Updated: Feb 4, 2018
Travelling is all about having travel objectives. Without these objectives — the reasons to travel — we will be going on trips but satisfying nothing. It will be just another place that we been to, done that, nothing special.
Going for local food is one of our travel objectives and we can come up with different goals to make our journeys fun and more in-depth. Like the last trip to Malacca, one of our goals was cafe-hopping and visited most of the cafes in Melaka old town.
Back in our home country, we followed the Singapore Michelin Guide 2016 as a reference to kick-start our food hunt with Chinatown, a popular tourists spot. Selected restaurants and food outlets should be awfully good to be able to make it into the Michelin Guide. And what is more amazing is that most of them are food stalls in food centres — and that is a good reason to start an inexpensive food trail.
In this post, we will try all the food stalls in Hong Lim Market & Food Centre (芳林熟食中心) that are in the Michelin Guide.
Hong Lim Market & Food Centre Blk 531A, Upper Cross Street
Nearest MRT: Chinatown (exit via Chinatown Point)
1. Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa (驰名结霜桥三轮车叻沙)
Apart from being in the Singapore Michelin Guide 2016, Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa is also a Bib Gourmand award winner.
What makes this trishaw laksa different from other laksa is the addition of crayfish on top of other ingredients, such as cockles, prawns, fishcakes, slices of chicken meat, with thick rice vermicelli. The rich broth is also well done without it being too spicy (chilli added separately) and affect the taste of the ingredients. Yummy!
The owner also serves fruit juice mee siam ("Siamese noodle" in Malay) which is an unique re-creation of the Malay noodle dish using fresh fruit juice instead of sour assam (tamarind paste). This fruity and refreshing and yet traditional dish is another must-try.
Stall: #02-66 Operating Hours:
Mon-Sat: 11:30am to 4:30pm | Closed on Sundays
2. Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee (欧南园炒粿條面)
I have been eating at Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee stall for several years and will go all the way to Chinatown whenever I feel like eating char kway teow (stir-fried rice noodle). This is one of the few stalls that still sell original char kway teow with cockles while others had switched to using other ingredients, like prawns, slices of Chinese sausage, fishcakes, etc. But cockle is the best as it has the same softness as the noodle. And also, the stall's fried noodle's great taste is largely due to their special sauce.
Do avoid peak hours, especially lunch time on weekdays, the queue can be very long. You will need some patience too even outside peak hours.
Stall: #02-17 Operating Hours:
Mon-Sat: 6:00am to 3:30pm | Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays
3. Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee (亚王咖喱鸡米粉面)
Along the same stretch of stalls as Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa, you will find Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee. Bee hoon mee is Hokkien for rice vermicelli and noodle but you can ask for other types of noodles.
The curry chicken noodle is available in 3 sizes: small ($4.50) with chicken cuts, medium ($5.50) with chicken wing and large ($6.50) with drumstick. The broth is non-spicy (chilli added separately) and delicious. Even the chicken cuts are tender too.
Stall: #02-58 Operating Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10:00am to 9:00pm; Sat/Sun/PH: 8:00am to 9:00pm
4. Ji Ji Wanton Noodle Specialist (基记面家)
When the lady owner of Ji Ji Wanton Noodle Specialist put the bowl of wanton (meat dumpling) noodle on my tray, my jaw dropped. It was the first time I had such generous amount of barbecue pork and slices of mushroom in a wanton noodle. Apart from the meat dumplings in soup, there are fried ones too. The noodles are covered in their homemade sauce, which is so much nicer than other sauces that use light soy sauce or tomato sauce.
Apart from wanton noodle, they also serve other noodle types such as prawn dumplings noodle, chicken cutlet noodle, and also chicken feet noodle (yum yum).
For western travellers who considered chicken feet as "weird" food but would like to give it a try, go for the chicken feet noodle by Ji Ji. The soft skins and bones separate easily in the mouth. If you want to give it a try but not so much in quantity, order a wanton noodle and add-on a couple of chicken feet.
Many bloggers claim that chicken feet are "chewy and tough to eat". They are neither right nor wrong, the difference is in the cooking styles. Chinese-style is to boil the chicken feet in soy sauce and keep the chewiness. Those served in dim sum restaurants and Ji Ji are braised (I believe this is the Cantonese-style). There are steamed ones too which retained the most collagen and usually eat with spicy-sour dipping sauce.
Stall: #02-48 Operating Hours: 6:30am to 8:30pm daily
5. Hokkien Street Bak Kut Teh (福建街肉骨茶)
Bak kut teh (pork ribs soup) is a popular delights in both Malaysia and Singapore. And as a result, many restaurants have sprouted out over the last few years, selling variations of pork ribs soup at rather high prices.
Hokkien Street Bak Kut Teh has kept the price low and serves large chunks of pork ribs in thick herbal broth. This is one of the few stalls that still sell Hokkien-style dark broth with herbs while others use lighter soup with more garlic and pepper (Teochew-style). The rich soup is very flavorful and the big chunks of pork ribs meat is surprisingly more tender than expected. Those Michelin gurus sure know where to find the best one among so many stalls.
Hot water in a self-service kettle for brewing Chinese tea when having bak kut teh is how the food is traditionally being consumed. The tea is used to reduce greasiness of the pork ribs. You will know if you are eating traditional and authentic bak kut teh when you see these kettles on stoves around. Most newer stalls and restaurants usually do away with them.
Stall: #01-66 Operating Hours: 9:00am to 7:00pm daily
6. Tai Wah Pork Noodle (大华肉脞面)
Minced pork noodle is another popular local noodle and to stand out as one of the best from others, Tai Wah Pork Noodle's bak chor mee is definitely special. One thing to appraise on first sight of the pork noodle is how the staff took effort to place the food nicely. Not a drop of oil or sauce on the side of the bowl.
Apart from minced pork, there are slices of lean meat, pig's liver, pork balls, and topped with fried tee po (dried sole fish) on the noodle. The light sauce complements the noodle, and with no vinegary taste that often masked the taste of ingredients in average pork noodles. And the bowl of soup with meat dumplings is tasty with fresh pork taste. Wow.
Stall: #02-16 Operating Hours: Mon-Sun: 9:30am to 9:00pm | Closed on alternate Mondays (1st and 3rd Mondays of the month)
There are many more nice food in Hong Lim Food Centre apart from those in the Michelin Guide, do try whichever that makes you salivate. Take note that most of the stalls here closed on Sundays.
More Michelin food hunts: Michelin Guide Food Hunt: Chinatown Complex