Toa Payoh dining guide: The best hawker eats and hip cafes in this heritage hood

PHOTO: Kelly Jie Seafood

One of Singapore’s oldest ‘hoods, Toa Payoh brings together the best of hip and heritage eats.

With old-school hawker centres on every corner, you’ll never be at a loss for your prawn mee or carrot cake fix.

Scattered in their midst, are trendy cafes and buzzy eateries worth the stomach space. Here’s our foodie guide to eating your way through Toa Payoh.

Restaurants & cafés

1. The Larder Cafe

With no GST and service charge, it’s no wonder The Larder Cafe is a brunch hotspot in the neighbourhood.

This industrial-chic cafe dishes up wallet-friendly Western fare, and while you’ll find your usual carbonaras, wraps, and burgers, there are creative surprises not to be overlooked.

For starters, crunch on deep-fried Duck Meatballs ($10) or Baked Escargots ($10) slathered with garlic butter and served on toast.

To power you through the workday, opt for the executive set lunch, which comes with soup of the day and coffee.

The Larder Cafe is located at Blk 177, #01-124 Toa Payoh Central, Singapore 310177, p. +65 6253 8382. Open Tues-Sun 11am–10pm. Closed Mon.

2. Nagara Thai

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This no-frills eatery is a solid go-to for your fiery Thai fix.

The sprawling menu is lined with all sorts of comfort classics, from robust Phad Thai Noodles ($6) to Stir Fried Minced Beef with Thai Hot Basil ($8).

Start off with the popular and refreshing Mango Salad ($5), then spice things up with the eye-watering Tom Yam Fried Rice ($6.50).

Nagara Thai is located at 177 Toa Payoh Central, #01-110, Singapore 310177, p. +65 6256 8522. Open daily 12pm–3pm and 5.30pm–9.45pm.

3. Kelly Jie Seafood

Part of the famed Mellben Seafood chain, Kelly Jie is a household name for quality crab dishes.

The crowd-favourite Creamy Butter Crab will have you licking every bit of rich sauce from your fingers, while the Claypot Crab Vermicelli Soup is pure comfort with its luscious, milky broth.

The restaurant’s other seafood dishes aren’t to be outshone as well – how about some tongue-tingling Wasabi Mayo Prawns ?

Kelly Jie Seafood is located at Blk 211 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, #01-11/15, Singapore 310211, p. +65 6353 3120. Open daily 12pm–3pm and 5.30pm–10.30pm.

4. Niche Savoureuse

This cafe-pâtisserie is a sweet tooth’s heaven, with all manner of toothsome cakes, tarts, and brioche.

Packed with 70 per cent cocoa content, their No Nonsense Chocolate Brownie doesn’t mess around with delivering your choco fix; meanwhile, the Niche Tiramisu ups the caffeine hit with earl grey-infused mascarpone.

If you love your mont blanc, check out their pillowy Swiss roll rendition with Ferrero Rocher wafer bits.

Oh, and they do adorable customised cakes for special occasions as well.

Niche Savoureuse is located at #01-833, Blk 128 Lor 1 Toa Payoh, Singapore 310128, p. +65 9633 5108. Open Wed-Mon 11am–9pm. Closed Tues.

5. Lee Fun Nam Kee Chicken Rice

Lee Fun Nam Kee’s claim to fame is its soya sauce chicken, whose recipe hails all the way back from the 1960s.

This family-run restaurant’s take on Original Soya Sauce Chicken Rice ($6++) stars extra thick, tender slices of chicken atop mouthwateringly fragrant rice.

The other meats are no slouch either, including the succulent Honey Roasted Char Siew ($8++).

Lee Fun Nam Kee Chicken Rice is located at 94 Lor 4 Toa Payoh, #01-04, Singapore 310094, p. +65 6255 0891. Open daily 11am–3pm and 5pm–9pm.

6. Creamier

There’s lots to scream about with Creamier – this homely ice-cream parlour handcrafts its velvety goodness fresh each day in small batches.

Classic flavours like Roasted Pistachio and Plain Ole Chocolate taste anything but ordinary, while playful twists like Blue Pea Vanilla are so very Instagrammable.

Vegans won’t need to be left out – their latest flavour Vegan Choco-coco , launched just this July, is crafted with homemade oat milk and coconut milk to capture the creamy richness of the original.

Creamier (Toa Payoh) is located at Blk 131 Lor 1 Toa Payoh, #01-02, Singapore 310131, p. +65 6250 1476. Open Tues-Sun 12pm–10pm. Closed Mon.

Hawker eats

1. Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee

Tucked away in HDB Hub’s basement, this humble food court stall is one of the last bastions of old-school muah chee in Singapore.

Each glob of glutinous rice ($2.50++) is painstakingly ‘beaten’ and pulled by hand, producing its soft, gloriously bouncy texture.

Coated generously in your choice of ground peanut or black sesame, it’s no surprise the queues for this stall are never-ending.

Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee is located at 480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, #B1-01 HDB Hub, Gourmet Paradise Food Court, Singapore 310480. Open daily 10.30am–9.30pm.

2. Soon Heng Rojak

Another HDB Hub basement stall with snaking queues, Soon Heng Rojak traces its days of hearty rojak-tossing back to 1988.

Their rendition of Chinese rojak ($3.50++) comes absolutely blanketed with ground peanuts, and doused in a very sweet prawn paste sauce.

Crisp you tiao and tender sotong slices add to this scrumptious medley of textures.

Soon Heng Rojak is located at 480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, #B1-01 HDB Hub, Gourmet Paradise Food Court, Singapore 310480. Open daily 11am–10pm.

3. Tian Tian Lai Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee

If you lived around the area, you might just be tempted to come daily to Tian Tian Lai. Their Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee ($4++) is a heaping plateful of wok hei-infused strands, studded with fresh prawns and bathed in rich broth.

For those who love their lard, this is the spot to indulge – you’ll find these crispy cubes of pork fat sprinkled with a generous hand throughout.

Tian Tian Lai Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee is located at Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, Toa Payoh West Market & Food Centre #02-27, Singapore 310127, p. +65 9671 7071. Open Tues-Sun 8am–2.30pm. Closed Mon.

4. Uggli Muffins

Don’t judge a muffin by its looks. Uggli Muffins’ bakes may look curiously misshapen – but they’re certainly delicious on the inside.

Topped with a crisp caramelised crust, their Baby Muffins ($1.20++) come in intriguing flavours like fresh durian, Kraft cheese, and even shiitake mushroom and herbs.

For classic indulgence, though, you can’t go wrong with their buttery banana-walnut.

Uggli Muffins is located at Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, Toa Payoh West Market & Food Centre #02-34, Singapore 310127, p. +65 9877 9020. Open Tues-Sun 10am–2pm. Closed Mon.

5. Toa Payoh Lucky Pisang Raja

Head to this stall on cheat day to stuff yourself with all the fried snacks you could wish for, from curry puffs to fried chempedak and sweet potato balls.

The star of the show, of course, is the Goreng Pisang ($1.20), which sees light, crisp batter encasing a gooey sweet banana.

For something earthier, try the sweet potato balls, which come in three delectable flavours: mung bean, red bean, and yam.

Toa Payoh Lucky Pisang Raja is located at Blk 177 Toa Payoh Central, #01-176 Moon Sun Restaurant, Singapore 310177, p. +65 6123 4568. Open daily 1pm–6pm.

6. Deanna’s Kitchen

Halal prawn mee is the name of the game at Deanna’s Kitchen. In place of the traditional pork bones, the broth here is an umami bomb of prawn shells and anchovies.

If you’re too late to snag the Regular Prawn Mee ($4) – it sells out in a blink – splash out on the Big Prawn Mee ($7) teeming with plump prawns and juicy fishcakes.

To switch up your seafood feasting a bit, there’s also the hearty Clams & Prawn Mee ($7).

Deanna’s Kitchen is located at Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, Toa Payoh West Market & Food Centre #02-25, Singapore 310127, p. +65 8298 2730. Open Tues-Sun 9am–3pm. Closed Mon.

7. Chey Sua Carrot Cake

Chey Sua only sells white carrot cake ($2.50++), but there’s no doubt theirs will win over diehard fans of the black version.

Run by two sisters for nearly 30 years, this Michelin Bib Gourmand stall still hand-makes its carrot cake from scratch.

Pan-fried to golden-brown perfection, these eggy cubes turn out crisp on the outside and wonderfully moist on the inside.

Mix in their homemade chili paste to amp up the oily bliss.

Chey Sua Carrot Cake is located at Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, Toa Payoh West Market & Food Centre #02-30, Singapore 310127, p. +65 6254 6323. Open Tues-Sun 6.30am–1pm. Closed Mon.

8. Ah Chuan Fried Oyster Omelette

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No roundup of Singapore’s best orh luak is complete without a mention of Ah Chuan, a stall which has been going strong for over 40 years.

Their Fried Oyster Omelette ($5/8) is stuffed with fresh, plump Korean oysters, crunchy round the edges and nicely moist within.

Dunk into their tangy chili sauce for the ultimate explosion of flavours.

Oh, and with such short operating hours, you’ll have to come early to get your oyster fix.

Ah Chuan Fried Oyster Omelette is located at 22 Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, Kim Keat Palm Market & Food Centre #01-25, Singapore 314022. Open Mon & Wed-Fri 12pm–2pm, Sat-Sun 12pm–3pm. Closed Tues.

This article was first published in City Nomads.