porky taste.
Quite lean, not fatty.
I feel that they are definitely not as oily as the ones I have tried elsewhere tho some people commented otherwise.
Stall also uses fish (instead of prawns) and carrot to their siew mai.
Best eaten hot off the steamer as the siew mai skin hardens fast as it cools.

Price wise...
Handmade... labour costs are high these days, so we have to be reasonable with our expectations also.
Not too expensive. Quite reasonable.

My order (as shown in photo)
1x Fan choy
2x Siew Mai
1x Da Bao
2x mini Lotus bao
2x mini Kong ba bao
1x mini Tau sar bao
TOTAL DAMAGE: $7.70

Conclusion:
Taste wise... Nothing much to criticize, but nothing stellar to rave about.

Three things I really love though:
1) the baos are freshly made on that day itself!
2) the good balance between the skin and filling ratio.
3) taste wise, they are definitely still way better than those made by machines.

So, is it a place I will patronise again/ recommend?

Yes, if I'm nearby or there.
Sadly, while the items I tried are all nice, no item really left a deep/ lasting impression.
THINK:
Char Siew Bao - Tiong Bahru Pau/ Teck Kee Tanglin Pau - and you get what I mean about the taste that sets one brand/ shop apart from the rest.

Yes, it still a place I will recommend because I did enjoy my breakfast/ dining experience there.

I have a soft spot for all things handmade, and I really do hope traditional handmade baos can continue to be made by hand.
No matter what, I think handmade baos are still a notch above those that are solely made by machines. Biggest difference always lies in the thickness of the (bao) skin, freshness of the ingredients, and the effort that goes into the making of the food.
Such (traditional) businesses can only continue to stay in business/ prosper with the support of people who appreciate/ patronise them.

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