Makansutra: Let’s save the obscure, offline hawkers
Four stalls that are under the radar but certainly worth the trip for that family dinner bulk buy
The ongoing phase two situation has been harder to deal with than last year's circuit breaker, some hawkers have said.
There remains a big group of them who have not got their business online for many reasons.
The high commission rates that food-delivery firms charge aside, some foods are just not designed for delivery, while some who are listed online face competition from thousands of other listings and options.
So let's support our hard-working hawkers, especially those in the quieter zones. Here are four stalls that are worth the trip for a bulk buy.
KEBABCHI CHARCOAL BBQ
Gluttons Bay, 8 Raffles Avenue, opens 4pm to 10pm, closed on Mondays
This stall within the near-deserted and touristy Marina Bay is hardly getting walk-ins or delivery sales.
Despite this, Mr Bilil Ur Rehman and his team would fire up their open wood fire pit daily to grill their meats and breads.
The Pakistan-born Singaporean graduate's popular coriander chicken kebab is a hit, and it goes well with fresh tandoori naans. Many also pair it with butter chicken and briyani.
On the open fire pit, they gradually inch the kebabs towards the heat to ensure a consistent doneness to the meat.
DELI BAK CHOR MEE
Golden Mile Food Centre (Army Market), opens 7.30am to 6.30pm, closed on Sundays
Owner Angeline Ng is from Pekanbaru, Indonesia, and settled in Singapore some 25 years ago.
This Nonya lady used to sell nasi padang in town but saw business dwindle over the years.
She recently opened at Golden Mile and offers a style of bak chor mee that is different from most.
The sambal has an Indonesian Nonya touch. It is orange and she mixes it with a black kicap-soya sauce blend.
The result is a loud symphony in the mouth - bold and spicy, and unlike the usual bak chor mee that comes with black vinegar.
The premium $8.80 version (usual portion starts from $4) comes with a seafood soup laden with scallops, prawns, pork slices and balls, fish balls and liver.
She has hardly any online sales despite being on Foodpanda as she does not promote her stall on social media.
RAYBEN KING OF SEAFOOD SOUP
39 Sin Ming Drive, opens 11am to 8pm, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
The stall's seafood soup is replete with swimmer crabs, scallops, prawns, meat balls and clams.
The ingredients all sit in a bold seafood and shellfish-based stock ($38 for this ultimate set, others start from $8.80), and no teepo (dried flounder bones) is used.
Ray and Ben are two young, first-time hawkers who, in my view, did not pick a good location.
Sited at an industrial canteen, the customers who flock there prefer heartier fare such as economy rice, chicken rice or fried hor fun.
The duo have been relying on die-hard regulars from far-flung zones, who are all but avoiding a trip there now.
Online orders are also thinning because of the long waiting time, but they are holding out for their ardent supporters.
Block 504A, Serangoon North Avenue 4, KPT Coffeeshop, opens 11am to 7.45pm, closed on Sundays
I came across an online post (which gave the wrong address) about this popiah that comes with century egg, saying "it is the only one I know selling it".
It took me 20 minutes to find the stall a few blocks away and true enough, Ms Angela Tan was running a little booth offering this unique version.
Half a century egg cut into three slices is used and is well balanced with the crunch and flavour of stewed turnips, crispy dough and peanuts.
I would ask for more chilli to bring out the earthiness of the century egg.
Each roll costs $2.80, or you could ask for the regular version at $1.90 (sans century egg).
She has no online presence and depends mostly on nearby residents.