Head to new food court at Hillion Mall for Hainanese culinary fix
I spent most of last year ordering in, so for my first Weets Eats column of 2021, I wanted to venture far.
And Hillion Mall in Bukit Panjang was where this Eastie went.
The Hainan Story (THS) recently opened there creating a buzz, with long queues of foodies craving a slice of the Hainan culinary experience.
Essentially, THS is a self-service food court with five brands.
The famous ones are Wee Nam Kee and Ah Chiang's Porridge, and the new brands are The Hainan Story, Newspaper Curry Rice and Uncle Robert Western.
Hainanese food and chefs are hardly a secret in Singapore - there are many excellent options islandwide.
THS food court is no exception, which explains the crowds of hungry people waiting for a table.
There are many Hainanese staple dishes around, but the Hainanese breakfast of kaya toast, half-boiled eggs and kopi might tie with chicken rice as the most iconic. This set comes from THS' namesake.
The Home-Made Gula Melaka Kaya & Cold Butter ($1.80) may not be the most traditional, but the kaya is tasty.
They also sell Kopi Gu You (from $1.60, plus 60 cents for the butter).
Adding butter to coffee has been a thing since the 1930s, so you can use "keeping the tradition alive" as an excuse for the added calories.
My favourite stall is Newspaper Curry Rice because of the delicious curry.
There are six sets, including Mama Wee's Hainanese Curry Chicken Drumstick Set ($7.80) and Mama Wee's Hainanese 'Kou Rou' Set ($8.80, with braised pork belly).
The mild spiciness of the curry ties the combinations up well. I would have been happy with just rice, a fried egg and lots of curry slathered over it.
Over at Uncle Robert Western, the Old English Oxtail Stew ($18.80) works, though I find the sauce a tad sweet.
The meat is tender and the portion hearty. On cold days, this would be perfect.
I am on the fence about Ah Kor's Hainanese Lamb Stew (from $11.80) from The Hainan Story.
Hainanese chefs have worked magic with lamb but this version does not scale such heights.
My issue is probably with the strong herbal soup, which overwhelms the signature lamb aroma, but the meat is tender and retains a trace of satisfying oiliness.
Wee Nam Kee's fried rice served with Uncle Robert Western's Hainanese Pork Cutlet ($12.80, or $11.80 with chicken cutlet) is a disappointment.
At first glance, and scent, the dish is promising. But reality hits the moment one tastes it. From rice to cutlet, it is bland. I suggest you skip this.
Overall, the THS plot works.
Let's hope the folks behind it keep up the effortand fans continue to come back for more.