9 Nostalgic Places to Eat in Singapore
Although we only have 50 years of history, our multi-cultural background gives Singapore a rich heritage. Being a true Singaporean, how can we forget about the diverse amount of delicious local hawker fare?! We’re pretty sure everyone has their own childhood favourites where you’ll still return to, no matter where the hawker has shifted, despite your busy adulthood lifestyle. Here’s a list of 9 local eats that brings us back to the days of savouring simple and unpretentious delights at an affordable price.
Say Seng Tao Kwa Pau
Address: Dunman Food Centre, 271 Onan Road, #01-05, Singapore 424768
Opening Hours: 8am to 5pm daily. Closed on Mondays.
Tao Kwa Pau? Whatever on earth is that? The rare find of a disappearing hawker dish here, this savoury fried beancurd pocket generously stuffed with coarsely chopped cucumbers, fried fish cake, braised eggs slivers and deep fried yam crackers to overflowing have been missed out by many people. The serving is garnished with sprigs of coriander leaves plus a dash of gravy as is used for braised duck rice, which this particular stall also sells. Each serving of tao kwa pau comes with a bowl of sweet and spicy chilli as an appetizing dip. Be prepared for the explosion of flavours and textures as you bite into it, and before you know it, your hand would be reaching out for the second and third helpings!
Address: 90 Whampoa Drive, #01-06, Singapore 320090
Opening Hours: Mon 11am to 5pm. Wed-Sun 11am to 9pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
During lunch and dinner times, huge crowds will swarm into Whampoa, an area where I spent many of my childhood years. I used to go to Whampoa Makan Place as a kid. Back then, I could not tell what tasted really good, just faithfully chomping away at whatever my parents had ordered for me. Noe that I have grown up and under the influence of my parents’ tastes in food, I realize how I have been missing out on the exceptionally good Hoover Rojak in the past! Freshness of the ingredients is one of their selling points, on top of their insistence on tip-top shrimp paste and the refreshingly well-balanced savoury sauce. The components in Hoover Rojak are blended to perfection, with the right amounts of crunchy and zesty flavours. How can I not mention the generous amount of jelly fish strips, creamy century egg and torch ginger shreds? Very few rojak stalls include these three elements in their offerings these days! Remember to include the Hoover Rojak’s special chilli paste for that additional kick!
Bedok South Road Market and Food Centre - Hill Street Fried Kway Teow
Address: Blk 16 Bedok South Road, #01-41, Singapore 460016
Opening Hours: 10.30am to 7.30pm daily. Closed on Mondays.
Hill Street Fried Kway Teow is an irresistible offering and one of the best in this land of foodies! You can smell the aroma wafting in the air as you creep forwards with the never-ending queue. The alluring smoky flavour, seared into the cut flat rice sheets by a fiery wok, ramps up the tastiness of the dish too. The noodles glistening with lard is stir-fried to perfection – soft, moist and not overly greasy. It is simply a magical pleaser with eggs, fresh cockles, crunchy beansprouts, lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and chives. Generous bits of crunchy, sinful pork lard are the game changer here that transforms it into a culinary pleasure – you cannot help sinking your teeth into it! The dish has a good balance of saltiness and sweetness from the dark sauce – definitely a must-try!
Related Article: Hill Street Fried Kway Teow
Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice
Address: 71 Seng Poh Road, Singapore 160071
Opening Hours: 8am to 2.30pm daily. Closed on Thursdays.
Loo’s Hainanese is located within the Tiong Bahru estate, providing the place with a nostalgic charm. Tiong Bahru estate may not be as hyped as Holland Village or Keong Saik Road where many pubs and cafés are sited. However, you’d be amazed by the crazy long queue spilling over to the sidewalk and streets here, especially on weekends. Such queues are not seen, even at the cafés. It seems as if our local hawker fare is still holding its own over the recently booming café culture. So go early and avoid the crowd! The signature Hainanese dishes to order here are the pork chop and chap chye (stewed mixed vegetables). Or have a go at their asam sotong if you are feeling more adventurous!
Changi Village Food Centre - Mizzy Corner
Address: 2 Changi Village Road, #01-26, Singapore 500002
Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 7am to 11pm. Fri, Sat & Sun 24 hours.
Despite the more urban feel that Changi Village now exudes, I still feel a sense of nostalgia whenever I pop into this place, where I had whiled away so many lazy weekends during my childhood. Back then, Dad and Mom would always bring the entire family to avoid the maddening crowds in the city. With its interesting historical backdrop during World War II and the colonial era, it would be an educational and yet fun activity to explore landmarks such as Changi Museum, World War II replicas of Johore Battery’s 15-inch guns, or even just drive past the Changi Prison. Its entrance gate, wall and terrets have been collectively gazette as Singapore’s 72nd national monument, as announce by the National Heritage Board (NHB) on 15 February this year. Don’t leave without dropping by Changi Village Food Centre which serves affordable and scrumptious local hawker fare. Everyone who frequents Changi Village would know about the nasi lemak served at Mizzy’s Corner. My family and I love it for its value for money, and we would invariably leave with very satisfied tummies.
Sembawang Hill Food Centre - Ping Kee Popiah
Address: 590 Upper Thomson Road, #01-32, Singapore 574419
Opening Hours: 11am to 8pm daily. Closed on Mondays.
Ping Kee Popiah is a stall that my family patronizes regularly. Do take note that the waiting time can be somewhat longer if you drop by during lunch hours. This homely-tsting popiah is moist, yet not soggy. In just a single bite, you can indulge in the juiciness of generous fillings! You can also taste the freshness of the ingredients and feel the crunchiness of the bean sprouts wrapped within all at the same time. The ‘mengkuang” (Malay for shredded turnip) is perfectly marinated. Overall, the popiah has the right balance of sweetness and fragrance and leaves me feeling very satisfied. My parents always request for additional chilli for a higher level of spiciness – just for a good kick!
Sin Ming F&B
Address: Blk 22 Sin Ming Road, Singapore 570022
Opening Hours: 合成鸭饭 7am to 1pm daily. Closed on Thursdays. 荣城肉骨茶7am to 4pm daily.
The names Hup Seng Duck Rice and Rong Cheng Bak Kut Teh would light up in our heads the moment the name Sin Ming Road is tossed up. These two stalls are so popular that ridiculously long queues start to build up from 11.30am onwards, a full half-hour before the workers here down their tools for lunch. Hup Seng serves Teochew-styled braised duck rice. Throw in the slurping-good kiam chye tng or salted vegetable duck soup and your meal is complete! Rong Cheng Bak Kut Teh is, without any shadow of doubt, the other ‘landmark’ stall. Its superior broth and special ribs make a bowl of delightful goodness, while the comforting and hearty sides such as youzharkway, salted vegetables and braised bean-curd sheets complete the meal perfectly. The price is also more reasonable as compared to other famous Bak Kut Teh stalls.
Punggol Seafood Holdings Pte Ltd
Address: #01-08/09, 3 Punggol Point Road, Singapore 828694
Opening Hours: 12noon to 2.30pm (Weekday Lunch), 5.30pm to 11pm (Weekday Dinner) and 12noon to 11pm (Weekends).
Punggol Settlement is now getting increasingly popular due to its improved accessibility, latest park connector, numerous seafood restaurants and recreational complex with its multiple facilities for water sports in the vicinity. What a difference world from what my late Grandma said it used to be in the past! The Teochew community was the major dialect groups in this area then. Serangoon River was a busy waterway in an era when the most common mode of transportation in this area was via ferries. Fishermen used to park their vessels alongside the river banks to sell their catch of the day. Unfortunately, World War II in 1942-45 witnessed hundreds of undesirable Chinese civilians massacred in one of the most infamous Sook Ching campaigns in this area.
A heritage site here, open to locals and tourists alike, serves to chronicle the sufferings influcted by the cold-blooded Kempitai on the local Chinese for supporting their compatriots back home. After a tiring day exploring Punggol, why not reward yourself by heading for the seafood here? Punggol Seafood Holdings Pte Ltd is one of the more well-known seafood restaurants that used to be a household name during the 1970s. Today, it still serves the all-time Singaporean favourites such as chilli crab and black pepper crab. They used to serve cheese crabs but they scrapped the idea (although I’m secretly hoping they bring this dish back!!!) You have to try the seafood here yourself as there are too many delectable dishes to name.
Pow Sing Restaurant
Address: 63/65 Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 555961
Opening Hours: 11am to 3pm (Lunch) and 5pm to 10pm (Dinner) daily.
Situated within the former enclave for British officers known as Serangoon Gardens, Pow Sing Restaurant has been around for as long as one can recall, even though the F&B players in this neighbourhood have been undergoing rapid changes all this while. Besides the famous Hainanese chicken ric, they serve the entire gamut of authentic and flavoursome Peranakan dishes. Mention “Peranakan” and the image of “Ayam Buah Keluak” immediately jumps up in your head. Do you know that buah keluak is a misnomer: it literally refers to a large poisonous fruit (the “football fruit”) while its otherwise poisonous seed known as Indonesian Black Nut are made edible only through a fermentation process? But I digress. The tender chicken in this restaurant is bathed in a rich “rempah” (pounded spice paste) gravy and is a natural companion to the soft and succulent flesh as you “dig” into this hard nut. Other dishes worth recommending are their well-seasoned Nyonya Chap Chye, heavenly Bakwan Kepeting Soup and of course, their Hainanese chicken rice, which is a staple here.
Related Article: Pow Sing Restaurant
You can find more heritage places in “Eat, Muse, Love!”, a book by veteran broadcaster Madam Chua Foo Yong and her daughter, Toh Mu Qin. Catch the duet in their unique collection of 50 musings on foodie haunts that comes with a twist! Featuring 100 Chinese idioms and 50 makan places, Madam Chua waxes lyrical as she loses her way from foodie talk into the world of Chinese culture and shares insights of her own family folks and well-known personalities in the entertainment industry in her time. Mu Qin has meanwhile, in her inimitable way, been rubbing off the artistic DNA from Mom in turn, not just in foodie pursuits, but in the eighth art of photography. She may have chosen a different means of expression, but stays faithful to the same tune – one of LOVE of all that is true, good and beautiful.
“Eat, Muse, Love!” is retailing at major book stores such as Kinokuniya, Times, Popular etc at $24.90. Follow @eat.muse.love on Instagram for more updates.