While Tiong Bahru is known to be a go-to place for hipster cafe hoppers, it is also known to be a treasure trove of local dishes. And most of them are conveniently located in Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre.
Being a self-proclaimed foodie, when I moved to Tiong Bahru around four years ago, the first thing on my agenda was to explore the food scene here. And I soon realised that I was spoilt for choice at Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre.
So after numerous makan sessions, here's what I've sussed out that's worth the money and calories should you be here with limited stomach space.
178 Lor Mee
There are two stalls in the Hawker Centre that sell lor mee and both are very popular. My preference is 178 Lor Mee and the main reason is because you can get lor mee served with shark nuggets.
Yes, you did not read that wrongly. You can get shark nuggets here and it's not really something you'll find just anywhere. 178 Lor Mee is probably the only place in Singapore that sells shark nugget lor mee, a brilliant marketing move it has made, perhaps.
The shark nuggets are pretty similar to fried fish, but with a firmer texture, and they have a good meat to batter ratio – every nugget is perfectly crisp. If you aren't feeling adventurous, you can always order a basic bowl of lor mee, which is also pretty good.
Queues here can get long — I've waited for half an hour before — so come down early to avoid the lunch crowd. They're open from 7am to 2:30pm, but they sell pretty early, and I've seen them close as early as 12.30pm.
For traditional, nostalgic min jiang kueh that is made the old school way, check out Granny's Pancake. It's admittedly not unique to Tiong Bahru and there are outlets at Hong Lim Hawker Centre and Ghim Moh Food Centre.
However, each Granny's Pancake stall owner curates their own menu, so while the pancake taste and texture is uniform, the fillings each stall offers differ. The outlet here uses less sugar as the owner is diabetic.
My go-to order here is the peanut pancake that features crunchy, nutty peanuts encased within a fluffy, slightly spongy pancake. It's best eaten when it's nice and hot, so after it's freshly made is the best time to snag yourself a piece.
Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee
I am personally a massive fan of Hokkien mee and have tried the bulk of the reputable ones in Singapore. Luckily for me, Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee, which is arguably one of the better ones, is located nearby at Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre.
The stall made it to local Michelin Bib Gourmand list in 2016 and 2017, and it's well-deserved. No matter when I come, the Hokkien mee has remained consistently good. When I am undecided on what to eat, I usually end up eating here.
The key to a solid plate of Hokkien mee lies in the broth, and the one used at Hong Heng is rich and packed with plenty of umami. This goes perfectly with the noodles that are slippery and have plenty of wok hei.
Hot Plate Western Food
If I had to choose between old school hawker western food and cafe grub, I would undoubtedly choose the former in a heartbeat. For one, the portion sizes are usually significantly bigger and two, it's much more wallet-friendly.
Hot Plate Western Food, like its name suggests, serves their food on a hot plate, keeping the food warmer for longer. As an added bonus, it makes the food more Instaworthy too.
I recommend getting the chicken chop here. A number of places serve tough, slightly overcooked chicken chops, but the ones here are tender and juicy. The portion size is also very generous — I sometimes have trouble finishing my food.
Jian Bo Chee Kueh
Jian Bo Chee Kueh is one of the more popular chee kueh stalls, and for good reason.
The rice cakes here are freshly steamed before your eyes and topped with a heaping amount of chilli and crunchy preserved radish or chye poh. The chee kueh is admittedly rather sinful and greasy, so you may want to share it with a friend so you'll feel less guilty after.
Joo Chiat Beef King
For a hearty, comforting bowl of beef noodles, I recommend patronising Joo Chiat Beef King. There are dry and soup options, and I prefer having the former here.
Flat white rice noodles are doused in a viscous, rich gravy, and as someone who detests overcooked, dry beef, I'm glad to say that the ones here are tender and juicy. Do ask for a bowl of beef soup on the side to pair with your noodles.
Skirt and Dirt
Most of the stalls at Tiong Bahru Hawer Centre have been operating for a long time. But not Skirt and Dirt — it only opened for business in August and is run by a group of young hawkers.
They specialise in affordable, gourmet-style burgers and have kept prices affordable. The burgers are admittedly on the smaller side, but you get fresh ingredients and unique fillings.
I especially like their Cheese Skirt Beef Burger, which features a juicy beef patty and a massive disc-like cheese skirt that is crispy and very addictive. There are also seasonal menu items, giving you more reason to visit again.
Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice
In a complex as big as Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre, there are bound to be multiple chicken rice stalls. And out of the many, this one is my favourite.
Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken has been on the Michelin Bib Gourmand Singapore list for a number of years and garners constant long queues, especially during meal times.
The chicken here is juicy and well-seasoned, while the rice is fragrant, fluffy and not too greasy. They also sell other dishes which are good for sharing and my top recommendation is their fried tofu with Thai chilli sauce.