Chinatown Food Centre | Hawker stall | Best in Singapore | Singapore

Review
 
Chinatown Food Centre HeartHeart
Restaurant
Singapore
Open: Daily from mid-morning till late
Price: Low
Address: 336 Smith Street
Singapore
Country: Singapore

The Chinatown Food Centre embodies the best food Singapore has to offer. Here is a place that devoted locals attend on a regular basis, yet very few tourists manage to find it even though it is at the end of one of the most trodden tourist routes in the city.
There are ‘hawker centres' and ‘hawker centres' in Singapore. We've learnt from experience that if you choose a real one, that's frequented by locals, you'll find authentic dishes and a warm welcome as a novelty visitor. If you choose one that attracts tourists it's a very different story - touts push you in every direction and there's a sameness about many of the dishes on offer.
The Chinatown Complex Food Centre is one of the real ones. Despite the lack of tourists, most of the 100 or so stalls have English signs, making it easy to order, even if you can't communicate in words. Here are our highlights from recent visits, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Tian Tian Pork Porridge (#02-185).
Tian Tian Pork Porridge is one of the best places in Singapore to experience Cantonese porridge and the accompanying raw fish plate that is always seen as a necessary accompaniment.
First of all note that since the refurbishment of the Centre many of the stall numbers have changes. Tian Tian Porridge now is #02-185 - this means it is on the second floor (all the stalls are) and is stall number 185. The stall numbers are displayed on each one and each row has the range of stall numbers showing. To help you locate places even quicker the stools are colour coded. This stall is to be found where the deep blue stools are.
This stall is somewhat different as you do not have to queue unlike many of the other popular stalls. You place your order and then tell them which table you are at - all tables are numbered. They write your order on a piece of paper and place it in a bowl. When the porridge is ready (and this may take some time) it is brought to your table and you pay at that stage. You can tell how long the virtual queue is by how many bowl are queued up.
We like two types of porridge from this stall. First we like the pork porridge with pork mince, liver and other inside bits and second we like the fish porridge which has very fresh slices of grass fish (carp) and is slippery smooth and very comforting. We like to accompany this with a small plate of sliced raw fish which comes to the table with the slices glistening from a coating of sesame oil and soy sauce.
This is a porridge not to be missed.
PS: There is no relationship between this stall and the Tian Tian Chicken Rice stall down at Maxwell St Market.
An Ji Famous Fish Head Noodles (#02-194).
You should have at least one fish head dish while you're in Singapore and the fish head noodles at this stall are deeply satisfying. This one's for later in the day.
Nui Che Shui Famous Glutinous Rice (#02-40).
The disappointment on people's faces when they're told the day's supply is going to finish before they make it to the front of the queue, tells the story of the popularity of this stall. Fortunately, the bearer of the bad news is so polite and gentlemanly that everyone accepts their ill fortune graciously. Another breakfast stall, until you try it, it's hard to imagine the fuss over a simple plate of rice with its crunchy topping of dried fish and garlic. It's a salutary lesson in the pleasures of simple food cooked well and its production is one of the best time and motion studies you'll ever see.
Fish Ball Soup Stall #02-049.
The fish ball soup at this stall, which only has its name in Chinese, is a fantastic pick me up - the broth is delicious and the fish balls slightly springy and full of flavour. They also serve braised pigs trotters, and pig organ soup.
Xiu Ji (Ikan Bilis) Yong Tau Fu #02-88.
There are two ordering options at this tofu stall. Choose the version with noodles and you'll get two bowls. One's filled with noodles topped with crunchy ikan bilis and chopped spring onions. Make sure you ask for the sensational house-made parang fish cake to be added as an extra. The other is a bowl of soup with various types of the best tofu you'll ever have eaten. Don't miss this stall. It's fantastic.
Lian He Ben Ji Claypot #02-198.
Open from late afternoon, this claypot chicken stall prepares each dish to order and cooks it over little charcoal braziers. It's open from late afternoon and is in a cool corner of the centre, great for people-watching while you wait. Order the mixed rice version to get chicken and Chinese sausage and don't ignore the slightly crisp and crunchy rice at the bottom of the dish, which is one of the best parts. It's a classic meal in one dish.
Terry Katong Laksa #02-94
Terry Katong Laksa is a favourite stall in the Chinatown Complex in Smith Street, Singapore. The laksa has clean, honest flavours and is not overpowered with coconut milk. Have it with cockles for a special treat.
It is easy to find the stall, simply ascend the stairs to the second floor and look for stall #94 which is not too far from the stairs.
The signage is bold and easy to spot.
If you're not staying in Chinatown, catch the MRT to Chinatown station. You can't miss the sprawling white building in the vicinity of Smith St. The hawker centre is on the first floor, there are general market stalls on the ground floor, and there's also a wet market in the basement. Better still, stay at the charming hotel 1929 (www.hotel1929.com), which is about 200 metres away.
 
     
     
     


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