Celebrate hawkers at Ion Orchard
The various movements and ground-up initiatives to support local hawkers that arose since the circuit breaker and even during phase two (heightened alert) have touched me deeply.
It feels good to know so many Singaporeans are united in the quest to not let our hawker heritage die out.
So Hawkers' Street at Ion Orchard came up at the best time.
Select Group tapped on its successes with Chinatown Food Street and Straits Food Village (Changi Airport Terminal 2) and opened this foodcourt housing six hawkers, including Michelin-accredited brands, in June.
Now that we are dining out again, the hungry crowd has descended upon Orchard Road.
I was at Hawkers' Street on a Tuesday at 11.30am and there were barely any tables available.
There are many stalls I like and dishes I am happy to eat daily. One example is Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee's prawn noodles (from $6).
More than its long history (it has been around since the early 60s), the noodles, sauce and ingredients work together.
The sauce is a special joy - just salty enough, full of umami and coats the noodles nicely.
Some like this with cut chilli but I think it is best unadorned.
The recipe that Famous Eunos Bak Chor Mee uses is a century old. It started in Kampong Chai Chee before moving to Eunos Hawker Centre in 1980.
What makes this bak chor mee (from $5) works is the comforting soup and pork dumplings.
While I do not dislike it, I will not be joining the queue at Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice (from $4.90). The curry and braised pork sauce over steamed rice is why people flock to the stall, but I find it too sweet.
I felt the same way when I ate at the Jalan Besar outlet previously, so at least it is consistent.
I am not a fan of chwee kueh (steamed flour cakes) because of that gooey texture and bland flavour, but the version from Jian Bo Shui Kueh is so addictive.
These cakes (from $3.20) are airy and light, with a savoury pickled radish sauce that complements them.
There are many outlets around Singapore so it is not a rare find, but it is nice when everything is just conveniently gathered together.
I do not think it is superior to Bedok Chwee Kueh at Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre, but it comes close.
Another brand that is all over the island is Ann Chin Popiah. From $2.50, you will have a roll that is perfect if you are not really hungry.
To be honest, it is not a fancy version, but it is comforting, and that is really all you need from hawker food.
You will also get the current craze - King of Fried Rice (from $4.50) - here, but it is so popular now, you have to be prepared to wait a while.
While I love Hawkers' Street, not everyone will gravitate towards a concept like this.
Some prefer a more organic environment, but frankly, I am spoilt and if I have to pay more for air-conditioning and having everyone under one roof, I will do it.
Some may also lament that their favourite hawker is not here. That is good because it means we have so many good hawkers that we will never agree on who is the best.
Just don't make a judgment until you have actually tried it.