When it comes to hawker food—chockfull of grease, carbs and nothing good—what really compels us to keep going back for more, lunch after lunch? Price point, for sure; variety, and convenience. But really, how many days of bakchormee and chicken rice can we stomach? That one time we actually look forward to at work is sometimes marred by how we always end up eating the same thing. It seems like habit and boredom can potentially stamp out our excitement for lunch time.
Lucky for us, fusion/ mod-sin delights have been springing up left and right in the CBD. Some of these hipsters pride themselves on being “new-age”, catering to a certain class of discerning clientele… But you should be the judge of that.
This is a list for days when we need a few twists in our lunches, and a little “elevation” to “pamper our palettes”; terms that are used to death but so apt here.
*stalls you can find on XINDOTS; in-app reviews generated by users included!
No need for introduction here, A Noodle Story has blown up our insta feed, branded themselves “Singaporean ramen”; then officially anchored its Bib Gourmand self as a star within the Amoy Food Centre. Foodies know the drill—plump prawn encased in a tempura casing, juicy wantons, onsen tamago, HK-style noodles loaded with Singaporean chili. The food skews a bit salty, and it’s insane to find that die-hard fans will queue for a good part of an hour. In a shrewdly-calculated move, the stall has also capitalised on the persistent queues, allowing customers to purchase a “FastPass” for $2, pushing the pricing to ($10) for a bowl of noodles.
Amoy Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Rd., #01-39.
We are champions of underdogs and this shop—set up by a fellow millennial, hawks Poke bowls. There are two sizes of beng bowls on the app ($6) and ($9) and we must say, we are loving these “build a bowl” meals. Not least because they are fashionable, but because you get full carte-blanche on what to order. Great variety of sides and proteins are flavourful and well-seasoned. Check out the in-app pictures for your inspo on what to get, but having personally tried the chicken, I found it tender, well-marinated with herbs and light-tasting. Go for the mash for indulgence or the salsa for crisp, clean tasting goodness. the halved cherry tomatoes were too heavily seasoned with harsh black pepper but overall, ingredients are fresh and a medley of flavours. For fun, pick “tea jelly” as your topping. In all, healthy bowls and more delicious than the common poke.
Hong Lim Food Centre, 531a Upper Cross St., #01-44.
Who says hipster food just translates into a heart attack waiting to happen? This particular Muslim-owned establishment at the Amoy Food Centre proffers feel-good post-gym poke bowls. Their bowls are all good carbs, lean protein and sick greens with wedges of salmon blow-torched upon order. Feel free to further green up your bowls with cherry tomatoes, slices of avo, crisp cucumber and spinach leaves. The salmon is more flaky than moist and the personal favourite is really the Mentaiko bowl ($9.50), but don’t make your purchase expecting crazy bursts of flavours. You can however, expect a good bowl of healthful food that won’t bring on the mid-noon sleep coma.
Amoy Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Rd., #02-90.
Coffee has branded itself an artisanal avant-garde, third-wave-ish coffee hub. One of the starkest display of entrepreneurship, Coffee is owned by a trio of siblings. Novelty is injected into kopi drinks in the form of unexpected bases, like almond and ginger, mango, black sesame, and rose. Here, coffee beans are first roasted with margarine and sugar to draw out its natural aroma. With only a single shot of arabica, lattes seem to be more of an indulgence than a proper pick-me-up.
Occasionally, this coffee hub makes its forays into food, so expect to find the trends of the moment sandwiched between toasted whole-wheat bread. At the moment, choices are earl grey butter, taro paste, matcha coconut and Tiramisu even. Def hipster-approved.
Amoy Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Rd., #02-78.
James’ Quesadilla owns a plain, nondescript stall front, that gives away nothing of its star dish, which is really, in my opinion, the Salted Egg Yolk Chicken Pasta ($6.30). Not only a great Instagram-bait dish, your first bite of the juicy, tender chicken chunks will be an explosion of the right combination of salty, creamy and slightly sweet. The chili isn’t an afterthought or a wallflower garnish, because it actually packs the pasta dish with a real punch. It’s a good thing that mostly, the noodles are simply coated in a light cream sauce, otherwise it’ll all be a bit much. A considerate hipster dish.
Amoy Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Rd., #02-79.
Depending on what you order, Jin Ji will serve you either old-school Teochew Kway Chup ( 粿汁 ) in ubiquitous hawker ware or a hearty Kway Chup set in a bento ($8). The bento comes with yam rice rolls slightly salted with dried shrimps, salted vegetables and braised duck and pork innards, all aesthetically plated and served with LAVA eggs. Mod-sin or Japanese-Singaporean fusion—you decide. Here, fats is scraped off the skin for a crisper bite and also, for health reasons. People with an overt sense of smell may find fault with the well-braised intestines, but otherwise, help yourself to an extra serving of that tangy, garlicky chilli sauce. For novelty’s sake, get the bento set because, the rice.
Chinatown Complex, 335 Smith St., #02-156.
One of the biggest draws of Kueh Ho Jiak is its belief in being au natural; and this means abstaining from adding artificial colours and sweeteners in its dainty kuehs. The kaleidoscopic colours you usually see only in fancy hotels—come from a mixture of five different sweet potatoes skin. The other draw of Kueh Ho Jiak is the brash flavours it so boldly hawks, setting it apart from the stalls with the commonplace yam, mung bean and peanut flavours. You will want to try the fresh durian, kaya, salted egg and even hae been hiam (spicy dried prawns). If you’re on a diet, you’ll be pleased to find that the health-conscious kuehs are low-sugar and low-sodium. Due to its composition, the texture of the skin skews more chewy.
6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza Food Centre, #02-20.
Is Lad & Dad stupefyingly bold for offering English-inspired comfort food at Maxwell Food Centre? Or is it just an unapologetic hipster? A case of lost and found, this stall relocated from Serangoon to Maxwell and their style of comfort food/ pub grub is as English as English can be, in Singapore. Here, its #cheatday errday.
Get all quaint with their beautifully home-made bangers and mash. The minced pork is sourced from the local butcher and then ground with herbs and spices. Another must-try is the Bacon and Chip Butty burger, with a crispy hash brown sandwiched between a runny, sunny side-up and bacon, and finally, complete with soft, buttered roll, crisp at the sides. Lad sells two stews, both of which has won the approval of (actual) English people. Choose between the beef or the chicken with white wine. Both have been slow-cooked to perfection with root vegetables. Need further convincing?
Maxwell Food Centre,1 Kadayanallur St., #01-79.
Slightly flummoxed at the name and purpose of this fusion rice bowl, what’s with the assortment of vegetables drenched with a creamy, tangy Mentaiko sauce. The short-grained brown rice is first cooked with a blue pea flower dye that promises a host of health benefits; and like Big Bowls above, Lagoon scorches each salmon or wagyu beef upon order. Yes, the short menu of three bowls—Mentaiko Salmon ($10); Mentaiko Wagyu Beef ($10) and the Surf & Turf with both the salmon and the Wagyu Beef($16)— doesn’t give much leeway for choice. But if we truly feast first with our eyes, then these options are more than sufficient. Each bowl comes with a Sous Vide Egg egg already but feel free to add another for ($1); or a serving of either beef or salmon for ($6).
Amoy Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Rd., #01-48.
If the food here looks and sounds familiar, it’s only because the owners are originally of the veritable Saveur. Expect certain classics like Duck Confit and Chicken Roulade, at food court prices. The springy shio pasta noodles came coated with a thick, and creamy and savoury sauce. It also came with a poached egg and crispy, freshly fried chicken chunks. In all, a decent, value-for-money meal. Unfortunately, the pasta had tiny bits of egg shells in it which was offputting. The chef graciously offered to do up a new bowl, but I had to leave.
Clifford Centre, 24 Raffles Pl., B1 Stall 13.
Oinkers and Buns is manned by a solemn looking, young-ish chef, Wee. Food is novel, a tad quirky even—julienne pineapple slices add tanginess to the food, whilst citrus and sweet chili sauces substitute the requisite asian light sauce. The menu consists of a mod-sin spin on our OG Kong Bak Pau ($5.30 for 3), think light shoyu sauce in place of five-spice powder satisfying lighter palettes. Generous pork belly chunks are charred on the sides—although could be slightly juicier— and stuffed into palm-sized baos, along with crisp lettuce that held its own and didn’t wilt (kudos). The burgers come in freshly grilled buttered buns. This is a stall that doesn’t stint on ingredients; although dishes are all made to order, so expect a slight waiting time. In a rush? Simply send in the order via XINDOTS and collect when ready.
Amoy Food Centre,7 Maxwell Rd., #02-106.
Two Wings have been around for awhile and has gathered for itself almost a cult following, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The OG fried wings are juicy and crispy and they hail from a 40-year old intergenerational recipe, but has since evolved with times. The flavours available at Two Wings are Chili Crab, Salted Egg, Honey Soy and Heritage, which makes it seem like Two Wings understand all about happy marriages, picking out every Singaporean’s favourite flavour as accompaniment to already sinful fried chicken. You will want to get the combination which comes with a choice of two flavours… scratch that, get two combination so you can try all the flavours on the menu because, fried chicken. A cute point to note, yes, you can get mantou served with chili crab dip as a side.
Really though, Chili Crab chicken wings? To those who think we’ve got the creativity stamped out of us from years of strict, one-tracked schooling, can think again.
Essen, The Pinnacle @ Duxton, No. 1 Cantonment Rd., #01-01.
Although technically not a hawker stall, Wanton is every bit sinful an indulgence and worthy of a listing mention. For the uninitiated, it is recommended that you get the signature Twosome ($11.50*), that seems like a yuan yang of sorts, with roasted crispy belly chunks and charred char siew; plus three dumplings of course. Plus points for free-flowing broths in jugs and pork lard. So we hear that Wanton has six hardy variations of wanton noods, including a Sichuan Minced Noodle and the Balinese Duck Noodle and we are thinking that perhaps, the future of fusion is here.
*Service charge and GST not included
52 Amoy St.