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!
Hello Makan Kakis! Welcome to the first installment of our National Day special, featuring the 5 top local eats (worthy of “national dish” status), as voted by our Gold 905 listeners. The clear favourite, coming in head, shoulders and tail feathers above the rest, was chicken rice. Unsurprising, since nobody can resist tender chicken and toothsome rice, all bathed in mouth-watering aromatics. Add condiments of chilli sauce and thick, sticky-sweet black soya sauce, sliced cucumbers and a bowl of soup, chicken rice is a complete, affordable meal that truly reflects our country’s culinary history and development.
Initially brought to Singapore in the late 1800s by early Hainanese immigrants from China, chicken rice has evolved to suit local palates. Cantonese influences have crept into its preparation, from the tangy red chilli dipping sauce, to the traditional way of poaching whole chickens, then plunging them into cold water for that distinctive smooth, tender meat and gelatinous skin. The poaching liquid is also used to cook the fragrant and flavourful oil-coated rice, which some insist is the most important element of the entire dish.
When Gold 905 listeners were asked where they like to go for their favourite chicken rice fix, a few popular players emerged, of course – famous names like Tian Tian, Boon Tong Kee and Wee Nam Kee, as well as stalwarts like Yet Con and Chin Chin. Honestly though, discussions about where to find the best of this beloved national dish won’t reach any satisfactory conclusions. It’s impossible to find the “best”, simply because every self-respecting Singaporean has their own preference when it comes to the fragrance, flavours and textures of chicken rice. That said, here are a few we think are delicious for different reasons.
It’s Singapore’s Birthday Month! And in our month-long series on home-grown brands, we see the return of Alex Pang, Director of New Ubin Seafood – a truly Singaporean Tze Char restaurant brand known for not just their take on tasty traditional dishes, but also their innovative twist on Western contemporary dishes. Dining out on the tastiest dishes Singapore has to offer is a tradition with the Pang Family and many of Alex’s favourite makan spots are places he’s been frequenting with his parents since he was a child. Case-in-point, Alex’s favourite Chicken Rice restaurant at Far East Plaza, a place his Mum has been taking him to since he was 5 or 6 years old – and it’s still there! He says you can’t get more Singaporean than sharing a Chicken Rice meal with your family. And while yes, where to find the best Chicken Rice will remain a highly debatable subject, Alex maintains that amongst the many places he frequents, this place really has the stand out Chicken Rice for him.
Hello Makan Kakis! Meet our new Foodie Friend S. Mahenthiran, Honorary Secretary of Indian Restaurants Association Singapore, organizers of The Great Indian Food Fest (from July 19-28 ), to celebrate the rich history, culture and evolution of Little India and its diverse cuisine.
Sixteen food carts have been set up along Campbell Lane for the public to indulge in little seen or heard of Indian, as well as Chinese and Malay, dishes from the 1960s, like Putu Bola and Kuli Paniyaram (which you can have savoury & spicy, or as a sweet dessert). Visitors can also take part in a guided heritage food trail through Tekka Centre involving food tasting and interaction with hawkers. Free activities like the parrot fortune teller, snake charmer and henna art have also been brought in to enhance the experience. Look out also for Singapore’s only authentic kacang puteh man, who usually can be seen at Peace Centre – he makes his appearance at the Great Indian Food Festival too! So if you’re hankering after a cherished taste of flavours from the past, or looking for a fun, tasty & educational experience for the younger ones in your family, this is the place to be! You still have time to head on over to the Great Indian Food Fest on Campbell Lane. It’s on daily till Sunday, 10am – 10pm.
Mahen also happens to come from a proud culinary heritage – his family owns & runs Gayatri Restaurants, which was started by his father 23 years ago in 1996. From the age of 14, after starting to help out at the restaurant and really getting involved in the nitty gritty – washing dishes & scrubbing pots in the kitchen – his passion for food and the family business was sparked. Today, Mahen is the Director of Gayatri Restaurant and when he’s got a Sunday off from his busy job, he usually ends up at a place he’s been eating at with his parents since he was a kid.
Greetings, Makan Kakis! This week, our newest foodie friend is Moe Ibrahim, the founder & CEO of Deelish Brands, the restaurant management company that has brought Californian fast-casual chain Fatburger to Singapore.
As a hotelier and entrepreneur, he’s especially passionate about the quality of the ingredients and the service at Fatburger Singapore, so have a listen to what he has to say about their Fresh, Authentic & Tasty burgers here:
Originally from Jersey City, USA, Moe has had 20 years of living in Singapore to really get to know our local food and develop a love for chilli & spice. A self-confessed East Coast boy, he has a couple of neighbourhood favourites to recommend:
First of all, the hawker classic that everybody loves, Chicken Rice! Moe loves the stall at the corner of Upper East Coast Road & Jalan Tua Kong – mainly because of the people there. The Uncle used to race cars and is a real character, while the Auntie always serves him extra chicken. To Moe, it’s all about the service and people putting in that extra touch.
Peking Roasted Chicken Rice Soy Eu Tua Coffee Shop
15 Upper East Coast Rd, S(455207)
Open Daily: 9am – 7pm
Another favourite of Moe’s is the Prawn Mee along East Coast Road, which sees long queues all the time. He prefers having the dry version and with the smaller (not giant tiger) prawns because they have more flavour.
Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating House
370 East Coast Road, S(428981)
Open: 8am – 4pm (Closed Tuesdays)
Tel: +65 6345 7196
This week, our Makan Kaki is F&B consultant, Co-owner of Park Bench Deli & guest judge on Masterchef Singapore, Ming Tan. His favourite chicken rice is one that his family has followed for decades since he was a young boy, from one location to the next, until its current home at Holland Drive. This rice is what Chef Ming calls “WORLD CLASS”. It is a rice that haunts him and he craves when he’s away from Singapore. So much effort and thought has been put into the making of this rice, that it simply blows him away. This is Cantonese-style rice and it’s the fragrance & texture achieved through a judicious cooking process that gets him every time.
Hello Makan Kakis! This week, our foodie friend Audrey Lee of Little House of Dreams tells us all about her favourite place for Hainanese Chicken Rice, which you’ll find at a stall in Jurong East. Xing Yun (meaning lucky) does brisk business, serving up platters of boneless poached chicken that is soft and tender, sitting atop fragrant rice. But what sets this apart from other chicken rice places is their sauce! A light, tasty, aromatic combination of soya sauce, sesame oil and other secret ingredients, Audrey can’t get enough of it and always orders an extra bowl to drench her chicken rice with.
Greetings, Makan Kakis, we start 2018 with a brand new foodie friend, one who’s no stranger to the F&B business, having successfully started his own Chinese casual dining restaurant that broke even within 3 months of its opening, probably due to their signature recipe for saucy, succulent Char Siew (which you can see and read about here). Please meet Anthony Ung of CHAR Restaurant!
CHAR Restaurant first appeared on the dining scene in Singapore in 2014 when it was launched by Vietnam-born, Birmingham-UK-raised Anthony & his brother Alvin, a chef by profession. With his 30 years of experience working in Chinese restaurants in Birmingham from dishwasher to head chef in traditional Chinese cooking, Alvin’s culinary expertise combined perfectly with Anthony’s meticulous science and IT background & passion for experimenting with Western food preparation techniques on Asian ingredients and produce. They definitely hit on a winning formula and after a wildly successful run at their original location along Guillemard Road, Anthony and his Singaporean Wife are delighted to have moved CHAR to a bigger, brighter space along Jalan Besar.
HEAR: Click here to listen to Anthony’s story about fleeing Vietnam to the UK and how Char got started in Singapore Click here to listen to Anthony’s culinary influences, childhood food memories and why he loves Chicken Rice Click here to listen to Anthony’s recommendation for his favourite Chicken Rice in Singapore
Anthony professes an obsession with our local Chicken Rice, which he ate everyday for 3 months when he first moved to Singapore, leading to a 5 kg weight gain, which also means he’s eaten his way through many plates, many brands and many types to arrive at the conclusion that this is HIS FAVOURITE Chicken Rice and in his humble opinion, THE BEST in Singapore.