Big, Bouncy Hakka Beef Balls

Generally, unless it’s homemade, I find beef balls sold frozen at supermarkets or served at most hawker stalls unsatisfactorily small and unpleasantly floury, filled with more binder than real meat. Then I discovered The Beef House’s Hakka beef balls, recommended by my Makan Kaki, Lyn Lee of Awfully Chocolate and Sinpopo Brand.

The family behind said beef balls might sound familiar, especially if you recall their handmade yong tau foo I introduced in an earlier story. Noting the steady stream of customers at their sister stall, I just had to return to the always busy Gar Lok Eating House for a taste of their Hakka beef balls.

Chin is the man in charge of beef ball production and the supplier of the distinctive beef balls Mr Chia has been serving up with noodles and in soup for the last twenty years. Since Gar Lok Eating House became their new home in 2000, Chin has been making beef balls and Mr Chia has been cooking them for their growing customer base.

Brenda, the wife of Chin, who herself comes from an F&B family (her grandfather used to sell soybean milk at nearby Sungei Road), revealed, “My husband has a 3am start everyday. He waits for the cartons of Australian beef to arrive in the morning, then beef ball production begins.”

Most of the fat is removed from the beef, which is then minced, seasoned and mixed according to an old family recipe. In fact, Chin and his father even travelled back to China to re-learn the art of making beef balls the time-honoured Hakka way.

 

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MAKAN KAKIS SALUTES HAWKERS FOR UNESCO RECOGNITION

CONGRATULATIONS, SINGAPORE!

Our hawker culture has officially been added to the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity! In celebration, let’s go back and explore some of our best-loved hawker dishes, as voted by GOLD 905 listeners earlier this year. Simply scroll through & click on the list I’ve conveniently compiled for you below.

With sincere thanks to all the hawkers past, present and future, for all your hard work, expertise and contributions to Singapore’s unique food heritage. We salute you!

For more, come back often and explore my entire archive of delicious Makan Kakis recommendations!

x denise

  1. Click the pic below for Chicken Rice options:

2. Click the pic below for Laksa options:

3. Click the pic below for Chilli Crab options:

4. Click the pic below for Hokkien Mee options:

5. Click the pic below for Rojak options:

Legendary Little India Chapati & Keema

A conversation the other day at family lunch had the table divided over Indian flatbreads. I love the full-on flavours of prata and thosai, but some older relatives swore their allegiance to chapati, saying nothing beats a freshly-made, unadulterated roti hot off the griddle.

Not having a lot of chapati experience to go on, I decided to make it my next makan mission to hunt down some of the best in Singapore. I needed to understand the appeal of something I had always thought was a bit plain, compared to its more flavourful cousins.

After several urgent text messages, a night of googling and an intense discussion with a foodie friend, I had narrowed my search down to just one place. Said friend had admitted, on days her family may be too tired or pressed for time to make their own from scratch, a quick drive-by and pick-up at Azmi Restaurant was truly the next best thing for excellent unleavened flatbread.

Continue reading “Legendary Little India Chapati & Keema”

Authentic, Hand-made Hakka Yong Tau Foo

The last thing I expected to find in the Little India area was authentic, hand-made Hakka delicacies, but following a hot tip from my Makan Kaki Lyn Lee of Awfully Chocolate & Sinpopo Brand, I went looking for a stall that’s been run by one family for more than three decades, located in a coffee shop along Syed Alwi Road.

One of two side-by-side stalls run by the Chia family, customers have been flocking there for a taste of authentic Hakka yong tau foo since 1984. I met Mr Chia Teck Kwang who was busy serving up his few remaining bowls to straggling lunchtime customers. It was a little past 2pm and I was thankful he had enough for my maiden taste of his famed dish.

First started by Mr Chia’s late father who was still making yong tau foo up to the ripe old age of ninety-one, the business has operated out of their current coffee shop for over twenty years. Mr Chia told me that together with their father, his four brothers and two sisters have always sold their yong tau foo in and around the same area. Quite the chatty, gregarious character, he encouraged me to have more drinks while I waited for him to prepare my $3 set of yong tau foo in soup, with an accompanying side of dry minced meat noodles ($4 and $5 sets also available).

Click below for all the details on those nourishing bowls of yong tau foo, featuring favourites along with a few other delicious surprises:

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Mee Soto made of Heritage, Hype & Hope

If you’re looking for something nourishing and comforting, there’s nothing quite like a bowl of chicken noodle soup, especially if a local version beckons – one that’s rich, luxurious and packed full of spicy flavour. I knew I was on to a winner after my first try of the mee soto from Yunos N Family.

A foodie friend kindly had some delivered to me during the circuit breaker and even having withstood a long journey, it still bowled me over. So I went searching for the source of my soupy isolation consolation.

Ang Mo Kio Central Market & Food Centre was where I found the popular stall, which first made its name selling decadent, customizable mee rebus (mee soto came later). The business began six decades ago with the story of third generation hawker Afiq Rezza’s late grandfather (the eponymous Yunos), who travelled alone from the Solo, on the Indonesian island of Java, to Singapore as an enterprising young man.

It was 1960 when he started selling mee rebus from a pushcart at Hastings Road in Little India. By 1979, Mr Yunos relocated to a stall in Ang Mo Kio Ave 6 and there Yunos N Family has remained ever since. Afiq’s father took over running the stall around the same time as the move and believed in training the children to work hard for things they wanted, so during school holidays, they always helped out at the stall.

A valuable life lesson, yet no formal cooking lessons have taken place, to pass down grandpa’s legacy through the generations. Afiq explained, “We try to preserve the old recipes as much as possible, but my father has never taught me to cook any of the dishes. He’s not the manja (pampering or babying) kind. And my late grandfather was also not the kind to manja and teach either.”

Despite that, the family has still managed to preserve the authenticity of the food, which Afiq said sets them apart from others. Besides Grandpa’s original mee rebus, Yunos N Family’s culinary repertoire has expanded to include satay, gado-gado and mee soto. According to him, there are many different versions of the latter, “The Javanese, in particular, like things sweet. So we follow that style. As a matter of fact, everything we serve is quite sweet and we try to stay as authentic as possible.”

Rest assured though, even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, there were a whole lot of other flavours going on to give their mee soto lots of depth.

For more on Yunos N Family’s mee soto, click the links below:

Continue reading “Mee Soto made of Heritage, Hype & Hope”

Light & Creamy Satay Bee Hoon with History

For someone who prides herself on being an adventurous diner, the latest makan recommendation from my foodie friend, Lyn Lee of Awfully Chocolate & Sinpopo Brand, absolutely confounded me. A hawker dish I had never tried before? How could it be? So sorely in need of a palate readjustment, I was determined to investigate Lyn’s childhood favourite – a particular slice of Bukit Timah nostalgia and the tasty history of Sin Chew Satay Bee Hoon.

Husband-and-wife team, Mr Tay Que Huak & Madam Koh Git Tia, were in action the day I paid the stall a visit. As the story goes, their signature dish was the result of a happy accident. Madam Koh explained, “The family actually used to sell fishball mee but switched to satay bee hoon because one day, my father-in-law brought home satay and there were leftovers. My mother-in-law said not to waste the sauce, so she cooked it with bee hoon and they discovered it was actually very tasty together!”

Born out of frugality and a little bit of culinary creativity, Sin Chew Satay Bee Hoon has roots in Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre that go back more than four decades. They are considered one of the few remaining pioneer heritage hawkers who moved their street food stalls from along Bukit Timah canal into the food centre.

It’s always been a family business, beginning with Mr Tay’s father in 1956, who passed it on to his children. The Tays themselves are semi-retired now, with their daughter shouldering the bulk of duties at their stall. “Our daughter started helping us right after graduating from Ngee Ann poly. She’s taken over for ten years already,” Mr Tay said proudly.

These days, Sin Chew Satay Bee Hoon’s success has afforded them the luxury of scaling back operation hours to just lunch and dinner (with a break in between) four days a week. This has only served to increase customers’ appetite for their saucy signature, with regulars often forming a queue before opening times.

What makes their satay bee hoon so popular? Click below to find out more:

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Orchard Road Secret: Nasi Padang with Killer Sambal Belacan!

Say you’re starving but you still want variety – something quick, tasty and wallet-friendly. Say those hunger pangs hit hard whilst you’re in the Orchard Road area. Nasi Padang might not be the most obvious choice to fulfill those criteria – unless your Makan Kakis Farah & Claudinho de Morais (behind Brazilian home business Claudinho’s Kitchen) recommend you try one of their favourite hidden gems, tucked away in a quiet fourth-floor corner of Far East Plaza.

Mansor D’Cafe is a mini makan place that can barely fit more than 12 diners (thanks, safe distancing!) in its compact premises. But what it lacks in space, it makes up in masses of flavour and choices. There, classic Malay lunch plates are served cafeteria-style (just get in line and point at what you want) by a charming couple, Mr Amin Mansor and his wife Jamilah Md. Daud.

“Our Nasi Padang is Singapore style! You really cannot find this in other places. All home recipes,” said Mr Amin, affectionately calling Madam Jamilah the “chief chef” and main pillar of their restaurant. Home and heart were never far from his lips when Mr Amin spoke. Respectfully named for Mr Amin’s father, they’ve been keeping Mansor D’Cafe in the family for more than fifteen years at Far East Plaza.

The whole Mansor D’Cafe experience – from the kampung spirit, through which customers were warmly welcomed and treated as more than friends, to the delicious home-spun recipes using fresh ingredients and celebrating local flavours – was like a home-coming.

Click below for all the sedap details:

Continue reading “Orchard Road Secret: Nasi Padang with Killer Sambal Belacan!”

Wing is King at this Shrimp Paste Chicken Stall!

Fried chicken is, undeniably, a universal favourite. Who doesn’t enjoy tender marinated meat coated in a crispy seasoned batter? The USA has Southern fried chicken, Japan has karaage, Taiwan has Da Ji Pai (XXL chicken cutlet), South Korea has Yangnyeom chicken and Indonesia has ayam penyet. But here in Singapore, har cheong gai (literally shrimp sauce chicken in Cantonese, but also often referred to as shrimp or prawn paste chicken) deserves some time in the spotlight.

It also happens to be the obsession of one young hawker, 28-year-old Tan Wee Yang of Ah Tan Wings, who set up his first stall in Yishun Avenue 11 three years ago after he realised no one specialised in just this one fried chicken dish. It’s usually found it amongst many other items on zichar stall menus, so he decided to create a place dedicated to shrimp paste chicken wings. From there, he’s also added har cheong gai rice sets to his menu, but his outstandingly crispy, flavourful, aromatic chicken remains the star.

Click the links below for more deep-fried, crispy-crunchy goodness:

Continue reading “Wing is King at this Shrimp Paste Chicken Stall!”