Tiong Bahru Market Food Guide – Top 40 stalls reviewed: Tasty pork organ soup, crispy Taiwanese chicken and more
Tiong Bahru Market Food Guide – Top 40 stalls reviewed: Tasty pork organ soup, crispy Taiwanese chicken and more
Tiong Bahru Market Food Guide – Top 40 stalls reviewed: Tasty pork organ soup, crispy Taiwanese chicken and more
Tiong Bahru might have become quite the hipster enclave, but it’s also well-established for its treasure trove of old school Singapore hawker delights. In the heart of the neighbourhood sits Tiong Bahru Market, one of the best known hawker centres in Singapore, frequented by local foodies and expats alike.
The modern triplex houses the popular food centre on the second floor, sandwiched between the market on the first floor and the carpark on the third. The spacious food centre is home to a few Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmands, like Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Noodles, as well as old favourites that have been in business for decades.
Kampong Carrot Cake
#02-53 Tiong Bahru Market
When you watch someone who's really in their element at work, their movements so fluid and practised that it's almost second nature, it's quite an impressive sight. It was like that watching Kampong Carrot Cake's uncle fry up his umpteenth order of the day, smoothly cracking an egg into the sizzling hot wok, blending it into the cubes of radish cake.
The stall's front is practically covered with news clippings and various accolades that it's collected since it started operations in the 1980s. What I didn't realise until the auntie came up to take my order was that they share the same owners as Hot Plate Western Food. I ordered the white carrot cake ($3), as I usually do, but for those who like the best of both worlds can order the mixed plate at $5. It's one of the most flavourful carrot cakes I've had; the uncle certainly does not have a light touch when it comes to seasoning.
Together with the chye poh (preserved radish), egg, oil and sauces, it had a rich, almost intense flavour that's only cut by the sharpness of the raw spring onions sprinkled on top. I almost feel like I need to eat this with a cup of Chinese tea at the ready. It also had a good blend of textures, the soft but not mushy radish cakes with the crunchy chye poh, the scrambled egg that complements it perfectly. Definitely worth a try, but I'd order it to share.
Skirt & Dirt
#02-66 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Tue - Sun: 11am-7.30pm, Closed on Mon
I was intrigued when we heard about this new addition to Tiong Bahru Market. The burger joint opened in August 2020, with unique offerings like the duck confit burger at wallet-friendly prices. Taking cue from its name, I ordered the cheese skirt beef burger ($6.80) and the dirt fries ($4). Once you’ve paid, you get a beeper to alert you when your food is ready.
I’d been wondering if the “skirt” meant that the patty was made from skirt steaks, but apparently, it referred to the cheese “skirt” spilling out of the burger. The cheese itself was a welcome presence, adding sharpness and some smokiness to the juicy but otherwise bland patty. However, its unwieldy size made handling the burger a little awkward and struck me as a little gimmicky. The sauce was also oddly reminiscent of a Big Mac’s (as was the sesame bun), and didn’t really complement the cheese well.
As for the fries, a little disappointed that they were generic, likely frozen, crinkle-cut fries, instead of hand-cut skin-on fries, but I thoroughly enjoyed them anyway. They were, as the name suggested, dirty fries indeed, topped with bacon, pickles, mayonnaise, red bell peppers, and what looked like nacho cheese – satisfyingly calorific. Roasted or charred bell peppers would probably have worked better flavours-wise rather than raw, but on the whole, it’s a worthy effort with some room for improvement.
Koh Brother Pig's Organ Soup
#02-29 Tiong Bahru Market
My friend is a big fan of Koh Brother Pig's Organ Soup and never fails to have a big bowl every time we're there, so I finally decided to give it a try and see what the fuss was about. The very popular zhu zar tang was started by Mr Koh in the 50s and remains a family business to this day. Not surprisingly, there's usually a queue, but good things come to those who wait.
One sip and I was hooked. The Teochew-style pig's organ soup ($4.50) was beautifully clear and subtly sweet, clean, crisp flavours that don't overpower. The offal was all meticulously cleaned and prepared, with very little, if any, lingering smells.
The big intestines had more of a tinge to them, but I think they were also prepared together with the salted vegetables to help mask the scent further - they had a pronounced saltiness similar to the preserved vegetables. I quite enjoyed the tender liver, which still had the distinctive iron taste (but in a good way) and a nice creamy texture. Lean pork, pig's stomach and meatballs were also executed well, as was a darker organ, possibly pig's heart? They were also fairly generous with the vegetables, which added a nice savouriness and texture.
There's also a lesser-known dish - the glutinous rice sausage ($2), which has peanuts and chestnuts - you can order instead of plain white rice. Densely packed, but not too chewy, the rice sausage is surprisingly subtle in flavour, with just a light umami and sweetness. Interesting to try, but I think I'll stick to the less filling white rice next time.
Tiong Bahru Pau
#02-18 Tiong Bahru Market
Despite its name, Tiong Bahru Pau offers more than just pau. There are a variety of dim sums and pastries like siew mai and egg tarts. However, one simply can’t go to a pau shop and not get paus. Having heard good things online about the char siew pau ($1), I got two of those and a big pau ($1.80) as well.
It’s the first time I’ve seen it written as “oyster char siew pau” in Chinese, so I Googled it and found out it was oyster sauce char siew pau, which explained the extra umami. There was also a bit of smokiness, which I felt really gave the char siew more dimension, rather than just its typical sweetness. The bun itself was alright, decently pillowy, but I found it stuck too firmly to the paper at the bottom. Trying to tear that paper away either resulted in bits still attached to the bun, or the whole bottom giving way and spilling its fillings.
I was a bit let down by the chicken big pau, because I’m used to finding a hard-boiled egg in it. Their version was egg-free for some reason. While the meat filling was okay, it just didn’t have the typical richness and wow factor of a big pau.
Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee
#02-01 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Tue - Sun: 11am-1pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm, Closed on Mon
Maybe it’s because of their Michelin Bib Gourmand certification, but there’s always a queue for Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee. Thankfully, I got here at around 1030am to avoid the lunch crowd, and there were only a few people ahead of me. I got my plate of steaming hot noodles in less than 10 minutes.
Sometimes, a few Michelin stickers and other stamps of approval can lead to overinflated expectations, but ultimately, taste is subjective. Personally, I think they do a pretty good hokkien mee ($4). It’s not too wet or too dry, with a decent amount of wok hei and a fair portion of ingredients. Ok, they might be a bit tight-fisted with prawns, but maybe that’s because I got the small plate. I didn’t really notice or mind though, because the squid, or sotong, was fresh and tender, not too chewy or mushy.
There were ample bits of egg and fishcake, and the chilli provided was equal parts spicy and fragrant, cutting through the richness of the fried noodles. I never skip the lime either. A squeeze of lime juice over the whole dish adds a whole dimension of zesty acidity. I just wish there was a bit more pork lard, but it’s probably healthier without.
#02-17 Tiong Bahru Market
If you're at Tiong Bahru Market and craving some Muslim food, make sure to swing by Ali Corner (incidentally not at a corner) for some well-priced options. The food – ayam penyet, tahu goreng, ikan penyet – seems Indonesian or Indonesia-influenced. I decided to try their ayam penyet ($5), prominently advertised on their signboard, as well as the mee bakso ($3.50) (soup noodles with meatballs).
Despite being their top-billed dish, the ayam penyet was slightly underwhelming. While the chicken had a somewhat crunchy exterior, it didn't stay crisp for long. The meat was tender though, if a little dry and bland. I tried dousing it with the bright red chilli but it was more sweet than spicy, and didn't really add much in the way of flavour. The squeeze of the lime half helped perk it up some, but it was too little to make much difference. A can skip.
On the other hand, the mee bakso really hit the spot. Similar to mee soto, except with meatballs, the mee bakso was a brothy bowl of yellow noodles with four quite substantial beefballs. A little tougher than other meatballs, though not unpleasantly so, they require a touch more jaw work, and are a little stronger in flavour, meatier, if you will. Accompanied by lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts and fried shallots, it's a light tasting but satisfying meal. If you like it hot, definitely try the dark chilli sauce, which has quite a bit of chilli seeds.
Tiong Bahru Tau Suan
#02-55 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Mon - Sun: 7.30am-2.30pm
It’s usually a good sign when a stall doesn’t have too many items on its menu, choosing to focus on just a couple, and doing them well. Tiong Bahru Tau Suan does only three local traditional hot desserts – tau suan, of course, pulut hitam and bubur terigu – for just $2 each. Apparently, they topped the tau suan category at the second Singapore Hawker Masters awards in 2011!
Of course, I had to try the award-winning tau suan, so I got that and their pulut hitam (both $2) as well. Tau suan is a gooey dessert made with mung beans suspended in sweet, gooey starch. A mark of a good tau suan is the beans themselves; they should be cooked until they’re softened without losing their shapes, and becoming too mushy. They were excellent here - you could taste the individual beans, and the syrup wasn’t too sweet. I didn’t mind that the you tiao was slightly soggy, and they gave it a nice sweet-savoury balance.
The pulut hitam, or black glutinous rice porridge, has a similarly well-balanced sweet and savoury flavour. The savoury comes from a hearty drizzle of coconut milk. They got the consistency right too; not too thick that it’s cloying and not too diluted. The only downside is the single-use plastic takeaway containers they serve the desserts in even if you’re “dining in”.
Tiong Bahru Braised Duck
#02-43 Tiong Bahru Market
I don't often find duck porridge at hawker centres, so when I see it, I always make a point to order it. Tiong Bahru Braised Duck does a decent version, but it's far from my favourite. I ordered the duck porridge ($3) and kway chap ($3.50); I'm usually not too fussed about specific cuts of meat, whether it's light or dark, thigh or breast.
But when it comes to porridge, I don't really like to contend with too much bone. I guess I drew the short straw here, because I got not much meat, and quite a bit of bone, and whatever meat there was on the dryer side too.
I actually preferred the kway chap, which had a nice array of ingredients: fish cake, hard boiled egg, braised pork belly, tau kwa, tau pok, pig skin and intestines. Everything was fine, but nothing really stood out for me. The kway itself, while not that silky, was relatively smooth, if a bit on the doughy side. The soup was mild but still had a detectable herbiness.
I don't know if I can wholeheartedly recommend Tiong Bahru Braised Duck when there are other options at the same market, but the prices are reasonable and the portions decent-sized. But be warned: the uncle's demeanour can be a little prickly.
Ding Shan Vegetarian
#02-14 Tiong Bahru Market
Unlike most economic bee hoon places, Ding Shan Vegetarian sells white bee hoon instead of the brown fried bee hoon. I'd also been eyeing the laksa, which looked quite good on the signboard, but by the time I got to the front, I realised there was masking tape over most of the items, indicating they were no longer available. I'm not quite sure if they were sold out or just no longer sold them, but the short but significant queue seemed to suggest the former.
Since I wanted to sample as many things as possible, I asked for my bee hoon with "everything", which came with mock char siew, mock fish (I think), chap chye (napa cabbage, long beans) and fried tau kee (all for $3.50).
It always amused me that such vegetarian food is marketed as healthy, as touted by Ding Shan, because that bee hoon was one of the greasiest foods I've had at the market. In fact, all the ingredients had a gleaming coat of grease, or was deep-fried. Not that I minded, of course, but I really doubt that it was as healthy as they claimed.
Healthy or not, the mock char siew was quite tasty and the closest to its real counterpart, down to its signature sweetness. Seitan is an imperfect mimic of mock fish, maybe mock fish cake slices would be closer, texture-wise. The "real" ingredients not pretending to be something else - chap chye and tau kee - tasted the most natural. Served with chopped green chillies.
Hot Plate Western Food
#02-54 Tiong Bahru Market
If you want some good old fashioned chicken chop or pork cutlet, then Hot Plate Western Food is the place to be. The traditional looking hawker stall serves up a variety of western meals, as well as Taiwan-style crispy chicken. Since I was there with my protein hungry buddy, I got a mixed grill ($10) and Taiwan style crispy chicken rice ($5) to share.
The mixed grill, chicken chop and beef steak, comes sizzling on a hot plate. You pick it up when the beeper goes so you don't have to crowd around the stall, waiting. It was quite a hearty portion of food for $10 - there was also a hot dog, a sunny-side-up fried egg, baked beans, crinkle-cut fries and a mound of coleslaw.
I was pleasantly surprised that the steak was done medium rare by default, the inside still a pleasing pink. It was relatively tender and flavourful, good value for money. The chicken chop was also good if a touch tough. I preferred the Taiwan style crispy chicken. It was tender and crispy, and dusted with a tasty chilli powder that gave it a bit of a kick. That also came with baked beans and coleslaw which were not bad, but the white rice was slightly undercooked and dry, but otherwise, a good meal I wouldn't hesitate to order again.
While both styles - grilled and deep-fried - were done well, I personally prefer their fried items as they were crispy but not overly greasy, and the chicken was more tender as well. Next time, I'm back I might just get the whole spring chicken.
Tiong Bahru Teochew Kueh
#02-02 Tiong Bahru Market
I'll be honest. I don't know much about teochew kueh, so I was slightly overwhelmed by the variety of foods on offer by Tiong Bahru Teochew Kueh. According to their menu at the side of their stall, they have some 30-odd items (all $1.30 each) including carrot cake and kueh lapis. So in the end, I decided to get a mix of familiar and new items, just to expand my horizons a little.
The two different soon kueh, one turnip, one chives, were comfortingly familiar, and I enjoyed them both. The turnip one was more substantial, a bit more crunch, a bit juicier, and the chives one had more bite and flavour from the sharp-tasting vegetable. The black bean cake was a little more unusual. It had the shape of the more familiar png kueh, but I hadn't encountered this style of kueh that looked like it had black beans, peanuts (and maybe other nuts) and glutinous rice mixed in with the dough, instead of wrapped with it. It was tender and chewy, and mildly fragrant - quite an enjoyable discovery.
The kueh kosui was also good, with a nice chewy texture and a rich aroma from the coconut. Another less familiar kueh to me was the mugwort cake; I didn't recognise either its English or Chinese names. Apparently, it's traditionally filled with mung bean paste, so no wonder it reminded me of orh ku kueh, or black tortoise cake. Not sure why they're still using disposable styrofoam plates, but hopefully they'll consider moving towards a more sustainable form of serving ware in the near future.
Hing Hing Soup Republic
#02-48 Tiong Bahru Market
I didn't know anything about Hing Hing Soup Republic but something about it always struck me as a legitimate establishment, with old-school vibes. As I was looking through the fairly extensive menu of soups, steamed rice, curry, and vegetable side dishes, I saw a few certificates for "Fine Culinary Skill". That bodes well, I thought.
Settling for my favourite lotus root with peanut and pork ribs soup ($4.50), and a steamed chinese sausage rice ($4.50), I continued perusing the menu while waiting for my order. They even have bak kut teh and braised pig's trotters set meals – how big is his kitchen exactly?
The soup arrived looking like it's been slow boiled for hours, its colours rich and intense. It didn't disappoint; I could taste the gentle sweetness of the lotus root and the rich umami from the pork with every spoonful. I especially appreciate the thinly sliced lotus root, which is more enjoyable to eat than too-chunky cuts. The pork was just tender enough, with plenty of flavourful fats and collagen.
The sausage rice was not bad either, but I would have preferred if the flavours were allowed to mingle longer, so that the grease and fats from the sausage and the black sauce could fully coat the white rice and steamed vegetables. In fact, the vegetables seemed just barely blanched, without seasoning, and seemed quite bland. Based on the strength of the soup though, I would be interested to come back to try their signature mini buddha jump over the wall.
New Market Teochew Kueh
#02-64 Tiong Bahru Market
Another stall selling teochew kueh at Tiong Bahru Market, New Market Teochew Kueh, is a bit more understated. Not only is it in a quieter area, further from the main entrance, its stall facade is a lot less colourful, and largely devoid of any decorations or pictures, save for a small one of soon kueh in the corner.
My guess is, this kueh stall operates on a slightly smaller scale, catering to a specific niche of loyal, long-time customers that come back regularly for a taste they can't easily find elsewhere. Those customers already know what they like, so they don't need visuals or menus. Unfortunately, I had no clue, so I fell back on good old fashioned pointing. That netted me a styrofoam plate of soon kueh and png kueh (both $1.10), one familiar, the other totally not. The soon kueh, I knew, and it was milder-tasting than what I was used to. I was grateful for the generous drizzles of black sweet sauce and chilli sauce the uncle gave.
As for the png kueh, I'm more familiar with the glutinous rice filled versions. I'd never had this, which seemed to be savoury bean paste (which incidentally was quite dry and crumbly), not a commonly found variant, according to a Teochew friend. I probably should've asked the uncle not to cut this up, because the filling very quickly fell out as soon as I picked a piece up with chopsticks. He also mentioned they were "fried", which I think he meant pan-fried. I'm not a big fan of this style of kuehs personally, but I think they’ve probably made as close to their original recipe as possible, and would appeal more to those who’ve grown up with it.
Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice
#02-82 Tiong Bahru Market
While a sizable queue in front of a hawker stall doesn’t automatically mean the food is good, at Tiong Bahru Market, it’s a pretty decent indication that it is at least worth checking out. Based on this logic, I joined the line for Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, which took around 20 to 25 minutes, unaware of their Bib Gourmand rating. I only found out when I got to the front and saw their Michelin stickers.
Wanting to sample both steam and roasted chicken rice, I ordered the mixed chicken rice ($5), which had both, as well as viscera ($2) on the side. The meal came with a small bowl of soup and some pickled vegetables. The highlight for me was the roasted chicken, which was fragrant, tender and flavourful, just marginally edging out the poached chicken, which was disappointingly (for me) deskinned.
The assorted innards were also well-received at the table, meticulously cleaned and adding some crunch and texture, not to mention flavour to the dish. I have to also give kudos to the chilli sauce because it was fiery, yet flavourful, with a bit of ginger and tartness. Even the soup is worth a mention. Typically, the small bowl of soup is almost an afterthought, but here it’s made light and refreshing to counter the inherent oiliness of the chicken rice.
So although the queue and its Michelin status did inflate my expectations, in this case, I think their accolades are deserved, as they do deliver on all counts, serving up a satisfying chicken rice meal at a decent price.
Tow Kwar Pop
#02-06 Tiong Bahru Market
If, like me, you’re unfamiliar with the dish tow kwar pop, then Tow Kwar Pop would be just another rojak stall. But it’s a blast from the past to those who grew up with it. Tow Kwar Pop the stall started in 1965, and is basically the same age as our nation. The uncle running the stall is still using the old-school method of grilling the tofu puffs over charcoal, which gives it its distinctive smoky aroma, and delicious crisp.
In the $4 set of rojak, you get tofu puffs stuffed with bean sprouts and cucumber, pineapple, turnip, you tiao, red apple, and shredded green papaya, sprinkled all over with crushed peanuts, which I suspect is roasted. Eat it with the provided black and chilli sauce, which gives it a rich, fermented taste. It’s a moderately light eat, great for a quick snack or even an appetiser, because of its tangy flavours.
I particularly enjoyed how crispy the tow kwar pops stayed, even while drenched in sauce, which is really a testament to how well they’re prepared. They’re packed well too, so you can enjoy them without spilling half its contents with every bite. I think this stall is worth a visit, even if you’re not a huge fan of rojak, because it’s really a taste of an irreplaceable tradition.
Joo Chiat Beef King
#02-35 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Wed - Mon: 8.30am-8.30pm, Closed on Tue
I don’t know how it took me so long to finally give the food at Joo Chiat Beef King a go, but I’m glad I finally did. It’s also not clear why the name says Joo Chiat when they’re located at Tiong Bahru, but I’m guessing that was where they were from. They also had fish soup and ban mian, but when at a stall called the beef king, I’m going to order beef – beef balls ($3.50) and beef four treasure soup ($5), to be exact.
I didn’t realise beforehand that one of the four treasures was beef balls, so maybe I should’ve ordered something else, like spicy beef noodles. Oh well. The other three treasures - beef brisket, beef tripe and beef tendon - were delicious, and it was clear that they had been boiling on the fire for quite some time. The flavours were rich and layered, infused with herbiness of the beef broth. The tripe was tender and clean-tasting, with no trace of odour at all.
My favourite was the collagen-rich tendon, which was melt-in-the-mouth soft, with a delicate jelly-like texture. The brisket was also good, though not as tender as I would’ve liked. As for the meatballs, they were nice and bouncy, and not too intensely beefy.
King is quite a lofty name to live up to but this hawker stall does quite a good job at it. I’d say it’s a worthwhile eat, especially if you’re a fan of Chinese-style beef.
Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow
#02-11 Tiong Bahru Market
Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow only does one dish and they do it rather well. The heritage stall has been in business for decades, started by owner Mr Tay when he was in his 20s. The business is mainly run by his daughter and her husband now, but the elder Tay, who’s in his 90s now, still occasionally makes an appearance behind the wok.
Be prepared to wait - the Lonely Planet-recommended dish is fried up a plate at a time, and during our last visit at noon, it took about 25 to 30mins of queue time, but perhaps it’s worth the few extra minutes on our feet for such a rich dish. Although they serve up a less greasy version of the popular char kway teow, it’s still quite a decadent little meal. $3 for a small plate nets you a healthy portion, with good smoky wok hei, and oily sweetness coming through from the chinese sausages.
The sliced fish cake lends a nice counter to the starchiness of the noodles. When it comes to the cockles, my verdict remains out. There was a good amount of them in my order, and though a little on the smaller side, they were plump and fresh, but they were quite mild-tasting and didn’t really add much oomph to the dish.
Tiong Bahru Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted
#02-60 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Fri - Wed: 8.30am-8.30pm, Closed on Thu
There’s always a queue in front of Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted, but luckily it moves at quite a decent pace. I was there for lunch just before noon and got to the front in around 15 minutes. On the whole, I was quite impressed with the cuts of meat. At $3 per plate for most of the dishes, it seems quite good value for money. Wanting to sample as many of their roasts as possible, I ordered the sizeable $7 portion which included roasted duck, roasted pork as well as char siew.
The char siew had a decent char with a slightly thicker cut than what I’m used to, which probably made it a bit chewier than usual too. We thought it had good balance of sweet and savoury. While my lunch companion preferred the char siew, I’m personally more partial to the roast pork, which was tender and flavourful, with just the right amount of “porkiness”. It also had a good fat to meat ratio, but was perhaps a little lacking in the crisp department. The roast duck was also delicious, well-basted with a nice caramelised skin. My favourite part of roast duck is the fatty layer under the skin, so I was happy to see my portion had quite a bit of that. The plain white rice was the ideal foil for its rich flavours.
I also ordered the chinese sausage rice ($3), because I don’t often see it at hawker centres. I’m more used to the dried version we see in claypot rice, so I was curious how this more gelatinous one would taste. And it was quite tasty, flavourful with a smooth, almost silky texture.
Tiong Bahru Lor Mee
#02-80 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Mon - Sun: 10am-8pm
Be warned: queueing is inevitable if you’re after some lor mee at Tiong Bahru Market, so be prepared to stand in line for 20 minutes or so, even if you arrive before the lunch crowd. It’s not difficult to see why this stall has its share of loyal fans – even the smallest bowl ($3) comes chock-full of ingredients: fried wanton, braised pork, battered fish nugget, a few slices of fish cake and bean sprouts.
Lor mee is often characterised by its thick, starchy gravy, which some people might find too “gooey”. The gravy here was lighter than expected but still substantial, with a mild savouriness. I highly recommend making full use of the condiments on offer, especially the vinegar and fresh minced garlic. There’s also chilli and cilantro to add on as desired. You might want to start with the crispy wanton, before it gets soggy. Unlike Lor Mee 178, Tiong Bahru Lor Mee uses thick flat yellow noodles which seem to hold the gravy better. All in all, a good blend of tastes and textures - crunch from the wanton, rich meatiness from the pork, sweet umami from the fish cake and freshness from the bean sprouts. No wonder it’s such a popular stall.
Mei Wei Hainanese Chicken Rice
#02-47 Tiong Bahru Market
There were quite a few styles of chicken rice at this stall but we opted for the Singaporean classic steamed chicken rice. If you’re dining with friends or family, you can also opt for a bigger 2-, 3-, 4-person portion, or even get half, or a full chicken at $11 and $22 respectively.
Hainanese chicken rice remains a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike, and Mei Wei’s version doesn’t disappoint. The steamed chicken ($4) was very tender, its flavour comfortingly familiar. It comes on the side of the rice in its own plate, on a bed of fresh crisp bean sprouts, instead of being heaped on top. This makes it more conducive for sharing, especially if you order sides like oyster sauce vegetables or Thai style beancurd.
We liked the look of the Thai style chicken feet ($3), so we ordered a plate to share. Although quite a refreshing side with its jelly-like texture and tart Thai chilli sauce, it was quite a bland dish, and most of the flavours were in the mild sauce instead. It had a good crunch to it and we liked that it was deboned so we didn’t have to contend with the small bones while eating, but it was more of a miss, so I’d recommend skipping this dish.
The accompanying soup was clearly prepared with the chicken, as it was quite rich and “chickeny”. Oh, and make sure you get the chilli - I think it has lemongrass in it which made it quite piquant. One of the better chicken rice chilli sauces there for sure.
Tiong bahru Bak Chor Mee
#02-77 Tiong Bahru Market
Walking past Tiong Bahru Bak Chor Mee, we were intrigued to see a noodle dish called “xiang bao” mee on the menu so we ordered their signature bak chor mee and that interestingly named noodle to have a try.
Add pork lard to any noodle dish, and it instantly becomes more flavourful. The bak chor mee ($3) is coated in a tasty sauce, and the aforementioned pork lard, so every mouthful is nice and savoury. If you go later in the day, the pork liver slices tend to be a bit more overcooked and started to dry out, but they still retain a decent texture without being tough or powdery. The lean pork and minced meat were fine but nothing special. Maybe I should have topped up $1 to add two homemade meatballs that seemed to have a minced meat filling. The mee pok noodles are quite bouncy, but started to clump quite quickly, so we splashed in a little bit of the accompanying soup to loosen them up.
As for the “xiang bao” mee ($5), the ingredients were pretty similar, except for the addition of what we think is probably mock abalone, due to the inverted commas in the name. There’s also abalone noodles available for $10 that is pictured with 2 whole abalones. Real abalone can get quite chewy if overcooked, but the “xiang bao” slices were quite tender and sweet. I’d recommend asking for more chilli and vinegar if you like more flavour.
Hwa Yuen Porridge
#02-74 Tiong Bahru Market
Hwa Yuen Porridge is just one of those places that look like they make good old traditional food, and the truth is not far. Sadly, the classic raw fish, and by extension raw fish porridge is more or less extinct in Singapore, so we comforted ourselves with an order of the mixed pig’s organ porridge and the cooked fish porridge.
Dipping our spoons in, we were impressed by how dense and thick the rice porridge was. Clearly, it had been cooked down for quite a while. The texture was smooth and kind of velvety. Flavour-wise, it was surprisingly rich - a great base for whatever ingredients it’s topped with. The fish porridge was fairly tasty, the fish slices were fresh and delicate, with no trace of muddiness or fishy odours. It’s balanced with lots of ginger slices and cilantro, and is quite a healthy lunch option.
Less healthy, but more delicious is the mixed pig’s organ porridge that came with a sprinkling of deep fried pork intestines. They start to lose their crunch in the porridge after a while, so snap them up fast. There’s also sliced cuttlefish and pig’s liver that I could identify, both quite tasty. And maybe also pig’s tongue, though I’m not 100% sure. Both bowls are topped with some crispy flour bits for a bit of texture.
Teng Ji Fried Fish Soup
#02-62 Tiong Bahru Market
Wanting something light, we went to Teng Ji Fried Fish Soup for some, well, fish soup. We were thinking about getting the fried fish head soup, but disappointingly, they didn’t have fish head on the day we were there. So, we got the sliced fish bee hoon soup, which uses coarse bee hoon, and fried fish soup (both $5) instead.
Like most fish soup places in Singapore, Teng Ji uses Batang fish or Spanish mackeral. The sliced fish in the bee hoon was tender and fresh tasting, with a little bit of a velvety mouthfeel, possibly due to the cornstarch that’s used in the pre-cooking preparation. The soup came with quite a bit of fried shallots, as well as a few small pieces of salted fish that helped to add flavour. The coarse bee hoon was nice and smooth, with a good bite to it.
The fried fish soup was well battered, and most likely egg-washed because the eggy taste was quite distinct. The surface of the soup was also oddly foamy or bubbly, but we couldn’t quite work out why. It didn’t really affect the taste of the fish so we didn’t think too much of it. Good, meaty fish that’s great with the chopped chilli in soy sauce, with a good sprinkling of white pepper, but nothing particularly outstanding.
#02-71 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Mon: 7am-3pm, Tue - Sun: 7am-2pm
With a name like Granny’s Pancake, you might imagine that the pancakes are made from an age-old family recipe that’s been passed down through the generations, but the truth is Granny’s Pancake is a successful mee jiang kueh franchise that only started a decade or so ago. In keeping with their nostalgia-evoking branding, Granny’s has kept their flavours classic and simple, only selling four flavours across the outlets - peanut, red bean, coconut (all $1) and peanut butter ($1.20).
Because the original mee jiang kueh was peanut pancake, we ordered one of that and one coconut to try. First off, the pancakes are vegetarian-friendly, and made fresh daily. The pancakes themselves are pillowy-soft, with a crispy edge (if you’re lucky enough to get one - they don’t allow you to choose, so it’s purely luck of the draw). I liked the weightiness of the pancakes, substantial but not heavy or stodgy, and the abundance of fillings made it seem very value-for-money. The crushed peanuts were literally overflowing past the edges of my pancake, which makes for very messy eating. The only downside is the single-use plastic bags they come with.
As for the coconut, I was truthfully a bit worried about the superbright, almost radioactive neon orange colour, but apparently that comes from the orange sugar used. For a person who doesn’t really enjoy coconut-flavoured pastries, this was surprisingly tasty, maybe because it was more like candied coconut than shredded.
Jian Bo Shui Kueh
#02-05 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Mon - Sun: 5.30pm-10pm
The Michelin-recommended Jian Bo Shui Kueh started in 1958 as a pushcart selling steamed rice cakes laden with fragrant chye poh or preserved radish. Today, it is a successful multi-outlet business still serving up old-school flavours.
Because the chwee kueh ($2.50 for five) is prepared in a central kitchen in Admiralty, the taste should be fairly consistent throughout the outlets, including the ones in the shopping malls, but there’s something about having it at the original stall at Tiong Bahru Market where old Mr Wang began his business. It’s a relatively simple dish with just three components - the kueh, the chye poh and chilli - so it’s especially important to get all of them just right. The kueh is soft but not mushy, and doesn’t stick to the teeth - a mark of well-made kueh. The delicious mess of chye poh is quite greasy but the more health-conscious customers will be happy to note that Jian Bo uses 100% vegetable oil instead of pork lard.
The stall also serves a decent chee cheong fun ($2.50), a rice noodle roll served drenched in a reddish sweet sauce and a healthy dollop of chilli and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
Li Li Kway Chap
#02-28 Tiong Bahru Market
Next to the popular Koh Brother Pig’s Organ Soup is another stall that specialises in pig's innards, Li Li Kway Chap Braised Duck Pig's Stomach Soup. It's a little bit more under the radar and doesn't seem to command the queues like Koh does, but I think it's worth a visit.
Like the name suggests, there's more on offer. Even if you're not a fan of offal, there are plenty of choices on the fairly extensive menu. I went for their Set E, which had both braised duck and braised pork for $6, and paired it with white rice (50 cents), as I'm not a huge fan of yam rice. The duck was quite fatty and tender, its flavours enhanced by the dark sauce. There are certain cuts that might be a bit dry, so it's a bit of luck of the draw.
The braised pork is even better, with a "concentrated pork taste" as described by my lunch buddy. Like the duck, it was well-braised and tender, with a nice amount of fat, which gave it a luscious mouthfeel. I would have preferred a hotter chilli sauce than the one provided though - it was more tart than spicy, and didn't really give much of a kick. The dark soup, which is usually the braising liquid, was also slightly better than average, with a mild but distinct herbal flavour.
Zhen Ji Niang Tou Fu
#02-76 Tiong Bahru Market
If memory serves me well, Zhen Ji Yong Tau Fu is probably the only yong tau fu stall in Tiong Bahru Market at time of writing. And it's also one of the few that has its ingredients displayed in a glass door refrigerator for hygiene and freshness. Yong tau fu is a Hakka Chinese dish that's popular with many Singaporeans as a healthier option at hawker centres, and a welcome respite for me after all the rich foods I've been eating.
Zhen Ji has two different soup bases on offer – clear and laksa – and they're as different as night and day. The clear soup ($3.50 for five pieces) is quite light, almost to the point of bland, so as if to compensate, they were also quite heavy-handed with fried shallots and sesame seeds. Flavour-wise though, this puts the main ingredients, the yong tau fu, on centrestage. There's quite a bit to choose from, and the tofu with spiced fish paste, fresh squid, fish balls and greens I picked all tasted very fresh. I really felt like I was eating healthy.
The laksa version (50 cents), on the other hand, was the polar opposite - thick, greasy and full of flavour. I was under no illusions about the amount of calories that were probably in that bowl. The laksa does overpower some of the subtler flavours a little though. I also noticed that there weren't so many meat options like tofu stuffed with minced pork or even hot dogs, just some meatballs.
Fried Oyster Tiong Bahru
#02-61 Tiong Bahru Market
According to the signboard, this is the famous Tiong Bahru Fried Oyster, ostensibly featured on Channel 5’s History Alive starring Gurmit Singh and Pornsak Prajakwit, and operating since 1960s. Of course, being oyster lovers, we had to give it a go. Some people might be wondering if there’s a difference between fried oysters and oyster omelette. Apparently, the former is cooked with starch, typically sweet potato and/or tapioca, and flour, which gives it its distinctive texture.
This stall’s fried oyster ($4) or orh jian, as it’s colloquially known, is noticeably the starchier or “wet” version. The eggs come out fluffy and beautifully golden brown, with a spongy texture that blends well with the juicy oysters. It was served with a light sprinkling of spring onions, but I wish there was a bit more char or wok hei smokiness coming across.
The oysters also don’t seem to be well-integrated into the egg mix, which might be due to adding the oysters to the pan later to prevent overcooking, but it doesn’t really affect the overall taste. The oysters themselves were relatively fresh-tasting, but rather ordinary. The accompanying chilli sauce helps cut through the rich oiliness, and add a little depth to the flavours. All in all, a decent if not especially remarkable rendition.
#02-12 Tiong Bahru Market
It totally makes sense that this stall's name is so economical; besides the titular nasi lemak, they also sell economic bee hoon and noodles. Nasi Lemak's "signature dish" is a Chinese-style nasi lemak that comes with a deep fried chicken wing (Set A), or hash brown and hot dog (Set B).
I was quite lucky - the chicken wings were just coming out of the deep fryer as I was ordering, so I got a piping hot fresh wing. Perfectly crispy skin on the outside, hot and juicy flesh on the inside, very satisfying - the highlight of the dish. Too bad the plastic utensils provided were much too flimsy to handle such a sturdy wing, so I had to resort to using my hands. I added a slab of luncheon meat for a dollar, and then wished I hadn't. The slice was thick-cut and too much of a good thing.
The fried egg was also good; it had well-crisped edges, but the yolk was still nice and runny. It's sometimes said that Chinese-style nasi lemak rice isn't as fragrant and as coconut-y as Malay-style, and I can see what they mean. There's just a whiff of coconut milk here. The peanuts and ikan bilis were slightly stale as well, and the chilli sauce just didn't make an impact.
Heng's Chwee Kueh
#02-58 Tiong Bahru Market
Heng’s silky smooth chwee kueh (40 cents for one piece; minimum order of four pices) is so tasty, it’s probably worth the extra calories from the very greasy chye poh. Combined with the fragrant chilli sauce, it’s a deceptively simple, but moreish snack. The steamed rice cakes were impressively delicate. They looked ready to split apart with any sudden movement, but somehow managing to keep their bowl shapes. It’s quite a feat of skill and balance.
Having never tried deep fried carrot sticks ($2 for 13 pieces) before, we decided to give them a go. You could perhaps think of them as carrot cake fries. We got them at around 1pm, quite some time after they’ve been fried but they managed to stay quite crunchy! Flavour-wise, they were pretty standard so they’re more of a novelty food to us. Still, it was a good contrast of textures, crunchy exterior, soft interior.
All of them are cooked in 100% vegetable oil, with no trans fats, so you can indulge without too much guilt.
Hui Ji Fish Ball Noodle
#02-44 Tiong Bahru Market
At this old-school hawker stall, you can have your yong tau fu with your fishball noodles. The selection isn’t quite as extensive as a stall that purveys yong tau fu exclusively, but it’s a goodly variety for a side dish. To be honest, I haven’t heard a lot about Hui Ji but the fishballs looked fresh and more importantly, handmade instead of factory-produced. I’m not sure if they were, but they sure seemed like it.
First off, I’d recommend getting the fishball noodles ($3) dry instead of soup. The yellow noodles seem to get soggy and lose their bounce a little too quickly, which is a pity because the fishballs themselves were excellent. Firm and springy, it was obvious the fish paste was blended very well, giving it a delightfully smooth, uniform texture. You could really taste the sweetness of the fish it’s made of.
Their yong tau fu ($3) is also well worth a try, especially if you want a bit more variety on the table. We added some fish cake, kang kong, stuffed bittergourd, stuffed green chilli, and tau pok for just $3. The soup was light but flavourful, possibly due to the dongcai, or preserved cabbage, which gave it a nice savouriness. Like the fishballs, the fish cake was also quite tasty, while the bittergourd and green chilli both had a nice crunch.
Original Tiong Bahru Golden Pig & Roasted
#02-67 Tiong Bahru Market
Original Tiong Bahru Pig & Roast looked quite impressive, taking up two shop spaces at Tiong Bahru Market, easily one of the biggest hawker stalls there. Unfortunately, the food didn’t quite live up to the expectations raised. Maybe we went on an off day, or perhaps we should have been tipped off by the lack of queues, but both the dishes we ordered were total disappointments.
I got a plate of roasted pork rice ($4), and added a side of char siew for an extra $1, but I really shouldn’t have bothered with either. The roast pork was overcooked, basically burnt, with no fatty bits and an unpleasant charred taste to it. The char siew was dry, and devoid of its distinctive red rim. In fact, the colour of the meats were a strange, off-putting brown. The rice was also cooked badly, wet and mushy, possibly due to too much water in the rice cooker. Dipping the meats in the chilli didn’t help to improve flavours at all - both the chilli sauces provided were extremely salty.
We moved on to the roasted chicken rice ($4), hoping that it would be better, but sadly it wasn’t. The chicken too was bland and lacklustre, with barely any roasted taste. On the plus side, it was admittedly quite tender, but all in all, a thorough let down. We couldn’t finish the meal.
Fu Hai Curry Chicken Noodles
#02-16 Tiong Bahru Market
Those who are not familiar might easily mistake this for the very similarly-named Hock Hai Curry Chicken Noodle, which received a Bib Gourmand certification from the Michelin Guide last year. Interestingly, based on a 6kg curry chicken noodle challenge video uploaded to YouTube last year, the stall seemed to be formerly known as H&H Indian Curry Chicken Delight, a name still visible in the shop’s interiors.
Taking cue from the signboard, we ordered their “signature dish” - the curry chicken mee hoon noodle ($5), a mix of rice vermicelli and yellow noodles in a fragrant curry broth, topped with chicken, potatoes, tau pok, fish cake and bean sprouts. I’d been looking forward to a rich, flavourful bowl of curry noodles, but was a bit let down by the curry “soup”, which was a touch too watery, and lacking oomph. The chicken was tender but quite bland - you might want to ask for skin-on chicken for a little extra flavour. The tau pok and potatoes, on the other hand, are delicious, having soaked in all the flavours being steeped in curry for hours.
A good blend of textures from the fresh, crunchy bean sprouts and sliced fish cake. It’s a bit tame, heat-wise, but that’s easily fixed with a dollop of their fragrant chilli.
Tiong Bahru You Tiao
#02-59 Tiong Bahru Market
You’ll want to go early for these deep-fried goodies; they taste the best when freshly made in the morning, especially with a nice cup of hot soy milk. Don’t be dissuaded by the pungent smell of frying oil as that corner of the market has a couple of neighbouring stalls selling deep-fried foods. The you tiao, or dough fritters, are worth smelling like oil for a couple of minutes.
Traditionally a breakfast food eaten on its own or alongside congee, these handmade fritters are best eaten hot. I was impressed at how light and crispy they were. Sometimes you tiao (70 cents) can be too dense or too greasy, but the lady boss does a great job of frying these just right, resulting in deliciously fluffy you tiao that aren’t too oily. Even the paper it was wrapped in remained relatively dry.
Similarly, the ham chim peng (70 cents) was also very well-made. Also known as the Chinese doughnut, albeit without the hole, the ham chim peng had a delicate sweetness, with a slightly more pronounced cinnamon flavour, probably from the five spice powder. While you can also get the ones with red bean or lotus seed paste, we opted for the version with no filling. Tearing into it, you could see how big its air pockets were.
Wanton Noodle Chen Ming Ji
#02-79 Tiong Bahru Market
Is it a red flag when the hawker is so unfamiliar with the items of his own menu that you have to point it out to him? II didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I’m starting to wonder. There was no queue either, but I figured it was just a lull. Maybe I should’ve recognised the signs.
The shredded chicken noodle ($4) was quite mediocre. The fried wanton was overcooked, very crunchy but quite dry, and only had a mere speck of meat inside. The shredded chicken was similarly dry and tasteless, very disappointing. The blanched vegetables were unseasoned and bland too. The only flavourful part of the meal was a bit of char siew the size of a pinky nail, and that was it. Oh and a few small pieces of pork lard.
Their “signature” wanton ($4) fared a little better. I counted 13 pieces in the bowl - not bad. Sadly, I can only describe them as average at best. The pork to water chestnut ratio was noticeably biased towards the latter, which wasn’t bad per se, just not as enjoyable. Still, with the chopped spring onions, it was an okay if unexciting dish. There’s not much to recommend here, to be perfectly honest, but if you just want a quick bite and everything else is closed, it’s an option, I suppose.
Min Nan Prawn Noodles
#02-31 Tiong Bahru Market
Thanks to its appearance on Channel 8’s Buzzing Cashier, Min Nan Pork Rib Prawn Noodle has enjoyed its share of the limelight, but do the noodles live up to the buzz?
We tried two different dishes to get an idea. First, a bowl of its signature pork ribs prawn noodle ($5). The ribs were well-marinated and flavourful, but perhaps a little overcooked, as they were slightly tough, instead of fall-off-the-bone tender. The prawns were unremarkable, if slightly anaemic, and also a touch overdone. One gets the idea that they’re more of an afterthought, tossed in after the flavours have been extracted for the broth.
The noodles were good though, nice and bouncy. A good heaping of fried shallots and a few bits of pork lard add depth to the flavours. We didn’t bother with the accompanying small bowl of soup since we also ordered the pig’s tail soup ($4). While some people might be put off by the thought and look of pig’s tail, this was good rendition of the dish.
The pig’s tail was cleaned and processed well, with nary an unsightly hair or off-putting smell. Some people believe that the pork’s tail has more collagen than trotters. The meat was tender and flavourful, steeped in a light fragrant broth that wasn’t too greasy, with lots of crunchy bean sprouts and fried shallots.
Hai Shan Roasted Chicken Rice
#02-32 Tiong Bahru Market
There are no long lines or celebrity endorsements at this roast meats and chicken rice stall, but behind the unassuming facade is some hearty, honest-to-goodness food. The friendly uncle popped out to serve us once the moment we approached, and we ordered a roast duck rice and a steamed chicken rice ($3 each).
Maybe because it was near closing time, around 130pm, but we were pleasantly surprised by the generous portions, even though we ordered smalls. The roast duck, that was served on plain white rice, was very well-marinated and tender, with a subtle smokiness in the duck skin. Both duck and chicken rice were accompanied by thick wedges of cucumber, bigger than the standard thin slices, as well as a small bowl of pork soup, which was a bit unexpected.
The steamed chicken rice had very well poached chicken, with beautifully translucent skin that was flavourful but not too greasy. Heaped onto a bed of rice which was cooked in chicken fat, it was a filling but relatively light lunch. The chicken itself was moist and flavourful, and even with skin on, it didn’t feel too oily or unhealthy. For a lot of people, chicken rice is incomplete without chilli sauce. Hai Shan didn’t disappoint - their chilli sauce is an ideal condiment, with just enough heat and tartness. A solid lunch option.
Muhammad Shazain Faiha
#02-46 Tiong Bahru Market
In a hawker centre with not many Muslim food options, Muhammad Shazain Faiha Muslim Food Paradise offers up quite a number of halal dishes ranging from chicken biryani, to nasi goreng, to a variety of prata. Faced with so many choices, we finally narrowed it down to a plate of maggi goreng ($4) and 2 pieces of roti prata - one egg, one onion ($1.50 each).
We attacked the pratas first, while they were still hot and crispy, and were so glad we did. The pratas were light and fluffy without being overly greasy, with a nice chewiness. I especially liked the onion prata. The onions were cooked just enough to be sweet, but still with a bit of bite. All of it went wonderfully with the fragrant curry, which we think is mutton. It was intense and flavourful, and maybe just a bit too salty, but we couldn’t keep from dunking our pratas into it until it was all gone.
The Maggi goreng is classic comfort food, especially for late night, post-drinks supper. It had a good mix of textures, from the crunch of the cabbage, bean sprouts, onion, to the soft umami of the diced tomatoes and scrambled egg. The flavours were just as intense as its bright red colour. Spice lovers would probably be quite happy with the heat level, but it might be a bit too spicy for those with milder palates. Obviously, it’s not really a healthy option - I mean, it’s fried instant noodles - but it’s nice to indulge once in a while.
Fried Kway Teow & Fried Oyster
#02-08 Tiong Bahru Market
“Traditional flavours” it says in Chinese on their signboard. This fried kway teow and fried oyster stall has been operating since 1978 so we were quite excited to try their two top-billed items on the menu. Interestingly, even though char kway teow ($3) is listed ahead of fried oysters ($4), we found the latter to be the true “signature dish” of the stall.
Their version of the fried oyster was decidedly crispier, giving it a lot more texture and contrast between the fried egg and the oysters. It was clear that the cook had good mastery of the fire; there was a subtle but present wok hei throughout.
They were also fairly generous with the greens, topping the dish with quite a lot of cilantro and spring onions, which gave it a bit more crunch and green sharpness. The oysters were not that big, but plump and noticeably fresh. Overall, a simple but well-executed fried oyster.
On the other hand, the char kway teow was a bit of a let down, especially on the heels of the fried oyster. While perfectly serviceable, it didn’t have the oomph of the other dish, which is suprising, considering it’s from the same stall. Health-conscious eaters will appreciate that it’s a lighter version of kway teow, less greasy, but also with less depth of flavour.
Lor Mee 178
#02-23 Tiong Bahru Market
Opening Hours: Thu - Sun: 7am-2.30pm, Closed on Wed
Lor Mee 178 is one of the two very popular lor mee stalls at Tiong Bahru Market. Queues start quite early, with waiting times hovering around the 20 minute mark. Although not a fan of lor mee personally, the relative novelty of trying shark nuggets was hard to pass up so I decided to join the queue to order a bowl to try.
A standard bowl of lor mee is $3 but you can add on shark nuggets for just $1 more. If you want fish cake or egg, it’s $0.80 and $0.60 extra respectively. There were a few Michelin stickers on the stall front, and a quick Google revealed that they were awarded the Michelin Plate in 2019 as well.
Although it had noticeably less toppings than Tiong Bahru Lor Mee, the shark nuggets and battered bits that covered the noodles were hot and crispy, and packed with flavour. Some people might feel that it’s too little shark meat to too much batter, but I personally didn’t mind. The shark itself was quite tender and meaty, and a good foil to the soft yellow noodles. The lor of the mee was mildly sweet, with a good consistency. The noodles themselves were unremarkable but fun to eat with the crunchy fried bits. I recommend a good splash of vinegar and a sprinkling of cilantro and chopped chilli to give it a bit more dimension, otherwise it can start tasting a bit samey after a while.