I set myself a food challenge since I had a few days back in Singapore. Try tasty food from as wide a spectrum as possible, all of which must come from new stalls, eateries, cafes or restaurants to me. Rather than go chornologically I decided to cluster the individual experiences according to the establishment. Today – food from dining houses.
Tiong Bahru was one of Singapore’s oldest public estate, and while it might be a model of gentrification, the district is more than just a place for hip bookstores, bakeries and cafes. It too is home to some good local eats, at even greater prices, here are two.
Ah Chiang’s Porridge @ Tiong Poh Road (SGD 9.50)
I wrote in an earlier post of this food challenge about porridge. It’s clear that I like porridge, the dish is comfort food plain and simple, with very little effort needed to eat and enjoy it, just slurp it down like a baby. Since porridge is basically just water and rice, the dish is also very good for health. There is in fact a claim that the real test of a (Chinese cuisine) chefs culinary skills is in how they prepare a bowl of porridge.
While Zhen Zhen Porridge in Maxwell Food Centre is easily one of the best commercially available porridges in Singapore, Ah Chiang is a serious competitor.
Selling congee since 1971, Ah Chiang’s porridge provides vastly more offerings than Zhen Zhen’s. The dish is cooked over charcoal in the Cantonese style (which means that it is silky and the grains have completely broken down). Also available for order on top of the porridge are cantonese dough fritters (you tiao) as well as a teochew styled raw fish (replaced from Ikan Parang or Wolf Herring to salmon).
What makes the place special, in my eyes, is that it is one of the few remaining porridge shops that still provides a raw fish option. Unlike Japanese sashimi, teochew raw fish has more condiments including ginger, spring onions, red chilies, fried shallots drizzled with sesame oil and flavoured with some light soy sauce. It is simple to prepare, but its tastes phenomenal in my view.
The porridge itself was not as spectacular as Zhen Zhen’s, while flavourful, the porridge lost out in terms of overall silkiness. It’s still a very good dish though and to be fair, my comment was more a case of me being picky and trying to split hairs. At SGD 9.50 (USD 7.20; EUR 5.85) for a bowl of porridge and raw fish it is a little bit on the higher side in comparison to its competitors but for a good porridge and a rare raw fish, it is well worth it.
Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice @ Seng Poh Road (SGD 9)
There are many different types of curries in this world. While curries first began life as an Indian dish (and even there, we have huge variations north to south of the subcontinent), it has since spread all over the world and taken a life of its own. The British have their own Chicken Tika Masala, Jamaican people have their own style of curry, Japanese curry is caramelised with onions and sweet but not spicy, Thai curry is coconut-y and smooth. Long story short, there are many different types of curry.
Hainanese Chinese curry is another type of curry. It’s uniqueness is that the curry is not spicy and not rich – the curry is thickened with starch and not coconut milk, drizzled messily over a deep fried pork chop and served with rice. While the dish has the name of a Chinese province – Hainan, it does not have any roots in China. The name of the curry was given to the Hainanese chefs who first prepared the items. These chefs had formerly prepared food for the British and added pork chop (from the British) to curry (that they observed prepared by Indian chefs).
The most popular Hainanese Curry Rice is located along Jalan Besar (Beach Road Scissor Cut Hainanese Curry Rice) but this one is a worthwhile competitor. In fact, some could argue that it is the standard to which all curry rice should be held to in Singapore. That is the one that we ended up squeezing for a second bite of breakfast.
There was a sizable crowd at 11am, I’m not sure if they were there for breakfast or lunch, but they were there to eat. They had to be there fast, the store closes around 2pm everyday after they run out of food – that is a successful dining establishment, I’ll say.
We ordered rice with curry and a mixture of other dishes – tofu, meatball, chap chye and pork chop, all these at a cost of SGD 9 (USD 6.80; EUR 5.55), which is honestly a very good price.
You can decided how it tasted based on how it looked, what I can say was that we finished our meal despite having already had a starter of porridge.
Tiong Bahru Market
I can’t talk about food in Tiong Bahru and then ignore the existence of Tiong Bahru Market. This is kind of a cheat but ah well…
The food centre used to be home to some of the best hawkers in town, but was closed for renovations. Having reopened in 2017 the food centre is again doing roaring business. What’s good to eat there? I’ll let the food vloggers tell you 😉
ON THE MAP (Ah Chiang’s Porridge)
ON THE MAP (Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice)
ON THE MAP (Tiong Bahru Market)