Super supper stories from Burpple's #Hawkerpedia
This article was originally published on burpple.com.
From stressful and terrifying (but so worth it!) midnight yong tau fu adventures, to post-mahjong kuay chap cravings and impromptu late night prata sessions in university, these nostalgic #Hawkerpedia stories are testament to Singapore's undying love for food, any time of the day.
At my old place in Bukit Gombak yesterday, I took a trip down memory lane. While its changed hands and renovated many times, this at least two-decade old Muslim-indian eating place "Alif Restaurant" is still recognizable to old boys like me. While pratas these days come fanciful with chocolate, banana, cheese and whatnot, I only recollect there was only "kosong" (plain) or egg back then.
Those who are old enough may also remember that we only had free-to-air channels on our CRT TV sets that would screen horror classics like Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street or Child's Play every Tuesday or Thursday late night. My elder brother and I would lay our ragged "ti lum" (mattress) on the floor in the living room and scare ourselves silly.
Almost every time, no thanks to my brother, he would purposely cajole me to buy supper right after the first horror scene in the movie. I was a chubby kid back then, so I would always get suckered into making that trip for some tasty pratas for supper. However, imagination would get the better of me once I got downstairs, and I would always break into an Olympic sprint to reach the restaurant.
Once there, I would forget about the horror scenes playing out in my head and get mesmerized by the malay encik (uncle in malay) who would press balls of smooth dough before carrying out gravity-defying prata-flipping. Then, right in front of us in full glory, he would throw the translucent flattened dough onto the big heated flat pan doused with eight tonnes of oil.
As a grand finale to end the cooking, another uncle would display the ultimate act of masculinity by stacking up the ready-to-serve pratas and crushed them mightily in one blow with his bare hands. Once the uncle handed me the hot crispy pratas in my hand, Chucky and Freddy would be back in my head instantaneously. So needless to say, I made another Olympic sprint back home! I guess that's how I am still alive today. #hawkerpedia
374 Bukit Batok Street 31
Opening hours: 24 hours
National Service Duties For The Brother, National Supper Duties For The Family
Save the 1h 40 minute flight and simply take a ride down to Changi village for a taste of Ipoh! Mum works for an airline, and she always talks about how much we save from getting our Ipoh hor fun cravings sorted in Singapore rather than having to take a flight, and we never fail to remind her that coming ALL the way to Changi village feels like we should just go a little further, hit the airport and jump on the next flight out to Ipoh.
For every weekend that my brother has to book into camp by 2359, this hor fun has been my family's choice of supper just before we send him back to Hendon Camp. Although lots of men would go for the pork chop hor fun, I'm definitely a "regular" hor fun girl. Aside from the generous toppings and slippery thin flat rice noodles, we love every bit of that rich sauce made from old mother hens! Old is gold, just like they do in the original Ipoh store.
We usually get two plates of the original Ipoh hor fun to share between the five of us because we always leave some space for the red tea longan dessert with IQ balls! Some days we get one original and one pork chop, but this will always be met with distaste by my "no fried food" Commando brother. NS for the boys are tough but NS for my family is a happy duty for us all! These suppers certainly make the book-ins for my brother a little easier with a happy tummy! #hawkerpedia
2 Changi Village Road
#01-04, Changi Village Market and Food Centre
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-11pm, Weekends 8am-12am
This used to be a rare supper treat for me
"Friends who have known me for a long time would know about my rather strict mother. Because of my curfew, a trip down to Seng Kee would a very rare occurrence for me. Those trips could only happen if my club's basketball training would end earlier (which really happened once in a blue blue moon), where my teammates and I would troop down to the outlet along Changi Road for some team bonding over Mee Sua.
I can still vividly remember having my first bowl. One sip of the rich flavourful herbal soup, and I was sold!! Grabbing my chopstick and ignoring how hot the soup was, I tucked in steadily. The mee sua and the fresh pork meat and organs were all on point. The table would be oddly quiet while we wolfed down everything greedily as we were too hungry after training.
However, I returned a few times occasionally to and realised a sharp drop in standard. Till recently, I found that they had another branch at Kaki Bukit Food Market, where the taste and everything was just as I remembered it to be 5 years back! Having a bowl of it now still reminds me of all the post-training bonding session I used to have with my teammates. #hawkerpedia"
511 Bedok North Street 3
#01-31/32 Kaki Bukit 511 Market and Food Centre
Opening hours: 5pm-4am
Scissors Cut Curry Rice
This childhood favourite certainly calls for a surge of nostalgia. As a child, I would frequent this Scissors Cut Curry Rice stall with my parents, especially for supper since it is only a stone's throw away from where I live.
It is not only my mum's favourite, my entire family loves it, even till today. I was told how my dad used to bring mummy on dates there, just because she once told him that she loves it, how unromantic!
As a kid, I remember how the gooey mess on the plate totally did not appeal to me at first. But as time went by, I grew to love it! It may be a shame that I can no longer patronize the stall with both my parents again, but dining there with my boy today brings new meaning for me as I recall and share my fond childhood memories with him. #hawkerpedia
229 Jalan Besar
Opening hours: 11am-3.30am
One of the most stressful and terrifying supper experiences one can undergo, with a most handsome reward...if you survive the onslaught. Come midnight, once everything is ready, the stall lights come on, and (like when you alert the Witch in Left 4 Dead) the horde closes in via stampede to instantly form two queues - one to pick the ingredients, and one to place your order and make payment. It is essential to go in a minimum party of two and assign the relevant roles beforehand if you want to reach home before daybreak.
You will feel cold limp sweaty flesh caress your body parts from behind as the ravenous zombies dart for taupok and brinjal below and above your arms; you will hear desperate cries of "aiyah just anyhow pick lah!!" from warriors who simply want the ordeal to be over; your body will be shoved left and right by aggressive golems in the fray if you don't stand firm when you're picking your items; your patience will be worn thin when the uncivilized and daring brazenly cut queue and fling their bowl ahead of yours, in manner of skillful frisbee toss, in the bowl queue. It will be ugly.
But if you survive - and I have, precisely six times - you will be rewarded by one of the best yong tau foo around. The variety of ingredients is wonderful (their pork items in particular like their pork belly fly off the shelves), and the ikan bilis-heavy soup demands consumption in its entirety.
I always ask for green chilli padi to be added, but do be warned - they add a fierce edge to the soup and will sting you without mercy if you happen to bite on them. (There is a cheat code, like in every other game, if you wish to avoid the horrors of the above-mentioned experience - just go after 12.30am. By then, order will be restored by way of self-regulation, and all you have to do is queue for a long, long time. But where's the fun in that?)
Soon Li Yong Tau Foo is a must try. This is non-negotiable. But before you taste the best, you gotta pass the test. 4.4/5 #Hawkerpedia
Blk 115 Bukit Merah View
#01-78 Bukit Merah View Food Centre
Opening hours: Unknown
Prata & Maggi Goreng Therapy
While breakfast was almost unheard of during uni years (unless post-clubbing pancakes from the big M counts), supper was probably the most important meal of the day then. It didn't really matter what we ate or where we would go, but more of who we were with and the endless conversations.
There was always something to talk about: from the most trivial things like whining about project mates/professors and heartbreaks, to big life decisions and existential crisis interventions. We would delay going back to our halls/residences for as long as possible - even if that meant walking back at 1am - and order more cups of Milo dinosaur or another round of prata just to avoid getting chased away. I really miss those times (and my metabolism rate then)! #Hawkerpedia
18 Clementi Road
Opening hours: 24 hours
In The Grip Of Supper Madness
Why do sense and sensibility get thrown out the door when hunger pangs strike in the middle of the night? I, for one, crave the most unhealthy things around that time. More often than not, don't ask me why, it's Nasi Lemak that I long for. And it has to be the Ponggol one along Tanjong Katong Road.
Greedy loves company so I never venture there alone. Whether it is with my significant other or a group of friends, it's a no-holds-barred, storm-the-front event once we arrive at the brightly lit corner coffeeshop. Why have one fried chicken wing when we can have two? Heck, let's throw in an extra portion of rice while we pile on the other trimmings like fried egg, otak, luncheon meat, crispy ikan bilis and stir-fried lady's fingers!
Happiness would be written in glistening grease all over our faces as we chomp on our calorie-laden supper, washed down by mugs of hot "teh-o siu dai" (plain tea with less sugar). At these proceedings, conversation tends to take a backseat because clearly, our attention is devoted to the food.
When we're finally done, with our belts loosened and buttons released, we quietly roll away into the night... propelled by our happy burps. #Hawkerpedia.
238 Tanjong Katong Road
Opening hours: Fri-Wed: 5.30pm-2.30am.
Closed on Thursdays
Satay, Chicken Wings and Sugar Cane for Supper
After hours of playing basketball, my classmates and I would go to Toa Payoh Lorong 5 hawker centre to satisfy our meaty cravings. We'd order some juicy wings and savory satay, then wash them down with ice cold cups of sugar cane.
Nowadays, we don't play basketball anymore, but we simply go there for the late night supper. The sugar cane has been replaced with beer, and we spend our time chit-chatting about our school days. #Hawkerpedia
75 Lorong 5 Toa Payoh
Kuay Chap: One of my favourite places to eat this local delight
I remember those times after a long mahjong game, we'd start to feel hungry in the middle of the night, craving for a bowl of hot broth with all parts of the pig. We'd just drive down to this coffee shop in the middle of Bishan. Best eaten on a cold, rainy night, this assortment of meat, egg and other ingredients warmed our hungry and growling stomachs. It's even open till 4am! #hawkerpedia
284 Bishan Street 22
Fish Head Curry
Located somewhere along the crowded stretch of Joo Chiat shophouses, I discovered Lau Hock Guan Kee sometime during my early university years, and since then, continued to patronise them regularly, especially during weekday supper hours. The auntie that served tables often commented on my (ahem) 'good' looks and never fail to tease me whenever the frequency of my visits start to dwindle ever so slightly. (A-boy ah, why so long never come and see auntie, or equivalent chatter).
But what brought me back time and again ultimately was the fish head curry. The stand out item in the dish was the assortment of vegetables (brinjal, okra, onions (?!) etc), soaking up the generous serving of curry and leaving a trail of gentle sweetness and slightly tangy spicy sensation on the tongue. Prepare to sweat, especially on a humid weeknight with nary a breeze. But also, prepare to enjoy. #hawkerpedia
328 Joo Chiat Road
Opening hours: 5am-1am