With the moving from Shanghai to Singapore I haven’t really been able to produce any long-form content in the past couple of months. Organizing paperwork, packing, shipping stuff including a boyfriend and a dog across lands and seas, finding a new home and surviving in the equatorial heat has proven harder than expected – and yes I take all the credit for successfully settling into our new city!
But finally here we are, from the comfort of our condo’s wine cellar, overlooking a series of stunning infinity pools and beautifully landscaped garden terraces (yes it sounds silly because it is!), I’m now ready to fill you in with my latest findings in what we call The Little Red Dot.
Having eaten at Jurong West 505 Market & Food Center about three meals per day for a whole month and explored pretty much all the stalls, I thought of starting Lulu’s Hungry Singapore chapter with an ode to local Singaporean hawker food culture, specifically that of Chinese heritage, compiling this guide of my favorite eateries at Jurong West 505.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
This is a traditional poached chicken dish accompanied by seasoned rice which was brought into Singapore by Chinese immigrants from Hainan. It’s since become one of the most famous Singaporean foods representing the country’s food culture all over the world. Having tried a few different stalls at Jurong West hawker center, my favorite is definitely stall 01-32, where a set of juicy and tender, super lean chicken and rice is sold for merely S$3. Add S$1 to get some greens and a bowl of delicious broth as a side as well.
Chicken and Rice Porridge
While the chicken is prepared similarly to the Hainan style, stall 01-44 Soh Kew Cooked Food leaves it chopped on the bone with a side of comforting rice porridge. Compared to the Chinese zhou, this porridge is nicely seasoned with salty chicken juices, some toppings, and it doesn’t have any of the starchy sliminess of zhou. A two person set sells for S$7 and comes with a hefty portion of tummy happiness.
Bak Kut Teh
At stall 01-45 you’ll find an egregious, peppery and super savory version of Teochew style bak kut teh, a typical pork rib stew widely consumed in Singapore and Malaysia. The guy making this dish does so with passion and commitment, opening early in the morning to let the bones and meat simmer long enough before serving it. For the price of S$6.5 it’ll even cure your worst hangover.
There are three stalls making these sweet tapioca pancakes filled with peanuts, red beans or shaved coconut. Don’t bother with the other two, stick with Xin Xuan at stall 01-46. They make fresh pancakes from morning to afternoon and serve them warm for S$0.8 with generous amounts of fillings. Perfect for breakfast or as a post-meal treat.
This dish is real mafan to make so there’s only one lady cooking it with her husband at stall 01-49. This is not a dish that can be rushed and wait time goes as long as 45 minutes. With a touch of solemnity the husband checks and tweaks the various sizes of clay pot (single portion, double and large) over the aggressive open flames. The rice is topped with a bit of veggies, chicken wings, cured sausage and pork belly. You can accompany it with their fragrant and textured Hokkien style Bak Kuh Teh.
What’s funny about Singapore typical carrot cake is that it’s neither a cake nor does it contain any carrot. Instead it’s a white radish and scrambled egg frittata of sort. There’s only one stall making fresh batches of this dish from morning to early evening, 01-10 Bukit Timah. Their S$ 2 portion is big enough to munch on as a side dish for two people. Ask to season it with a bit of chilly paste, it’s truly great. (Sorry for the shitty picture!)
Slice Fish Soup
This may be the locals’ favorite stall as it’s got the longest lines of the whole hawker center, 01-186. Worry not, the queue goes fast, get in the crowds and order yourself a bowl of their slice fish soup. While delicately fragrant, the broth is layered with complexity. The perfect texture and subtle flavor of the fish vouch for its freshness. A S$9 portion is the perfect size for one person to really savor this dish.
Mee Hoon Kway
Best for last! This noodle soup dish features a raw egg, greens, and a choice of chicken or pork mince, topped with fried shallots and anchovies. The cook at stall 01-52 prepares it by hand-tearing squares of freshly made dough and violently throwing them one by one in a single-portion pot of boiling soup. The noodles are fairly thick, with a pleasant chewy consistency and the broth gets thicker as you eat through your bowl, enriched by the noodles’ starch and the raw egg yolk. It’s ludicrously cheap at S$3.5 for a big bowl.
With such abundance of options, navigating hawker centers in Singapore can be a bit of a struggle. Hopefully my guide of Jurong West Hawker Center will be enlightening for the next time you make your way there. And yes… it’s definitely worth the trek!