[Singapore] Breakfast hawker food options at Bendemeer Food Centre

Bendemeer Food Centre is a veritable gold mine of good Singaporean hawker food. It’s also a very “local” food centre, away from the tourist trail, where the food is basically no-frills, authentic, and the prices are kept low.

Most Singaporeans would be familiar with the name Casper - not that cartoon ghost character, but the tze char hawker stall that started off in 1985 at the Golden Mile Tower, and which later moved to Whampoa. The old couple is still actively running their stall at Whampoa, but one of their sons is building up quite a reputation for himself at his own stall, Casper at Bendemeer Food Centre, specializing in a small selection of noodle dishes.

We tried a couple of hor fun (flat, wide rice noodle) options:

  1. Sliced fish, fish maw and prawn hor fun (S$5). One quibble about the way hor fun dishes are prepared and served in Singapore. The correct way requires a two-stage process: first, the hor fun noodles should be wok-seared in lard and light- and/or dark-soysauce till slightly charred & fragrant or, as the Cantonese-Chinese like to call it: wok hei.
    The chef should then plate the noodles, then proceed to the second stage of preparing the braising sauce and meats, sautéing garlic, shallots, fresh meats or seafood, adding the stock, adjust the flavours, then thickening the sauce with a corn-starch slurry. These are all done in a jiffy, as the hot gravy should then be poured over a still-warm plate of noodles, and served immediately.

Anyway, that is the correct way a Cantonese stir-fry with braising sauce is supposed to be prepared. And we usually get this done properly in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Hong Kong.

In Singapore, hawker food preparation are oftentimes mass-produced - for e.g., hor fun noodles are often cooked in bulk (sometimes up to 10-20 serving portions at a time), then stored in a large keep-warm container.

When the hawker receives an order, he’d scoop some pre-cooked noodles from the container onto a plate, cooks the braising sauce and pour the whole thing over the pre-cooked noodles. I really disliked that. Hawkers in Singapore would never do that back in the 70s or 80s. But this seemed de rigeur nowadays.

Anyway, this was also the way the much-vaunted Casper prepared their hor fun dish, and I was more than a tad disappointed.

  1. Sliced beef hor fun (S$5) also underwent the same treatment. The beef slices were marinated in soy sauce & other condiments before cooking, giving the meat a dark hue. Quite flavoursome. The dish also had a generous sprinkling of crisp-golden lardons, which added richness to the overall dish. I liked this one more than the seafood rendition above. But the use of gluggy, pre-cooked hor fun again detracted this dish away from achieving its full potential.

BTW, whilst one is over there, don’t miss the very much under-rated Kovan Chwee Kueh, which I think could rival any of the other top chwee kueh spots in town, with its delicate-textured steamed rice pudding, and flavoursome sautéed chye por (sautéed pickled mustard vegetables) topping. Really enjoyed this tremendously.

Casper at #01-36, Kovan Chwee Kueh at #01-64
Bendemeer Market & Food Centre
29 Bendemeer Road, Singapore 330029
Opening hours: 7am to 9pm daily for the food centre


Needless to say, you had my undivided attention at this point.


Cooking with lard used to be common among Singaporean hawkers, but it’s getting rarer due to the Singapore government’s campaign to have “healthier” hawker food, and many switched to peanut, corn or other types of plant-based cooking oils. Much flavour is lost because of that.

No such campaign in Penang or Kuala Lumpur, where we still love our lard. :grin:


Back to Bendemeer Food Centre this morning for breakfast.

  1. Economy beehoon, with luncheon meat (Hokkien: “ngo cham bak”) and fried eggs - this is a blander version than those I’m used to elsewhere.

Stall #01-06, which offered the economy beehoon and various side-dishes.

2a) Chwee kway - firmer in texture than the famous ones in Tiong Bahru and Bedok. Also, the salted radish topping was drier.

2b) P’ng kway - pink-tinted glutinous rice cake. These were vegetarian versions, which had less flavor than the non-vegetarian ones which would have dried shrimps to add to the overall flavour.
But these were freshly pan-fried upon order, and had the crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside textures.

2c) Yam-and-peanut cake - these cakes, the size of hockey pucks, were crisp-fried upon order. They were utterly scrumptious.

Stall #01-83, which sold the “chwee kway”, “p’ng kway” and yam-groundnut cake.

My aunt, who loved spicy dipping sauces, bought this from the supermarket nearby for the “chwee kway” and “p’ng kway”. No, I didn’t try any! :joy:


Are the rice cakes similar to Viet Banh Beo? (I first learned those existed when I was shopping at a Viet grocery store in Chinatown and found what looked like a single-level mini idli plate – turns out it was for banh beo :joy:)

Yes, they are of the same Teochew/Chiuchow/Chaozhou origins, both in Vietnam/Indochina, and here in Singapore, or Thailand, where they are called jui guay. Only the toppings differ: the Thai and Singapore ones are similar: sauteed, salted radish.

The Vietnamese ones have toppings similar to what we get in northern Malaysia: chopped scallions, red chilis, and pounded dried shrimps. The Teochews from different parts of their home province have varying renditions of the topping for their rice cakes.