Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Singapore, Johor, Toronto based blog of true stories by johorkaki@gmail about best food, places, people & overSixty lifestyle around the world

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

Chinatown Complex Food Centre (CCFC) which opened in 1983, is Singapore's largest hawker centre with over 200 food stalls. If you are an overseas visitor and have time to visit only one hawker centre during your stay, CCFC would be one of the best in terms of cuisine mix and sheer size.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

Built in the 1980s, the design of the hawker centre is functional with not much attention to aesthetics. But, in that way it is charming as a lived artefact, a throwback from Singapore's past. From a historical perspective, 36 years is not a long time by any means. The fact that CCFC looked "vintage" compared to modern hawker centres is a reflection of the breakneck pace of Singapore's post independence development.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

Like all hawker centres in Singapore, Chinatown Complex Food Centre is regularly refreshed to keep it clean, comfortable and relevant in the daily lives of Singaporeans. It just reopened after 3 months of renovation works with new paint, plumbing, ventilation, etc.


Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

The original 200 stalls in CCFC consists mainly of mobile hawkers that plied the surrounding streets and alleys of Kreta Ayer 牛车水. It's been over 30 years, most of the original Kreta Ayer hawkers have retired. Some are succeeded by their next generation, others vacated their stalls, replaced by the highest bidder.

Today, CCFC have a diverse range of food and beverage offerings across ethnicity, regional and generational groups, from centuries old snacks like sak kei ma 沙琪瑪 to trendy microbrew craft beer. Still, there is an under layer of old Kreta Ayer hawkers unique to Chinatown Complex Food Centre.

Yuet Loy. Amazing Little Canto Zhi Char in Chinatown Complex Food Centre 悦来熟食

The original heritage stalls undergirding CCFC are like social glue. Chinatown residents including many who have moved, congregate regularly at CCFC to taste their old favourites and trade old stories.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

Searching for specific stalls in the sprawling complex can be daunting even for locals. Dividing the 200 stalls into colour zones - Red, Yellow, Blue and Green - helps. You know the zone you are in by the colour of the pillars, tables and stools, and frames of the stall front.

Here's a selection of stalls I like to highlight to you. Let's take a walk together to appreciate the diverse flavours and colours of Chinatown Complex Food Centre.




Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-151 Yuet Loy Cooked Food 悦来熟食. Old school Cantonese delights by Mr. Fong. This is the only place in Singapore to get Golden Coin Tofu - a traditional restaurant dish that no one else serves nowadays, except Mr. Fong as it is so tedious to make. Steamed chicken with salted fish is another must try dish at Yuet Loy.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-156 Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap 金记潮州卤鸭. The most famous braised duck stall in Singapore. Melvin who took over his dad's stall, is a familiar face as he is frequently featured in local and overseas media as a role model and voice of new generation Singapore hawkers. Besides traditional braised duck, try also his braised duck bento set and ramen.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-131 Heng Ji Chicken Rice 亨記雞飯. With its roots in 1970s Smith Street, this is the oldest still running brand in Singapore chicken rice. The poached chicken are dunked in ice and served cold the Cantonese way.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-126 Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. Known to the world as Hawker Chan, this is the most famous hawker stall in Chinatown Complex, in Singapore, if not the world. Hawker Chan is the first hawker ever honoured with a Michelin Star. Do try it, if you haven't before.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-135 Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao 中国拉面小笼包. The post-Millenia wave of Chinese immigrants brought a new layer of Chinese flavours into Chinatown Complex Food Centre. Go for their xiao long bao, pan fried dumplings and Szechuan spicy wanton (but don't expect fine restaurant quality).
Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-177 Fei Ye Ye Food Traditions 肥爷爷传统美食. There are many stalls selling Hong Kong soya sauce chicken in CCFC. I like Fei Ye Ye's rendition because the chicken meat is softer, juicier, sweeter. The soya sauce poaching stock is mildly sweet savoury. Their egg noodles are tender, crunchy and go well with their freshly made, nicely savoury spicy chili sauce.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-185 Tian Tian Porridge 天天粥品 stall founded in 1952. One of the humblest, simplest staple from old Kreta Ayer. Moderate weight porridge with minced pork, liver and small intestine. (Raw fish and kidney no longer served.) Add a dash of light soy sauce and a puff of white pepper for a trip back to 1960s Singapore.

Maria-Ma-Li-Ya-HK-Soya-Sauce-Chicken

#02-189 Ma Li Ya Virgin Chicken 瑪俐亞處女雞 is a pioneer of Hong Kong style soya sauce chicken in Singapore (Maria's dad serving it since the 1920s). Besides Maria's tender, savoury sweet poached chicken, go also for their soft aromatic tofu.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-190 Chinatown Complex is the hub of steamed song fish head stalls in Singapore. Seng Kee 119 成记驰名酱蒸松鱼头 turned the traditional Cantonese fish head dish on its head by creating "Steamed Fish Head in Hot Sauce". Now, the savoury sourish spicy sauce is the top seller and every stall in CCFC have their version. Seng Kee still serves the best rendition in my opinion.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-216 Duo Ji Chee Cheong Fun 多記馳名豬腸粉. Old chee cheong fun and yam cake stalwart. Though relying on generic chee cheong fun and yam cake from suppliers now, their house blended savoury (hae ko), sweet, spicy sauce and aromatic oil still keep loyal regulars coming back for Chinatown breakfast.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-201 Tew Chew Street Tew Chew Porridge. Over 60 year old stall run by 2nd generation owner Tan Huat Seng who is in his 60s. Plain watery porridge eaten with savoury sides from a spread of some 15 dishes which include steamed fish, squid, curry stingray, stewed pork, preserved vegetables etc.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-206 115 Tang Shui. One of the stalwarts of old Kreta Ayer still going strong into the third generation. The sesame seed, almond and groundnut are still grounded at the stall. Tommy reporting here at 3am everyday to prepare. Still uses the original recipe which includes "smelly grass" or rue herb 臭草, the way my grandmother made green bean soup.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-199 Lian He Ben Ji Bao Fan 联合本记煲饭. Older Chinatown folks call this the"3 sisters claypot rice" because this old stall is run by 3 sisters - one take orders, one prepares the ingredients and one cooks the claypot chicken rice (with Cantonese wax sausage and salted fish) over charcoal stoves. Call in service only ☎ 6227 2470 because walk in customers have to wait very, very long for their food.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-225 Babas Peranakan. Run by retired hotel chef Edwin with his merry band of veteran brothers. Edwin uses his mum's recipes. Go for the curry chicken drumstick, the spice flavours were spot on, though I do wish the chicken was more tender and juicy.
Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore
#02-008 Old Amoy Chendol. Simple, honest rendition of the local classic. Owner Youning's grandfather ran a push cart stall at Amoy Street, hence the name. Grandpa's recipe calls for real pandan "noodles", mushed adzuki beans, shaved ice, caramelised palm sugar that's all, that's great.

Hill-Street-Fried-Kway-Teow-Chinatown-禧街炒粿条

#02-032 Hill Street Fried Kway Teow 禧街炒粿条. This is the less famous Hill Street Fried Kway Teow (the famous one is in Bedok). Both came from the demolished Hill Street Hawker Centre in 2000, hence they share the same name. Sweet and wet type of char kway teow. Has that nostalgic aroma when you walk pass the stall. 
Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice. Chinatown Folks' Little Secret 釗记砂煲飯

#02-053 Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice. Simple and nice claypot rice even though it is cooked over gas stoves. Tender sweet chicken (thigh only), salted fish, lup cheong, greens, flavoursome rice, crunchy crispy crust, savoury sweet sauce, aromatic oil - all the boxes checked. Sadly, stall is closing end Aug 2019. Owner can't find staff. 

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-056 Woo Ji Cooked Food 胡記熟食. Old school Singapore style prawn mee and laksa where prawn stock is made with just prawns and curry laksa is less milky but still packed with depth of flavour. Prices still held at the 1980s level. 

Yang-Ji-194-Garlic-Steamed-Fish-Head- 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头

#02-057 Yang Ji 194 Garlic Steam Fish Head 养记.香港特式蒜蓉蒸鱼头. Yang Ji has its own interpretation of the classic steamed song fish head dish - with caramelised garlic. It has the full range of Cantonese wok hei zhi char dishes too.

Xiang-Xiang-Cooked-Food-Chinatown-Complex

#02-068 Xiang Xiang Cooked Food for local sweet desserts like sweet potato ball, onde onde, jian dui, kueh ubi kayu etc. All freshly made at the stall. Among the best on this island.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-076 Heng Wah Traditional Coffee. Run by a family from the famous Tong Ah coffee shop at Keong Saik Street, this stall is a popular kopi and toast hangout of locals who know Chinatown.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-078 Pan Ji Cooked Food 潘記殺騎馬. One of the last places in Singapore that still hand makes sak kei ma, a sweet crunchy snack that has its roots in ancient Manchuria.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-079 Shi Xiang Satay 适香沙爹 founded in the 1950s, the stall uses the old recipe passed down from the owner's grandfather who got it from an Indian spice trader.

Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

#02-082 Weng Kiang Kee Porridge. Relatively new stall opened by a retired executive chef who wants to preserve the legacy of Singapore porridge and provide the social glue to help keep the Chinatown community eating together.

Singapore-Chinatown-Hawker-Centre-Claypot-&-Cooked-Food-#02-83

#02-83 Claypot & Cooked Food Kitchen 砂煲小厨. Another little nondescript zhi char stall that whips up big restaurant dishes. Besides good renditions of the usual hor fun and ku lou yok, you can ask Hong Kor for banquet dishes like lou mai gai.

Fatty-Ox-HK-Kitchen-Beef-Brisket-Tendon-Noodles-Chinatown-Singapore

#02-084 Fatty Ox HK Kitchen 肥牛食家.过桥面档. This green zone feels like the Hong Kong corner of Chinatown Complex. Fatty Ox is the place for HK style wanton mee with braised beef brisket and tendon.

Chinatown-Complex-Red-Fermented-Bean-Curd-Pork-Trotter-南乳燜豬手

#02-085 Fragrant Sauce Chicken & Noodles. Randy specialises in stewed pork and chicken dishes marinated with red fermented bean curd (nam yu) eaten with rice or egg noodles. Randy has a loyal following who appreciates nostalgic, old school Cantonese flavours.

Chinatown-Complex-Food-Centre-Heritage-Trail-Old-Kreta-Ayer

#02-088 Xiu Ji Yong Tau Fu 秀记江鱼仔酿豆腐. A unique yong tau foo with highlights of fried anchovies and clean tasting freshly steamed real Yellowtail fish paste filled tofu.



For my full story on each stall, click on the following links. Treat this list only as the starting point of your journey to discover Chinatown Complex Food Centre, and beyond that to Singapore's hawker culture.

Share your discoveries in the comments here. 

Bon Appetit.


Walking Guide to the Best Hawker Stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore

Chinatown Complex Food Centre

Address335 Smith St, Singapore 050335
GPS1°16'58.5"N 103°50'35.0"E 🌐 1.282922, 103.843042
Nearest MRT station: Chinatown






Date: 25 July 2019


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