Guest editor Andrea Wong heads to the local food stalls and eateries to find out how many dishes she can try with a small sum of money. But these aren’t your average food places, they have all made it to the Michelin Guide Singapore 2016, Bib Gourmand list! Now that’s a great way to have a #SingaporeHighLife experience. Read on to see just how much food she managed to eat (hint: it was a lot)
1. Hong Kee Beef Noodles
Where: #01-42, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road
Amount spent: SGD10 for one bowl of dry noodles (SGD5) and one bowl of soup noodles (SGD5)
Verdict: Touted by many locals as one of the best bowls of beef noodles in town, this stall has over 60 years of history. I decided to try both the dry and soup version. While the soup version was tasty, with the fragrant beef stock enhanced with a light sourness from the preserved vegetables, the dry version is a winner. The starch gravy is thick and gooey without being overwhelming in taste, and perfectly coats the tender beef slices, springy beef balls and smooth rice noodles.
2. A Noodle Story
Where: #01-39, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road
Amount spent: SGD7.20 for one medium bowl of noodles
Verdict: A Noodle Story serves up the beloved local wonton mee infused with elements of Japanese ramen for a fusion dish that adds a gastronomical twist to the humble food stall. With Hong Kong style wanton noodles tossed with a special dry sauce that includes pandan and lemongrass, the dish is then generously topped with Japanese Charshu, wantons, an onsen egg, freshly-sliced scallions, strands of shredded red pepper and, the highlight of the dish for me, a crispy potato-wrapped prawn. All the elements come together unexpectedly well, culminating in a dish that gives just the right amount of umami. It’s no wonder that this stall always has the longest lines in the food centre.
3. J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff
Where: #01-21, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road
Amount spent: SGD2.40 for one crispy curry chicken puff (SGD1.20) and one crispy sardine puff (SGD1.20)
Verdict: If you like crumbly pastry on your curry puff, then you will love these. Even Mr. Lee, the shop owner who’s been running his business for nine years and sells around 500-600 puffs a day, reveals that the secret is in the pastry. They sell puffs with four different fillings, including black pepper chicken and yam paste, but I decided to go with the classics of curry chicken and sardine fillings. The curry chicken filling had just the right amount of sweetness with a hint of spice, while the sardine is slightly spicier, which I actually preferred. A well-deserved pick for the Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand list, the proof is in the puff!
4. Hoo Kee Bak Chang
Where: #01-18, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road
Amount spent: SGD3.60 for one pork dumpling with chestnut and salted egg yolk
Verdict: I grew up eating these traditional Hokkien rice dumplings, so my standards are pretty high when it comes to bak chang. I ordered the one with chestnut and salted egg yolk, and from the first bite I had already made up my mind that this was the best bak chang I have ever tasted. The glutinous rice was chewy, moist and bursting with flavour, the pork was lean, with no trace of pork fat at all but still tender and tasty, and the chestnut and salted egg yolk added a really nice texture and flavour to the dumpling. The stall has been passed down for three generations, and the current stall owner, Ryk Chew, shares that his grandfather’s recipe takes about 5 hours to complete, from steaming the rice to marinating the meat to wrapping the dumpling.
Where: Stall 44, Block 117 Market & Food Centre, Aljunied Avenue 2
Amount spent: SGD6 for one plate of bee hoon soto ayam (SGD3) and one bowl of gado gado (SGD3)
Verdict: Wedang, a halal hawker stall, is famous for its dishes like tahu goreng, gado gado, soto ayam and satay. I ordered the bee hoon soto ayam and the gado gado. The soto ayam had a slight spiciness, not too overpowering, and wasn’t overly salty like some other ones I’ve tried. It was a light and satisfying dish, with the shredded chicken and deep fried begedil adding to the flavour. The gado gado came with deep fried tofu, tempeh and potatoes topped with a peanut sauce and fried keropok. The sauce was thick and sweet, and the keropok added a nice crunch to the dish. I liked that the dishes came in manageable portions, so you can order more than one dish for variety.
6. Bismillah Biryani:
Where: 50 Dunlop Street
Amount spent: SGD15 for one plate of mutton biryani
Verdict: Bismillah Biryani, also a halal-certified hawker eatery, has arguably the most authentic biryani in Singapore. It uses top grade basmati rice, incredibly fluffy and fragrant, wonderfully absorbing all the flavours of the spices it’s cooked with. The mutton was cooked to perfection, and didn’t have a gamey taste due to the fact that it was blanched in hot water first before marination. There is no gravy or dalcha served with the biryani, only a yoghurt-based raita as a side dish, and no ghee is used so you can be sure that what you are tasting is the real deal.
7. 328 Katong Laksa:
Where: 51 East Coast Road
Amount spent: SGD5.35 for one small bowl of laksa
Verdict: This place is famous for having bested Gordon Ramsay in the Hawker Heroes Challenge, and for good reason. The laksa gravy is rich in flavour, made with coconut milk, chili, dried shrimps and herbs. The dish is topped with shrimps and cockles, and the noodles are well-known for being cut into shorter strands so you only need a spoon to eat them. I easily polished off the entire bowl, rare for me as I usually only have rich food in small doses, but the gravy was so perfectly balanced that I found myself continually going back for more, until there was none left.
I managed to visit seven places with a grand amount of only SGD49.55 spent. What a great way to experience Singapore in all its authenticity! I sampled the country’s most iconic dishes, from Chinese to Indian and Indonesian, which is a testament to the rich diversity of Singapore’s culinary landscape. There are a total of 34 eateries that made the Bib Gourmand list, I now have 27 more reasons to visit Singapore again.