Toa Payoh Food Guide: The Really Local Food Edition
Text & Photos by Jinhua & Maureen
As one of the oldest satellite towns in Singapore, Toa Payoh has a wide range of dining options spread across the estate, ranging from iconic food stalls and hidden gems in hawker centres and coffeeshops, to restaurants and cafes carving out niches for themselves.
I grew up in this estate and saw the transformation of the food scene here. Gen X-ers may remember a Toa Payoh Garden Restaurant at the town park (which used to be a popular wedding photo spot in the 1970’s and 1980’s), while 90’s kids like me could find cheap bubble tea shops (first gen) opening up almost everywhere. At one point, McDonald’s even had five outlets in this relatively small town – almost one for each neighbourhood!
So besides the dragon playground, do check out these 31 cafes, hawker stalls and restaurants the next time you swing by Toa Payoh. Why did I pick 31, you may ask? Hint: take a look at the postal code. 😉 Also, find out how you can learn more about Toa Payoh at the end of this post!
West cluster (Lorongs 1 and 2)
Trendy cafes and bakeries have set up shop in Toa Payoh in recent years, giving the quaint parts of the estate a new lease of life. To me, Creamier is one of the “pioneers” here when they opened in 2011, attracting people from all over Singapore to enjoy their handcrafted ice cream and waffles. This outlet is almost always crowded! Personally, I would always go for their classic Plain Ole Chocolate Ice Cream for its smooth, rich and creamy textures.
Located right next to Creamier, Niche Savoureuse began as a boulangerie in June 2014, serving up intricately handcrafted cakes, scones and savoury dishes. They pride themselves in ensuring quality by a process of refining their original recipes and taking no shortcuts. Do try the Truffle Cabonara ($14.90) while you are here – while the portion may be a little small, the flavour and fragrance makes up for it.
Niche also makes a good rendition of the Niche Mont Blanc ($7.50) chestnut Swiss roll. Pureed chestnuts, Ferrero Rocher wafer and chocolate are used in the making of this dessert, and the end-product is mildly sweet and comforting to the palette.
Uggli Muffins caught my attention a few years ago when I was having lunch at the hawker centre – firstly, it was churning out angmoh muffins when the signboard above clearly shows a Chinese zi char stall, and secondly, true to its name, their muffins looked a little unusual, different from those with perfectly rounded crowns. Then I found out that the owner used to help his parents to run this zi char stall, which he inherited, and later began to make muffins in the day. Muffins eventually became the main product, but he respected their wishes and kept the zi char signboard.
The muffins come in various flavours such as banana and walnut ($1.40) and sweet potato ($1.10), and you can buy 10 and get 2 for free. They may look unphotogenic and appear to be a little burnt, but the slightly moist texture and distinct fragrance are what keeps the crowds coming back for more.
Chey Sua Carrot Cake
Address: 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #02-30 Toa Payoh West Market and Food Centre, Singapore 310127
Opening Hours: Tue – Sun: 6am – 1pm; Closed on Mondays
Two friendly sisters, Grace and Shirley, run this stall, and they took over the business from their parents from more than 20 years ago. They are perhaps among the few who insist on making their own carrot cake to ensure its consistency, then pan-fried to crispy yet soft perfection. It is no wonder that they have been invited to participate in various food events overseas, such as the recent World Street Food Conference.
Teochew Handmade Pau
Address: 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #02-02 Toa Payoh West Market and Food Centre, Singapore 310127
Phone: +65 6254 2053 / +65 6659 5786
Opening Hours: Tue – Sat: 6am – 2pm; Sun: 6am – 12pm; Closed on Mondays and alternate Tuesdays
Started since 1993, second generation hawker Richard gave up his mechanical engineering job to continue this family business. The winning formula has to be its delicate skin as it puffs up nicely to a wonderful fluffy and soft finish. A lot of work goes into hand making such beautiful and smooth paus. Richard and his dad are very particular with the balanced proportion of flour, water and sugar. Their big bao (pork filling) makes a good snack. The meat inside is juicy and the dark sauce coats the interior of the bao perfectly so you do not get the feeling of dryness at all. Read more about it here.
Located at the other HDB block flanking the hawker centre and market, The Daily Press serves an extensive range of gourmet handcrafted sandwiches, pastas and specialty coffee. Apple, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich is among their customers’ top choices, while I enjoyed another crowd favourite, the mushroom sandwich. Within the bread contained caramelised onion, mushroom and cheese, and the entire package is a good balance of flavours. Alternatively, grab a pasta set which comes with a soup of the day and a drink. Try the seafood Port Pasta, which is available right now for a limited period only.
Frozen by a Thousand Blessings
Address: 126 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-151, Singapore 310126
Phone: +65 6259 8028
Opening Hours: Sun – Thurs: 11.30am – 10pm; Fri & Sat: 11.30am – 10.30pm
At the end of the same HDB block is a self-service frozen yogurt brand from Melbourne, Frozen by a Thousand Blessings. This outlet is their very first venture in Singapore. Six froyo flavours – soy and strawberry, mango and soy, lemon and ginger, natural, passionfruit and pomegranate – are available here at $3.80 per 100 grams, and you will be spoilt for choice with the wide range of toppings here!
Hua Fong Kee Roasted Duck
Address: 128 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-811, Singapore 310128;
116 Lorong 2 Toa Payoh, #01-140, Singapore 310116
Phone: (Lor 1) +65 6251 5192; (Lor 2) +65 6253 2884
Opening Hours: (Lor 1) Daily: 8am – 10pm; (Lor 2) 8am – 8pm
Hua Fong Kee Roasted Duck has two outlets in Toa Payoh itself and both stalls sell a wide range of roasted meat dishes. If you are spoilt for choice, just go straight for their duck rice. The duck is roasted to perfection with pleasuring fattiness to it, and the rice served with a flavourful bowl of soup on the side. Their chilli is good too!
North cluster (Lorong 3 and Toa Payoh North)
Just a few minutes’ walk from Braddell MRT station, Shrove Tuesday serves up really light, crispy and fluffy waffles with homemade gelato ice cream in various flavours. They also have a small selection of hot dishes. Dig into their creations in their cosy cafe setting!
Tims Restaurant and Cafe
Address: 95 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, Singapore 310094
Phone: +65 6250 5246
Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am - 10.30pm
Nepali chef-owner Tom Shrestha came to Singapore nearly 20 years ago and opened this restaurant in 2006. Named after his son, Tims Restaurant and Cafe serves Western dishes and a small selection of Nepali dishes such as momos (which look like xiao long bao, but are drier and have more texture) and Nepali chicken salad. Nepalese herbs are used but the spiciness levels have been adjusted to suit the local palette.
93 Wu Xiang Xia Bing
Address: 93 Lorong 3 Toa Payoh, Toa Payoh Lorong 4 Hawker Centre, Singapore 310093
Opening Hours: Mon - Wed, Fri - Sun: 2pm - 9pm; closed Thurs
93 Wu Xiang Xia Bing is located in the hawker centre (which has a beautiful wall mural, by the way). It is one of my childhood favourites and I enjoy having the wide range of ngoh hiang here every now and then. Besides dipping these pieces of fried delicacies into the slightly spicy chilli sauce, you can also enjoy the pink, slightly-sweet dip that is not as often seen nowadays.
Kim Keat Hokkien Mee
Address: 92 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, #01-264, Singapore 310092
Opening Hours: Mon, Wed - Sun: 11.30am - 9.30pm, closed Tues
Mr Lee Eng Keat has been in and out of prison countless times for the past 20 years. He turned over a new leaf and opened his Toa Payoh stall last year. His Claypot Hokkien Mee ($10/$15/$20/$25/$30) was cooked twice – first stir fried, then cooked over fire. The noodles absorbed the superior broth, resulting in a gooey pot of goodness. Each claypot comes with a few pieces of sio bak, prawns and squid.
Lee Fun Nam Kee Chicken Rice & Restaurant
Address: 94 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, #01-04, Singapore 310094
Phone: +65 6255 0891
Visible from the main road, Lee Fun Nam Kee is famous for its soya sauce chicken rice ever since it opened in 1968. The tender and fresh chicken is prepared with a secret formula that has been perfected over the years, which also includes a blend of herbal ingredients. Go for the whole chicken and enjoy it with the fragrant rice!
Bernie Utchenik, who previously founded the Botak Jones chain of western food in coffeeshops (he later sold his shares), has made a comeback last year with Big Bern’s American Grill. Located in an industrial estate food court (just next to SPH), Big Bern’s serves up signatures such as Fish & Chips ($7.90) that makes use of higher grade fish and served with a milder tartar sauce, satisfying juicy sirloin steaks and cajun chicken.
And I must say, after several years of disappointing Botak Jones fare in their later days, I’m glad to enjoy the good ol’ quality taste I remembered from Bernie again.
Central cluster (Lorong 4, Toa Payoh Central and HDB Hub)
Gen Shu Mei Shi Shi Jia
Address: 74 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, #01-03 Toa Payoh Vista Market and Food Centre, Singapore 310074
Fans of traditional Cantonese style dishes will definitely be familiar with Gen Shu Mei Shi Shi Jia (根叔美食世家). Having retired as the head chef of Mouth Restaurant, Gen Shu was bored stiff at home. That was why he opened a hawker stall to sell his brand of Hong Kong cuisine. My favourite at Gen Shu is definitely the yam cake. It wins hands down. Making it can be tedious, but it’s worth the effort. The yam paste is made freshly daily at 4am, so the result is a smooth and melt in your mouth yam cake. You won’t find the commercial variety of cake packed with this much yam. Gen Shu’s Lor Mai Gai is also impressive. Steamed in a rectangular shape, the steamed glutinous rice is very flavoursome and has a al dente texture. Take a spoonful of it, you get the delicious fillings of well seasoned chicken and Chinese sausages, the rice is cooked till perfection. Such a humble stall, but produces extraordinary flavours! Read more about it here.
Established in 2010, Swatow Seafood Restaurant offers handmade Hong Kong dim sum in the day and Teochew style seafood delicacies in the evening. Don’t miss their Teochew cold crab, crispy oyster omelette with plump and juicy oysters, and their chilled jelly pork knuckles.
Classic fish dish is one of the best representations of Teochew cuisine. At Swatow, the silver pomfret is huge with shiny white flesh, decorated with plum, tomatoes and pickled vegetables. The saltiness of the pickled vegetable subtly plays up the savoury notes of the ginger, and acts as a layer of protection to seal the moistness and sweetness of the fish.
Crispy Oyster Omelette uses more eggs than flour, they are deep fried to a crisp exterior and served as an accompanying sweet and sour sauce with juicy oysters. Because of the sauce, I would reach for Blue Lion which can cut through that richness while grabbing onto the savoriness and matching the touch of sweetness.
Oppa! Choo Choo
Address: 600 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, #01-05 [email protected] Payoh, Singapore 319515
A recent entrant to the food scene here, Oppa! Choo Choo brings together two brands – Oppa! Bingsu and Choo Choo Chicken – in one comfy restaurant space. Now Toa Payoh residents don’t have to head to the city for their Korean fried chicken and bingsu fix! I usually go for their garlic and spicy fried chicken flavours, all eight pieces on my own. They are well-marinated, crispy and flavourful. Meanwhile, their bingsu is served in a takeaway bowl with a cup base at the bottom. Be sure to dig all the way to the bottom to enjoy the shaven ice!
Toa Payoh Lucky Pisang Raja
Address: 177 Toa Payoh Central, #01-176 Moon Sun Restaurant, Singapore 310177
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun: 12.30pm – 9.30pm
Located in a coffeeshop near the library, Toa Payoh Lucky Pisang Raja is another of my childhood favourites. Their goreng pisang and sweet potato balls are the must-try items here – thick and fresh bananas are used for their goreng pisang, which is crunchy and comfortingly sweet to the palate. Their sweet potato balls come in three different fillings, with a good balance of flavours – the fragrance from sesame seeds coated on the outside, the mild sweet potato and the rich filling of red bean, mung bean or yam paste.
Yellow Submarines Cheesesteaks
Address: 177 Toa Payoh Central, #01-110, Singapore 310177
Phone: +65 6352 7890
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun: 10.30am - 10.30pm
Mention “Yellow Submarine” and perhaps the tune from the Beatles will come to mind, but that’s how Yellow Submarines Cheesesteaks calls their Philadelphia cheesesteaks. Their classic submarines make use of thinly sliced beef sirloin, melted blended cheese and caramelised onions in a bread roll. My personal favourite here is their Mala cheese steaks, which has peppercorn added to the beef to give a mildly spicy kick. I usually order it as a set with a soft drink and Torpedo fries, thick-cut fries served with a generous dollop of their blended cheese. For non-beef eaters, Yellow Submarines also has other options like tuna and chicken.
JQ Chef Cafe
Address: 186 Toa Payoh Central, #01-428, Singapore 310186
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 11.30am – 4pm, 5pm – 10pm; Sat – Sun: 11.30am – 10pm
Located at a comparatively quieter stretch of Toa Payoh Central shophouses (in the direction towards Courts), JQ Chef Cafe is the brainchild of chef-owner John Quek, formerly the executive chef of the Singapore Flyer’s Sky Dining experience. This cafe serves a good selection of brunch items such as Big Breakfast, Eggs Benedict and Eggs Royale. If you love waffles with your brunch, go for the ultimate indulgence in Wicked Waffles ($14.90) – eggs Benedict and smoked salmon served on top of fluffy waffles, served with hash browns, cheese sausages and a mixed fruit and veg salad on the side.
Soon Heng Rojak
Address: 480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, #B1-01 HDB Hub Gourmet Paradise Food Court, Singapore 310480
Opening Hours: Daily: 11am - 10pm
Expect to queue for at least 20 minutes before you can sink your teeth into the flavourful rojak here! Available in $3 to $6 portions, the rojak contains crispy you tiao, crunchy cucumber, turnip, pineapple, bean sprouts tossed in a very sweet sauce. The chef then finishes off this snack with generous dollops of crushed peanuts.
Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee
Address: 480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, #B1-01 HDB Hub Gourmet Paradise Food Court, Singapore 310480
Opening Hours: Daily: 10.30am - 9.30pm
Also located in the basement food court, Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee has two types of muah chee, coated in peanuts (white) and black sesame. The muah chee here ($2.50/#2.50/$5.50) are all made on the spot, with the stall owner constantly twirling the delicate dough and proportioning the dough into small balls by hand.
Oasis Bay Taiwan Porridge
Address: 303 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, Toa Payoh Town Park, Singapore 319393
Phone: +65 6346 4418
Opening Hours: Daily: 11am - 6am
Oasis Bay Taiwan Porridge used to be at the old National Stadium area before it shifted to Toa Payoh in 2008. The restaurant serves unlimited porridge in small tumblers and has a wide selection of dishes such as chilli crab and herbal kampong chicken. Diners can enjoy the picturesque scenery of the Toa Payoh Town Park through its glass panels while dining.
East cluster (Lorongs 5 to 8)
He Jia Huan Ban Mian Mee Hoon Kuay
Address: 75 Lorong 5 Toa Payoh, #01-14 Lorong 5 Hawker Centre, Singapore 310075
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun: 3pm – 3am
I have been eating ban mian from He Jia Huan Ban Mian Mee Hoon Kuay for many years, usually ordering the soup version with clams added. The springy noodles come in good hearty portions with minced meat and vegetables, while a dark soya suace is added to the dry version. Try mixing in the light soya sauce with chopped chilli to enhance the flavour. This stall almost always has queues, and sells other items such as u-mee and mee hoon kuay, mixed and matched with various seafood items.
Song Kee Kway Teow Noodle Soup
Address: 75 Lorong 5 Toa Payoh, #01-20 Lorong 5 Hawker Centre, Singapore 310075
Song Kee Fishball Noodles is not a stranger to many. Having been around for 16 years, many food lovers will come by this stall in Toa Payoh for their fish noodles. Most of the time, I preferred to have mee kia but for Song Kee, the mee pok tastes so much better without the strong alkaline taste. I ordered a spicy version, with every strand of mee pok coated with their homemade spicy sauce. The generous amount of fried shallots and chili paste make every mouthful of noodles drool-worthy. Priced at $3 a bowl, the noodles come with a generous serving of fishballs and tau pok. Using fresh yellow tail fish (番薯鱼), the handmade fishballs are firm, springy and very fresh with a nice mild fish flavour. Read about it here.
Uno Beef House
Address: 51 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, #01-60, Singapore 310051
Opening Hours: Tue – Sun: 11.30am – 10.30pm; Closed on Mondays
Uno Beef House is one of my go-to places for coffeeshop style Western food, such as crispy fish and chips, fried chicken cutlet and chicken wings. Do try their black pepper sirloin steak ($13). The steak is served smoking hot on a hotplate, but don’t tuck into it immediately – while you take photos to post on your social media, the hot plate allows the steak to be cooked to required perfection, and the steak goes well with the slightly sweet and spicy pepper sauce that is drizzled on top. Unlike other dishes, the steak is served with a potato ball that has a buttery fragrance.
Hong Shan Ang Ku Kueh
Address: 51 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, #01-62 Nghee Huat Eating House, Singapore 310051
Phone: +65 6256 9920
Opening Hours: Mon, Wed – Sun: 8am – 4.30pm; Closed on Tuesdays
Many people head to the coffeeshop next to Uno Beef House for the Lai Heng bak chor mee, but I prefer the old school Hong Shan Ang Ku Kueh located at the front of the coffeeshop. The ang ku kueh here are made fresh onsite, with traditional flavours such as sweet tau sar (red bean paste), salty tau sar and peanut, and more modern flavours – mango, durian and green tea – to choose from.
The soon kueh and png kueh here ticks all the right boxes for the half-Teochew in me – often I had disappointing, tough-to-chew png kueh, but Hong Shan’s has a soft skin and a rice filling that is close to perfect to me. The soon kueh has a turnip filling that is not too wet and still had the satisfying crunchiness.
136 Hong Kong Street Fish Head Steamboat
Address: 19 Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, #01-264, Singapore 310019
Phone: +65 9437 8260
Opening Hours: Daily: 11am – 2pm, 5pm – 10:45pm
Used to be in South bridge Road, this zi char stall has now moved to Toa Payoh (they have another branch in Joo Seng Road). Although the signboard shows that it’s known for their fish head steamboat, they are more famous for their claypot mee tak bak. With a brilliant wok hei, it is a clear winner on hands with slippery mouse-tail noodles full of smokey aroma, thick umami gravy spiked with raw egg, prawns, minced meat and crunchy vegetables. It makes for a great comfort food this rainy season. Guess what, it’s only $5 per claypot, seriously worth every penny.
Century egg is a delicacy of acquired taste. I used to offer it to my overseas friends but the idea of having black egg that has smells like ammonia turn them off. Here, the chef deep fried the century egg to give it a mild crisp. Sweet & spicy sauce is drizzled over the century eggs which helps to cover up the ammonia odor and perfectly balances the rich, unctuous egg. It’s interesting to see century eggs ($8) being deep-fried, you can the subtle crunch with creamy yolk. This is great for those who do not have the guts to savour it plain. Read more about it here.
The Little Prince Creamery pays tribute to the classic Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and has a comfy interior with hand-drawn paintings on its walls and floors. Their gelato items are said to contain 8% fat and eggless, and are milky and creamy. Waffles wise, give the ham and cheese waffles a try – actual ham and cheese bits are added into the batter, then more ham and cheese are sandwiched in the waffles. Feels a little sinful but just so good.
Ah Chuan Fried Oyster Omelette
Address: 22 Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, #01-25 Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre, Singapore 310022
Uncle Tan has been selling Fried Oysters in this hawker centre for more than 40 years and is was featured as one of the Hawker Legends in Makansutra in 2005. The difference between this stall and the rest is the batter. It has got the right mixture of flour to get the perfect texture of chewy and crispy starchy bits. The plate I ate here is moist and a little touch of crispiness. Not too oily nor dry, which makes me feel less guilty for eating such a sinful dish (ok, I’m just consoling myself). The plump and succulent oysters here came from Korea, not as big as I expected but definitely juicy and fresh. Each plate is topped with loads of coriander leaves, dipping it into the watery chilli sauce, shiok! If you don’t fancy oysters, the boss also has prawn omelette. Each plate of fried oysters starts from $4 onwards. Read about it here.
Guan Kee Kway Chap
Address: 210 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, #01-24 Lorong 8 Market and Food Centre, Singapore 310210
Opening Hours: Mon – Wed, Fri – Sat: 11am – 8pm; Sun: 9am – 8pm; Closed on Thursdays
Guan Kee Kway Chap has been invited to participate in Singapore Days previously, bringing their flavourful kway chap to Singaporeans based overseas. The intestines are thoroughly cleaned and do not have an odour and goes well with the smooth kway. They also serve pig trotters here.
Besides the wide range of dining options, Toa Payoh also has a rich history hidden in various spots around the town. In fact, this satellite town is celebrating its 50th anniversary in May this year, but its story go all the way back.