Keep it traditional: New discoveries in heritage food
The first edition of Makansutra hit the streets in 1998.
It should seem like a breeze to put out a new edition each time, but it is actually getting harder.
It is not about the challenge of competing with online guides and blogs, but the ability to keep that sense of wonder. It's getting tougher to find good eateries.
Over the last five years, we have seen many closures by top hawkers and having "business-minded" hawkers and restaurateurs filling that gap.
These are the bosses who build hype around a brand and then set up a central kitchen and hire clueless people to helm the stall or kitchen.
For Makansutra Singapore 2017, we had to dig deeper to find hawkers and restaurants.
We have also done away with fusion and big creative idea restaurants as it is not realistic to rank creativity.
We are sticking to eateries that champion heritage and traditional food culture.
Here are some of my favourite new finds.
CHAI HO SATAY & DRIED PORK
Clementi 448 Market & Food Centre, Block 448, Clementi Avenue 3, #01-10, 3pm to 9pm, Wednesdays to Sundays
It never fails to draw a queue of at least 20 people the minute it opens.
Its Chinese-style satay does not come too heavy with spices except for hints of five-spice powder.
The meat, especially the pork, is moist, soft and done very smokey over a charcoal fire.
But the lure is the thick peanut sauce. Drown the whole satay in it.
Pasir Ris Mini Mart, Block 773, Pasir Ris Street 71, #01-380,
7.30am to noon, daily
This place was suggested to me by the same "makan mata" or Makansutra "food police" who, six years ago, introduced the Michelin-awarded JB Ah Meng Seafood in Geylang.
She just said "go try, it's very hard to describe in words".
So here is my attempt: banana leaf-wrapped nasi lemak with lightly coconut-flavoured rice with a sweet, sour and spicy sambal with fried fish, egg and cucumbers.
It is made by a small family-run kitchen and supplied to a provision shop. The nasi lemak usually sells out by lunch. There's also leaf-wrapped nasi sambal goreng which is equally appealing.
328, Joo Chiat Road, #01-05,
noon to 10pm, daily
The chendol cheesecake never fails to stop me in my tracks every time I need something sweet and with a local twist.
The woman who runs this place, Cannice, offers what she and her family, especially her husband, love to eat.
And her cheesecakes, from the classics to pulut hitam versions, are her speciality.
It is not so sweet and the local flavours are not overwhelmed by the richness of the cheese.
FEI FEI ROASTED NOODLES
Yuhua Village Food Centre, Block 254, Jurong East Street 24, Stall 2, 9am to 1pm, closed on Tuesdays
I apologise for omitting this all these years.
One bite of the noodles and you know it has that crunchy, soft and smooth texture that even al dente pasta can't quite measure up to.
The char siew is a roasted to a golden, dark brown and not the red type we normally get.
The noodles usually sells out by 11am each day.
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.