Go south: 20 eating places to check out, Latest Makan News - The New Paper

Go south: 20 eating places to check out

Singapore's southern culinary charms are aplenty and well chronicled. It is probably the area with the highest number of Michelin stars and award-winning eateries per square foot in the whole of Singapore.

But how does one unearth hidden finds and new gems at unintimidating prices?

For this assignment, I do something I have assiduously avoided since the start of the pandemic - chat up strangers.

I talk to those with inside knowledge in each area, from cleaners to hawkers to random diners I spy chowing down on something yummy-looking that others have on their tables too.

Still, this tactic comes with a measure of risk as popularity does not always translate into good nosh. Sometimes, it is a lack of better choices in an area that drives people living or working nearby to certain stalls.

I encounter highs and lows - and indigestion - in my eating tour de force through Tanjong Pagar, Telok Blangah, Bukit Timah, Chinatown, Telok Ayer and Orchard.

There are demoralising days, when stacks of bowls and hundreds of snapshots later, few or no recommendations make the cut.

One of the disappointments is a fish soup stall, famous for its shouty owner, whose son has since taken over the business. Unfortunately, his cooking skills are not worth the 40-minute wait. Rancid pork lard is the last straw for me.

There are also highs, like an unexpected find of silky Cantonese porridge and chicken at Tiong Bahru Wah Yuen Porridge in Telok Blangah, which I returned to twice last weekend because I have become that fond of it.

For each place on this list, I pay at least two, often three, visits, taking time to speak to the owners, understand their cooking process and vet the quality.

They all have one thing in common. Despite grappling with rising food and operating costs and manpower issues, they cook with their heart and soul - the most crucial ingredient which money cannot buy.

Here is a celebration of the best the south has to offer.

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Tanjong Pagar

Hakka Yong Tau Foo


Where: Stall 3A, 02-04, 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Open: 9am to 3pm (weekdays), closed on weekends

There may be more famous yong tau foo hawker stalls in nearby Chinatown, but this stall in a coffee shop beats them hands down.

Shell out for the handmade items such as stuffed chilli and bittergourd and crispy prawn roll, which are prepared daily by stall owner Puan Siew Kam, who is originally from Ipoh.

The 58-year-old Singapore permanent resident is finicky about the freshness of the vegetables and pork she uses and goes to the extent of handpicking finger chillies and okra daily.

Regulars ask for her off-menu Malaysian-style black sauce dry noodles with their choice of yong tau foo. There is a minimum order of six items. Each item costs 70 cents.

Getting all seven of my favourite items with beehoon mee (a mix of thin vermicelli and yellow noodles), tossed in black sauce blended with shallot oil, comes up to $5.60 - a bargain for all the labour that goes into each bowl. You also get a complimentary bowl of soup sweet from pork bones and ikan bilis.

If you fancy something spicier, go for yong tau foo in laksa gravy. The Ipoh-style laksa contains little coconut milk, but is thick with an aromatic housemade rempah ground with lemongrass, galangal and plenty of dried prawn. The laksa gravy costs an extra 70 cents.


This is not the place for diets or regrets. Most customers ask for their yong tau foo deep-fried and you should too.

My must-orders are stuffed beancurd skin filled with fish paste and brinjal stuffed with pork and fish paste.

Deep-fried, the brinjal's creamy interior becomes one with the meat stuffing. The stuffed tau kwa remains juicy and tender after a swim in the hot oil. Nothing comes apart.

Not to be missed: The silken tofu topped with fish paste is another memorable treat. Come hungry.

Meet Paul


Where: Stall 7, 02-04, 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Open: 10.30am to 6.30pm (weekdays), 10.30am to 3pm (Saturdays), closed on Sundays

I am initially attracted to the Deep Fried Halibut Fish & Chips ($8.50) displayed prominently on the menu, but the real star is the Grilled Chicken Chop With Black Pepper Sauce ($6).

The slab of boneless chicken thigh meat is browned with crispy edges and a juicy well-marinated interior. It tastes good on its own, but the black pepper sauce adds complexity. It reminds me of black pepper crab, with spice from both black and white pepper, chilli padi and green chilli. There is also the sweetness of white onion and an accent of curry leaves.

Owner Paul Kek, 47, worked as a hotel and restaurant chef, then as the chief operating officer of a vegetable supply company, before starting his stall in 2013.

His background explains the extraordinary care given to the condiments and sides.

The housemade coleslaw, shredded cabbage and carrot served ice cold, is crunchy, tart and sweet with the addition of raisins and pineapple. Mr Kek uses Italian baked beans, to which he adds smoky barbecue sauce.

The crinkle-cut fries are made with Idaho potatoes and fried to order.

The best side dish has to be the sweetcorn tossed with kidney beans, chickpeas, diced cucumber and celery. The mix is skilfully seasoned with soya sauce and black and white sesame seeds.

A plate full of thought and care for under $10.

Bami Express


Where: 02-02, 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Open: 9am to 5pm (weekdays), 9am to 3pm (Saturdays), closed on Sundays

I dare say the banh mi at Bami Express is easily the best not just in the south, but the whole of Singapore.

Co-owner Julie Nguyen, 37, who is originally from Vietnam, is so devoted to her craft, she makes almost everything from scratch.

Her baguettes are kneaded in-house and freshly baked each morning. She also prepares the pate, ham, cold cuts and chicken floss from raw meat. She is so fanatical about authenticity, she even whips up mayonnaise from scratch each morning.

Gun for the Bami Sai Gon ($5.50), which is a symphony of flavours. You can taste the creamy pork liver in the pate that is smeared on with light-as-air mayonnaise. The ham and cold cuts have a meaty bite, accentuated by crunchy carrot and radish pickles.

Even though Bami Express specialises in Vietnamese sandwiches, it has two signature noodle dishes Vietnamese regulars hanker after: Grilled Chicken Vermicelli ($6) and Grilled Pork Jowl Vermicelli ($6).


Here, the meat is marinated with aromatics such as garlic, lemongrass and fish sauce, then grilled each morning. The meats are briefly pan-fried to order so they come piping hot on a bed of vermicelli, fresh coriander, mint, crushed peanuts and radish pickles. The highlight is a spicy, tangy housemade dressing infused with the sweetness of pineapple.

Tanjong Pagar Teo Chew Fishball Noodle


Where: 02-47 Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market And Food Centre, 6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Open: 5am to 2.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

I dislike fishballs and generally avoid eating them. But I am willing to wake up early to queue at this fishball noodle stall, which opens at 5am.

Ask for the Signature Noodle Dry ($4.50). As most of the regulars are seniors, the standard noodle seasoning is light-handed for health reasons, but you can request head cook Chen Yue Hui, 37, to add more flavour. I like mine with extra vinegar.

The noodles, served separately from the soup, have the unadulterated flavour of pork lard.

Mr Chen slow-fries pork lard for more than an hour twice a week. When you bite into each crispy shard, a delicious burst of oil explodes in the mouth.

His excellent grasp of cooking times ensures the noodles are springy, the lean minced pork remains juicy and the bean sprouts stay crunchy.

The tasty clear soup comes with up to five slices of fishcake, two bouncy fishballs, one meatball and a "special meatball", which has coriander, chilli, tang chye (preserved vegetable) and spring onion. Yellowtail fish goes into the making of the fishballs, as well as the "special meatball".

Help yourself to the tang chye, which adds a herbaceous punch to the soup.

The Teochew Kitchenette


Where: 02-102, 7 Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Open: 11am to 9pm daily

Info: 6443-3781

Come here for your fix of unpretentious Teochew home-style cooking.

The Grouper Fish Soup ($11.80) is paired with minced pork, but I ask for the pork to be omitted as I prefer a cleaner soup.

The broth has that quintessential Teochew taste, with the use of flatfish that the chef fries then grinds into powder. This is noteworthy as most cooks resort to factory-produced powdered flatfish, which has an overwhelmingly fishy odour.

There is also tang chye (preserved vegetable) in the soup.

But the top dish here is a non-Teochew item - prawn paste chicken ($8 for six pieces). The mid-joint wings, marinated for at least two days, come with a light, crisp and flavoursome batter. I like how the wings are well defrosted before cooking so the interior is thoroughly cooked, juicy but not bloody.


You can ask for a small portion of $5.50 for four pieces if you are dining alone. Freshly squeezed lime juice is added to the accompanying sambal belacan for a citrusy kick.

Do not leave without sampling the fried prawn roll ($9 for 10 pieces), which is prepared in-house. Each piece, plump with pork, prawn, black fungus, water chestnut, onion and spring onion, is dipped in a blend of three types of flour before deep-frying.

Telok Blangah

Tiong Bahru Wah Yuen Porridge


Where: 01-12 Telok Blangah Drive Food Centre, 79 Telok Blangah Drive

Open: 6am to 2pm (weekends), closed on weekdays

When I first find out about Tiong Bahru Wah Yuen Porridge's opening hours, I am surprised that it operates only two days a week, and just on weekends.

A whiff of the aromatic soya sauce from a passing plate nudges me into the queue.

I fall in love with the poached chicken and Cantonese-style congee at first bite. I still cannot decide which I like more. But what is clear is that I cannot have one without the other.

Prices for the chicken start at $4 a plate to $30 for a whole chicken. For two persons, I order the lower hind quarter ($10) of the bird. The meat is almost slippery, tenderly packed with flavour.


Stall owner Raymond Yip, 71, says his secret is bone broth that takes five hours to boil, in which both the chicken and porridge are cooked.

He also uses a premium grade of naturally fermented soya sauce to dress the cut chicken.

His wife, Madam Sheila Ter, 65, prepares a spicy garlic chilli from scratch incorporating freshly squeezed lime juice.

I also like the Century Egg Congee ($3), which comes with peanuts.

The semi-retired couple's signature dish is the Mandarin Congee ($5), which comes with pig offal such as powder intestines, liver, heart and stomach. It also has peanuts, cuttlefish and century egg.

The congee, I dare say, is better than that served at many top Cantonese restaurants and at a fraction of the cost too.

Guan Seng Carrot Cake


Where: 01-33 Telok Blangah Drive Food Centre, 79 Telok Blangah Drive

Open: 5am to 1pm (Wednesdays to Mondays), closed on Tuesdays

Regulars know Guan Seng Carrot Cake as Yuan Cheng Carrot Cake, a direct translation from the Chinese characters on its faded purple signboard. The paint on the unit number is also peeling away.

But you cannot miss the long lines for the stall. It is manned expertly by Madam Ng Guek Eng, 56, who ambidextrously stabs and flips carrot cake and egg with two metal spatulas over a smoking cast-iron griddle.

She reminds me of Bangkok's iconic, goggle-donning Michelin-starred hawker Jay Fai, whose two-handed fried crab omelette wins rave reviews.

If you do not see Madam Ng, you are probably making the same mistake I did, going to Guan Seng Carrot Cake in Telok Blangah Crescent instead, where a limp, smashed-up version of carrot cake awaits. The stall owners may be related, but they run their stalls separately and the quality of the carrot cake is worlds apart.

At the correct stall, Madam Ng's white and black carrot cake are both winners. Cannot decide? Order the yuan yang, a combination of both. Prices start at $3.


Unlike other stalls which serve overly sweet black carrot cake, the one here is more savoury than sweet, with the use of premium-grade sweet sauce.

In both the black and white versions, you get charred bits of carrot cake and egg, with flavour infused with garlic and lashings of chye poh (preserved radish). The carrot cake is glossy without being greasy, and you bite into distinct rectangular pieces of tender carrot cake, which are thoroughly fried.

Be warned that the chilli packs a punch, so ask for less if you cannot take the heat.

Shi Ji Noodle Stall


Where: 01-56 Seah Im Food Centre, 2 Seah Im Road

Open: 7.30am to 2.30pm, closed on alternate Saturdays

Head here on your cheat day. The braised duck noodles are worth blowing several hundred calories on. Go at 10am, just when the housemade braised duck is ready.

Forget about asking for less noodles as your pleas will fall on deaf ears. But the stall happily accepts requests for bigger portions.

The stall is so busy at all hours that the owner declines to be interviewed, despite my showing up four times.

Prices start at $3.50, but the woman fronting the stall suggests going for the $4 dry version, which gets you more duck meat.

The peppery pungency of the Chinese celery garnish balances the gaminess of the duck.

Dining on-site gets you a complimentary bowl of warming herbal broth that has the distinct taste of danggui (Chinese angelica) with a tinge of bitterness from chuan xiong (lovage root).

The lor mee is also worth ordering as the starchy gravy oozes a meaty flavour. The $4 bowl of flat yellow noodles is smothered with strips of ngoh hiang, fish cake, fried dumpling skin, fatty braised pork belly and half a braised egg. The generous shower of chopped garlic alone is enough to scare off vampires.

Daliman's Korner


Where: 01-33 Seah Im Food Centre, 2 Seah Im Road

Open: 7am to 8pm daily, closed irregularly

Many swear by the mee soto at Daliman's Korner, but I much prefer its signature gado gado ($4), which is topped with house-fried fish crackers.

The coarsely chopped peanuts in the gravy provide plenty of crunch, while the oil-blanched pieces of tau kwa are plump and juicy. Embedded in the dish are pieces of boiled potato, rice cake and deep-fried tempeh, which has a powdery finish. The bean sprouts, blanched to order, provide yet more texture.

The gravy has an orange hue from the fresh turmeric in the housemade rempah.

Satay is available from 3pm. But expect to wait up to 20 minutes as it is charcoal-grilled to order.

An interesting combination is the Mee Rebus Satay ($7.50), which comes with five sticks of satay. The smoky meat and satay drippings further enhance the gooey mee rebus gravy, redolent with the taste of lemongrass and galangal.

Jalan Kukoh

Jalan Kukoh Teochew Kueh


Where: 01-19/20 Kukoh 21 Food Centre, Block 1 Jalan Kukoh

Open: To place advance orders, 8.30am to 7pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays); self-collection, 5.30 to 7pm (Tuesdays), 7.30 to 9am and 5.30 to 7pm (Wednesdays to Saturdays); closed on Sundays and Mondays

Info: 9838-0235

Hidden in a corner off Chin Swee Road is Jalan Kukoh Teochew Kueh, which started as a pushcart stall in the 1970s.

Run by its third-generation owners, who are now in their 60s, the stall's taste of the handmade kueh is as I remember it from my childhood, when my late father used to frequent it.

There are five types of kueh and you should order every one. Each has its own loveliness. The thin and translucent skins are springy and the kueh are generously stuffed with filling.

You rarely find hawkers who use ingredients such as dried prawn and dried mushroom so liberally. But siblings Loh Kai Mong, 64, and Loh Choon Huay, 67, make their kueh as if they were for their own family's consumption, with little regard for cost.

The Ang Tho Kueh ($1.50), or png kueh, is pastel pink, with a chewy glutinous rice filling chock-full of dried prawn and dried mushroom.

The housemade green bean paste filling of the glossy black Tau Sar Kueh ($1.50) is smooth and fragrant with housemade shallot oil.

The Soon Kueh ($1.40) has a crunchy filling of jicama mixed with dried prawn and mushroom.

My favourite is the white, round Koo Chai Kueh ($1.40), made with garlic chives that are cut into 1cm pieces for better mouthfeel.

The Yam Kueh ($1.40) is made using a wooden mould which the stall owners' late grandmother brought from China. The mould is carved with the Chinese character for good fortune.

If you want to be able to buy the entire range of kueh, be sure to call and order at least a day in advance. Most walk-in customers go away empty-handed.

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles Rice


Where: 04-48 Beauty World Centre, 144 Bukit Timah Road

Open: Noon to 7pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), closed on Wednesdays

Chinatown may be dotted with fabled soya sauce chicken stalls, but they are not to my taste. Legacy recipes and murky-coloured birds dunked in dark soya sauce do not necessarily constitute flavour.

Instead, I make my way to Beauty World Centre for the Hong Kong-style soya sauce chicken made by Madam Annie Cheong.

The 69-year-old learnt the craft of braising from a Hong Kong chef in 1996 and adheres to the traditional, though tedious, practice of rubbing down the birds with maltose to give them a sweet aroma and shine.

The skin of her braised chicken is an attractive burnt sienna, with hues of orange. I love the restrained use of Chinese rose wine in the braise, which imparts a lovely floral scent to the meat without being overpowering.

She uses medium-sized 1.5kg chickens, which render tender juicy meat. The birds are braised in a medley of spices such as star anise, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns and light soya sauce.

The chicken is so tasty that I can eat it without additional sauce.

I usually order the chicken drumstick noodles ($4.50) and dumpling soup ($3.60 for three dumplings).


Madam Cheong is generous with the vegetables - xiao bai cai in both the noodle dish and soup, which is rich and sweet with the taste of chicken bones.

Even her dumplings are generously sized, larger than the standard Chinese soup spoon. You need at least two big bites to polish one off.

Each dumpling, which weighs around 50g, has three crunchy regular-sized prawns, minced pork and strips of top-grade black wood-ear mushroom. Additional dumplings cost $1.20 each.

Madam Cheong and her daughter labour over the dumplings every night, wrapping them by hand from 7pm when the stall closes, until 2am.

Don't forget to buy some raw frozen dumplings to cook at home ($12 for a box of 10). I usually buy a box to make my trip there worthwhile.

Defrost the dumplings before boiling. They taste great deep-fried too.

Shen & Co Cafe Antiques


Where: 01-01/04 Beauty World Plaza, 140 Upper Bukit Timah Road

Open: 10am to 8.30pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 10am to 10pm (Fridays), 9am to 10pm (Saturdays), 9am to 8.30pm (Sundays)

This one is for cheesecake lovers.

Go back in time and tuck into housemade cakes at this quirky vintage cafe. They may lack sophistication and have limited appeal for Instagrammers, but the rustic cakes are solidly crafted.

The base and filling are so firmly welded together, you can confidently take a stab without the base crumbling to pieces. This matters more to me than pretty cakes which are structurally unsound.

The Lemon Pistachio Cheesecake ($5.50) has a base of crushed pistachio and digestive biscuit, with a light, moist cream cheese filling that is tangy with lemon peel. It comes garnished with chopped dried cranberry and more crushed pistachio.

The Signature Chocolate Cheesecake ($5.50) is a layered odyssey of chocolate and cream cheese, which is easy on the eye but laborious to make. Above a base of crushed Oreo biscuit are three distinct layers of chocolate cream cheese filling in different shades. This is topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, then dusted with cocoa powder and crushed pistachio.

I like how the layers fuse together and refuse to fall apart, even as I stab at it and savour each mouthful.

Beyond delectable desserts, I soak up the eclectic decor of tables made from vintage sewing machines and nostalgic black retro light switches on the walls. The framed black-and-white family photos add to the vintage vibe and evoke a living room from the 1960s.

I feel as if I have gone back in time - both the ambience and food are homely and comforting.



Where: 02-166 Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, 51 Upper Bukit Timah Road

Open: 8am to 6pm (Wednesdays to Sundays), 8am to 1pm (Mondays), closed on Tuesdays

Info: 8298-2433

After one slurp of the freshly made beancurd and soya milk here, I march up to stall owner Loh Chao Kiat and propose that he set up shop in my neighbourhood in north-east Singapore.

The 39-year-old prepares soya milk and wobbly beancurd from scratch daily.

He extracts milk from raw non-genetically modified soya beans, simmers it, then flavours it with fresh pandan leaves in small batches of 20 litres at a time. He makes up to four batches a day.

A cup of soya milk costs $1 and the beancurd goes for $1.20.

For the beancurd, he uses lactone, instead of gypsum powder, as a coagulant. The result is a velvety curd with the consistency of jelly.

Although I usually prefer to have my beancurd chilled, I make a concession here as Mr Loh serves his freshly made version warm.

I like the attention he pays to the syrup, which has an attractive caramel hue from the use of both brown and white sugar. Scented with pandan leaves, the syrup imparts sweetness without being cloying.

Golden Chopsticks


Where: 02-197 Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, 51 Upper Bukit Timah Road

Open: 8am to 9pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), closed on Wednesdays

Mr Gary Loh, 49, is a car dealer by day and hawker by morning and night. He goes behind the stove only before and after office hours and is relatively new to the trade, but his egg-laden carrot cake tastes as if it came off a far more seasoned wok.

He started Golden Chopsticks with his wife only in February last year. The name is no idle boast as his carrot cake ($3) is indeed golden in colour.

The crispy omelette encases cubes of fish sauce-seasoned carrot cake, dotted with preserved radish jazzed up with shallot oil.

Each plate comes topped with an extra serving of preserved radish and a housemade dark-red chilli paste made from scratch with ingredients such as dried prawn and crispy whitebait. No salt, sugar or monosodium glutamate goes into the chilli paste, which is packed with flavour.

Youthful-looking with blond-dyed locks pushed back with a hairband, Mr Loh hunches over his griddle with the feral intensity of one obsessed with cooking.

He takes pains to cut the carrot cake into symmetrical cubes, searing them in small batches. Then comes the careful addition of preserved radish and egg, before the mixture is divided into perfect squares.

He drizzles the sizzling squares with a little oil at intervals to make sure all the edges are golden and crispy.

It can be a frustrating wait of more than 15 minutes for each order. Even Mr Loh's wife grumbles at his pace when hordes of hungry diners descend during peak hours.

But good things come to those who wait. I am also a fan of Mr Loh's rendition of fried oyster omelette, which has crisp edges and a toothsome soft chewy batter. The $5 plate comes with five juicy Korean oysters.


Ask him to make the egg batter extra crispy and, whatever you do, do not hurry the man as he gets flustered when rushed or chided.

Mr Loh works at the stall only from 8 to 10am and from 7 to 9pm. His wife runs the stall the rest of the time. Her frying is much faster, but I prefer to go when he is at the stove.

Daeng M.Y.


Where: 01-350, 80 Eating House, Block 80 Redhill Lane

Open: 6.30am to 3pm daily

The brusque, no-nonsense manner of the makciks (aunties) at this Malay food stall can be intimidating, so have your mind made up when it is your turn to order.

If in doubt, go for the mee soto ($3.50) and add a begedil (50 cents).

The consomme-like broth is heartily packed with the sweet, meaty flavour of chicken, lemongrass and galangal.

Stall owner Lina Ari, 45, who hails from the Riau Islands of Indonesia, boils a pot of broth with five whole chickens daily. The chicken meat is then shredded for use in the mee soto.

Each bowl comes with al dente, blanched yellow noodles and a generous topping of daun sup (Chinese celery) and fried shallots.

The begedil is made in-house and fried in small batches throughout the day, so customers get to tuck into hot and crispy potato patties flavoured with fried shallots.

Make room for the mee rebus ($3.50), which boasts a creamy gravy thick with lemongrass and the seafood flavours of udang geragau (dried shrimp). The viscosity comes from the generous use of rempah and I like how the gravy is not overly sweet, as is often the case elsewhere.

Khoon Kee Tasty Prawn Mee


Where: 01-58 Redhill Food Centre, 85 Redhill Lane

Open: 8am to 1pm (Wednesdays to Mondays), closed on Tuesdays

It is a joy to find a hearty bowl of prawn noodles that is not another soulless, MSG-laden concoction coloured with dark soya sauce.

Stall owner Jack Toh, who looks decades younger than his 64 years, used to work as a Japanese chef before his late mother beseeched him to take over the stall.

His top recommendation: the soup version of his Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle ($5).

A promising orange layer of prawn essence coats the surface of the soup, which is made using pork ribs and prawn heads. I slurp up the soup right to the bottom of the bowl.

Mr Toh eschews the use of dark soya sauce or MSG (monosodium glutamate) in his soup. Only a little rock sugar is added to enhance the natural sweetness of the prawns.

He insists on using only ang kar hei, or wild sea prawns. He procures prawn heads which he fries for over an hour until they are dry and crispy. The broth is freshly boiled every morning.

Unlike other stalls that pre-cook their prawns to cope with rush hour, he cooks his to order. Each fat, juicy prawn is painstakingly shelled and deveined. The head and tail are left intact for presentation.

He firmly believes aesthetics are important for hawker food. "You eat with your eyes first, not your mouth," he says.

Remember to add a little of the housemade concoction of chilli powder to your bowl, which comes with a few sprigs of kangkong and bean sprouts.

Watch the pale cubes of pork lard bob on the surface of the soup as you tuck into springy noodles, which maintain their texture even after being soaked in the hot soup. Slurp away.

Telok Ayer

Li Xing Nasi Lemak


Where: 02-81 Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road

Open: 7am to 1pm (weekdays), closed on weekends

Nasi lemak stalls may be a dime a dozen, but the fluffy and fragrant coconut rice flavoured with fresh pandan leaves at Li Xing Nasi Lemak is a standout.

Mr Tang Cheo Hin, 66, who is a one-man show, uses only fresh coconut milk, which is delivered to his hawker stall in the wee hours.

He has done this for the past 30 years, eschewing the convenience of coconut cream in packaged cartons that most hawkers now resort to.

He also insists on good quality Thai jasmine rice, which makes his basic nasi lemak (50 cents) a steal. Extra rice is priced at 70 cents a serving.

There is a minimum order of $3.50 a plate. My standard order is coconut rice (50 cents), one chicken wing ($1.50), ikan bilis (50 cents), vegetables (70 cents) and a sunny-side-up egg (70 cents), which add up to $3.90.

To put all this on the table, Mr Tang's work day starts at 2.30am, when his first task is to marinate the chicken wings. He fries these three hours later, in small batches to ensure optimal crispness.

The yolks of his sunny-side-ups have liquid centres and his sambal tumis is gloriously tasty with bits of crispy chicken batter.

The ikan bilis with nuts, freshly prepared in-house, are atomically crispy.

Absolutely worth getting up early for.

Weng Kiang Kee Porridge


Where: 02-082 Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 335 Smith Street

Open: 7.30am to 1pm (Wednesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

Info: 8839-3686

This porridge stall in Chinatown Complex commands such a loyal following that you have to wait in line to order, then wait some more on the day of collection.

I order my porridge in person a day ahead and arrive half an hour before the stall's opening time at 7.30am to "chope" a table. Still, I wait another 45 minutes before I score my piping hot bowl because there is a long train of reserved orders and tingkats ahead of mine.

The Triple Egg Porridge ($4) - the tastiest of three types of porridge I try - has mashed-up salted egg in it.

It is well presented and a treat for the eyes, with a flattened steamed salted egg yolk carefully placed in the centre of the bowl and radiating "rays" of century egg wedges. The egg is poached - not quite run-of-the-mill for a hawker centre breakfast.

Stall owner Charlie Chang, 60, worked as a hotel chef and culinary consultant for most of his career, starting as an apprentice at age 17, until he decided to open his own stall in 2018.

His bestsellers include Boat Porridge ($4), which is decked out with thick strips of cuttlefish, sliced parrot fish, fried peanuts and sliced pork.

Lovers of pork offal will enjoy slurping up the Premium Porridge ($5.50), which has powder intestine, birth intestine, liver, parrot fish, cuttlefish, mock abalone, century egg and house-fried pork lard.

Mr Chang says his porridge is a fusion of Cantonese and Hainanese styles. He uses a blend of Thai jasmine rice, Taiwanese short-grain rice and glutinous rice to create the perfect bulky yet well-bound texture he seeks.

One bowl is enough to keep you full well into the afternoon. Do note that there is a minimum requirement of two bowls for advance orders.

Central Business District

Chee Cheong Fun Club


Where: 01-38 Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street

Open: 7.30am to 2pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 8.30am to 2pm (Sundays), closed on Mondays

Maxwell Food Centre is well known for chicken rice and porridge, but save some stomach space for chee cheong fun too.

Stall owner Yong Yean Hui, 42, who prefers to be known as Youngg, is originally from Kuala Lumpur and opened her stall here in 2018.

Regulars make a beeline for her KL Famous Curry CCF ($4), silky smooth sheets of chee cheong fun doused in a spicy housemade curry aromatic with cumin, fennel and curry leaves.

The dish comes with a halved meatball embedded with dried cuttlefish and four slices of rolled-up dried beancurd skin stuffed with fish paste.

I really dig the topping of tiny dried prawns which are fried to a crisp, and appreciate that Ms Yong spends up to three hours a day picking through the dried prawn to remove the grit.

The entire dish stirs up delicious memories of night market fare in Malaysia.

To cater to local palates, she offers the SG Special Laksa ($4), chee cheong fun smothered in a rich laksa gravy with dried prawn blended into the rempah.

What keeps me going back is the sesame sauce chee cheong fun ($2.80). The creamy sauce evokes both sesame and peanut - it takes skill to blend oil with the nut pastes without the mixture separating.

Get the 3 Sauce Sampler ($3.50) for a triple treat of chee cheong fun in classic black sauce, sweet sauce and sesame sauce.


Cipta Rasa Caferia


Where: 01-75 Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Road

Open: 10am to 8pm daily

Where can you get tasty, filling meals for well under $10 in Orchard Road?

Head for the basement of Lucky Plaza. Muslim-owned Cipta Rasa Caferia serves up a mean Laksa Goreng ($5.30).

The mix of cabbage and carrot makes the dish look like just another mee goreng, but the first spoonful proves appearances can be deceptive.

The eatery takes pride in making its rempah from scratch, right down to grinding its own laksa paste from dried chillies, lemongrass, galangal, candlenut, dried prawn and fresh turmeric. Sliced laksa leaves complete that distinct aroma.

The frying technique is also excellent, imparting smoky wok aromas to the dish. The long strands of thick laksa noodles are well coated with the aromatic spice paste, but retain a springy texture.

Another must-try is the Tahu Goreng ($3.80). The large pieces of firm beancurd are deep-fried to order, so each one has a crispy exterior, while remaining juicy inside. The savoury-sweet peanut gravy is rich and thick with prawn paste and boasts a nutty crunch.


The portions here are large and each plate easily serves two persons, making it good value for money.