Sure, you can tuck into lunch at the perennially popular and always-crowded Maxwell Food Centre or Amoy Street Food Centre.
But the offerings you'll find at the nearby, lesser-known Tanjong Pagar Food Centre — located within the vibrant Tanjong Pagar Plaza housing estate on the other side of the MRT station — are nothing to scoff at.
Crispy and piquant Michelin-recommended curry puffs? You'll get that here. Springy wanton noodles served with moreish char siew and generously stuffed fried dumplings?
Check. Colourful, traditional kueh to take home for afternoon tea? This place has you covered. Here's a round-up of what to try.
Tanjong Pagar Food Centre | 6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza
Blue Star Fishball Minced Meat Noodle
You’ll discover a perpetual queue outside this stall at most hours of the day.
And it’s easy to see why. Blue Star Fishball Minced Meat Noodle doles out an array of heavenly bowls that come with firmly cooked noodles of your choice, and are topped with ingredients such as earthy mushrooms, firm and bouncy meatballs and fish balls, thin slices of fish cake, fish dumplings and minced meat.
The tasty sauce has an ideal ratio of chilli to vinegar, and sprinkles of crispy pork lard add the perfect finishing touch. Prices start at $3.
Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff
Given its Michelin Bib Gourmand listing, you’d be remiss if you drop by the food centre without stopping by this joint.
These buttery, crunchy golden pockets — which retail for $1.50 each — are stuffed to the seams with a delicious filling, and you can take your pick of two flavours: Original, which packs a punch with its aromatic curry paste; and sardine, which incorporates chunks of the distinctive-tasting fish.
Both will leave you wanting more, so we recommend picking up a few for good measure (they’re also on the small side).
Traditional Hakka Rice
Want to indulge in something a little healthier? Then this should be your port of call. Traditional Hakka Rice is one of Singapore’s most popular purveyors of thunder tea rice.
Each bowl consists of steamed rice with toppings like tofu, long beans, Chinese greens, mushrooms, peanuts and picked radish.
Additional items are also available if you want to substantiate your meal. The star of the show, though, is the herbal soup, which is made with a heady mixture of basil, peppermint and tea leaves. Expect to pay roughly $4.
Lucky Wanton Noodle
There are times that you just want to tuck into a simple plate of wanton noodles. When that feeling hits, simply make a beeline for Lucky Wanton Noodle, where prices start at $3. Its rendition comes in a generous helping with moreish al dente noodles that don’t have any of that unpleasant alkaline taste.
Each noodle strand is also fully coated in an umami-rich sauce. If you’re particularly famished, we suggest topping up your portion with some shatteringly crisp fried dumplings and additional char siew.
Mad Bros SG
A relatively new entrant to the scene, Mad Bros SG’s founder left his corporate gig; headed to Japan to get schooled in the art of making ramen; and started his very own hawker stall.
Choose from piping-hot bowls of Halal ramen in a variety of flavours: Such as the popular Miso Butter Ramen, Curry Cutlet Ramen and Truffle Ramen. And while they swap out the standard pork broth for a chicken version, the result is no less rich and creamy — making for a thoroughly satisfying meal. Prices are upwards of $7.
Teochew Satay Bee Hoon
You won’t find this unique dish – which fuses elements of Malay, Javanese and Teochew cuisines — at every food centre in Singapore. So, you might as well take the chance to try it at this historic outfit that’s been operating here since the 1970s.
Each serving of noodles is paired with ingredients such as cuttlefish, kang kong, pork liver and cockles, before being utterly slathered in a thick layer of fragrant satay sauce. It may not be the prettiest thing around, but it sure is tasty. A plate will set you back around $4.
Kueh Ho Jiak
For an afternoon pick-me-up or take-home snack, check out Kueh Ho Jiak. The multi-generational family operation is known for its vibrant Nonya treats such as the Pandan Kueh Salat made with creamy pandan custard, coconut milk and glutinous rice; and the Gula Melaka Kueh Kosui, which isn’t overwhelmingly sweet and comes coated in plenty of desiccated coconut.
The stall also offers savoury options, including Rempah Udang made with their homemade hae bee hiam. Expect to pay $4.50 and up for a box.
Rong Xing Yong Tau Fu
One of the most popular establishments here is Rong Xing Yong Tau Fu. You’ll be spoiled for choice with the extensive array of fresh and fried ingredients on offer, many of which are stuffed with a scrumptious fish paste.
The comforting, clean-tasting soup — made with soybeans and ikan bilis — is light and fragrant, with a lovely underlying sweetness. Be sure to add a good amount of chilli sauce for some zing. Do also turn up early in the day, as they often sell out well before closing time. A meal here costs upwards of $3.50.
Peter Fried Kway Teow Mee
Another notable outfit is Peter Fried Kway Teow Mee, which draws long lines during peak periods. The noodles are chewy with a good bite, and each plate comes packed with fish cake slices, Chinese sausage, beansprouts, cockles and greens. And, most importantly, the wok hei is on point.
You can select the Teochew-style option that’s made with the familiar sweet black sauce, or opt to have it Penang style, which omits this element. Don’t forget to squeeze some lime to balance out the rich flavours. Prices start at $4.
Soon Heng Food Delights
Some places just pack their lor mee with the usual suspects, such as braised meat, braised egg, fried bean curd skin, fish cake and ngo hiang. But this spot takes it up a notch with a special addition: deep-fried fish fritters. The fixings are all thrown together in a bowl with thick noodles that are smothered in a savoury gravy.
The latter isn’t too starchy or watery, which gives each bite a pleasing mouthfeel. Accompany your serving with slices of chilli padi for a spicy touch. A portion goes for around $4.
This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.