Located in Geylang, the Old Airport Road Food Centre re-opened for business in 2007 after closing for a $5.8 million facelift under the National Environment Agency's Hawker Centres Upgrading Programme (HUP).
Old Airport Road Food Centre is one of the most extensive food centres in Singapore where you can find just about anything. There are also lots of famous stalls here, so it is not easy to choose just four to highlight. Here they are.
I first discovered Nam Sing Hokkien Mee because it was hailed as the best Hokkien mee by many of my makan kakis. When I first visited this stall, I was blown away by the Hokkien mee. I went back there a second time after the food centre underwent renovations and by then, I’ve had the opportunity to taste a few other famous Hokkien mee stalls.I found that the quality dropped a little compared to my first visit there. Perhaps the uncle was still getting used to the new environment. Nonetheless, it was still a wonderful plate of Hokkien mee.
According to the uncle, the secret of his Hokkien mee was not that special big prawn he used, nor was it the ikan bilis (anchovies) in the stock but simply due to a good control of the fire. The trick was to quickly seal the noodles or else there would be a bad “kee” (alkaline) taste to the noodles!
Rating: 4.75/5 (for the pork satay)
After blogging for a while and having taste-tested the food at so many stalls, I must admit that I’m a little spoilt. It gets harder and harder to find dishes that really make me go "phwa say!" I guess the standard gets higher and higher because once you have tested the best, the rest just don't thrill anymore.
Fortunately, there are still many gems out there waiting to be discovered. And finding this satay stall was a "holy grail" experience. The elderly couple manning this stall told me that they have been dishing out satay for almost 50 years. This is traditional Hainanese style satay i.e. pork satay served with a peanut gravy with a slush of pineapple sauce. The flowery bouquet from the freshly grilled skewers was too much of an unbearable tease and the first bite of the satay was like getting infatuated all over again. The meat was very tender and coated with spicy golden syrup that hinted strongly of lemongrass and coriander. Fantastic!
Now I must warn you that the waiting time on the weekend is around 45 minutes and while I was standing in line, a young lady was bitterly complaining that the chicken satay she just had was not worth the wait. So I am only vouching for the pork satay, not the chicken. My advice is to head straight for the stall, order your satay and go eat other stuff while you wait. And make sure you order more than enough. It was so good, I came back to re-order some more and that meant more waiting!
I think many phrases are overused when it comes to food discussions. One is "overated" and the other is "taste is subjective". Everyone seemed to think that this stall was one fantastic lor mee that one must “die die try”. So I had to come and taste for myself. The last time I was here, it was sold out. As the stall received such good ratings, I had a very high level of expectation.
The gravy was good but was not exactly the kind of "holy grail" experience that I was led to believe. The ingredients were also good but not tongue-tingling great. The fried snapper that they put on top was generous but tasted a bit fishy that day. Also, the stall ran out of ngoh hiang which did not help. One thing that was really good was the black vinegar which was really smooth and piquant. So, much as I hate to say it, this stall is "overated" but then again, "taste is subjective".
This rojak is so popular that it has a numbering system like you would find in a clinic. And there was a long queue on the day I visited. There is always a long wait at the stall because the seller insists on charcoal-grilling every you char kway (fried dough fritter) before cutting it up and mixing it with the rojak sauce. I really enjoyed the tau pok (dried bean curd) and you char kway. They were very crispy. The Penang heh gor (prawn paste) rojak sauce was excellent too.
The one setback was that the peanuts were a bit too dry. The stall owners actually didn’t grind them themselves but bought the ready-grounded ones from a special supplier. But after mixing them with the sauce, they tasted good. The good news is that the elderly man has an heir in line, so we will get to savour this rojak for another generation.
Reproduced with permission from Dr Leslie Tay. He is the author of the popular food blog ieatishootipost.sg which chronicles his quest to eat, shoot and post Singapore's best eats.