SINGAPORE: There are about 114 hawker centres in Singapore, and these usually are dotted within housing estates serving the local communities. Many of these are unassuming, and sometimes, they don't get the limelight as some others do. However, once in a while, we find some hidden gems that are very popular with the residents around the area.
Here are my top stalls at Bedok 538 Market & Food Centre
Ah Kiat Wanton Mee
I think every hawker centre needs to have at least one good wanton mee. This is how famous wanton mee is for Singaporeans. But, unfortunately, there is wanton mee everywhere, just not good in half the time. So whenever I discover a good one, I must give it a shout out. Ah Kiat Wanton Mee started in 1979, serving some fantastic handmade noodles and homemade chilli sauce. The god-son of the founder has taken over the stall since 2010.
These al-dente noodles come with slices of beautiful premium char siew. Their handmade wantons are totally amazing! Each wanton has the right amount of meat filling wrapped in soft wanton skin. Every bowl of good wanton mee must have lard in it, and this is no exception. Together with their chilli sauce, it is a force to be reckoned with. Love it!
If you are one of those who can't decide what you want, try out their Ah Kiat Combo Noodles (S$6) with a bit of everything. And maybe with a side of Fried Wanton with mayonnaise (S$3.5) in case you are a big eater.
Joo Chiat Chiap Kee
Usually, you look out for the queue when you go to a hawker centre and do not know what to get. Joo Chiat Chiap Kee is one of the stalls in this hawker centre that people will wait up to 30 mins during lunchtime. At first glance, you will immediately notice the uneven handmade fishball and Joo Chiat Chiap Kee is precisely known for these awesomely good fishballs. This is a very familiar and heartwarming bowl of noodles made the way I like it. The big bowl(S$4) comes with minced pork, slices of fish cake, a fish dumpling, and of course, fish balls; tossed in chilli, soy and a lot of crispy lard. Best of all, no vinegar.
I wouldn't say I liked this when I went there the first time. Back then, I got the white version of the carrot cake, and I found it ordinary. A few weeks later, I decided to give it another try, and this time, I ordered the black version. Boy, oh boy, this is so much better; even my mom loved it.
Zhong Mei only sells one thing, and that is Fried Carrot Cake. It comes in either S$3 or S$4. The prices have been raised by S$0.5, but I think it is pretty reasonable for them to do so in this challenging time. Their black fried carrot cake is not overwhelmed by the sweetness of the sweet sauce. You can get the caramelize bits as well as the saltiness from the preserved radish. Their carrot cake is on a chewier side. Therefore, this is perfect for those who don't like the texture of soft carrot cake. This is very old-school.
Soon Soon Prawn Noodle
This is the third of the three popular noodle stalls in this hawker centre. They sell the classic prawn and pork ribs noodle. The prawn noodle is S$4 for a noodle soup and S$4.5 for a bowl of dry noodles. The dry noodle is tossed with a very flavourful chilli and a generous amount of pork lard, making the noodle tempting glistening red. This beautiful noodle is served with a good bowl of prawn and pork soup in a unique metal bowl.
Each bowl of prawn noodles (S$4.5) come with four halved prawns, slices of pork and fish cake, together with some kang kong. This is value for money with high satisfaction. Be careful of the chilli, and it packed quite a punch.
Pork Ribs Noodles and Pork Tail noodles are S$5.5 for soup and S$6 for dry.
After all the excellent food, let us end the meal with a local coffee. Lim Kopi sits at a corner of the hawker centre, serving some good coffee and tea. The toast, eggs and coffee set is only S$2.8. If you prefer some soft sweet bun with kaya and butter, it will only set you back by S$3. Kaya and butter bread with soft-boiled eggs is a traditional Singapore breakfast that everybody likes.
Besides the kaya set, they also have egg mayonnaise sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and chicken ham sandwiches. These are at an affordable price of between S$1.8 and S$3.5.
This unassuming stall sells Chinese steamed yam cake, steamed carrot cake, glutinous rice and chee cheong fun. Unusually, you will not give this a second look as such food caters for the older folks. Not until you see their homemade yam cake! In between each slices of the soft yam cake, you will see a generous layer of large yam chunks. It is sort of ironic as most yam cake you get nowadays; you can't taste the yam bits in it. This is a good old traditional yam which is hard to find.
Quan Xin Vegetarian Food
A plate of Vegetarian Fried Bee Hoon usually includes fried cabbage, mock meats made from gluten and fried tofu skin. At Quan Xin Vegetarian Food, the small plate is S$2.5, and the large, with more bee hoon, is S$3. There is also a selection of different dishes you can add to your noodles. The tasty bee hoon goes beautifully with their red sweet and spicy chilli. The beancurd skill is in lovely square pieces, not like some other stalls where theirs is all crush up. The mock meat is soft and delicious. This is genuinely a good plate of vegetarian fried bee hoon which is worth the calories.
Quan Xin Vegetarian Food has a branch in Aljunied too.
Nian Kern Yee
Due to their month-long break, covid closure and two days a week break, it took me four visits to Bedok 538 Market & Food Centre before I managed to try Mee Siam and Mee Rebus from Nian Kern Yee and I have no regrets.
Nian Kern Yee sells affordable Mee Siam and Mee Rebus at S$2.5. In the morning, you can spot queues formed by senior residents from the neighbourhood. Their Mee Siam, originally a Thai Dish, is not oily because they boil the vermicelli, instead of frying it as most hawkers do. The gravy is made from a blend of dried shrimps, tamarind juice, bean paste, ginger, garlic, onions and lemongrass which I can easily taste the umami, as well as the sweetness and tanginess. It is served with tau pok beancurd, beansprouts and hard-boiled egg.
The Mee Rebus comes with beancurd, beansprouts and a hard-boiled egg. It is savoury and sweet. In the gravy, there are potatoes, peanuts and tiny dried shrimps. I love my Mee Rebus with fresh cut green chillis and the sweet red chilli sauce which both adds some spiciness. Personally, I love both and it is a good breakfast.
Address: 538 Bedok North Street 3, Singapore 460538