Johor Kaki Travels for Food

johorkaki@gmail based in Singapore, travels to Johor, Malaysia & worldwide for food

History & 10 Best Hawker Stalls @ Old Airport Road Food Centre

Scroll straight down to the pink section below for recommended food stalls 👇
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Old Airport Road Food Centre is one of Singapore's most popular and famous hawker centres with over 100 hawker stalls open at anytime.



Kallang Airport terminal building 1937. Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
The story of Old Airport Road Food Centre starts with Kallang Airport, the first civilian airport in Singapore. Built by the British in 1937, it was considered the "finest airport in the British Empire".

Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
Kallang Airport was capable of receiving the most advanced airplanes of the time. This is a Dakota from KNILM (Royal Netherlands Indies Aviation Company), the predecessor of today's KLM Dutch airline.

The iconic Douglas DC-3 or Dakota, first flown in 1935, was the most advanced airliner of its time. Dakota MRT station (the nearest station to Old Airport Road Food Centre) is named after this aeroplane.

Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
Kallang Airport can even receive seaplanes which land on the water at Kallang Basin. There were wharfs for mooring seaplanes and slipways for passengers to disembark dry and comfortable.

Image credit: Wikipedia
During the Second World War, the British Royal Air Force fought the Japanese from Kallang Airport. These were Brewster Buffalo fighter planes. Unfortunately, the British planes were outclassed by the Japanese Zero fighter.



During the Japanese Occupation (1942 - 1945), Kallang Airport became an Imperial Japanese Army Air Force base. Ki-45 Toryu 屠龍 (Dragon Slayer) heavy fighters operated from Kallang Airport.

Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
Life returned to normal at Kallang Airport after the Second World War. This was a state-of-the-art Lockheed Constellation airliner from the Australian Airline QANTAS.

Kallang Airport map dated 1953. Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
To accommodate ever bigger airplanes and more air traffic, the Kallang Airport runway was extended. The extended runway cut across Mountbatten Road. Every time an aeroplane took off or land at Kallang Airport, they closed Mountbatten road to motorcars by traffic lights and let the airplane pass 😮

Obviously, not a very good arrangement. 


Scroll straight down to the pink section for the 10 best food stalls 👇
Kallang Estate 1962. Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
When Kallang Airport could not be expanded further to accommodate bigger airplanes and more air traffic, it was shut down in 1955. Singapore's international airport was shifted to Paya Lebar Airport (now a Republic of Singapore Air Force base).

Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
The land of Kallang Airport was used to build Kallang Airport Estate by Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) which is the precursor of today's Housing Development Board (HDB). The extended portion of the Kallang Airport runway was named Constellation Road (marked V ).

Hawker stall balloting 1963. Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
Kallang Estate Fresh Market & Food Centre was built in 1958 to serve the residents of Kallang Airport Estate. It had 172 food and market stalls but was inadequate to cope with the demand for stalls.

Kallang Estate Fresh Market & Food Centre was expanded with hawker pitches (hawker shelters) in 1963 to house more street hawkers in the area. Even so, there was overwhelming demand for hawker stall space and many hawkers still did not manage to get a space.

Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
As a final solution to accommodate more hawkers, the market and hawker pitch was replaced by Old Airport Road Hawker Centre in 1971. This huge two storey building has 176 food stalls and 136 shop units on the upper level.

Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
*Four 3-storey Singapore Improvement Trust flats (circled orange) were demolished to make way for Old Airport Road Food Centre. Constellation Road which was once the runway of Kallang Airport was renamed Old Airport Road.

*Thank you Richard Lincoln for the insight.

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So here we here today, Old Airport Road Food Centre and Shopping Mall, still one of Singapore's largest and most popular hawker centres.



It is regularly voted people's favourite hawker centre by a wide margin.

OK! now let's dive into the good food of Old Airport Road Food Centre 😋

With at least 100 stalls open at anytime, it can be quite bewildering for new and even not so new visitors. This guide will help you narrow your search to the tried and tasted stalwarts at Old Airport Road Food Centre.

The trick here or at any large Singapore hawker center is for the party to split up to queue and buy food from different stalls. Pick only the best items from the top stalls. Then come back together at one table and share everything. In this way, everyone has a chance to taste all the best dishes in one go.


Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee 南星福建炒虾面 @ stall #01-32. Serves Singapore style fried Hokkien mee which is yellow noodles and thick bee hoon stir fried and briefly stewed in a rich pork and seafood stock. Their's is a relatively dry variety with all the pork and seafood savoury sweet flavours infused in the noodles and bee hoon. Tastes relatively mild or meek and not as lardy greasy as other popular Hokkien mee.

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To-Ricos Guo Shi (Blanco Court kway chap) @ stall #01-135. Popular stall serving pork belly, skin, intestines, eggs, fried beancurd etc stewed till soft in a dark savoury slightly herbal stock. Eaten with kway chap which are squares of thin rice sheets that are slurpy smooth and slick with savoury subtly herbal stock clinging to its sides and folds. New to offals? Try these as To-Ricos scrub their offals really thoroughly till they are pretty much stripped of any natural pork flavours.

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Freshly Made Chee Cheong Fun @ stall #01-155. Tissue thin rice rolls with traditional shrimp or diced char siew in the folds. They also have pork liver, otak otak and century egg fillings. Made and steamed on order and served steamy hot. Comes topped with fried shallot, splashed with light soy sauce, dribble of sesame seed oil and sambal chili at the side. (They have a branch outlet in Marsiling Mall.)

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Ru Ji Kitchen @ stall #01-37. Famous fish ball noodles stall serving handmade fish balls and fish cake. The tenderly springy, subtly sweet hand made fish balls are eaten with noodles tossed in a savoury spicy tangy sauce laced with lard and cracklings. Ru Ji parent stall is in Holland Drive, this is the daughter's stall.

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Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow @ stall #01-138. There are two char kway teow stalls in this hawker centre. This is the no Michelin Bib Gourmand award stall. But, everyone I know including regulars of Old Airport Road prefer this stall. Dong Ji char kway teow is drier, more savoury, less sweet, more toasty from caramelised sauces i.e. has more wok hei. The rice ribbon noodles are stir fried together with blood cockles, slivers of fish cake, slices of Cantonese wax sausage, bean sprouts, and egg. Wait is long as the kway teow is fried one plate at a time.



Matter Road Seafood Barbecue @ stall #01-63. If you are bringing friends from overseas, let them get a taste of Singapore chili crab here. The thick sauce is mildly spicy, peppery with sweetness from fresh tomatoes which also gave it a slight tangy zest. Their white pepper crabs are also popular. They use live crabs from Sri Lanka.



Wang Wang Curry Puff @ stall #01-126. Curry chicken, egg and potatoes in a crispy flaky layered shell. Everything handmade at the stall - a true curry puffThey also have black pepper chicken, yam, and sardine fillings.



Chuan Kee Satay @ stall #01-85. Hainanese style satay - chicken, pork or lamb in thin wooden skewers grilled over charcoal embers till the edges are slightly charred. The juicy sweet spice marinated meat is eaten with a spiced peanut dip laced with a dollop of sweet zesty pineapple puree.



Xin Mei Xiang Lor Mee @ stall #01-116. Yellow noodles smothered in thick savoury, slightly sweet sauce. Famous for their generous pulled fish meat topping. Fold and stir that heap of fish meat into the sauce and noodles for a tasty blend of savoury sweetness. A bit of sambal chili and cut chili add spicy accents in the dish.



Toa Payoh Rojak @ stall #01-108. Chopped cucumber, sliced yam bean, pineapple, bean sprout, kang kong greens, you char kway etc., tossed in a nutty savoury spicy sauce with fermented prawn from Penang, crushed toasted peanut, and chili paste. Its a nice mix of crunchy and crispy textures with a blend of savoury sweet spicy flavours. The rojak here is not soggy as their cut vegetables and fruits don't leak juices too much. If you are from overseas, this is one salad you have to try.

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Hock Street Popular Beef Kway Teow @ stall #01-22. Yes, this is the legendary century old Teochew beef kway teow of Hock Lam street. Run by the founder's grandson Francis, the Teochew recipe has been tweaked slightly with Hainanese touches as Francis used to run his beef noodle restaurant at Purvis Street (the Hainanese enclave). It's noodles / kway teow topped with boiled beef, tripe, tendons, liver, beef balls etc half submerged in a brown beefy stock. Francis has a "dry" version with his beef stock thicken with starch. There's shredded salted vegetable and crushed peanuts in the Hainanese way. Eat with savoury salty cincalok which is fermented shrimps.

Fried Pig's Intestines - Old Airport Road Hawker Centre

Xin Dong Fang 新东方 @ stall #01-112. Traditional fried ngoh hiang i.e. meat roll, prawn roll, intestines etc marinated in Chinese 5-spice powder. Signature here is their fried intestine which are cleaned, stewed, and the deep fried to a crisp while the inside remains moist and soft. Flavour is 5-spice savoury with natural pork sweetness.

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Roast Paradise @ stall #01-21. Roast pork belly and char siew stalls are everywhere in Singapore. Randal and Kai started here at Old Airport Road in 2015 and quickly stood out for their Kuala Lumpur style char siew. They invested in premium cut of pork and tedious roasting technique but it pays off in tender juicy full flavoured savoury sweet char siew. Today, Roast Paradise is one of the bigger names in Singapore char siew and they started here at Old Airport Road.



Whitley Road Big Prawn Noodle @ stall #01-98. One of the vintage stalls from underneath the Whitley Road flyover. Nice blend of quite robust pork and prawn savoury umami sweetness in the watery broth. The blanched fresh prawns come halved with shell and head intact. The prawn flesh stays sweet and springy to the bite. They also have tender pork ribs, tail, and liver options. Served with yellow noodles and/or bee hoon (rice vermicelli).



132 Claypot Rice @ stall #01-132. The rice is cooked in claypot over gas stove from scratch, so waiting time can be long. They are generous with pieces of chicken which come out tender juicy and sweet savoury. The Cantonese wax sausage and well marinated chicken infuse the rice with savoury layers of flavour which is boosted by dribbles of dark sauce sauce. Add pieces of salted fish and salted egg yolk for more savoury umami flavour at nominal addition cost. Remember to scrape the bottom of the claypot for crunchy hard rice crust, mix and enjoy it together with the soft fluffy rice.


Lao Fu Zi Fried Kway Teow 老夫子炒粿条 @ stall #01-12. The only stall in this hawker centre that made it to the Michelin Bib Gourmand honours list. Tried it several times over two decades but still feel the flavours are a little meek and lacklustre. I like my char kway teow noodles well infused with robust savoury flavours in layers with underlying taste and smell of caramelised sauces plus lard. This one doesn't have these. But, don't take my word for it - give it a try yourself.

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Selera Rasa @ stall #01-42. Probably serves the most affordable nasi briyani in Singapore at $3.50 a serving (2020 price). The long grain basmati rice is well enveloped and infused with spice flavours and aroma. Their mutton is tender, juicy and not too gamey. Eat with their fried chicken which are well marinated with aromatic spices.

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Fu Xin Cooked Food 福兴熟食 @ stall #01-142. Traditional Teochew kueh (steamed dumplings) handmade with rice flour and various vegetables from scratch. The skin is a little thick but they are generous with fillings. My favourite is the chives dumpling which is bugling with crunchy green and bursting with flavour from inside. They also have rice and bean fillings.



Old Airport Road Food Centre & Shopping Mall
Address: 51 Old Airport Rd, Singapore 390051


I am sure I missed some good stalls. Please share your Old Airport Road stories with us in the comments 😊

References:

Air photo of Kallang Airport 1953. Image credit: National Archives of Singapore
Wikipedia

Roots Singapore

History of Singapore Hawker Centres

Date: 11 Jul 2020

2 comments:

  1. My personal fave
    1) Kim Satay (01-06)
    - Succulent meat sticks. Prefer the pork n mutton over chicken. They also have muah chee

    2) Kallang Cantonese Live Prawn Noodle (01-83)
    - Soup has much more unami. Fresh n juicy prawns. Old sch type pf prawn noodles. 1 of the better options

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. My next targets when I go to Old Airport Road FC.

      Delete

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