Fried Chye Tow Kway (Fried Carrot Cake)
One of my fave food items in Tiong Bahru Food Centre (better-known to locals for their 3 iconic hawker stalls: Jian Bo Chwee Kway, Koh Brothers Pig’s Organ Soup, and the Tiong Bahru Pau) is actually the fried carrot cake stall located right next to the escalators coming up to the food centre from the market below.
Eschewing my usual choice of the “white” fried carrot cake, I chose the “dark” version this time round. Prepared using the same ingredients as its white counterpart, i.e. steamed rice/radish cakes, salted radish, soysauce, fish sauce, garlic, chillis - the black one is distinguished by the addition of sweet dark soysauce - a typical Singaporean slant to the dish which you’d not find in Penang, Bangkok, Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City or anywhere else where a similar dish also exists.
Absolutely delish rendition here. Don’t miss it!
Tiong Bahru Pau - also grabbed Tiong Bahru’s “big chicken pau”, a large steamed Cantonese bun with chicken, mushroom and egg filling, flavoured with ginger, oyster sauce & other condiments, and Shaoxing wine - still the best hawker centre “pau” on the island, IMO.
Jian Bo Shui Ko - this is one of my favourite places for Teochew-style “chwee kway”, steamed saucer-shaped rice cakes topped with salted radish that’s been chopped and sautéed in oil. It was simple but oh so good.
In my recent trip to Hue, Vietnam, I came across bánh bèo, steamed rice cakes topped with dried shrimp and pork crackling, which is highly likely to have been introduced by the Teochews who’d settled in Vietnam for centuries. The Vietnamese versions were served in the porcelain saucers in which the cakes were steamed.
The texture of the Vietnamese bánh bèo is stretchier than the Singaporean chwee kway as tapioca flour had been added to the rice flour mix for the bánh bèo.
- Koh Brothers Pig’s Organ Soup - this “ter huang kiam chye” (pig’s organ & salted mustard leaves soup) dish is another Teochew favourite, the stall is perhaps Tiong Bahru Food Centre’s best-known and most popular. Founded in 1955 by Teochew chef, Mr Koh Kee Teo, the stall today is run by his grandson, 32-year-old Thomas Koh, a graphic designer-turned-hawker who decided to carry on the family’s business, taking over from his father, Simon Koh, 59, who still helped out.
People drive from all over the island to have this for breakfast or lunch: pork, pork meat balls, pig’s intestines, liver, kidney and pig’s stomach strips, slowly simmered with salted mustard leaves to obtain an addictive savoury-sweet-sour broth that’s to-die for. The stall was also listed under Michelin’s Bib Gourmand 2020 list.
- Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow - Singapore-style char kway teow - Teochew-style fried flat rice noodles - is a variant of the lighter versions one finds in Penang. This stall at Tiong Bahru Food Centre is one of the best-established - its greasy fried noodles are fried with blood cockles, fishcake, beansprouts, egg, and bits of Chinese sausages, seasoned with a blend of fish sauce and soysauce.
This legendary stall was founded by Mr Tay Soo Nam (who’d be 91 years old today, if he’s still around) who sold his fried noodles from a push-cart along Kim Poh Road since back in 1953, before moving into the old Tiong Bahru Food Centre in 1968.
Singapore-style char kway teow tends to be greasier, darker and heavier in flavours than its Penang counterpart: see picture of the one from Penang’s Jin Café (Penang ones also would have prawns and chives, much loved by the Teochews)
I never miss a trip to Tiong Bahru Food Centre on every trip back to Singapore. Singapore’s hot and humid weather meant it’s more conducive to get there early in the morning, say, 7.30am.
The food centre is on the 2nd floor of the Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre building. Downstairs on the 1st floor is the wet market, and is my favourite place for grocery shopping. One of my fave stalls in the one which made Teochew-style fishballs on the spot. We were a bit late when we were here the last time, and the stall was already packing up (it was just 10.30am, but Singaporean do their marketing very early).
These steamed/pre-cooked crabs, rabbit fish and mackerel looked pretty tempting, and popular among the Teochews, who’d buy them home and re-heat. The fish would very likely be pan-fried.
Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre
30 Seng Poh Road
Operating hours: 7am till 3pm (unless sold out earlier) daily