Hup Lee Cafeteria
Arcade Shopping Centre
Sliced fish soup is the food of corporate champions in Singapore: It is tasty, high in nutrients, and easy to take away on a busy desk-bound day. The sliced fish soup stall at the back of the Arcade Shopping Centre is popular with the white-collar crowd working around Raffles Place. The fish is prepared just before they open shop at 10:30am and turnover is incredibly fast, so there is hardly any time for it to sit around and grow soggy.
I visited early on a Monday morning to catch the food at its freshest. The soup was extremely good, fortified with chunks of salted vegetables and a slice of tomato for added tartness.
The fried fish slices ($4.50 for a basic bowl) simply stole the show. Whereas other hawkers may use the batter to cover up the mediocrity of their fish or to act as a bulking agent, the meat here was firm and fresh and the flour well-seasoned and surprisingly crunchy. We’ve travelled far and wide for good fish soup, and Arcade’s is heads and shoulders above what we’ve had before.
The notion that special food can only be found in out-of-the-way places is misguided and is wont for changing. Food in the CBD tends to be overlooked because of the location’s sheer prosaicness, but if one cares to look, there are dozens of hawker stalls tucked into the numerous food centres in town that are so deserving of being catalogued and re-discovered.
31 Tan Quee Lan Street #01-01
Tel: 6334 4086
We were introduced to Xin Yuan Ji some time ago, and it is now our go-to place for sliced fish soup in Singapore. The restaurant itself is a full service tze-char restaurant, catering both to the one-hour luncher and the relaxed steamboater. It is particularly noted for its steamboat, fishhead curry and fish soup offerings.
The sliced fish soup with condensed milk ($5.80 – $7.00) is one of their specialities. You can have it with thick beehoon, porridge, or a separate serving of rice. The original purpose of adding milk was to mimic the appearance of fish-bone soup that has been boiled for hours, but it also has the effect of giving the soup a smoother texture and a pleasant sour-salty aftertaste. Fried fish slices are also available.
The sanlao fish hor fun ($7.00) comes hot out of the kitchen smelling of wokhei, the smokey, slight charred scent cherished by Cantonese chefs. There is a generous portion of fish and beansprouts, with plenty to share around.
We’ve not tried the rest of the dishes on the menu, but the shrimp prawn paste (belachan) chicken is a best seller and purportedly very good. Just don’t question how healthy it is.
Amoy Street Food Centre
The people working in Singapore’s Central Business District will probably be familiar with Hock Lam Street beef noodles. They might think the forementioned beef noodles are actually quite tasty. We’ve got news for you. Set aside all preconceived notions of what makes a good bowl of beef kwayteow and make your way to this humble stall at Amoy Street Food Centre.
Here at Number One-Twenty Three, they serve the stuff like they should – the dry gravy is distilled from proper stock and saturated with marrow-filled goodness. Hardly any corn flour is necessary to thicken the mixture. The beef slices are cooked to perfection (slightly pink and chewy), and the beef balls actually put up a hearty, meaty resistance when bitten into, quite unlike the starch-filled pretenders ubiquitous to air-conditioned food courts all around the island. (Alas!)
For the best bowl of beef noodles you’ll taste in your life, this is all priced very attractively – $3 for a bowl with beef slices and meatballs in it. It works up to $5 if you add tendons and all the truly yummy offal-ish stuff. Food in Singapore has been getting expensive, but several stalwarts to traditional hawker cooking still remain, if you care to look for them.
Johore Road Boon Kee Pork Porridge
Blk 638 Veerasamy Road
This is our weekend guilty pleasure after church on Sundays with our usual bunch of friends. We like to trick ourselves into thinking that porridge is inherently healthy, but porridge like this probably isn’t. This is the Hainanese variety – middle-thickness viscosity with juicy bits of pork, liver and dough fritters (youtiao) floating around in it. There is the additional option of cracking a raw egg into it and letting the porridge cook it through. Swig some pepper and light soya sauce into it and there you have it! Nom.
Moo 2, 4203 Road
Ao Nang, Mueang Krabi
This modest establishment is situated along the stretch of road leading to Ao Nang beach, next to the Red Balcony bar. The food was good – Phad Thai will not get more authentic than this. The raw beansprouts have an earthy aftertaste to it – a throwback to my growing-up days in Singapore, when mother dearest used to force-feed them to her children. ‘It’s for strong bones,’ she would tell us, ‘and more importantly, it provides roughage.’ Thanks Mum.
Green Curry with Chicken
Tom Yam Soup with Glass Noodles
The curry and the tomyum soups had a good homemade twang to them. The soup was well infused, with copious amounts of fresh-sliced lemongrass and herbs floating around in it. They were also incredibly liberal with the seafood – we had to pick through the veritable forest of herbs, prawn and squid to get to the broth underneath. Gloria swears by the tomyum soup with glass noodles. The green curry was thick and suitably spicy, with a generous dose of coconut for added depth of flavour. My only gripe about it was that the restaurant uses chicken breast meat, to cater to the Western tourist’s palette. Which is a pity, as breast meat tends to turn powdery when boiled in anything. Chicken thigh would have been an infinitely better option.
What would I recommend this place for? Your daily meals in Krabi, if you are fortunate to be lodging in the vicinity. They do Thai fare really well, but not necessarily well enough for an out-of-the-way visit. For that, go to Ruen Mai in Krabi Town. We will do a review on that real soon.