Hidden gems worth hunting
I love my job and I never fail to get makan buddies when I am out on regular eating jaunts. They are only too happy to be "mopping-up agents" of all that I try and nibble at.
We typically comb up to 10 eateries a day, suggested by very obscure online posts and recommendations, and from asking friendly strangers who seem to know what they are ordering and eating (the best research method by far).
This week, we've unearthed a few new "stars" to track for our next Makansutra edition.
Some of them are so obscure that we cannot find them online - nothing written about them nor tagged in photos.
PHOTO: KF SEETOH
CHUEN XIANG MEI FISH SOUP
#02-35, Hong Lim Food Centre, 531A, Upper Cross Street (11am to 3pm, weekdays)
This stall was recommended by another hawker nearby when he spotted me behaving "suspiciously".
"Trust me, try this fish soup when they open tomorrow," he said.
The fish soup had a robustness and was brownish because the fish bones used for stock were very well roasted. There were also the Szechuan vegetables and tomatoes to lift off the fishiness.
Go for the black and white - fresh mackerel slices with very fragrantly-fried fish head chunks.
You get the sweetness of the fresh fish, the firmness of the fried fish head, the crunch of the vegetables, tang from the Szechuan greens and a lovely combination of all that in the soup.
PHOTO: KF SEETOH
Block 1, Yishun Avenue 5, Chong Pang Village, Swee Sian Yuen Eating House (11.30am to 6.30pm and 7.30pm to 11.30pm, closed on Mondays)
This is a corner of an ayam penyet stall - a stall within a stall.
What attracted me was the range of the putu piring on offer.
There were 15 types other than the typical gula melaka filling: durian, red bean, peanut, pineapple, kaya, chocolate, banana, blueberry, cheese, cappuccino, jackfruit, mango, strawberries, sambal anchovies and cempedak.
I tried nine, which were all seller Din and his wife Has had that day.
The durian was fail-safe, as were the kaya and chocolate, but the cheese was very refreshing, a bit like salted egg yolk custard bao.
The peanut and red bean were comforting but I had one beef with them - the fillings could have been more generous.
But at $1 for three, I really cannot complain. How about stuff them up and sell them at $1.80 for three, boss?
I was upset that I missed the sambal ikan bilis version. I will be back.
PHOTO: KF SEETOH
FRAGRANT HONG KONG PORK RIB RICE
#02-69, Hong Lim Food Centre, 531A, Upper Cross Street (9am to 5pm, closed on Sundays)
The queue for comforting bowls of rice with pork ribs, minced pork patties and chicken versions was unrelenting.
The signature pork ribs rice was softly steamed but the rice had just enough bite, unlike really mushy versions you get elsewhere.
Soy-and-stock sauce was splashed over the rice. The saltiness and umami in the rice were just nicely done.
My favourite was the minced pork patty with preserved egg over rice. That patty was generously chunky, meaty and easy on salts.
The chicken-and-mushroom version was equally moreish.
*KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets, his own TV shows on cable, publishing food guides, consultancy and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.