Hawker stalls by ex-hotel chefs in Singapore
Being a foodie means that a vast amount of my expenditure goes to feeding myself good food. Given that my resolution this year is to splurge less when eating out, I figured one of the ways to satisfy my high-SES way of living when it comes to food is to eat at hawker stalls owned by ex-hotel chefs. Given the vast difference in prices for a similar standard of food, I would be more than glad to trade the service and ambience at a hotel for a much lower cost at a kopitiam.
Modestly tucked in a corner of a kopitiam in Tiong Bahru, Nicher is a bakery opened by an ex-Marina Bay Sands pastry chef. It offers a simple menu comprising an array of pound cakes and muffins. You can either dapao and enjoy the pastries at home, or eat there and complement their cakes with a cup of teh-o. Our favourite cake would be Earl Grey Berries ($8 for half, $16 for a whole loaf), which boasts a delicate floral scent, with a hit of tartness from blueberries that are imported from France.
Address: 71 Seng Poh Road, Singapore 160071
Opening hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat 11am to 3pm
Tel: 9645 5604
2. Once Upon A Thyme
Image credit: @wonderfoolyouth
Once Upon A Thyme first opened as a hawker stall at Golden Mile Food Centre, but has now expanded to a takeaway at Square 2 and a small eatery at Clarke Quay Central. It is owned by Filipino chef JoJo, who used to work at places such as PS. Cafe and Swissotel.
Dishing out delicious pasta dishes at less than $15, this eatery is well-known for their signature Battered Fish Aglio Olio ($10.50). It comprises three crispy fish fillets served with spaghetti mushroom aglio olio and a coriander dip. Another stellar dish to get would be Spicy Crab Pasta ($13), where the sauce is made with premium blue swimmer crab meat.
3. Xiang Jiang Soya Sauce Chicken
Though most of us think of Hawker Chan when we think of soya sauce chicken, Xiang Jiang Soya Sauce Chicken serves up a worthy rival rendition. Run by an ex-Raffles Hotel chef, the stall serves up Dry Soya Sauce Chicken Noodles ($4), and Shrimp Wonton Soup ($4.50) made with fresh wontons daily.
Fans love the generous portions of meat, and the melt-in-your-mouth chicken skin that gives every bite an extra silkiness and oomph.
Address: 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-77, Alexandra Village Food Centre, Singapore 150120
Opening hours: Wed-Sun 8am to 2pm
Tel: 9185 7756
4. Mr Chicken Rice
Image credit: @jxuann_
Mr Chicken Rice is started by an ex-Mandarin Orchard hotel chef who knows all the secrets behind a plate of Chatterbox’s delicious chicken rice. While Mr Chicken Rice is not a hawker stall per se, its simple and frills-free eatery at Downtown East offers prices as low as a hawker stall’s.
Compared to Chatterbox’s chicken rice set that costs $27++, the Signature Tofu Set ($8.20) at Mr Chicken Rice gives you a bang for your buck. It comes with a plate of fragrant chicken rice, deep-fried tofu with sweet Thai chilli, cabbage soup and silky smooth steamed Hainanese chicken breast. Do note that an additional $0.50 will be charged if you want to upgrade the chicken breast to thigh meat.
Address: 1 Pasir Ris Close, #02-120, E!Hub @ Downtown East, Singapore 519599
Opening hours: Daily 11am to 8pm
Tel: 6582 1302
5. Meet 4 Meat
Wooloomooloo Steakhouse at Swissotel The Stamford is famous for being one of the best steak restaurants in Singapore, but it is not the most wallet-friendly place for me to satisfy my cravings. Former Wooloomooloo chef, Jimmy Teo, co-owns Meet 4 Meat at Katong and serves up quality grilled steaks sans the hefty price tag. Their 240g Premium Rib-eye ($23) is poached with butter and grilled to your favoured doneness; the meat comes with the fragrance of rosemary and thyme, and boasts a meaty, juicy tenderness.
Address: 228 East Coast Road, Brunners Coffeeshop, Singapore 428925
Opening hours: Daily 12pm to 2:30pm, 5:30pm to 9:30pm
Tel: 8290 3605
6. Ho Yun Tim Sum
The dim sum at Ho Yun Tim Sum is made by a native Hong Kong dim sum chef, with experience working for hotels and restaurants. Fed up with the standard of local dim sum after living in Singapore for two decades, he set up his own hawker stall.
Dim sum starts from $2 here, and encompasses all the classics, from char siew bao to har gow. They also have Century Egg & Lean Pork Congee ($3), if you want something more substantial to with your dim sum.
Read our Ho Yun Tim Sum review.
Address: Blk 419 Tampines Street 41, #01-80, Singapore 520419
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 7am to 7pm
7. Mun’s Seafood Pao Fan
Mun’s Seafood Pao Fan in Ghim Moh is run by their namesake Chef Mun, who has worked in hotel and Chinese restaurants for more than 30 years. Their Seafood Pao Fan ($6.90) is more affordable than most stalls, and comes with prawns, fish slices, and a scallop still on its shell.
Otherwise, the stall also sells Ipoh Mixed Pork Noodle ($5.80), accompanied by a corriander-rich, pork-laden broth to enjoy alongside your savoury sauce-drenched noodles.
Read our Mun’s Seafood Pao Fan review.
Address: 25 Ghim Moh Link, #01-01, SStar Coffee Shop, Singapore 270025
Opening hours: Wed-Mon 11am to 3pm, 5:30pm to 7:30pm
8.Weng Kiang Kee Porridge
Fronted by an ex-hotel chef who used to work in Beijing, the owner of Weng Kiang Kee Porridge aims to bring quality Hainanese porridge to Singapore.
A crowd favourite is their Triple Egg Porridge ($4), served with century, salted, and regular egg. There is also the Mixed Pig Organ Porridge ($4) for offal fans, as this comes with liver, intestines, fallopian tubes and more.
Read our Weng Kiang Kee Porridge review.
Address: 335 Smith Street, #02-082, Chinatown Food Complex, Singapore 050335
Opening hours: Wed, Fri-Sun 7:30am to 1pm
9. King of Pao Fan
Another pao fan stall on this list is King of Pao Fan, helmed by an ex-Raffles Hotel chef. The pao fan here is definitely indulgent, with options like the Half Live Lobster Pao Fan ($18), complete with half a Boston lobster. If you’re more budget-conscious, try out their Clams Pao Fan ($4.50), made with an intensely seafood-rich broth for a fraction of the price.
Read our King of Pao Fan review.
Address: 269B Queen Street, #01-237, Cheng Yan Court, Singapore 180269
Opening hours: Mon-Tue, Thurs-Sun 11am to 2.30pm, 4.30pm to 7.30pm
Tel: 8800 2694
10. Chef Chik
Chef Chik serves comforting Cantonese fare, made by a native Hong Kong chef who formerly worked at hotel restaurants. The dishes aren’t the classic zi char fare, but include the likes of Threadfin Fish Belly ($18), and Cordyceps White Fungus Steamed Chicken Soup ($6), all of which fans say taste like nostalgic homecooked dishes levelled up.
Read our Chef Chik review.
Address: 13 Haig Road, #01-36, Singapore 430014
Opening hours: Wed, Thurs, Sat 11:30am to 2:30pm
Inexpensive food by ex-hotel chefs
With these five hawker stalls by ex-hotel chefs serving up quality dishes at low prices, you need not worry about over-ordering and bursting your budget.
Aside from restaurants run by ex-hotel chefs, there is also a fair number of eateries run by ex-restaurant chefs in Singapore, so find out more by reading our Hao Lai Ke review, a stall run by an ex-Din Tai Fung chef.
This article was originally written on 8 June 2018.