Most hawker centres see footfall tapering off as lunchtime ends, but that hardly applies to Old Airport Road Food Centre. The constant activity is truly befitting one of Singapore’s top hawker centres. I arrived on a sweltering afternoon brimming with purpose, having nursed a long-standing curiosity about Geylang Lor 20 Banana Fritters.
My mettle was tested as I strolled past row upon row of mouth-watering hawker cuisine, though the prospect of deep-fried bliss kept the temptations at bay.
Unlike other hawkers, the stall offers more inter-meal grub than a full meal, the highlight being their popular cempedak fritters. Despite it being of the same genus as jackfruit, this fruit was one I had yet to try.
Seeing that all the fritters were of manageable size, I made the spontaneous decision to order 1 of every type on display.
What I tried at Geylang Lor 20 Banana Fritters
Their Cempedak fritter (S$1) was small, as expected. The deep-fried skin almost sheared right off as we picked it up. Boy, did it feel weird to be holding a warm fruit between my fingers. I don’t say this with much confidence but in comparison to the countless jackfruit I’ve eaten, cempedak‘s smell is stronger and the flesh, sweeter.
The heat likely caused the flesh to separate from the seed. As a big fan of jackfruit, I didn’t find it remarkable.
No need for prolonging the wait. I leapt right into the Pisang Raja fritter (S$1.80).
Let’s get the batter out of the way because it’s uniform across much of the fritters at Geylang Lor 20 Banana Fritters. Those smaller protuberances packed some serious deep-fried, crackly goodness. While the flatter coating was less crisp, the use of coconut oil conferred each bite with a whiff of powerful aroma for a pleasant assault on the senses.
The pisang raja within was of a gooey consistency, some parts retaining the fibres that strained as I forced it apart. Visually, banana fritters (and fritters by some extension) are nothing to write home about.
What they offer is a bite-sized, delectable fusion of 2 foundational flavours – principally sweet and secondarily savoury – from the banana and its golden crust. As I chewed, there was the faintest hint of a sour aftertaste; so, make that 3 flavours. I would have gone for seconds if not for the other 9 fritters that remained untouched.
The Sweet Potato fritter (S$1) was wrapped in an even smoother layer of fried batter, thanks to its flat surface. Without any flavouring, the relatively thin exterior had trouble transitioning to the naturally mild sugars of sweet potato’s orange flesh. I attributed this quality to the fritter’s inherent appeal but it was ultimately not to my liking.
Had it been more flavourful, the softer meat would have been a perfect foil to the solid exterior.
I often mistake one for the other but the distinctly paler Yam fritter (S$1) is easy to tell apart from sweet potato. Chewing on a large chunk stayed my lukewarm reception, made even less so by the yam’s suppressed taste. Chalk it down to excessive conditioning by processed yam paste, but both just did not fit my palate.
The previously savoury complement of the fried batter now worked against its mashy insides. If we’re strictly talking smell, both are passable.
The Tapioca Green fritter (S$1) had all the makings of a great snack and it more than delivered. It seems like the batter was barely clinging on as it was submerged in oil, resulting in an imperfect coating. With diminished contribution from its batter, the tapioca cake’s mild sweetness takes centre stage
I took small bites to first assess the tapioca cake made completely in-house – delightfully fluffy without any grittiness – before swiftly sending it down the hatch.
Instantly supplanting the Tapioca Green fritter was the 3-in-1 Sweetcake (S$1.30). Pulling the 2 halves apart visually confirmed its glutinous consistency. While relatively light on smell, the mochi-like mouthfeel contrasted against its hard skin very well. The nian gao core was nothing short of honey-like.
I’ll be forthcoming about the Green Bean fritter (S$1). This was the hardest to appreciate among the assortment of fritters at Geylang Lor 20 Banana Fritters. My childhood palate made an unwelcome return to force an unsightly reflex from the extreme earthiness. Paired with a texture frightfully reminiscent of chalk, the mung beans managed no more than 3 bites out of me.
A truly acquired taste at best.
My enjoyment of their Tapioca White fritter (S$1) was already tenfold as it lacked the pungent… smell of the mung beans. Unfortunately, it doesn’t score much higher against my elementary palate as the insides were starchy with a wooden dryness – essentially tasteless. Cassava just isn’t my thing.
I think the fritter’s resemblance to a weapon magazine is oddly hilarious.
The Durian fritter (S$3) is understandably costlier. I bit down cautiously to avoid the seed, only for the creamy flesh to slide right off. At this, I wasted no time popping it into my mouth like I would an un-frittered durian. Once the seed was ejected, I savoured the resultant molten combination that had blended into a discordantly potent mix. Durian lovers will undoubtedly love this, and I’m one of them.
For a quick bite, their Durian paste fritter (S$1) is dangerously addictive. Its pre-frozen aspect hardly affects the end result as the durian’s flesh is preserved regardless. I would argue ordering 3 of these might even be better than a singular Durian fritter.
Unfortunately, there were no Mao Shan Wang durian fritters (S$5++) that day. The auntie was more than happy to show me their stock, though.
Geylang Lor 20 Banana Fritters makes their fritters with a unique batter – no surprise as the stall was started in the 1980s. The rather uncommon cempedak fritters are certainly novel, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to try these. If you happen to be in the area, give it a shot alongside the durians. Luckier patrons will be able to get their coveted MSW fritters.
Highly inadvisable to go buffet-style on their fritters as I did.
Expected damage: S$1 – S$6
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