What’s it like: A hawker centre from yesteryear, despite its 2007 upgrade – warm, sticky and barely cooled by the fans. It’s the way the stalls are set up: three rows of back-to-back stalls built closely parallel to each other, so the steam and the heat from the stoves are trapped. The situation heats up further with the countless snaking lines at many of the acclaimed stalls – this is possibly the most renowned hawker centre on the island.
What to eat: Good food can be had even if you hate standing in queues. Start with the soft, smooth handmade rice rolls ($2 each) from Freshly Made Chee Cheong Fun (Stall 155) – the cook dips sheets made from rice flour into boiling water before transferring them to a well-oiled surface and deftly rolling into them prawns, char siew, chicken or mushrooms. We like the first two options the best.
At a nearby corner, Meng Kee Minced Meat Noodle & Foo Chow Fish Ball’s (Stall 103) chewy pork-stuffed fishballs ($3) hold tender, adequately fatty meat. Have these without the average noodles. Hold out, instead, for the thick yellow ones in a rust-coloured prawn-and-pork- rib broth – simmered at the Albert Street Prawn Noodles stall (10). Although the prawns are the headliners, it’s the tender, juicy pork ribs ($3-$8) that are the real stars.
We did, of course, try the crocodile bak kut teh ($8) from Stall 13 – give this a miss unless you’re into pork- and chicken-like meat on large pieces of cartilage, in a mild herbal broth. Save your calories for the robust rojak ($2-$5) from Toa Payoh Rojak (Stall 108) – a winning chewy-soft-crispy combo of turnip, pineapple, jellyfish, doughsticks, dried beancurd skin, bean sprouts and kangkung salad with a prawn paste sauce.
In case these dishes come on too strong, make like the area’s many residents and pick up half a dozen tubs of the soy beancurd (original flavour, $2 each) from Lao Ban Soya Beancurd (Stall 127). This new take on the traditional dessert is all the rage now – silken custard melts into sweet, thin syrup when eaten. No wonder the queues are long.