Tony Johor Kaki Travels for Food · Heritage · Culture · History

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Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu Singapore Chinatown 秀记江鱼仔酿豆腐


While surveying the blind corners of Chinatown Complex Food Centre, I stumbled upon bamboo trays of these steaming hot stuffed yong tau fu. Any freshly made food, especially by hand catches my attention. When I stopped and stepped closer, I could smell the warm aroma of fresh tofu.

I quickly got in line. It was quite long 😱

Janggut Laksa | Original Katong Laksa | Marine Parade Laksa @ Queensway Shopping Centre Singapore

I've been enjoying the laksa at Queensway Shopping Centre since the mid 2000s without knowing its history. Just knew that it was a good laksa whenever I come here to get sports shoes or get my spectacles done.


This was my large bowl of Janggut Laksa 叻沙 for SGD6.

Honest Review Toa Payoh Tian Tian Lai Come Daily Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee 天天来炒福建虾面


To me, fried Hokkien prawn mee 炒福建虾面 is one of the truly Singapore street food dishes. Step outside of Singapore, and you will have a hard time looking for this dish, let alone finding a good one. Not even just across the Causeway in Johor Bahru.

The best fried Hokkien mee stalls are only in Singapore (but there are not many).

Hawker Chan (After & Before Michelin Star). Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown 香港油雞飯麵

Hawker Chan

Update 19 July 2019. Hawker Chan's soya sauce chicken in Singapore's Chinatown Complex, of course, doesn't need any further introduction - the humble little stall catapulted to world fame when it became the world's first hawker stall to clinch a Michelin Star back in 2016.

Han Jiang Fish Soup @ AMK 409 Teck Ghee Square, Ang Mo Kio 韩江鱼汤


ok... I am slowly blogging about my favourite comfort foods from before my blogging days. One of them is Han Jiang Fish Soup 韩江鱼汤 at AMK 409 Teck Ghee Square in Ang Mo Kio, Singapore.

One of my favourite lunch dishes is Teochew style fish soup. It's delicious and it makes me feel good that I am eating healthy 😄

Stall name: Han Jiang Fish Soup 韩江鱼汤

Address: 409 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, stall #01-15, Singapore 560409 (Teck Ghee Square)

Hours: 12:00 noon - 2:00pm | 5:30pm - 9:00pm

Traditional Haig Road Putu Piring Singapore

Traditional putu piring is very rare in Singapore. So, hurry down to Traditional Haig Road Putu Piring to taste the last few stalls left in Singapore still making this old school Malay snack.

Geylang Lor 33 Clay Pot Rice Singapore 芽笼瓦煲饭


Geylang Claypot Rice 芽笼瓦煲饭 is one of the most popular in Singapore and one of the rare ones that still uses charcoal to cook the rice.

It's one of my go to places when I want to eat claypot rice in Singapore.

Ah Er Soups at 阿2老火汤 Superbowl Leisure Park Singapore

Today is one of those days when I just wanted a comforting soup for lunch; been eating a little too much and the sweltering heat is also getting to me.

So, I made my way to Singapore's west at Superbowl Leisure Park, Yuan Ching Road for the popular soups at 阿2老火汤.


阿2老火汤 is one of the dozen of stalls at the large food centre at Superbowl Leisure Park.


The large food centre here serves mostly residents and workers who work around the Jurong area. It's bright, clean and reasonably cool without air con.


The boss, Mr Mah who hails from Ipoh, has been running 阿2老火汤 soup stall for 4 years now.

There are altogether 12 types of Cantonese style soups at 阿2老火汤 soup stall.


阿2 signature Buddha Jump over the Wall soup 佛跳牆 SGD7.


In the heavy full bodied, full flavoured savoury sweet broth, there is a chicken leg, Chinese black mushrooms, fish maw pieces and even 2 slices of abalone.


Pig Maw soup SGD4.

Savoury, sweet and robustly peppery full bodied broth with spongy tender slices of pig maw and herbs.


Pig Tail soup SGD5.


Inside the savoury sweet heavy broth there are pig tail, ribs, black beans and herbs.


Overall, all the three soups we had had strong flavours and full bodied, viscous consistency broth. The piping hot soups were also generously loaded with ingredients. Not too greasy and no MSG is used according to Mr Mah.

We happily drank up all 3 bowls of soup to the last drop.

If you like heavy broth, savoury sweet and not overly herbal flavours, 阿2老火汤 is for you.


Besides the white rice there are the pumpkin and olive rice options. The rice are flavourful but not too fluffy and of average quality grains. They are value for money at 80 cents for the pumpkin rice and SGD1 for the olive rice.


The food centre is just beside (on the left of) ShengSiong supermarket and can be accessed by walking through it.


阿2老火汤 as seen from ShengSiong supermarket.


Ample parking at Superbowl Leisure Park.

Restaurant name: Ah Er Soup 阿2老火汤
Address: Superbowl Leisure Park, 3 Yuan Ching Road, Singapore 618642
GPS1.325728, 103.725394
Hours: 11:00am to 9:00pm (Closed on Sunday)

Non Halal

Date visited: 20 Apr 2015

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What's Air Conditioning our Public Hawker Centres got to do with "No Egg" Char Kway Teow in Singapore?

"Let them eat cake." Marie Antoinette.


What does it mean to "preserve our hawker heritage"?

In my humble opinion, our hawker heritage has two essential elements.

Food and people.

I feel it should be people first, then food.

Giving everyone access to daily sustenance is part and parcel of our hawker heritageCost of everything from rental, utilities to ingredients etc are kept low. (There is an imbalance between cost and price now, but that's another discussion for another day.)


Gratefully, our hawkers did marvellous things with simple ingredients and created the wonderful hawker food we now enjoy and value. Preservation of our hawker heritage obviously includes the tastes and flavours that we now so love.

Indeed, the discussion on preserving our hawker heritage has focused on the fabulous flavours and tastes of our hawker food, at times overshadowing the people aspect - the dimension of accessibility for all.


The direction has been to make eating hawker food more enjoyable for young Singaporeans which are deemed to shun public hawker centres. Young Singaporeans are the future customers of hawker food. If they won't eat at public hawker centres, it will be the end of that public institution and along with it, our treasured hawker heritage.

Two approaches have been broached.

One, use premium ingredients like making "prawn mee" with lobsters. As our country progresses, young Singaporeans are believed to have more discerning tastes.

Two, install air conditioning in public hawker centres as young Singaporeans are known to avoid these places because of the stifling heat and perpetually near 100% humidity.

We should do both of these things; premium ingredients and air conditioning. 

Premium ingredients address the taste, flavour and enjoyment aspects of preserving our hawker heritage. The higher margin also encourages more young people to enter the hawker trade. Air con addresses accessibility of public hawker centres for well-to-do Singaporeans. Oppressive heat is a form of oppression, no less.


Premium ingredients is a natural progression. 

Some of us are old enough to remember that char kway teow of old comes in the premium "with egg" and ordinary "no egg" versions. Some of us may even remember bringing our own eggs to the char kway teow stall to cut costs ;-D As our average disposable income increased, now "with egg" char kway teow is the default.

Similarly one day, lobster "hae mee" could be the default when average Singaporean disposable income reaches that level.

In the meantime, perhaps we could address preserving our hawker heritage holistically, which means also addressing accessibility for all, including less well-to-do Singaporeans.

Air conditioning is an optional cost.

Let's consider options of "with air con" and "no air con" in tandem with the general level of disposable income of average and also low income Singaporeans. In any case, private food courts already provide the "air con" option for well-to-do Singaporeans who need a more conducive eating place. I have no figures - does anyone know whether there are now more air con private food courts than no air con public hawker centres in Singapore?


Likewise for food, in the meantime, we can have the premium lobster version for those who can afford it, and the shrimp version for most of us. For example, Wah Kee at Pek Kio food centre have versions of prawn mee ranging from SGD3 to SGD35 (cough, cough nearly choked ;-p ).

We should phase out "no air con" hawker centres and ordinary prawn mee when there are no more Singaporeans who need them. Then "no air con" public hawker centres and ordinary prawn mee will naturally go the way of "no egg" char kway teow.

Hope we can have a fruitful discussion by sharing your views in the comments below ;-D

Date: 20 Apr 2015

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Food Trucks in Singapore?

"The first question always is, what problem does the solution address?" Tony Johor Kaki


The food truck is perhaps, in the eyes of many, the epitome of contemporary street food.

The funk factor and romance of food trucks are seductive.


A complete kitchen on wheels represent flexibility, freedom, adventure, creativity and endless possibilities. In the USA, the food truck is in a way an extension of Americans' romance with cars and the open road.

Singaporeans love cars as much as our food on our little island.

Food trucks gotta have a place in this car crazy, sunny food paradise (?).


In the USA, food trucks play the crucial social role of providing good food for the people at affordable prices.

New York City and other American metropolises have thriving food truck cultures. Every now and then, there is another new heartwarming story about a humble food truck owner breaking into the big time, e.g. Halal GuysWafels & Dingles, NY Dosas, Cinnamon Snail.

Everyone love such stories, especially people who champion street food.

There have been past attempts to introduce food trucks in Singapore but the idea hasn't taken off in any big way.

The challenges are so obvious, it feels silly painful to repeat.

But, I do believe that there is a place for food trucks in Singapore.


Conditions in the USA are ideal for a food truck culture.

The USA is among, if not the world's cheapest place to own and operate a truck.

In comparison, Singapore is the most expensive place in the world to buy and operate a motor vehicle. Roughly 500+% more investment for the equivalent vehicle purchase in America - that's around SGD200,000+ sunk cost for every ten years of truck ownership. Licences, permits, parking, tolls, maintenance, fuel, etc., extra.


Fortunately, in Singapore, we have public hawker centres that fulfil the critical social role of feeding the people admirably.

Singapore is dotted with public hawker centres and nearly blanketed with neighbourhood coffee shops providing affordable meals.

Given the high capital investment and operating costs of a food truck in Singapore, it's unlikely that a Singapore food truck can deliver a meal that is price competitive with public hawker centre food. The average cost of a hawker centre meal is under SGD4.

So, costs pretty much rule out food trucks as the means to provide affordable meals for the people in Singapore.

American cities (as far as I know), do not have the equivalent of Singapore's public hawker centres.

So the critical role of providing affordable meals for the people where they are in American cities, fell on the shoulders of food trucks.


Singapore with it's public hawker centres is unlikely to be able to follow closely the New York City model of food trucks providing affordable meals where people need them.

The place of food trucks in Singapore is by necessity, special.



Singapore food trucks has to go where no one has gone before or where others cannot go.

Food trucks can thrive in the gaps of Singapore's culinary landscape, where public hawker centres and kopitiams (coffee shops) are the mainstays.

There may be rich pickings for those who can find these gaps.

Kf Seetoh of Makansutra mentioned mega events at the Sports Hub, for example.


The East Side King food truck at the World Street Food Congress 2015 was a huge success. It averaged around 1000 premium priced servings a day during the 5 day event.


Jazzy food trucks can add buzz to private functions, which I have seen in Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur. Instead of the usual caterer and buffet line, why not a cook-it-yourself lok lok truck for your home party? 

I saw children, even adults, squeal with delight. 

There must be more such "lobangs" (opportunities) you can think of.

A study will turn up where are and how many opportunities there are in Singapore to deploy food trucks. How many food trucks can these opportunities support?  I have no figures without studies done but my intuition tells me that there is sufficient space for at least a small fleet of food trucks in Singapore. 

Food trucks can only enliven Singapore's culinary landscape. The mobile kitchens complement the public hawker centres, kopitiams, food courts, restaurants, cafes etc.

It's the icing on the cake of the Singapore food paradise.

Of course, there are operational issues like safety, hygiene, running water and electricity. These can be solved but the first step is clarity on the place of food trucks in Singapore. Someone just needs to get down to the bolts and nuts of a plan to get the idea rolling.

Hope we can have a fruitful discussion by sharing your views in the comments below 😄

Date: 11 Apr 2015

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Truly Curry Rice Singapore 真咖喱饭

It's been over a year or so since a wave of young people jumped on the hawker bandwagon in Singapore. The media savvy "hawkerpreneurs", "hipster hawkers" sparked an old and new media frenzy. Everyone was hailed a hero saving Singapore's waning street food heritage.


The story of Truly Curry 真咖喱饭 and its founders, former bankers, Joel and Deniece is well known now. (Both Joel and Deniece are under 30.)


To cut the long story short, Deniece and Joel took over Deniece's dad's hawker stall at Telok Blangah Drive when the latter reached retirement.

It's been nearly two years now, Truly Curry Rice is still going strong and the fire is still burning bright in the bellies of Joel and Deniece. They are now joined at the stall by Joshua, Joel's younger brother.

I was privileged to be invited to taste Truly Curry Rice and meet with Joel and Deniece.


Truly Curry Rice 真咖喱饭 is located at Telok Blangah Drive Food Centre. This small food centre is well designed, so it is bright, cool and airy inside even during mid day.


Truly curry rice.

Steamed white rice drenched in a flood of freshly made curry gravy.

Deniece told us that they have taken a year to truly appreciate the finer points of selecting and cooking rice the best way, in the spirit of continuous improvement.


At Truly Curry Rice, the curries are made from scratch everyday with chilis, spices and herbs. Premixes and instant curry paste are never used.

You will be able to discern the aroma and flavours of freshly made curry.


Battered pork chop fried to a crisp outside.


Curry squid.

The curry gravy was nicely spicy sweet though the squid itself was stiff and had not much flavour.


Eggplant with dried shrimp sambal (hae bee hiam).


Simple stir fried potato slices with stewed pork. Many Singapore mums cook this at home.


Braised cabbage or chap chai.


Bitter gourd stir fried with fermented black beans.


Long beans stir fried with house made hae bee hiam (dried shrimp sambal).


Braised belly pork.


Simple fried bee hoon with stewed pork at SGD1 per serving. Truly Curry Rice sells this fried bee hoon together with two sides as a breakfast set for SGD2.


Overall, Truly Curry Rice is about simple familiar dishes. The savoury, sweet and spicy flavours are mild and well balanced. It's very close to home cooked food; simple dishes made with natural ingredients cooked with simple techniques.

In this day and age of mass produced fare, such simple comfort food is a blessing.

Don't take this for granted because there is a lot of hard work and commitment behind such old style food.


Joel and Deniece start work at the stall at 1:00am everyday to be ready for business at 6:00am.

Yes, 1:00am.

Joel and Deniece insist on cooking everything from scratch and the small work space demands that the cooking be done in sequence, one dish after another. Of course, Joel and Deniece can get more sleep by resorting to premixes, instant curries and pre-cooked food. But, then, we won't be getting truly curry 真咖喱.

We are getting truly curry only because of Joel and Deniece's personal sacrifices.


Speaking with Joel, I didn't get the sense that he was just looking for an alternative route to money and fame. Aside from dealing with the financial realities, fame and fortune seemed far from Joel and Deniece's minds.

Joel was talking about preserving our hawker heritage. And not just from the tastes and flavours point of view, but also about the continued accessibility of affordable good food for people.

Joel shared the joy and satisfaction that he felt when he saw happiness in the eyes of old folks getting their familiar tastes at prices they can afford comfortably.

Priceless. This good feeling is what kept Joel and Deniece going.

And, these did not sound like public relations spin at all. Joel uttered them with fire in his eyes and conviction in his breath while Deniece quietly affirmed Joel's words with a determined look.

There is no delusion in Joel's outlook, though perhaps some youthful idealism. And, that is good.

Joel kept stressing that they are in this for the long haul. I wish them success and will support them with whatever means available to me.

If we have more new generation like Joel and Deniece, our hawker heritage will be saved.


Restaurant: Truly Curry Rice 真咖喱饭

AddressTelok Blangah Drive Food Centre, 79 Telok Blangah Drive, #01-29, Singapore 100079
GPS1.272952, 103.807724
Hours: 6:30am till sold out (around 3:00pm)

Non Halal

Date visited: 19 Apr 2015

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