Continuing on from Part 1, my hawker food trail continues!
My normal routine is to eat breakfast as soon as I wake up, but on holidays, we tended to skip breakfast and have an early lunch instead. Two Singapore breakfasts I have a hard time finding in Melbourne are chwee kueh and ba zhang, so they were on my list of foods to eat while I was in Singapore.
Chwee kueh is a rice flour ‘cake’ that has been steamed in a small mould, and then topped with a salty, oily chye poh (salted preserved radish) mixture. Ba zhang (also known as bak chang or zong zi) is a triangular glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed.
Bedok Hawker Centre
Next to Bedok MRT
Bedok Hawker Centre
When we walked into the Bedok Hawker Centre, I was so excited that one of the first stalls I saw was a ba zhang stall, I made the rookie mistake of not surveying all stalls before making my food choices! I bought the chwee kueh from there when I would find my beloved Tiong Bahru chwee kueh at another stall.
Joo Chiat Kim Choo Traditional Rice Dumplings stall
The two types of ba zhang we like to eat are the salted zhang and the Nonya/Nyonya zhang. The salted zhang is made with a darker glutinous rice and typically filled with tender, braised fatty pork belly and a water chestnut.
Salted glutinous rice dumpling (zhang) SGD $2.30 (approx. $1.85 AUD)
The Nonya zhang has a sweeter filling, normally made with finely diced pork, mushrooms and candied winter melon. We liked the Nonya better.
Nonya glutinous rice dumpling (zhang) SGD $2.30 (approx. $1.85 AUD)
This store also had chwee kueh as I previously mentioned, but the chye poh (preserved salted radish) was quite light in colour and not as tasty as other chwee kueh I’ve had.
Chwee kueh – 4 pieces SGD $1.00 (approx. $0.80 AUD)
A refreshing drink at hawker centres is the fresh lime juice. Often it is way too sweet for me, so I tend to dilute it with water.
Lime juice – perfect for a hot day SGD $1.70 (approx. $1.35 AUD)
After we finished our food from that stall, we were about to leave, when I saw there was a stall selling the Tiong Bahru chwee kueh. In case you don’t know, Tiong Bahru is a suburb/area of Singapore. Often each dish has a famous ‘origin’ (area) so that it is easily identifiable, like Tiong Bahru chwee kueh and Katong laksa.
Tiong Bahru chwee kueh stall
As you can see, the topping on this chwee kueh is a lot darker and while you can’t see taste, you’ll have to believe me that it was tastier! It’s a very simple dish, and probably not to everyone’s liking, but my dad used to make this as I was growing up and I always enjoyed it.
Chwee kueh – 4 pieces SGD $1.10 (approx. $0.85 AUD)
Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
Corner Maxwell and South Bridge Road, Chinatown
Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
The hot and humid weather in Singapore doesn’t make it pleasant to go sightseeing in the middle of the day, but we braved the heat to walk around Chinatown. We made sure to make a pit stop at the famous Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. Apparently they are famous for their chicken rice. One of the stalls, Ah-Tai, recently took out the coveted “Best Chicken Rice” award, but I think it’s partly because they are on Facebook!
In every hawker centre, there is bound to be more than one stall selling chicken rice. We went to Maxwell Road Hawker Centre during a weekday lunch time, so we decided to pick the stall that had the longest queue. I figure, if local Singaporean workers, dressed in their office attire, are willing to give up part of their lunch break to stand in line in the stinking heat for a plate of chicken rice, I should do the same!
Ah-Tai Chicken Rice stall
It turns out the stall was Ah-Tai’s chicken rice and we had to wait 15 minutes in a long queue for a plate of chicken rice! I have to say, I don’t understand why there was a long line of people. I certainly wouldn’t queue to eat it again. The rice wasn’t very fragrant and I found it quite firm. I think chicken rice should be very fragrant and the rice should be fluffy. Maybe I just got a bad batch of rice. The poached chicken was very good though, very tender.
Chicken rice SGD $3.00 (approx. $2.40 AUD)
Next door to Ah-Tai was a stall selling Tanglin crispy curry puff. A man was busy hand rolling out the curry puff skin and filling it with a generous scoop of mixture, before crimping it shut.
Tanglin Crispy Curry Puff stall
It lives up to its name, as the curry puff was beautifully flaky and crispy on the outside. The filling was delicious too. I was surprised to find a bit of egg inside too.
Chicken curry puff SGD $1.40 (approx. $1.10 AUD)
I Googled what else we need to try at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and Zhen Zhen porridge came up.
Zhen Zhen Porridge stall
Porridge in the Western world is normally cooked oats, but porridge to Chinese people is rice which has been cooked with a lot of water so it becomes like a rice soup. It is also known as congee. Zhen Zhen’s porridge was very starchy and thick but also beautifully smooth. It reminded me a little of Clag but it had great depth of flavour. We got the mixed one which is a mix of fish and chicken. Apparently the raw fish salad is popular, but not having an iron stomach and in the hot environment, we didn’t want to risk it.
Fish and chicken porridge SGD $3.00 (approx. $2.40 AUD)
Fengshan Hawker Centre
Block 85 Bedok North Road
One night, Mr C & Mrs W took us to a popular hawker centre in Bedok North. Works were being conducted on the hawker centre area so it had been shifted to a temporary shed. It was so crowded that we were forced to sit outside in the dark, so I wasn’t able to get many photos. I missed on being able to show you the char kway teow, BBQ chicken wings, satay and sambal sting ray but below is what I did manage to take photos of.
One of my favourite hawker dishes is the fried carrot (radish) cake. I’ve tried to make it at home once before. It’s such a simple dish, but the addition of the dark sauce, the chye poh and pork lard makes it very tasty, carby dish.
Fried carrot cake (chai tao kueh)
The mince pork noodles (ba chor mee) is apparently a specialty of this hawker centre. Minced pork is added along with pork balls and noodles to a thick, flavoursome broth. It would be a perfect dish to have in the cold Melbourne winter.
Mince pork noodles (ba chor mee)
I really love the hawker food in Singapore, and especially how cheap everything is! If you’ve never tried hawker food before, hopefully I’ve tempted you to visit Singapore and give it a go. While you can find decent Singaporean and Malaysian food in Melbourne, nothing compares to the real deal!
Over & Out, April xx