Text by Sheere Ng, Images by KF Seetoh @ Makansutra
This is one noisy hawker centre with familiar sights unique to the heartland. First you have the senior citizens, chatting above the din with their “lo yao” or buddies. Some linger with their bottled beers from dawn to dusk; others challenge one another to a game of Chinese chess, with a group of interested and wandering observers. Then there are drink stall aunties sashaying up and down the aisles, touting orders for drinks and beers. Some dress in their cool hot shorts to beat the heat, and also to attract attention. This place is also a popular makan hangout for young families, and increasingly, a younger generation too. One community feature here are the eight-seater dining tables, which are rare these days in hawker centres. It encourages “shared table conversations” and a great way to hook up with new friends – all in the name of food culture.
Tian Jin Fong Kee Blk 32 New Market Rd #01-1148 People’s Park Food Ctr. 12pm-9.30pm. Closed on Alt Mon.
They have been selling dumplings at this food centre for over 30 years and there’s a good reason why. The pork filling is juicy and well marinated with soy sauce and sesame oil. Those who like garlic chives will not be disappointed. You can have them steamed (juicy and with soft gummy skin) or pan-fried, which rendered itr golden brown and crispy, provided you eat them there and then. They also sell the frozen dumplings for those who want to prepare them at home. They have quite a few outlets in town, but their original stall here is still the most popular.
Yong Xiang Xin Dou Fu Blk 32 New Market Rd #01-1084 People’s Park Food Ctr. 1pm-5pm. Closed on Mon
They are so confident with their yong tau fu that they are only open after lunch and close before dinner. Perhaps they did it to avoid annoying their neighbours as the queue is unrelenting, sometimes spilling over to the other “territories”. The choices are severely limited (about five items), but they are all handmade in full view of their customers. Soup is lightly robust and they provide a tangy and spicy chilli sauce to spice for a piquant sting to the equation.
Wen Zhi Ji Blk 32 New Market Rd #01-1078 People’s Park Food Ctr. 11.30am-9.30pm. Closed on alt Sun
They serve what we would like to call a very sincere bowl of pig’s organ soup. At $4.50 per bowl (with rice), it comes with five meatballs (yes we counted) flavoured with teepo, tender pork bellies, well-cleansed pig’s stomach and other offal. But there’s one thing we wish they could be more judicious with – the salted vegetable, as it was teeming with it. The tangy chilli sauce provides relieve from the porkiness.
Lee Kheong Roasted Delicacy Blk 32 New Market Rd #01-1040 People’s Park Food Ctr. 10am–4pm. Closed on Tue.
They charcoal roast their meats and it shows. It comes with bits of roasty burnt edges and is well caramelised. Order the “pun fei sao” or half-fat-and-thin version and they come with just enough fat (some say too much) yet it does not have a cloying fatty sensation (at times they use the shoulder or neck cuts). The sio bak has a crackling and the savoury marinade at the bottom is just right even if you were to eat it without rice (the older folks have them just with beer). The duck is juicy and tender and comes in big chunks. They serve the meats over soft stewed soybeans, a traditional Cantonese style. Their chilli sauce, instead of the usual dried red chilli sambal paste in oil, is mixed with plum sauce – more sweet and sour than spicy.
Sichuan Ming Xiao Shi (Direct translation from Chinese) Blk 32 New Market Rd #01-1044 People’s Park Food Ctr. 11am-9pm.
Their silky smooth Ma La Soya Bean Curd is popular. Savoury, spicy and slightly numbing Sichuan Mala pepper sauce is ladled over the soft and silky curd and topped with peanuts, chopped preserved vegetables and chilli oil. Not quite the conventional sweet pandan syrup local style but it is just as wonderful. However it is drenched with stock so it is more watery and slightly gentrified compared to their original versions in Chengdu. They also sell a very good shui zhu yu (Sichuan boiled fish) – soft and smooth fish slices in a potent pool of savoury, spicy and numbing chilli oil.