9 Delicious Eats at Berseh Food Centre
Singapore has an abundance of hawker centres sprawled all over the island and we can often find a few note-worthy stalls at a particular hawker centre. Jalan Besar which means “Big Road” in Malay, used to be a large swampland. After World War 1, the agricultural land gave way to shophouses. The older generation, like our parents, would be familiar with a prominent landmark that existed then – New World Amusement Park. Now, Jalan Besar is considered a hipster neighbourhood with many cafes popping up. However, it still retains the old-world-charm with hawker stalls that have been running for decades. From rare delicacies that are disappearing, to Singaporeans’ local favourites, we bring you 9 delicious eats at Berseh Food Centre.
LAO LIANG – SHARK MEAT
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 11am to 2pm. Closed on Mondays.
This is one of the rarest delicacies out there and can be found in Jalan Besar. It used to be famous but is now a vanishing dish of white shark meat that is boiled to perfection. The resulting meat is naturally sweet and tender but with a much firmer texture than the fish slices that you get in your regular bowl of fish soup. This meat is served with a sweet plum dip swimming with peanuts chunks, made from preserved plums by the old couple who runs the stall.
Another disappearing rare delicacy is the translucent Pork trotter jelly which is served cold, and has an interestingly chewy texture brought about by the coagulation of gelatin and meat at low temperatures. A blend of tangy sourness and tongue-tingling spiciness makes it more appetizing. This dish is delightful and we have to say that it’s ‘an acquired taste’.
ONE KUEH AT A TIME
Tel: 9795 6119 (Nick)
Opening Hours: 8am to 2pm. Closed on Saturdays.
Owner Nick Soon quit his job as an insurance agent to open a hawker stall. He painstakingly makes Teochew kuehs filled with your choice of glutinous rice, chives, or sweet bean paste all by hand. The recipes are from his old parents who have been making kuehs and sharing with friends and relatives, but have never set up their own stall. On weekdays, he sells soon kueh and koo chye kueh, while on weekends, with the help of his parents, they have png kueh and orh ku kueh as well.
Nick meticulously handles each thin dough skin, wraps ONE KUEH AT A TIME with the fillings and places them in the steamer, just like the good old times. Each pocket of kueh is wrapped with such a generous amount of filling that it looks like it is going to burst anytime. We were served with a piping hot soon kueh and koo chye kueh each. The skin is so translucent that it is literally shining under the sunlight. The soon kueh, made with juicy turnips, black fungus and dried shrimps has enough bite and texture while the koo chye kueh was made up of tasty (but a little bitter) chives and bits of scrambled eggs.
LIM’S FRIED OYSTER
Tel: 9386 0732
Opening Hours: 6pm to 12am daily (impromptu off days)
Having been around for about 4 decades, Lim’s father used to open a roadside stall in Jalan Besar. When the food centre was built, they moved in and the stall is now managed by the second-generation Lim. He makes the batter by himself and you’ll notice two types of chilli in the stall. One is added to the fried oysters during frying while the other is used as a dip, to go with the plate of oyster omelette. He makes the chilli paste that is added into the fried oysters. It has a lovely fragrance from dried shrimps, and you really shouldn’t miss it.
Lim’s Fried Oysters is very well executed. Every bite was made up of crispy, charred and fragrant skin encasing a morsel of moist, and gooey combination. You get the perfect texture of chewy and crispy starchy bits. The plump and succulent oysters here come from Korea, it’s XL size as compared to other stalls. Each plate is topped with coriander leaves. Please dip it into the thick and tangy chilli sauce. Super shiok!
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 6.30am to 5pm. Sat&Sun 6.30am to 2pm.
Kopi here is one of the best in Singapore – very thick and aromatic. The owner was retrenched a few years back and he decided to pay $3,000 to a Hainan coffee master to learn how to make kopi. The kind of toast bread Coffee Hut serves is very similar to big names like Toast Box and Yakun but at a much cheaper price. They also make their own kaya and peanut butter spread that we love buying home. If you’re someone who loves starting your day with a traditional breakfast of kopi, soft-boiled eggs and kaya toasts, this is definitely the place to visit!
MEI XIANG BLACK & WHITE FISH SOUP
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri, Sun & PH 11.30am to 3pm or until sold out. Closed on Saturdays.
There is only the small portion ($6) and big portion ($8) of mixed fish soup served here. The soup arrived piping hot and was strongly flavoured. If you prefer the clear soup base kind of fish soup, we’re sorry to say that this isn’t for you. The soup here is a little cloudy and boasts a natural sweetness from the fish. On rainy days, we’re pretty sure the slurp-worthy soup will be gone in the blink of an eye.
As for the fish, “black” simply refers to the fried fish while “white” refers to the fresh sliced fish. The former was tastier than the latter and had a nice chewy texture. Do be careful of fish bones as this fried fish isn’t the usual fillets you get elsewhere. The latter was fresh, tender and still tasty, especially when you dunk it into the superb chilli sauce. The first punch was full of zest which enhanced the taste of the sliced fish. This chilli sauce is also a great complement to the plain rice. We were wiping perspiration from our foreheads throughout our meal.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 4.30pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Sundays.
Rejoice, our Malay friends! Sedap Thai serves Halal-certified Mookata. A special feature of the usual Mookata is the use of pork lard in place of oil. Instead of using pork lard, chicken oil is used here. We ordered a platter which consists of chicken, lamb and beef, with some prawns and vegetables, enough for 2 pax.
The marinade is more pepperish and because chicken powder is added into the marinade, it feels like we were having maggie mee soup when the meat juices flow down into the soup. While it may not work too well for us, some of our friends like it. The sweet tangy chilli sauce is pretty mild, and more towards the sweet side.
FU ZHOU POH HWA OYSTER CAKE
Tel: 8112 5286 / 9029 9718
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10.30am to 6pm. Closed on Sundays.
Fu Zhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake, is perhaps, one of the very few stalls that still sells oyster cakes now. Shaped like a UFO, this traditional Fuzhou snack is made from oysters, flour, peanuts and chinese parsley. Boasting flavoursome fillings that are enveloped within a thin crispy crust, it’s impossible to stop at one! Owner Mr. Tan said Fu Zhou Poh Hwa Oyster Cake was set up to commemorate his wife Jenny’s grandmother. Jenny grew up helping her grandmother sell oyster cakes along Ophir Road in the 1950s. They stopped selling in 1970 when her grandmother’s home was destroyed by a fire. However, in 1986, Jenny decided to sell oyster cakes again, in memory of her grandmother.
The oyster cakes here come out nice and crispy, without any remnants of oil. Upon splitting it into half to “kaypo” what fillings the oyster cakes contain, the aroma took us by surprise and whetted our appetites for more. Each mouthful gives a burst of savoury flavours and different textures – fluffiness from the pancake and crunchiness from the ikan bilis and peanuts and juiciness from the fresh and plump oysters. Perfect combination! Oh yes, go for the chilli! It has a power-packed level of spiciness – super shiok!
Tel: 9733 8936
Opening Hours: 8.30am to 6pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
Chef May, owner and baker behind sweet treats and desserts from Muffles, is a veteran pastry and sous chef who wished to make her lifelong dream of eventually running her own shop come true. With decades of experience in five-star hotels and humble cafes alike, Chef May hopes to offer customers decadent desserts at affordable prices. She bakes all her desserts in-house daily, with fresh ingredients from scratch. No premix powders or artificial flavourings are used.
We tried the Pandan Ogura Cake and the Signature Brownie, which contains walnuts, and really liked the former. The Ogura cake is steam-baked so even though it contains almost the same ingredients as a chiffon cake, the texture is more moist. It’s not too airy, yet slightly bouncy in texture. The pandan flavour was well brought out, with a hint of sweetness. So well done! The brownie was also not overly sweet. It’s perfect for chocolate lovers, finished with a good crunch from the walnuts.
FU HE TURTLE SOUP
Tel: 6294 9203
Opening Hours: 11am to 8.30pm, closed on Thursdays
There used to be many turtle soups around the area, but only two stalls have remained till date. Just like shark meat and pork jelly, turtle soup is also a disappearing hawker fare, which is quite a pity. Opened about 27 years ago, Mr Lee Hock Hoe is the man behind each indulgent bowl of turtle soup with yam rice. He uses wild soft-shelled terrapins, imported live from Indonesia and slaughtered in a HACCP food safety certified slaughterhouse in Singapore. The $10 portion we had tasted somewhat like Black Herbal Chicken Soup. It’s robust, with a good balance of savoury and herbal. The most special part is the turtle gelatin, that has many health benefits. It’s soft, smooth, slightly chewy and similar to the texture of agar-agar. As for the meat, if someone blindfolds us, we would’ve thought that it’s chicken, albeit a tad tougher.
Perhaps, the next time you explore the Jalan Besar neighbourhood, you can pop by Berseh hawker centre after checking out the row of 18 beautifully preserved Chinese-Baroque styled shophouses along Petain Road which were built in the 1930s. Also, better hurry down to try the intriguing shark meat, pork jelly, turtle soup and oyster cake before these traditional rare gems are gone for good.
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visits and paid its own meals at the stalls featured here.
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