Sunday, April 06, 2014

Guide to Bukit Timah Food Centre

Since I live a stone's throw away from Bukit Timah Food Centre, I thought it'd be useful for ~people~ to have a "veteran's" guide to the food center. I realized that there are a lot of stalls selling more or less the same foods, so it can be confusing for the unfamiliar patron to tell which serves the "better" dish. However, it is also useful to see which stall has the longer queue to gauge its cook's skill.
Carrot cake
There are a few (4?) stalls selling carrot cake here. I mean the Chinese version, of course, not the American dessert. Only one stall sells the black version of carrot cake, so if you're a fan of that, you don't have much choice. For fans of the white carrot cake, however, you will find that He Zhong Carrot Cake serves a pretty good one. The stall is constantly busy, with many orders to fill and many assistants running about serving plates of carrot cake. The stall is easy to identify, with numerous newspaper clippings adorned on it's display wall. I prefer He Zhong as they fry the egg on top of the radish, and are extremely generous with the chye poh. Again, taste is subjective, so I cannot say with absolute certainty that He Zhong has the best carrot cake in this market. However, I am confident that it is one of the best. The other carrot cake which is good enough to pose sufficient threat to He Zhong would be Seng Kee Carrot Cake, which is just a few stalls down from He Zhong (in the same aisle).
The carrot cake pictured is from He Zhong Carrot Cake
He Zhong Carrot Cake: #02-185
Seng Kee Carrot Cake: #02-182
134 Carrot Cake: #02-134 (the black version)
(Another review on He Zhong Carrot Cake: ieatishootipost)
Hokkien mee
There are two stalls selling Hokkien mee in Bukit Timah Food Centre. One of them has a persistently long queue in front of the stall, while the other has virtually to customers waiting in line. Yet, the latter serves up the better Hokkien mee of the two. Perhaps it is the speed of cooking that explains the lack of a queue, then. That aside, I find that this stall, Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee (yes, how original) serves one of the best Hokkien mee I've ever tasted. You can choose to have it served on either a simple black plate or on an opal leaf, for an extre cost. Recently, the owner has started scrimping on ingredients, however. Instead of three juicy big prawns, now there are only one big prawn and two smaller prawns in a small plate of Hokkien mee. :-( Though unfortunate, this means that the price remains the same ($3.50). The other rival stall (Xie Kee Hokkien Mee) is located in the middle of the hawker centre, and uses green plates (that's the best description I can offer). There is always a queue there and so many mistake that to be the "best" Hokkien mee stall. However, I find the noodles there soggy and the yellow noodle they use is the flat kind. It's more of personal taste I suppose, but the noodles also tasted very yellow, if you get what I mean. Hence, I would definitely choose Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee's Hokkien mee over the other any time, any day.
Hokkien Mee
(Image credits: Ladyironchef)
Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: #02-145
Xie Kee Hokkien Mee: #02-174
Satay Bee Hoon
There is only one stall selling satay bee hoon, and that is Sin Chew Satay Bee Hoon. They only open on certain days of the week, so do check if they are open on the day you are planning to visit (if you are eyeing the satay bee hoon). I personally don't fancy satay bee hoon but judging from the perennial long queue in front of the stall, it is safe to say that their satay bee hoon is delicious. Be prepared to queue around ten to fifteen minutes for your food!
Sin Chew Satay Bee Hoon: #02-162
Tasty Thai Hut
This is the only Thai stall in Bukit Timah Food Center, and is one of the best hawker Thai stalls I've tried. The lady owner is Thai so this ensures that her customers get an authentic plate/bowl of Thai goodness. Every thing here is $5 so it is easier to collect/count money (I think) and there is not much variety. What this means, though, is that the quality of each dish would be much better. After all, who would want to be a Jack of all trades, if he is the master of none?
Anyway, what I highly recommend is the Basil Chicken rice with Egg. Yes, the Pad Thai, Tom Yam, Pineapple rice and Green Curry with Chicken is delicious, but if I could only choose one dish? It would be the Basil Chicken without any hesitation at all. It is actually a very simple dish, but what makes this yummilicious is the gravy that the chicken is cooked in. It's not exactly a gravy per se, but it is absorbed by the rice and gives a wonderful flavour to the otherwise bland rice.
Pad Thai
Basil Chicken rice // Green curry with chicken
Tom Yam Seafood soup
Pineapple rice (look at that huge mound of pork floss!)
Tasty Thai Hut: #02-159
Braised duck
This stall, named Boneless Braised Duck, serves delicious...what else, but braised duck! It always has a long queue, especially on weekends. It also sells out its ducks by early evening, so don't expect it to be open during dinner-time. The duck is tender, and the sauce has a hint of sweetness to it. There are a sprinkling of other stalls in the food centre that sell braised duck as well, but it is my view that this is the best.
Boneless Braised Duck: #02-164
Fishball noodles
Sheng Cheng has the best fishball noodles in Bukit TImah Food Centre, and there's little doubt about that. There are one or two other fishball noodle stalls here, but Sheng Cheng reigns above them all. All right, I may be over-dramatizing things here a little. Evidence of its popularity is that it is only open in the morning, and on a weekend, expect to wait around half an hour for your bowl of noodles! The secret to it's tastiness would be the sauce that is mixed with the noodles in the dry version. It just makes one feel so...good. Hahaha this is a really inadequate description but it is all I can offer. Really. It is literally out of this world/too intangible to be captured in mere words.
Sheng Cheng Fishball Noodle: #02-165
Sugarcane juice
There are many sugarcane juice-sellers in Bukit Timah Food Centre, but the best is definitely stall #02-124 (100% Pure Sugarcane Juice). The stall owner clearly chose a unique and impressive stall name. Then again, it's a hawker centre - keep it simple and clear. The sugarcane juice is far from diluted, yet is not overly concentrated either. It's is just the right mix of sweetness, and is definitely thirst-quenching. Or, it can also be a huge relief to your burning tongue if you ate a bit too much sambal (which is not uncommon here).
100% Pure Sugarcane Juice: #02-122
Traditional Singaporean breakfast
There are countless drinks stalls that also serve the iconic kaya-butter-toast-with-eggs set for breakfast, but only one stall has a snaking queue in front of it even before the crack of dawn. Hup Cheong Coffee Shop is its name. The toast is toasted using the old-fashioned grill, and the bread is sourced from those old-school bakeries, crust-less. The eggs are always perfectly done, with the yolk oozing out pure gold. The coffee is good too, as it is very gao. This may not appeal to some, because again, it is a case of each individual's personal preference. This stall opens only in the morning, though.
Hup Cheong Coffee Shop: #02-173
Wu Xiang
Zhong Zhong Fine Spice is quite an unusual name for a stall selling a variety of fried foods. This is basically like a deep-friend version of your yong tau foo. A plate of bee hoon costs just $0.50, and is a lovely addition to your fried platter. The squid and water chestnut is especially delicious. However, it can be pretty expensive, for a meal that is not exactly very filling. Also, health-conscious people should stay as far away from this as possible. The bee hoon literally drips with oil. The fried foods, though, aren't that oily as they are deep-fried (oh, the irony of this statement). Anyway, this is good for a once-in-a-while treat or cheat meal.
Zhong Zhong Fine Spice: #02-149
Barbecued foods/Tze char
There are about three stalls selling barbecued foods/tze char items here. Ah Poh BBQ Seafood has one of the better ones. The Sambal Sting-ray is absolutely delicious, and is the most popular item there. The rest are pretty ordinary actually, with the usual cereal prawns and la la. However, do give them a try for the Sambal Sting-ray. The sambal is shiok-er than the other stalls, and that's what gives the dish its kick!
Ah Poh BBQ Seafood: #02-119/120
Popiah
There are two popiah stalls in Bukit Timah Food Centre, one selling both popiah and rojak and the other selling only popiah. It should be quite obvious which is the better stall (the one selling only popiah, duh!). It is called Xiang Ji Popiah. Its signboard says it also sells nasi lemak etc. but it doesn't, really. Oh, it sells kueh pie tee too but seeing as its practically like popiah and both stalls sell it, that isn't a big factor here. I prefer Xiang Ji popiah over the other stall as it does not use garlic, for one. Garlic causes you to have terrible breath afterward and is also not very pleasant to chew on (IMO). Also, Xiang Ji's popiah skin is much thinner and has the feeling of a Vietnamese spring roll, unlike the other stall's tortilla-wrap-like popiah skin.
popiah-3.jpg
Xiang Ji : #02-167
Ann Le Xiang Rojak: #02-152 (the rival stall) ((that its name is "rojak" should ring warning bells already))
Char Kway Tiao (Fried rice noodles)
There are stalls selling both the Singaporean version and the Penang version of the fried rice noodles. I personally prefer the Penang version as it is less sweet and less oily. However, if you crave the Singaporean rendition of it, I recommend you to try . As for the Penang version, 133 Penang Authentic is the stall to go to. They sell prawn noodles as well, but their char kway tiao is much, much better. It is not dry, without being wet and soggy as well. The cook is generous with his ingredients, and you may find a handful of cockles and prawns in your plate of char kway tiao, all for less than $5!
Penang char kway tiao
133 Penang Authentic: #02-193
Kway Chap
This is more of a breakfast item, as the stall selling the best kway chap here is only open for business in the mornings, and sometimes during lunch hour. Expect long queues in the morning, particularly on weekends. I am not a fan of any animal organ-related foods, but my parents love it, and there is always a long queue in front of the stall, so I will trust that this stall has the better kway chap of the few in the same market.
kway-chup.jpg
138 Kway Chap Porridge: #02-138
Fish soup
With newspaper cuttings all over, one fish soup stall certainly stands out from the others. It does not help that the other stalls are all tucked in obscure corners of the market, whilst this one is facing the main road, in full view of all patrons. This "superstar" stall is Quan Xiang Fish Porridge. Yes, they did use to serve really delicious fish soup, and they still do! However, now they are cutting costs like never before. Each bowl of fish soup contains five to ten small slivers of sliced fish, which is barely enough to satisfy a person. Thus, I would not recommend you to try the fish soup at Quan Xiang, unless you have a small appetite or enjoy getting ripped off. The other fish soup stalls serve a decent bowl of fish soup as well, with chock full of fish in it, so my advice would be to give them a try instead!
Quan Xiang Fish Porridge: #02-146
Leng Kee: #02-192 (pretty good fish soup as well)
Soon Heng: #02-139
Beef noodles
There is only one stall which sells beef noodles here, as far as I know. And by "selling beef noodles", I mean full-fledged dedication to beef. Tip Top Beef Brisket is run by an elderly lady who shows care and concern to every one of her customers, telling them to "be careful" or "remember to carry an umbrella" in a gentle, grandmotherly tone. How nice. :-) Her beef brisket is excellent to boot. It contains little fat and tendon, unlike most other beef briskets. The soup stock is also flavourful, thanks to the chunks of beef being slow-broiled in it. I love that it doesn't feel too jelat but also makes for a healthy meal!
Tip Top Beef Brisket: #02-140
So, that's all for now! These are the few stalls that are really worth the attention when visiting Bukit Timah Food Centre. It can be very confusing and intimidation for the uninitiated, since there are food stalls everywhere claiming to sell the most delicious (___)! I hope this guide will help you navigate your way through the food centre to discover the gems of Bukit Timah Food Centre. :-) If you have any comments/feedback/suggestions of places I may have missed out or given an unfair review to, do leave a reply to this post! (it's right at the top of the post, hehe)

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