As Woh Hup hawker stall turns 50, it still offers stunning menu
Zi char stall Woh Hup enters 50th year in business next month
More so than ever, in whatever ways I can, I will try to keep old half-forgotten hawker icons from just fading into the night.
By next month, it will be Woh Hup's 50th year in business.
This street-side Cantonese-style zi char stall at Hong Lim Food Centre began in the old Chin Chew Street, alongside its peers Swee Kee or Ka Soh, famed for their fish head beehoon.
Last month, I wrote about hawker stall Top Best Chinese Cuisine, which offered 88 items on their menu.
Woh Hup boasts a stunning 85 items in a slightly smaller set-up, offering classic Cantonese goodies that are great value for money.
They wok up some stuff even fancy Chinese restaurants do not offer today - perhaps the young chefs there have too much regard for food trends.
Flip through the four-page dog-eared plastic laminated menu and all 85 items look inviting.
I could manage only a few, and these few stood out.
The Steamed Chicken with Salted Fish ($10) was done in a black soy sauce spiked with mashed-up Nam Heong salted fish (the Rolls-Royce of salted fish here), and the chicken chunks were soft, fresh and juicy.
They placed a piece of the salted fish atop and when you break little bits of it with the sauce and chicken and devour it with steamed fluffy rice, it is Cantonese makan nirvana.
The Kau Kay or boxthorn vegetable soup ($5) is so comforting.
It is easy on the salt and the seafood, meat and eggs are nice distractions from this sweet vegetable.
Having a spoonful of this with the Steamed Baby Squid ($12) with eggs (very rare these days) was something I call a "true makan moment" - true to its roots, flavour and style.
The lightly salted and steamed dish had touches of sesame oil, a whiff of Chinese wine, a splash of soy sauce and bits of cut bird's eye chilli.
The crunch of the little squid was evident only because it was so fresh.
The whole experience took me on a trip back to the 1980s, and I have eaten there more times than I can remember.
You can order Chinese tea and it comes in the ubiquitous stainless steel pot with red melamine cups.
Then a plate of red and green chilli plus lard croutons showed up and I knew I was in for a hardcore Cantonese meal.
Hardly anyone does this today.
Then the platter of Egg Hor Fun or Wat Tan Hor Fun (from $7) was plonked down and the first thing I noticed was that the hor fun sheets were freshly fried over high wok fire before the seafood, meat and pig stomach pieces were placed over it with a smooth eggy sauce.
Not the most stunning I have had, but it screams "comforting" on so many fronts, as did the Bitter Gourd Pork Ribs ($12).
They blanch most of the offending bitterness away before wok searing it with black bean sauce and pork rib chunks.
Support these hawkers, not just because they are old and fading, but because their gifts to us are delicious and heartening.
#02-55, Hong Lim Food Centre
Opens 5pm-11pm, closed on Wednesdays