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

Recently, a famous food blog featured an article about Yit Lim, a hawker stall dedicated to the fine culinary art of soya sauce chicken rice, in the otherwise unremarkable Bendemeer Market & Food Centre. My dad has an unofficial hobby of comparing everyone’s soya sauce chickens to his own, so naturally he went to sample this highly rated stall. Now he’s a devotee of Yit Lim Hong Kong Soy Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, and he makes weekly excursions to have his fix of soya sauce chicken.⠀

Naturally I had to experience this revolutionary bird for myself, so one morning I followed my dad down to Yit Lim and endured a two hour long queue for a plate of this promising looking chicken rice. A plate of chicken rice here is an astoundingly affordable $3.50 or $4.50, and even buying a whole chicken is rather reasonable at twenty dollars per bird. I took one bite and oh my God…I get it. I understand why Yit Lim sees queues like prime Hawker Chan when he first got the Michelin Star.⠀

This is most certainly one of the most supple & tender chickens I’ve ever had the privilege of dining on. Each morsel of meat is super smooth & stunningly soft, and minimal chewing is required. The sight of the slightly bloody bone might make some squeamish, but that’s how you know a piece of dark meat is cooked just right. ⠀

The umami braising broth of soya sauce & other spices had bonded to the chicken at a molecular level, and each gloriously juicy & supple bit of chicken was superbly savoury. The beautifully browned chicken skin was the cherry on top of the chicken, with a delightful gelatinous texture that easily split apart. Most of the fat under the skin had been rendered out while braising, which is the only reason why the skin is so utterly perfect.⠀

For years my undisputed GOAT of soya sauce chicken was Fatty Ox at Chinatown Complex. Now the Ox has some serious competition.

There’s a new stall on the block in Hougang Mall’s flashy Foodies’ Garden food court, and @rongguangbbq is in the business of dishing out hearty meals on hotplates. The offering that caught my eye was the Hot Plate Pomfret Fish Rice Set, which set me back $9.90 flat. No tax nonsense, no service charge, just a man and his fish.⠀

Pomfret is notorious for being a bony fish, so caution is advised as you fish for the bones & remove them. Once you’ve fished out all the bones, you can finally fully savour the deliciousness of the pomfret along with the spicy & salty sambal paste. The pomfret is very lightly seasoned, relying solely on the savoury & spicy sambal. The sambal chili certainly does not disappoint, as it is salty, spicy & complements the firm flesh of the pomfret. ⠀

The only gripes I have with this is that the sambal chili is a paste, and lacks the fluidity to be a sauce for the pomfret. This also means that the sambal has insufficient sauce to flavour the broccoli on the side, and this did lead to a bit of burning. Additionally, I personally think that they could add more vegetables to fully flesh out the meal and make it more substantial.⠀

Still, at just $9.90 for a flavourful fish dish, this is good eating. Now all I need is a $7 pint from the bar, and I’ve got myself a good night out.

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@nadeshiko_sg has opened recently, taking over the space vacated by the dearly departed The Flying Pan (rip, press F to pay respects). Nadeshiko is a bit of an oddity when it comes to Japanese food hawkers, as they don’t do donburis or bentos. Instead, they dish out homely teishoku (set meals) and hot udon as the sole option for the noodle contingent.⠀

I could not resist the allure of the Hamburg Stew Set, priced at a sensible twelve dollars flat. I won’t lie, I was somewhat catfished by the menu photo, as the photo promised a phat patty (a phatty, if you will) inundated with a deluge of tomato sauce, served with a side of salad and an interesting combo of sautéed asparagus & shimeiji shrooms. Instead, I got a phatty covered in a tomato sauce that looks & tastes like Italian marinara, a small portion of pickles and some plain old shredded cabbage. ⠀

Sides aside, this phatty, constructed from a blend of minced beef & pork, was sublime. Biting into it revealed a loosely packed texture, which was impressive considering the strong sear on the exterior. Meatballs & patties tend to fall apart when place on high heat, so the fact that Nadeshiko’s phatty stayed intact was impressive. While there was a healthy amount of tomato sauce, it certainly wasn’t enough to be considered a stew. However, the moderate amount of tomato sauce was a blessing in disguise, as it accentuated the simple yet superb seasoning of the beef & pork patty. This Hamburg Stew Set was so simple yet so supremely satisfying with the combination of well seasoned & juicy meat, paired with the subtly sweet & tangy tomato marinara. It was the culinary equivalent of getting a hug from your grandma, and I kid you not, that’s how homely & comforting this meal was.

As for the cabbage on the side, it was sparsely dressed with some soya sauce, but mix all that in with the kewpie mayo that’s on the plate for some reason, and voila, you’ve got an impossibly delicious & thick dressing to mix the shredded cabbage in. Sure, I would’ve preferred to have the sautéed asparagus & shimeji mushrooms shown on the menu, but this cabbage salad will do.

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The Albert Street coffeeshop where Jiak Song & Rong Liang Ge seems to be a revolving door when it comes to some stalls, as Mui Zai Nasi Lemak (aka @muizaicafe) is the fourth new tenant to open shop there since the start of 2024. They’re a Chinese nasi lemak stall, so they are most certainly haram and the side dishes (of which they have plenty) would fit right better in a standard cai png (mixed rice) lineup more than it would on a standard nasi padang lineup.⠀

They offer six nasi lemak sets to ease your decision making, and I chose set B with the fried chicken wing for $5.50 nett, and added a serving of veg for an extra dollar. The rice was surprisingly satisfactory, with no lumps of mushy rice and a decent, rich aroma of coconut milk emanating from the nasi. The sambal chili was most certainly Chinese in style, being equal parts salty & spicy with a notable sweetness to round everything out. The sambal’s consistency is like a slightly runny paste, with just enough thickness to stick to whatever you apply it to.⠀

The otah was alright, but probably the factory made stuff, but the fried nuts & ikan bilis (anchovies) were stellar, proving their fresh out the fryer status with their colossal crunchiness. The fried egg was also unusually flawless, retaining a liquid yolk that flowed out upon breaching the yolk. Unfortunately, the chicken wing, while sufficiently seasoned, was cold and about as tender as Gandhi’s flip flops. I’m not an advocate of refrying fried foods, but for crying out loud please at least heat up the chicken.⠀

Embarrassing chicken wing aside, this was a respectable plate of nasi lemak for under six bucks. But for the love of all that is good, either invest in a heat lamp, or par fry the chicken, and then fry it till it’s fully cooked just before serving. Trust me, when you do that, the wing is gonna make your profits soar.⠀

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Their Marmite Chicken ($8.50 nett), is equally delicious, with a subtle funk from the yeast of the marmite sauce, and a delectable savouriness. Unfortunately, due to the uneven sizes of the chicken chunks, some pieces of fried chicken were definitely overcooked & dry, while the bigger pieces were decently fried. Still, the marmite sauce was delicious enough to ameliorate the dry bits of chicken, and you really shouldn’t miss out on this unique rice dish.

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@newstationsnackbar is a legendary Singaporean zichar institution, so when I viewed fellow @burpple #tastemaker the_xw post about their new outlet in Fortune Centre, I knew I had to pop on over and get a taste of their renowned Salted Egg Pork Chop Rice ($8.50 nett). New Station Snack Bar’s new digs in Fortune Centre have had a slight name change to @newstationricebar, but the food still retains the same excellence from what I can tell.⠀

The pork chop fillets are remarkably tender and coated in a thin, crisp batter, and New Station Rice Bar (NSRB from here on out) is acceptably generous with the pork portions. However, the real star attraction is the stellar salted egg sauce. It’s more liquid than most other places, and it’s perfect for mixing in with the rice. The rich, creamy salted egg sauce is chock full of the stunningly savoury goodness of the duck eggs. With this luscious plate of salted egg pork chop, I’m fully reminded & convinced of why New Station is consistently one of the top zichar places in Singapore.

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(PARTIALLY SPONSORED) As a Cantonese guy I love my braised meats, and @thebraisedhouse speaks my comfort food language. They don’t just offer the usual braised pork belly, their menu options include shredded braised pork, braised chicken and smoked duck. We went with an order of The Braised House’s Signature Braised Chicken Bowl ($11.50 nett), Minced Pork Bowl ($8.80 nett), and a pair of Kong Bak Paus ($3.50 apiece).⠀

As advertised, the Minced Pork Bowl was full of minced pork that soaked up all the superb sapidity of the braise, and The Braised House decided to spice it up with the inclusion of some chili into the mince. Not only was it supremely savoury, it was also surprisingly spicy. The mince was surprisingly delightful to devour with the sauced up rice, and the five quail eggs. No really, each Minced Pork Bowl comes with five whole quail eggs. Now that’s what I call protein power.⠀

For the quality and quantity of food served by the braised house, I reckon their prices are quite a bargain. I could see myself ordering another braised bowl again, that’s for sure. Thanks for organising this, @scalemicroinfluencers & @thebraisedhouse!

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(PARTIALLY SPONSORED) As a Cantonese guy I love my braised meats, and @thebraisedhouse speaks my comfort food language. They don’t just offer the usual braised pork belly, their menu options include shredded braised pork, braised chicken and smoked duck. We went with an order of The Braised House’s Signature Braised Chicken Bowl ($11.50 nett), Minced Pork Bowl ($8.80 nett), and a pair of Kong Bak Paus ($3.50 apiece).⠀

Both rice bowls were sauced to the socks with the umami soya sauce based braising broth. The Signature Braised Chicken stars a pair of chicken wings that have been braised till tremendously tender. The low & slow braising has also infused every fibre of chicken with the striking savouriness of the braise, and each bite is a tasty one. The bowl is also loaded with an abundance of Chinese mushrooms, braised peanuts and a portion of xiao bai cai (leafy greens) for a massive meal that’ll satisfy your hunger and your need for flavour.⠀

For the quality and quantity of food served by the braised house, I reckon their prices are quite a bargain. I could see myself ordering another braised bowl again, that’s for sure. Thanks for organising this, @scalemicroinfluencers & @thebraisedhouse!

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Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon is famous, or so I’ve been told. I consider myself a curry chicken connoisseur, but I usually eat my curry with rice or bread instead of noodles. Still, I’m always up for a good curry, so I ordered the large bowl for eight bucks to see if Ah Heng is as good as advertised.⠀

Truth be told, it’s alright. It’s sufficiently salty with a notable bit of sweetness, but it was awfully oily. The spice levels were manageable, but I simply had to turn up the heat with the superb sambal that Ah Heng has. It’s unbelievably umami, sufficiently spicy and thick, and Ah Heng could make a pretty penny if they packaged & sold their sambal chili. As for the rest of the bowl of curry chicken noodles, well, Ah Heng is rather generous with the portions of tau pok (beancurd puff) and potato chunks, and there’s a fair bit of chicken in there too. The chicken is tender and fairly juicy but bland, relying heavily on the curry for flavour.⠀

Ah Heng’s curry chicken ain’t bad, but I don’t find myself hankering for a second helping any time soon.

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Easy come easy go seems to be the unfortunate catchphrase of many F&B businesses these days, as the famous Nian Nian You Yu at Maxwell closed mere months after opening. However, Fish Village spawned right in as its direct replacement, also specialising in steamed fish and miscellaneous seafood. On the evening I visited, they were slammed with an odyssey of orders, so they won’t be worrying about a lack of business for now.⠀

Besides steamed fish, they offer this BBQ Fish at eleven dollars flat. I thought it was a sambal stingray at first due to its presentation, but it’s a sea bass fillet that’s been smeared with sambal chili. The sea bass was flawlessly fresh with a firm texture on the flesh, but taste-wise, the sambal did all the heavy lifting. It was swimmingly spicy, supremely savoury and sufficiently smoky. With such fabulous flavours for just eleven bucks, you can’t lose.⠀

Fish and seafood are exorbitantly expensive these days, so to find such fresh produce at such a bargain is truly a blessing.

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Full disclosure: this is the first time I’ve ever eaten Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao’s oft vaunted Xiao Long Baos. Yes, it’s 2024 and it’s only now that I’ve sampled the signature menu item from this critically acclaimed hawker stall, but I finally did it and I got a review to share.⠀

I’m gonna just say this right off the bat: Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao (I’m just gonna abbreviate them as ZGLM from now on) XLBs are nowhere near as soupy as I was expecting them to be, and truth be told, I was a little disappointed. The soup is definitely delicious though, and the minced pork filling is equally excellent. So, why have so many people gone absolutely nuts over this? Well, mom was wrong this time: sometimes, beauty is only skin deep.⠀

The dough wrapper that encased the dumpling was daintily delicate and tremendously thin. It was so delicate that I found myself holding my breath & being extra delicate when handling a Xiao Long Bao, almost as if I was defusing a bomb. I would even say that the dough wrapper was on par with DTF, the OG Xiao Long Bao merchant, which is quite a lofty compliment. While the traditional condiment of black vinegar & julienned ginger is a prime pairing with ZGLM’s delicious dumplings, I posit that the homemade chili ZGLM has is a far better choice. It’s subtly spicy, splendidly sour and is the yin to the yang of the XLB. ⠀

At the low, low price of $7.50 flat for ten of these stellar XLBs, it’s no wonder why so many people have waxed lyrical about ZGLM. Unfortunately they are a bit far from Smith Street Taps, but the ethereal experience of consuming these excellent XLBs with a cracking cold pint is well worth the extra effort.⠀

2 Likes

Besides their sublime Yu Kong Hor, @tuckkeeson also does a less intense but equally delectable Dai Loke Mee ($8.80 for a big plate). It’s essentially KL style Hokkien Mee, but this was the first one that wasn’t sweet upfront. Instead, this was subtly smoky, restrainedly redolent, and is the more modest counterpart to the rich & luscious Yu Kong Hor.⠀

The udon-sized noodles were pleasantly bouncy with a satisfying spring to them, and each thick strand was well coated with the savoury soya sauce mix that it was stir-fried in. Just as with the Yu Kong Hor, the Dai Loke Mee was garnished with an abundance of sliced pork, shrimp and a bit of leafy green veg. The Dai Loke Mee is delicious yet light enough that one could polish off a full plate alone and still be left feeling chipper.⠀

Thank you for having us @tuckkeeson, and thank you for organising this tasting @shiokafoodie!

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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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