Restaurant: Bukit Timah Market (Chinatown) & Hawker Food Centre (Hawker’s Centre)
Last visited: April 25, 2010
Address: 335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex
Take the MRT to Chinatown or Outram Park stations.
Price Range: $3-6 SGD (about $2-4.50CAD)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: n/a – multiple stalls
Ambiance: 1 (but it is what it is!… and there’s no air con)
- 2nd floor, open air
- Best place for authentic Singaporean food
- One of the best and most famous and popular Hawker Centres
- Almost like a food court
- Several hawker stalls located in Singapore
- Lots of stalls
- Very popular to locals – 99% local
- Extremely casual
- CHEAP eats!
- Busy during lunch/peak hours
- Offers a variety of stalls
- Self-serve, tray service
- No air conditioning
**Recommendations: Ann-Chin stall: Popiah Roll, Terry Katong Laksa stall: Laksa, Terry Nonya Otah, Fried Kway Teow, Hoe Kee: Hainanese Chicken Rice, Yishun 921 Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: Rice Cakes aka Chwee Keuh, Sugar cane juice
A Hawker Centre is a MUST TRY in Singapore. It’s THE best place to get authentic and traditional Singaporean food and it’s dirt cheap too. A hawker centre is an open air place where several food stalls gather to sell different Singaporean specialties at a cheap price. It reminds me of a ghetto food court, or a hole in the wall food court, or street side vendors except undercover… you get the point.
The food is clean too because health inspectors check them often and they have ‘letter grades’ representing cleanliness that they have to post publicly at their stalls.
It’s about 99% locals and the food is really good! The best part is that I can sample everything under one roof and it will only cost me a few dollars. It was a culinary tour of traditional Singaporean cuisine.
Singaporean cuisine is influenced by a combination of authentic Chinese cuisines so a lot of dishes I’ve tried before but from Chinese restaurants. The Singaporean version is different than the Chinese version. Some dishes I tried in Malaysia, however Singapore and Malaysia will continue to debate who started what first… all I know is that I have a good sample of how each country can interpret the same dish.
I had a relative who is a local in Singapore bring me around so I tried the right stuff at the right place! These are must try traditional Singaporean dishes.
On the table:
**Rice Cakes aka Chwee Keuh – 4/6
- About $1SGD – $0.75CAD
- It was nice and salty with a crunchy pickled vegetable topping.
- The brown stuff on top was a stir fry of finely minced preserved radish, fried garlic and soy sauce. It had a sweet chili sauce on the side.
- These rice cakes are very soft, creamy, sticky and VERY oily. They’re surprisingly not chewy but they just melt in your mouth like puree.
- Almost every local was eating one, so I had to try it.
- There is something similar but totally different in Malaysia called Ketupat – which I tried at Devi’s Corner in Malaysia. I liked the Singaporean Chwee Keuh better.
- $3SGD/bowl – about $2CAD/bowl
- The laksa here has no MSG, no added sugar, no evaporated milk, no pork and no lard
- This is a traditional Singaporean laksa with a recipe from the 1950’s. Very different than what I see in Vancouver, BC.
- The toppings are cockles (salt water clams), prawns, fish cakes, very little slices of tofu puffs, bean sprouts and minced Laksa leaves. It comes with a spoonful of salty and spicy chili sauce on the side.
- The cockles taste like raw baby oysters. It was really interesting to have them in there – I can’t decide if I like them though.
- The noodles are thin and round and remind me of “lai fun” or Chinese rice noodles. They’re also cut up really short (how it’s supposed to be) and it’s supposed to absorb the soup that is almost like a gravy more than a soup.
- In the end almost all the gravy is absorbed by the noodles.
- It’s delicious gravy! It was very creamy and tastes like Thai Peanut curry sauce. It’s very peanutty and almost like a peanut coconut sauce as well. It’s sweet and salty but not that herby in flavour.
- $.50SGD or $.40/stick for 5+ (about $0.38CAD)
- It’s a traditional Malaysian/Singaporean (debatable) fish mousse or fish cake.
- It’s a snack/appetizer usually served with bread or white rice or along side a salad.
- It’s minced white fish, red curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, chili, lime and eggs made into a cake and steamed or grilled in a banana leaf.
- In this case it was grilled, but they grilled it a bit too long so it was a bit flat and wrinkly rather than fluffy.
- It’s called “Otek Otek” in Malaysia and it was my first time trying it there. I loved it there as well – I liked the texture of that one better.
**Fried Kway Teow or “Char Kway Teow” – 4/6
- Small $2.50 Large $3SGD – about Small: $1.90CAD Large $2.25CAD
- Lots of stalls offer it, but this is THE man to buy fried kway teow from. He has the longest line of locals in the whole Hawker’s Centre so I knew it was a sure bet. That wok is never at rest.
- Char Kway Teow is fried rice cake strips… basically fried flat rice noodles.
- A traditional Singaporean char way teow is fried with dark soy sauce, chili, tamarind sauce, prawns, bean sprouts, egg, pork lard, and cockles (salt-water clams).
- It reminds me of the popular fried rice noodle with beef slices you find at Chinese restaurants in Vancouver.
- Fried noodles in Singapore and Malaysia are all made with dark soy sauce and they’re a lot more saucy and wet than the Cantonese version.
- It was like a wet pile of slop and the noodles were very soft – almost mushy. This is how they like it in Singapore though – that’s authentic… just not for me.
- Besides the added cockles (which taste like raw baby oysters) and the slight tang in flavour another difference is that they use 2 different kinds of noodles – flat rice noodles and round chow mien noodles. They did this in Malaysia at Madam Kwan’s too.
- Another big difference is the pork lard! They actually have little pieces of crispy pork lard they fry into it. It’s almost like crackling on roasted pig or thick cut bacon.
- I’m not a big fan of stuff like this so I thought chewing on a piece of salty grease fat was gross. It was SO oily!! The noodles were oily enough already! Everyone else loves this part though… so it’s just me.
**Hainanese Chicken Set – 6/6
- This is THE guy to buy Hainanese Chicken from. He has the longest line for this particular item and he’s famous for it.
- I’ve tried several in Vancouver, BC but this is the Singaporean version. It’s originates from Hainan, China but is commonly associated with Malaysian/Singaporean cuisine.
- This is perhaps the best Hainanese Chicken I’ve had.
- The chicken was small, but the meat was so slippery and well marinated probably because of the size too.
- The rice is cooked in chicken oil and fat so it’s very flavourful, but not oily. It’s made like that in Vancouver places as well.
- In Singapore the traditional way is to pour this sweet thick really really dark soy sauce on top. They really like sauce there!
I really wanted to try their satay sticks and went back 2 days in a row but the first time their satay cook was off duty and the second time he had a day off. I was SO mad! Instead I tried this…
- $3SGD – about $2.50CAD
- See what I mean! They LOVE sauce in Singapore!! Just like in Malaysia! See the noodles in Malaysia. Everything is just soaked and drenched with sauce. Mind you I DO love sauce, but this is a bit much and it was really bland sauce which is disappointing.
- This is what’s underneath the pile of sauce… there ARE noodles!
- So they were boiled vermicelli noodles and then topped with several ladles of satay sauce.
- The satay sauce was nutty and made with ground peanuts but not very salty at all. It was just soupy and tasted watered down.
- It had cockles (salt water clams AGAIN, just like all the other noodle dishes I had), sliced beef, bean sprouts and green onions.
- It looked like minced pork, but there was none. I wanted ground meat. It looks a lot more flavorful than it was.
**Popiah Roll- 6/6
- $1.60SGD – about $1.20CAD
- I loved this roll! It was like the Singaporean version of a Vietnamese salad roll, but better!
- She’s the only stall selling them and everything is handmade from the popiah skin to the roll. It’s made upon order, unless you order it deep fried. Deep fried is almost like a Chinese spring roll.
- It’s stuffed with braised cabbage, carrot and onion sautee, a mild curry sauce, lots of fried garlic chips, dried BBQ pork slices, bean sprouts, lettuce, hard boiled egg bits, ground peanuts, and a little hoisin sauce. It’s all wrapped in a soft freshly made crepe that was nice and chewy but very thin.
- It was packed with so many ingredients and each one was so different! I loved this thing! The texture, flavours, the crunchiness and the sauciness… I want one now!
- I don’t remember which stall this is from.
- Rice noodle soup with fish balls and fish cakes $3 SGD – about $2.50CAD
- This is a typical Cantonese dish and I think it’s better in Vancouver or Hong Kong.
- They do make ho fun differently in Singapore though.
- The broth has a very strong seafood flavour and the noodles are really soft to the point where you think they’re overcooked.
- I don’t remember which stall this is from either.
- Another traditional Singaporean dish, but again just not for my liking. I would rather have Bak Kut Teh in Malaysia – that was the best of the best so now nothing will ever compare.
- The meat was fall off the bone tender and it was made really well, but I just don’t like it.
- It was a very fatty with a little bit of lean meat.
- The soy sauce broth it soaks in is nice and salty with a dominant dark soy sauce flavour. Not much garlic flavour and barely any herbal taste.
- I love the cloves of garlic they give you. They’re whole bulbs and they’re very creamy, sweet and tender.
**Sugar Cane Juice – 6/6
- This is fantastic! It’s so refreshing too. It tastes like Mountain Dew but not carbonated. They put lemon in it as well. It’s sweeter than lemonade but light like lemon tea and floral in flavor. It’s not too sweet at all for being sugar cane.
- The pink dragon fruit one is always sweeter than the white one. This one was no exception. I think it might be better in Malaysia though.