Hawker Hits

Hawker Hits

In a land full of glorious hawker nosh, it's hard to find the best of them. This is a list of my best finds.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

Here’s another recommendation from fellow @burpple #tastemaker @wobblethebui, who is an eminent expert on noods. Grandfather Food Empire Bak Chor Mee always has a long snaking line, partially due to its popularity, but mostly due to there only being one aunty cooking one order at a time. Despite turning into a grandfather while waiting for my bowl, the wait was worth it.⠀

I ordered the medium option for six bucks and it’s easily the biggest and most satiating bowl of bak chor mee (minced pork noodles) ever. This bowl is like the deep end of a pool: it’s a lot deeper than it looks. The bowl was full of perfectly cooked mee pok (flat noodles), coated in a smashingly savoury & spicy sauce. It’s stunningly savoury, slightly sweet & sour, and unbelievably umami due to the inclusion of ti poh (dried, fermented sole fish) powder in the noodles. The sauce is undoubtedly the powerhouse of this bowl, and boy does it contain a lot of power.⠀

Besides the mountain of springy noodles, Grandfather was equally generous with the minced pork, sliced lean pork, meatballs and sliced Chinese mushrooms. The soup on the side is equally exhilarating, with a rich, porky sapidity that’s clean and clear of any offensive odours, but somehow manages to maintain a noticeable tinge of sweetness with every sip.⠀

While it isn’t the most legendary bowl of bak chor mee ever, you can definitely tell your grandkids stories about this one.

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Albert Food Court is positively blessed with an abundance of excellent hawkers. The most famous of them all might just be New Rong Liang Ge with its roasted meats. The queue is always between seven to ten people long, but it somehow never feels like a frustratingly long wait before you get your plate of roasted meats.⠀

My plate this time was the char siew & roast pork rice, for the low, low price of four dollars. The price is a steal considering the piquancy of the pork on this plate, and the portions are actually quite alright. The char siew, despite being inconsistently fatty, with some pieces having a smidge of fat while others were almost all fat, was consistently delicious. The char siew marinade had caramelised nicely during the barbecuing process, giving a charred, smoky and slightly crisp exterior while the majority of the meat stayed moist & tender.⠀

The roast pork (siew yoke) was fairly decent too, with a thin but crunchy rind, a well spiced marinade that had successfully infused the meat layer with its aromatic & flavourful qualities, and no porky odour from the well rendered fat. The sauce ladled over everything was superb too, with a honeyed sweetness backing up the savouriness & essence of the herbs in the sauce. The old cucumber soup, unfortunately, was banally bland, but at least it was only $2.50. Perhaps the other soups fare better, but that’s another matter for another visit.

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Ji De Lai has been my top rated chicken rice for a few years now, and it has even earned itself a spot on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list in 2023. So, has the quality dropped off from the excitement of earning a spot on the Bib Gourmand and from the increased crowds?⠀

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure I announce that Ji De Lai is just as good as it used to be before getting the thumbs up from Michelin. The steamed chicken sports smooth porcelain skin that covers the moist meat beneath, and that meat has been fully infused with all the sapidity of the stock it has been poached in. After chopping up the bird, Ji De Lai’s secret fantastically fragrant soya sauce mix is ladled over the chicken for maximum piquancy. The chicken is savoury, herby & carries a faint pandan note, and each bite topped off with a dollop of Ji De Lai’s fiery, ginger-y chili is pure chicken bliss.⠀

Even though I prefer the steamed/poached chicken over the roasted (JDL is the only place where I would pick the steamed over the roast chicken), the roast chicken is more than capable. It’s salty & savoury from all the aromatic spices rubbed into the bird before getting roasted, and the fat is rendered out while roasting to leave behind a nicely crisped skin. The meat is still marvellously moist and terrifically titillating, and each bite of bird is guaranteed to spark joy.⠀

Pair these breathtaking birds with the luscious, rich grains of fragrant chicken rice, and you’ll start to see why even the Michelin guide remembers to honour Ji De Lai in their prestigious list.

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I’m all about second chances when it comes to F&B vendors, and I’m glad to announce that Ru Ji Fishball Noodles at @tamchiakkopitiam has bounced back from their lacklustre first impression to leave me satisfied. I’d like to think that they shaped up after reading my last review, but they probably just served me fishballs from the day before on my initial visit.⠀

This time I got the Combo Set ($6.50 nett), which is just bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) with Ru Ji’s famous balls. The fishballs are finally as superb as I remember them to be, with a decent bounciness to each ball without being rubbery like the last time. I’ve never had the meatballs before, but they were decent & inoffensive tasting, and had a nice loose texture that proved their handmade status. The minced meat & mushrooms were seasoned well with the spicy & savoury sauce, and at six bucks a bowl, this was decent eating.


Hot take: ragù pasta is just Italian zha jiang mian (minced meat noodles). Think about it folks, both involve a meaty sauce that flavours and lubricates springy noodles. Now for my common knowledge take: Shi Xiang Ge at Bishan Bus Interchange serves the best zha jiang mian in all of Singapore.⠀

Six bucks flat will get you a pretty hefty bowl of freshly made la mian with a decent amount of minced meat sauce ladled over it. The minced meat is reinforced by little tofu cubes, turning it into an extra meaty mapo tofu. The black bean sauce that the minced pork & tofu had been simmered in was stunningly savoury, and the deep umami of the fermented black beans were balanced out by subtle sweetness and just a little hit of spice from the chili oil added into the noodles.⠀

The mouthwatering minced meat sauce was more than sufficient to coat every last strand of handmade la mian, and a thorough tossing coats the springy, thin noodles with all that unctuous deliciousness. Every element in this simple yet stellar bowl of noodles were perfect, from the marvellous meat sauce, to the perfectly cooked & QQ noodles, and the julienned cucumbers to offset the rich, salty flavours of the meat sauce.⠀

Shi Xiang Ge’s Minced Meat La Mian doesn’t mince around, it’s a straightforward yet sublime bowl of comfort food that’s guaranteed to satisfy your palate, your stomach and your wallet.

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For some odd reason, the food court at Sengkang General Hospital ain’t half bad. The soya sauce chicken rice & lotus root soup are surprisingly sumptuous, and the Nyonya food stall there serves up pretty delectable dishes too.⠀

This Chicken Rendang Blue Pea Rice ($5.80 nett) had me doing ‘dang, this is pretty good’. The rendang gravy was rich, mildly spicy and was full of the fragrance of lemongrass. The chicken leg was tender and grilled superbly, with the meat staying moist & juicy. As for the blue pea rice, I was delighted to realise that the rice was coconut rice coloured with the attractive hue of the blue pea flower. As such, the aesthetically appealing rice was also mighty appealing to my tastebuds as well.⠀

Sure, it isn’t the most breathtaking plate of chicken & rice ever put together, but there’s no denying that this is a competently crafted plate of tastiness.


Nasi lemak? In my Japanese donburi? It’s more real than you think. Meet @nasi.don.sg, which fuses Japanese style rice bowls with nasi lemak. The proteins, the half boiled egg and the tempura enoki mushrooms are the Japanese influences, while the rice, sambal chili and nut & ikan bilis (deep fried anchovies) mix represent the nasi lemak delegation. They have many protein offerings built upon the base of coconut rice, but the Blackpink Calamari ($7.90 nett) was the most attention grabbing.

Squid rings are coated in a batter that I assume to be coloured with squid ink, and deep fried. The calamari are stunning fresh, even fresher than I’ve had at many restaurants, and they are fried just perfectly. It has the ideal amount of chew & spring to prove its freshness, while its tenderness showcases the mastery of the chef behind the fryer. The batter is everything expected of a brilliant one: airy & thin, light on the grease but still possesses a captivating crispness.

The pink sauce swizzled over the calamari is an oddity. It’s creamy, quite savoury and just a little smidge of sweet. I’m not convinced that it’s mentaiko based, but I haven’t a clue as to what its components are. The stellar sambal was spicy, salty and sweet, a real firecracker that enlivened this entire rice bowl. The deep fried ikan bilis & nuts were satisfyingly salty & crunchy, while the tempura enoki shrooms were the perfect blend of crispy & chewy.

However, the Nasi in the Nasi Don was a bit of a letdown. There was a discernible coconut milk aroma in some spots, while other spots lacked it. It felt inconsistent, especially since the coconut flavours couldn’t quite cover all the rice. Perhaps it’s a new outlet issue, but the rice was a slight downer.

Still, I reckon it’s only gonna get better from here, so don pass on Nasi Don just yet.

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Cockles are a staple in laksa & char kway teow, but just like my money, they are shrinking & disappearing at an alarming rate. Fortunately, Toa Payoh 94 Laksa is standing firm against the tide of missing cockles with their jumbo sized shellfish. For the uninitiated, cockles are a saltwater bivalve shellfish that have an iron rich taste, giving the impression of ‘bloodiness’ when raw. ⠀

As such, raw cockles are pretty polarising, but I’ve definitely grown to appreciate them, especially when they’re submerged in a hot bowl of luscious laksa gravy. Toa Payoh 94’s colossal cockles, on the other hand, take it to a whole new level. It’s a massive burst of salty, iron rich juices that mingle with the spicy coconut laksa gravy & enhance its flavours & weightiness. If you ain’t big on cockles, then you might wanna give this a pass.⠀

Even without the cockles, both colossal & diminutive in the bowl, Toa Payoh 94’s version is plenty palatable. The laksa gravy is sufficiently rich & silky, with a pronounced spiciness and the aroma of lemongrass lingering in the background. And at five dollars & eighty cents flat, this hearty bowl of laksa is a hell of a bargain. Not only do you get the cockles, you get three (mercifully de-shelled) prawns, some taupok (tofu puffs), and half a hardboiled egg. Incredibly good eating for under six bucks, and you’d be hard pressed to find this kind of hearty fare in today’s Singapore.⠀

Toa Payoh 94’s laksa might just score a 94 out of a hundred, and it’s one of many reasons why Singapore’s hawker culture is utterly GOATed.


Prawn-less pao fan? I know it’s borderline blasphemy, but I was too lazy to peel prawns that evening so I settled for Lobster King Pao Fan’s Iberico Pork King Pao Fan ($8.80 nett). Four slices of Iberico pork done ramen chashu style lay atop a boiling bowl of prawn soup which conceals its contents of rice, cabbage and a trio of clams.⠀

While the ingredients list in the bowl is surprisingly short, they band together to form a delicious dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts. This is mostly thanks to the piquant prawn broth, which has assimilated all the desirable umami flavours from the prawn heads & shells during the boiling of the broth. It’s a deeply & superbly savoury broth, and it might’ve been fortified with some pork bones as the broth is fuller bodied than most other prawn broths out there.⠀

The Iberico pork was tender and extra tasty, and pretty delectably fatty to boot to. The clams were nice and fresh, and there’s a hearty helping of rice submerged in that scalding broth to sate the hungry folks. I really appreciated that Lobster King were thoughtful enough to separate the crunchy deep fried rice & egg floss bits from the soup, keeping the crunchy elements that way until ready to eat. Oh, and their Secret Chili Sauce is absolutely addictive. Spicy, sweet, slightly sour and satisfyingly salty, Lobster King’s pride in their chili is well placed.⠀

For $8.80 flat, I can’t really complain about this competently crafted bowl of soupy bliss.

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I’ve been spending a fair few of my meals & too much of my money on the various stalls in Foodies’ Garden, Hougang Mall’s hip new foodcourt. @donburi_maruya is one of the many new tenants in Foodies’ Garden, and finally I get an affordable dose of decent Japanese fare and beers on tap without having to travel more than ten minutes from my house. I used to pray for times like these.⠀

You can’t go wrong with the classic of Tonkotsu ramen, and Donburi & Ramen Maruya’s Tonkotsu Special Ramen gets almost everything right. The pork bone broth is rich, sapid & delicious, making it the perfect bath for all the other elements of the ramen. The four humongous slices of chashu were tender & tasty, soaking up extra deliciousness from the savoury broth, and the ramen egg still retained a semi-molten core. Some may hate it, but I enjoyed the generous serving of crunchy cabbage in the ramen that was the only textural contrast to everything else in the bowl.⠀

The noodles themselves, however, were lacklustre. They tasted oddly metallic and were undercooked, and I ended up leaving half the noodles uneaten while happily hoovering up the broth. All Maruya needs to do now is sort out their noodle problem, and this bowl of ramen would be truly outstanding.

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Hawker food may not be the most delicious or the most glamorous, but it’s certainly some of the most comforting and affordable food to the common man in Singapore. Take this plate of Nasi Ayam Goreng from Jefri The Original Botak Chicken Rice for example. It’s only $4.50 a plate, and it’s pretty palatable to boot.⠀

The nasi goreng (fried rice) was a little wetter than most other fried rice out there, and it appears to be an egg-less fried rice. The egg is replaced by bits of leafy green veg & sliced cucumbers, so hooray for healthier choices. The rice is fried in a mix of ketchup & sambal, which flavours the rice with a sapid spiciness mixed with hints of sweet & sour. The best comparison I can think of to describe Jefri’s nasi goreng is to liken it to a spicy omurice, sans omu (omelette).⠀

As for the chicken, it’s a decent, albeit unremarkable roast chicken. Chicken parts seem to depend on availability & luck, but you might be able to request for breasts or drums if you ask very politely. My drumstick was tender, passably juicy and nicely spiced & salted. A savoury brown sauce is spooned over the chicken for extra savouriness & lubrication, and this delicious Malay chicken rice certainly satisfied my hunger and my tastebuds.⠀

I’m assuming that the stall has such a long name because Jefri is the owner, and he has a shiny bald dome (botak = bald in Malay). Whatever Jefri’s hairstyle of choice is, I hope he never stops dishing out decently delicious Nasi Ayam Goreng.


Colombian chicken stew is the last thing you’d expect to find in a Singaporean hawker center, but that’s @teekitchenofficial claim to fame. Their Colombian Chicken with Special Rice & Salsa goes at five dollars & fifty cents a plate, and it’s the only entrée that they sell.⠀

Even though it’s labeled as Colombian Chicken, I’d wager that it’s a Colombian chicken stew that’s on my plate, and I can certify that this Colombian bird is as seductive as Shakira. If my suspicions are correct, this chicken stew contains red capsicums, onions, cilantro, chicken bouillon, and perhaps even Sazón Goya. The jumbo chicken leg served is tremendously tender, requiring the barest of effort to cut into with a spoon, and quite juicy. However, that all means diddly squat if the sauce/stew isn’t fantastically flavourful.⠀

The chicken bouillon added into the stew would explain the unbelievable umami that far surpasses salt. The Sazón Goya, which is a blend of annatto, MSG, salt, coriander, cumin, garlic and other secret Latin spices, is probably what gives the entire dish its pleasant herby aromas. The Colombian Chicken combines it all to produce a deliriously delicious & hearty chicken stew that’s quite memorable, and incredibly easy to polish off in short order. ⠀

Combined with the superbly savoury Special Rice that’s been perfumed with extra herbs, and the sharp, sour salsa for palette cleansing duties, this entire dish is incredibly comforting & fulfilling. Better yet, adding on a mix of broccoli, carrots & cauliflower is only an extra dollar, and you get a meal that every nutritionist & mom would wholeheartedly recommend.⠀

After you’re done with the Colombian Chicken, finish your meal with an apple or banana crumble that’s baked in house. While it won’t win any baking competitions, my apple crumble was a decent dessert that put a little pep in my step.

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Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol. Insta: @okwhotookmyusername

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