Uncovering the culinary gems

I should have started on this post earlier, but like many, I was caught up in the latest Pokemon Go craze! As Singapore didn’t get to download the app until last Saturday, I thought my initial enthusiasm would have waned. But after I did it at the suggestion of my husband, so that Buddy and I can catch the Pokemons together, it has been an itch that I cannot stop scratching! I am rather pleased that I am now a level 12 player (or trainer in Pokemon speak). And I am also rather excited that I managed to catch quite a few pokemons with high CP (combat point). There is still a lot to learn about how to train my pokemons to fight in the gyms, though I did try my luck at it. But that’s a post for another day. Let’s focus on food for now.

Last month, the Michelin Guide finally featured Singapore food, including street fare, or what is known as hawker food here. Whether expected or not, there were much questionings and even sneering at the choices. (These “Gwai-Lo/Angmoh” don’t know what good local food is! How can this restaurant/stall be included? The food is only average!!)  On the other hand, we are also relieved that our favorite food is not in the list because we don’t want the wait time to get even longer. 

Anyway, over the past couple of weeks, we have been checking out the food at Fengshan Hawker Center. It’s only now that we finally understand why this is the oyster omelette hub of Singapore! There are so many hawkers selling the famous dish. But here lies the problem: which one to order from. We didn’t do any research before coming here, and so it was really trial and error.

I ordered the omelette from one stall which seems quite popular, and unknowingly agreed to having Chili added. Strangely, despite the stall taking many orders we didn’t have to wait long for ours. The omelette turned out to be ultra spicy and totally overwhelmed the dish. I then walked around to see what are the other stalls that I could try my luck, and chanced upon stall number 85 with the signage ‘Traditional Kampung Oyster Omelette’. 

There are a couple of pictures of the Chef owner posing on a Chinese TV program. So I thought perhaps it might be ok. There were only a couple of customers waiting around, which meant I wouldn’t  have to wait long. 

As I stood around, I realized that there were a lot of back orders for takeaways. The Chef owner works alone and there is no one else to assist him, and so he has to cook big batches each time. It also turned out that my presumption of a short line was wrong; before I knew it, a queue started forming behind me. The food was more popular than I thought. 

As I watched the Chef, I realized that he is one who puts a lot of care in his cooking. The egg mixture is pan-fried to the right timing before he added the oysters, with the resulting omelette looking really good and very tasty too. Best of all, it’s not as oily as what many other stalls serve. On a separate occasion, after  my husband placed his order at the stall and paid for it, he left the line thinking he could return to collect it later. When he did, the Chef told him he wouldn’t cook his order when he was not around to collect it immediately. He refused to serve the dish cold. This shows pride and how much he cares for his food.

That evening, we also tried the porridge from Chai Chee Pork Porridge stall. The name may be misleading as it doesn’t just sell pork porridge but also sliced chicken, sliced fish porridge, etc. Look at the line below!

We went for the chicken porridge, and I have to say it’s really good!

It’s smooth but not overly so, unlike the one from Imperial Treasures which can taste like baby food, and allows you to taste the rice grains in your mouth. The sliced chicken pieces are cooked to the right texture. The porridge is also slightly seasoned, not saltish unlike many. Though it was a simple fare, it gave so much comfort to my tummy.

My husband ordered the minced (pork) meat noodle soup (known as “Bak Chor Mee” locally). There are a few popular ones and he opted for Xing Ji, which advertised that its recipe is passed down over the generations. There is no apparent line, but that is because the stall serves the noodle to the customers at their tables.

The soft but springy noodles swim in a sea of clear and subtly flavourful broth, with little oil. I had half expected it to have a porky taste but there was none. I didn’t try the meatballs, but my husband love them as well. He said that this was likely the best Bak Chor Mee he has ever had, the handmade meatballs were really tasty.

The thing about the Hawker food is that different fares are served at different times of the day. Like in the morning, you don’t expect the oyster omelette stalls to be opened. Instead breakfast food such as carrot cake (which is actually pan-fried radish cubes or “Chai Tow Kueh”) is available instead. 

One morning, we decided to give that a try. I spotted two stalls, side by side, and wondering which to go for. One has a stream of customers (Ming Ji, on the left) whereas the other (middle stall in picture below) has media exposure plastered all over. Against my better judgement, I went for the publicity.

When my husband saw the plate of carrot cake, he groaned. After tasting it, he took me to get a plate  from Ming Ji. Here are the two carrot cakes with Ming Ji on the left in green plate. 

Presentation-wise, MJ’s carrot cake looks pretty appetising. In terms of taste, I have to say it must be the best carrot cake I have ever tried! Like the above amazing food, it is not overly seasoned, and you can actually taste the texture of the eggs, and the radish cubes are cut small so that they are cooked through nicely. 

We left the right plate almost untouched, while we wiped clean the carrot cake from MJ. I then went up to the stall, which is manned by an old couple, and told the old lady, doing the cooking of the carrot cake, in Chinese, “Aunty, I want to let you know that your carrot cake is really good! It’s the best I’ve ever had!” She was a little taken aback by my compliment and replied that she thought I wanted to say that it sucks. Maybe she doesn’t get much compliments because she was rather appreciative after that. Still, it should be pretty obvious that folks around love her food because she was cooking almost non-stop.

Even when it comes to tea and coffee, not all stalls are equal. I bought ice tea and coffee from a drinks stall and they are so weak! My husband then went on a hunt and discovered “The Blend Inc” which focuses on tea and coffee. Check out the foam on the drinks! They have the right amount of oomph and lightly sweetened as requested. 

Now Fengshan hawker center has become a favorite street food source for us, and there are also good seafood BBQ available as well. The only downsides are there is no good satay stalls and no fruit stall available, unlike Bedok centre hawker center. In fact, though there is only one satay stall at the latter, the food is still better than what we tried at Feng Shan. 

Of course, other than Feng Shan, there are other Hawker centres in Bedok that have culinary gems available. Like there is a “Kway Chap” (pork innards and trotter) stall at one hawker centre which is hailed as “gourmet food” by a US relative. My Husband is insistent that those people from the Michelin guide must not know about this place. 


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