Check out these Hawker Heroes: while the hawker culture is deemed a dying trade, there’s a new generation of young blood stepping up to the stove to keep the legacy alive.
In The North
Fish & Chicks
For good ol’ Western fare in the heartlands, Fish & Chicks is where the real deal’s at. A joint venture by two friends Justin and Albert – one with the business smarts and the other with the culinary heart – the duo cooked up a storm on social media with the Insta-famous Salted Egg and Chilli Crab Fish & Chips ($11.60). Crowd favourites aside, their Thai-inspired menu featuring Tom Yum Pasta ($10.50) and Green Curry Chicken Cutlet ($11.60) are also worth raving about.
Address: 531 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, #01-2429, Singapore 560531
Sinn Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice
Ask any Singaporean to pick a representative dish and chicken rice would probably be the first to come to mind. While chicken rice stalls are a dime a dozen, Sinn Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice is a relatively new name in the scene, started by 25-year-old go-getter Derwin Chan, who spent a month learning the ropes from a chicken rice master and put his apprenticeship to good use. His hard work paid off – the result is tender, flavourful chicken accompanied by fragrant rice and tangy chilli sauce. And dare we say, it has the potential to even rival some of the older brands in Singapore!
Address: 275 Thomson Road, Novena Regency #01-05, Singapore 307645
Rong Chen Bak Kut Teh
One of the few traditional bak kut teh stalls left in Singapore, Rong Chen has been serving up bowls of Teochew goodness since 1976. Since taking over the business, second-generation helmsman Lionel Lim pays homage to the ‘teh’ culture by being the first to introduce floral tea. They’ve also expanded their offerings to include zi char dishes, but it’s the tradition of pairing tea with the well-loved dish that really completes the experience.
Address: Blk 26 Sin Ming Lane, Midview City #01-114, Singapore 573971
545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles
The history of 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles goes far back to the 1950s, where the grandfather of current third-generation owner Li Ruifang first set up stall along the streets of Whampoa. Determined to carry forward the Li family’s heritage, the 32-year-old lady boss stays true to the recipe passed down from generations. You can’t go wrong with a brothy classic, but order the dry noodles (from $4) tossed with a spoonful of sambal chilli for the ultimate shiok factor.
Address: 665 Buffalo Road, Tekka Food Centre #01-326, Singapore 210665
In need of a caffeine fix? Skip the hipster cafes and head over to Coffee Break for a humble cuppa. Now helmed by sibling trio Jack, Faye and Anna Sai, this 82-year business gets a modern update with authentic sock-brewed kopi and artisanal toasts with a twist – think Sea Salt Caramel Latte and Pumpkin Spice Mocha (from $3.80), as well as Earl Grey Creme Toast and Black Sesame Toast (from $2.50). Most of the flavours are inspired by their travels and the menu changes every three months so you can definitely expect new offerings on your next visit!
Address: 7 Maxwell Road, Amoy Street Food Centre #02-78, Singapore 069111
HarriAnns Nonya Table
A perennial favourite serving up Peranakan fare with plenty of heart, what started as an outlawed pushcart business when matriarch Chia Nga Eng began peddling her Nonya delights around Tiong Bahru flourished into a full-fledged cafe brand today. Despite handing the reins over to the third-generation, it’s heartening to know they still uphold the tradition of making each piece of kueh by hand. While the Teochew glutinous rice is still their signature dish, don’t forget to take home some of their delectable kuehs such as the Rainbow Lapis ($1.10) inspired by the popular rainbow cake; and the Pink Fairy ($1.10), a fanciful take on kueh kacang merah.
Address: 230 Victoria Street, Bugis Junction Towers #01-01A, Singapore 188024
In The East
Plum & Rice
Amidst the kitschy signboards of yesteryears at the Bedok North Market & Food Centre, this eight-month-old stall stood out for its Japanese-style storefront that immediately brings to mind your typical donburis and bentos. However, it was a pleasant delight to witness three young men – Gladwin, Eric and Raphael – serving up a fusion of modern and traditional flavours at surprisingly pocket-friendly prices. Inspired by umeboshi (pickled plums), a Japanese breakfast staple, Plum & Rice caters to the local palate by incorporating sour plums into your choice of rice of porridge, which will look dope on Instagram thanks to its intriguing pink hue. Each set also comes with home-cooked favourites such as braised pork belly, cod fish and free-flow of soup. And at the price of $4, it’s solid bang for your buck!
Address: Blk 216 Bedok North Street 1, #01-45, Singapore 460216
The Burning Oak
Truffle wagyu and foie gras dons at a hawker centre? Only at The Burning Oak. Anchored by 25-year-old Jeremy Han, this two-year-old stall specialises in Japanese dons such as the Truffle Wagyu Bowl ($16), and Beef Foie Gras Bowl ($20). They also have a good selection of skewers including the Iberico Pork Cheeks ($5) and Beef Short Ribs ($6), each chargrilled to perfection over charcoal, stick by stick. Prices are a pinch compared to yakitori joints, but its top-notch quality and generous portions more than make up for it.
Address: 348 Bedok Road, Bedok Marketplace #02-16, Singapore 469560
Ministry of Rojak
Hailing from the famous Abdhus Salam Rojak at Ayer Rajah Food Centre, this establishment is the proud baby of Abdus Salam Akbar Ali, who took it upon himself to continue the rojak empire his father has built. Taking pride in providing authentic Indian cuisine, Ministry of Rojak is home to the first ever Rojak Fondue (from $15) which offers an assortment of 14 ingredients to choose from. But of course, it’s their to-die-for sweet potato dip that undeniably seals the deal.
Address: 1 Pasir Ris Central Street 3, White Sands #01-30, Singapore 518457
In The West
Na Na Homemade Curry
Having stood the test of time, Na Na Homemade Curry has drawn in a flock of regulars willing to travel the distance to satisfy their curry cravings. And it’s clear they don’t mess with their craft one bit – the Yap sons may have taken charge, but rest assured it still packs the same fiery-hot punch from grandma Khim’s reign, best served with their fast-selling Curry Fish Head (prices differ). Fans of NNHC’s secret recipe can also order ready-cooked curry pastes from their manufacturing arm, so hit up www.nanacurry.sg before it gets sold out fast!
Address: Blk 303 Jurong East Street 32, Singapore 600303
The Fishball Story
From a humble hawker venture to earning the Michelin Bib Gourmand award, The Fishball Story isn’t just any other success story. Paying tribute to his grandmother’s traditional fishball recipe, 26-year-old hawkerpreneur Douglas Ng makes everything by hand at his central kitchen and it’s not often you see modern-day bosses willing to slog it out. Their standard bowl ($4.50) is enough to satisfy, but we recommend going for the Premium Fishball Noodles ($6.50) which comes topped with the bounciest fishballs you’ll ever taste.
Address: 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, Singapore 139957
We love the throwback charms of this unassuming burger joint, which takes on the name of Hambaobao (translated to hamburger in Chinese) reminiscent of our childhood days. But enough about the nostalgia – what we’re really looking forward to is their tantalising array of Asian-inspired burgers, dreamed up by young power couple Ryan and Claire. A definite must-try is the highly-raved Buah Keluak ($5), featuring a handmade patty of minced chicken laced with chunks of buah keluak and topped with nonya chap chye. Sadly, they’ll only be here till 2018 due to acquisition plans of Beauty World Food Centre so head over to get your fix before they relocate!
Address: 144 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Beauty World Centre #04-49, Singapore 588177
Are you salivating already?
This article is written by Chew Huiling and originally published in the August 2017 issue of Teenage.