Good auld makan for the New Year
Three gems at Marsiling Mall, which opened in mid-December
Visiting one of the newer hawker centres in a corner of the island was one of my New Year activities.
The new one at Marsiling Mall (4, Woodlands Street 12) opened in mid-December.
Not all the stalls are fully occupied yet.
And you will get 50 cents back if you take your food tray to the tray return station, although you can opt out (such as when you are buying a cup of coffee or a single plate of something) and leave it to the cleaners.
A cleaner rides a "sweeping mobile" slowly through the dining area.
But I noticed it had a tough time reaching some areas, such as under the tables and chairs, which still had to be cleaned manually.
Kudos to the designers for the colourful low children's tables and chairs.
The second level sundries and supermarket area is air-conditioned and no cashless system has been introduced, so the older generation of foodies should not find it daunting.
But we are here for the food, and I checked out these three makan gems:
HAO JIA BAN MIAN
01-53, 9am to 9pm (ad hoc days off)
The signature chilli noodles dish is the champ here.
Ground dried chilli is fried with minced dried hae bee and ikan bilis to create this spicy umami bomb of a chilli paste that goes supremely well with the thin ban mian (softer than mee kia), topped with store-bought pork balls, mushroom and minced meat.
The first thing I noticed of the red wine mee sua was just how generous the place was with the red wine lees base, which had an aromatic sweetness.
Flecks of it were on every scoop.
FIVE STAR FAST FOOD
01-40, 10am to 10pm (ad hoc days off)
Never forget this old classic. Many hawkers are lost when it comes to what makes a good mee goreng these days, but not here.
It is one of the better ones I have had in years.
It is very well-fried - you don't get the "factory noodle" flavour - and it is moist and al dente.
It comes spicy, with rich savoury hints and a full-bodied kick of tomato paste, which gives it sweetness. I did not even bother to notice the lamb bits or greens.
There was a queue for it throughout my two-hour "makan spying". They may tell you to return in 15 minutes after you order, and they are not exactly friendly when the peak hour crowd shows up.
YE LAI XIANG
01-73, 8am to 2pm, closed on Mondays
This is a good spot for an early morning laksa fix. Its bold, homemade rempah is coarse and visible in the dish that comes with cockles and an egg.
The roasty dollop of sambal takes it to another dimension.
This is a foodie's version.
That means it is not about the topping but the laksa curry, which is more Chinese-style than Nonya. It is light on coconut milk and intense with dried hae bee in the rempah.
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.