It’s not every day that you come across dishes like turmeric laksa and turmeric rice being sold at food establishments, so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Curry On. It’s a hawker stall that’s managed to stay under the radar with barely any social media coverage, situated at Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre.
With a stall name like that, coupled with the fact that the dishes have turmeric in them, you would expect the owner to be Indian, right? Well, it turned out to be run by a Chinese uncle instead.
Yes, the stall is helmed by 66-year-old Mr Wan, who used to be a SHATEC (my ex-school) trainer from the 1980s to 1990s. Shy and soft-spoken at first, he gradually warmed up and I got to know more about this humble gentleman.
He shared with me that he wanted to create something different from the common hawker foods being sold elsewhere— kudos to him for being innovative!
As a semi-retiree, Mr Wan will shut his stall once the food sells out for the day.
“I’ll go home to play with my grandkids,” he shared, with a smile.
As I waited for my order, I read about the health benefits of turmeric, lemongrass and galangal (ingredients in his gravy and curry) that were stuck on the front of the stall.
What I tried at Curry On
I wanted to try the Prawn Fritters (S$9), but it wasn’t available on that day. So, I got the ball rolling with the BBQ Spare Ribs Turmeric Rice (S$8.80).
A plate chock full of ingredients, it contained 3 pieces of spare ribs resting atop a bed of basmati rice with pickled papaya shreds, pineapple cubes, a piece of homemade egg otak, Japanese cucumber slices, ikan bilis, peanuts and a dollop of sambal.
I loved how the plate of food looked like multiple dishes when I glanced at it from different angles. To me, it looked like nasi lemak, char siew rice and a Thai dessert all rolled into one (let’s see if you can resonate with my weird imagination)!
The meaty spare ribs were slightly charred and faintly sweet as I bit through the flesh. It wasn’t the softest ribs I’ve had but it was flavourful enough to keep me going at it. To cut straight to the chase, the ribs reminded me of char siew with bone.
The handmade pieces of egg otak possessed the same pillowy texture as steamed egg, but were injected with subtle earthy hints of turmeric. I shared with my dining partner that its taste had me thinking of satay meat for some reason.
The pickled papaya provided some crunchy bites of zesty goodness, while the small cubes of pineapple hit me with alternating sweet and sour explosions. These two condiments worked hand in hand like a well-trained duo, preventing my taste buds from getting too jelak.
I moved on to the next dish, the Prawn Turmeric Laksa (S$6). If prawns are not your jam, Mr Wan also has fresh oysters and chicken options.
The viscous golden gravy on the top hid all the ingredients from sight, and I could almost hear a collective plea coming from them, beckoning me to put an end to their suffocation– and so I granted their wish by tossing everything up.
After mixing the Prawn Turmeric Laksa, I discovered hidden treasures consisting of thick bee hoon, char siew chunks, mini pieces of shrimp, tau geh, and egg otak pieces.
First, allow me to rave about the insanely delicious gravy. It probably had an overloaded infusion of daun kesum (laksa leaves) in it because each mouthful of the thick golden broth enveloped my tongue with aromatic lemony flavours.
I also detected subtle notes of turmeric which were like supporting backstage crew, providing an additional layer of taste.
The thick bee hoon was the perfect vessel to soak up all the sensations of the robust broth, while the clever introduction of char siew in laksa was a breath of fresh air.
I ended my early lunch at Curry On with the Beef Rendang Turmeric Rice (S$8.80). Every element of this dish was similar to that of the BBQ Spare Ribs Turmeric Rice except for the meat portion, which had beef cubes and potatoes doused in rendang gravy.
The beef cubes and potatoes were braised thoroughly, allowing them to be eaten easily even if you had no teeth. The meat had also fully absorbed the intense tropical aromatics of the coconut, chillies, and spices.
Mr Wan also secretly pours his special turmeric gravy onto the basmati rice, which you’ll only discover when you mix all the elements up. The ivory-coloured rice will magically transform into a desirable yellow shade, bringing along gentle bursts of turmeric and other spices from the broth.
If you’re in the Beauty World vicinity or have just finished taking a stroll along the Green Corridor trail, why not head over to Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre?
The creations of Mr Wan at Curry On will definitely blow you away, albeit the slightly higher food prices (but it’s totally worth it).
Expected damage: S$6 – S$8.80 per pax
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