You could eat at Chinatown Complex everyday for a year and still not have fully plumbed the depths of the sprawling food labyrinth that is the largest hawker centre in Singapore. Case in point - this innocuous stall selling Japanese food nestled at the far end(or start, depending on where you enter from) of the hawker centre, where a small queue of office worker types wait patiently for their orders of high quality yet affordable donburi sets.
My katsudon came with freshly fried crispy pork cutlets covered in still slightly runny scrambled egg, sweet katsu sauce, soft onion and nori strips atop a mound of well cooked short grain rice. It may take a while, but you can taste the care that goes into the food, and service was hospitable from the friendly auntie too! Every order also comes with a bowl of miso soup and Japanese pickles.
#02-003 Chinatown Food Complex, 335 Smith Street, 050335
It's a mistake I'm more than happy to make everytime I underestimate how generous the portions are and over order. The best way to eat this is to drizzle black sauce and oil over the invitingly aromatic smoky rice before mixing in the tender chunks of marinated chicken, salted fish, lup cheong and green vegetables. My favourite part is the super charred crust adhering to the bottom of the pot that I ease out with the addition of more black sauce and oil acting as lubrication. $12 feeds 2 big appetites(or 3 normal eaters). Be prepared to wait up till 45 minutes in the evenings as they get pretty popular during dinner time.
Zhao Ji Claypot Rice
Unit 02-053, Chinatown Complex Market
I don't care if it's not the best in town, or even if the noodles are clumpy in places, because Yong Huat is comfort food in my hood. The magic is in the liberal use of lard oil which imbues each strand of vermicelli with deep umami, and the crunchy pieces of deep-fried lard that you know you shouldn't eat but do so anyway.
On top of the smoky noodles, portions are generous with lots of fish cake slices, fatty pork belly and prawns. A squeeze of lime to cut through the heaviness and an oily, slightly sweet sambal belacan brings everything together.
Alibabar, 125/127 East Coast Road
What a medley of textures in this generous bowl of slippery noodles drowned in a sticky, mildly herbal and sweet tasting sauce, topped with crunchy peanuts, preserved salted vegetables and spring onion. The mixed beef parts include fresh slices of tender meat, slightly crunchy stomach, brisket and gelatinous tendon.
Swirl in the self-serve tangy chilli sauce and pungent chinchalok to complete your Seremban beef noodle experience, made using a family recipe that's more than 40 years old.
Pity about the tasteless bowl of beef broth served on the side though.
Mr Wong Seremban Beef Noodles (01-184)
Marine Parade Central Market & Food Centre
Any observation of long lines at hawker stalls triggers an immediate beeline from me to join the queue.
The egg noodles are handmade here, and the effort pays off in their springy, firm texture. Slicked with a potent chilli and sesame oil dark sauce, the tangled strands disappeared from my plate in a matter of minutes.
On matters of accompaniments, the fried wantons, of which there were 4, were suitably crispy and filled with an above average amount of sweet minced pork. I liked the light tasting broth which played it easy on the salt and had a delicate sweetness to it. Unfortunately, the char siew was of the non-descript, bland and dry variety that plagues so many wanton noodle stalls.
On a sidenote, their "shui jiao" dumplings are delightfully plump, flavourful and had a pleasant subtle crunch from diced water chestnuts.
Kiat Huat 吉发 (Closed on Thursdays)
Haig Road Market and Food Centre
14 Haig Rd
Great value for money with generous amounts of seafood including prawns and clams in a hearty, lard enriched seafood stock. This is the luxe version which can be had for a slightly higher price and comes with scallops and slipper lobster. I was definitely slurping down every last strand of umami infused wok-fried beehoon from my bowl.
This brought back memories of standing in line behind snaking queues, at Riverside Indonesian BBQ's food court branch in Plaza Singapura, before movie dates at Golden Village. The smoky smells wafting from their grill would have me simultaneously drooling, while mentally cursing at the long wait before I got my food.
The grilled chicken thigh is still as good as ever here at Food Opera, tender and smoky from the grill and smothered in a sweet black sauce. I like the sides of braised cabbage and omelette as well, but the kicker is the sambal chilli and bowl of lemak curry sauce which you must drench your rice with for maximum shiokness.
Teochew style Bak Kut Teh boasting a smooth, peppery broth made from the finest grade of white pepper from Sarawak, and fall-off-the-bone meat using air-flown Australian and Indonesian pork. Quality.
Thanks to @sixthsensepr for hosting and @geekyelephant for the invite!
Signature Prime Ribs (Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh)
Crunchy battered chicken quarter that's been conveniently chopped up and smothered in a sweet and spicy sambal sauce and served with chicken rice. The meat was tender and the rice, sufficiently fragrant, but what I loved was the self-serve bucket of crispy battered bits that I piled on high over my rice! A tasty and filling dish at an affordable price.
If you have to try only one Thai style wanton noodles in the Katong/Mountbatten area, let it be Foon's.
Oodles of flavour imparted from the lard oil, fish sauce, chilli powder and crushed peanut coated springy egg noodles. The fatty slices of char siew were slick with marinade and the dumplings, generously plump with pork and prawn. Addictively crispy bits of lard are buried under the noodles as well, so good you can't help but throw any health concerns to the wind and devour them all.
Better than any new fangled onsen egg, pork collar toting modern variant I dare say.
Foon's Thai Recipe #01-65
Having heard many positive things about the char kway teow churned out here, I simply had to try it for myself. After a good 15 minute wait, i finally scored my very own plate of smoky carb heaven. The flat noodles were slightly charred, firm to the bite and brimming with "wok hei". However the cockles were minuscule, my singular prawn still had its poop chute glaring at me, the pieces of lard were tiny and my portion seemed to be lacking squid. I guess I should have topped up for the $4 version.
While by no means a bad rendition, I found myself craving for a more sinful beast with fluffier egg, chockfuls of lard and a sweeter finish.
Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow #01-138
Hunting high and low, I finally found the elusive Lim's Fried Oyster tucked into a blink-and-you'll-miss-it corner in the basement of Berseh Food Centre.
My perserverance was rewarded with an atypically eggier variant of oyster omelette that proved fluffier and lighter than the usual gamut. The 5 oysters present were also pleasingly plump, glistening and asking to be drowned in the brightly flavoured chilli sauce provided.