Singaporeans have serious relationships with food. Our love for food defines who we are as Singaporeans. Despite being famed as one of the fastest growing economies in the first-tiered world, we have never lost our dining heritage and hawker centres remain the bedrock of Singapore.
If you think Hong Lim area in Chinatown is an enclave for crouching elderies with their walking sticks and people who want to speak their minds at Speakers’ Corner, you’re only half right. Hidden amidst the tall shopping malls and shop houses is the two storey Hong Lim Market and Food Centre. Home to hawker stalls that have been in business for several decades, you will have to join the unceasing queues before you get to feast on your favourite local cuisines.
What makes a good hawker centre? Many have pondered over this while spending half of their office lunch hour queuing to satisfy their cravings. A good hawker centre is one that appeals to all generations – the old school, authentic taste that captures the palates and hearts of all.
Here are 5 stalls at Hong Lim Food Centre that you must try:
Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee
Depending on which part of the hawker you walk from, you’ll either be welcomed by numerous awards plastered at the shop front or a long queue of dozen of people. However, you don’t have to get frustrated or intimidated by the caterpillar-like queue, the aunty would take your order before you reach the shop front and it wouldn’t be too long a wait.
The smell of the Char Kway Teow alone was enough to bring the crowd here, the taste reaffirms it. The kway teow and noodles were smooth and soft, coated evenly with the special black sauce. You can taste the wok-hei wrapped around at every bite. With that stash of cockles, there was a slight tinge of cockles’ blood lingering in the sauce. This plate of Char Kway Teow has easily made its way to my list of “top 5 char kway teow in Singapore”.
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 0600 – 1630 | Closed on Sun & P.H
Tuck Kee Ipoh Sah Hor Fun
When queuing at Tuck Kee, I was deciding between the Pacific Clams with Prawns Hor Fun and Crayfish with Prawns Hor Fun. But the patrons before me solved my dilemma by carrying plates of the latter. As many would often associate Crayfish with premium seafood that you indulge at restaurants, I was pleasantly surprised when I received change from the $10 note I gave. This generous plate of Crayfish with Prawns Ipoh Hor Fun for the price of $6.50!
To me, it was neither the two slabs of succulent Crayfish nor the fresh, juicy prawns that justified the long queue. I was sold when I tasted the flavourful sauce confettied with crispy, fried onion. The sauce was not the usual gluey starch drenched over clumpy rice noodles, it has a rich seafood taste infused that sits perfectly over the springy rice noodles. Even my mother, the Hor Fun Connoisseur, gave a nod.
Don’t forget the chilli if you like your food with a little spice.
Other combinations that you might want to try: Pacific Clams with Prawn Hor Fun, Shredded Chicken with Prawns Hor Fun, Abalone Mushroom Hor Fun, Fresh Prawn Wanton Soup.
Opening hours: 1100 – 1500 | Closed on Sun
Ji Ji Wanton Noodles Specialist
More attracted by the chicken cutlets hanging at the stall than the long queue, I decided to jump in and get a bowl for myself too.
Ji Ji Wanton Noodles, since 1965, serves traditional Malaysian Wanton Mee with the black sauce as its base. What I liked most about this bowl Wanton Mee was the springy noodles that were slightly thicker than usual and the bite to it. Think: Traditional Japanese Ramen. Despite the chewiness of the noodles, it soaks the special black sauce sufficiently; giving it fragrance and flavour.
$3 for this bowl is a total steal, with the generous slices of well-marinated Char Siew, braised mushrooms and wantons bigger than the typical thumb-sized ones.
Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 0800 – 1900 | Sat: 0800 – 1500 | Closed on Sun
Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee
Hong Lim Food Centre has two strong Curry Noodles competitors, Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee (2nd storey) and Heng Kee Curry Chicken Noodles (1st storey), with their undying, loyal customers.
The big pot of curry sauce with heaps of floating Tau Pok (deep fried dried beancurd) at the shop front drew me to Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee. The curry sauce was smooth and flavourful, without overkilling. I ordered my favourite combination of yellow noodles and vermicelli for the ideal contrast; curry-soaked vermicelli with al dente yellow noodles.
Being a picky eater, I would only go for chicken breasts despite its said toughness and drier meat, but Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee has proved everyone wrong with its tender, thick slices of chicken breast meat. As if this is not impressive enough, this bowl of goodness has melt-in-your-mouth potatoes and fresh fish cakes.
Definitely worth every of your calorie count!
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 0930 – 2200 | Sat & Sun: 0900 – 1800
Ma Bo Lor Mee
You will see big, empty white bowls wiped clean before you even reach Ma Bo Lor Mee stall. This is no surprise – the sumptuousness of this bowl of Lor Mee is not compromised by its affordable price of $2.50. Ma Bo Lor Mee one of the cheapest you can find in Singapore!
Covered with generous quantity of crispy fried fish (I changed the usual fish cakes, Ngo Hiang, fish nuggets, fish flakes, and braised pork), you could barely see the noodles peeking out underneath. The gravy was thick, you won’t find any lumps of starch. Add dollops of chilli, garlic, and dark vinegar bring out the richness of the gravy.
Opening Hours: Daily 0800 – 2100
Address: 531A Upper Cross Street Singapore 051531
Nearest Bus Stop: B05129 (Buses 186, 588, 599, 970)
Nearest MRT: Chinatown Station Exit E via Chinatown Point | Clarke Quay Station Exit A