You’d be spoilt for choice if you decided to eat at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Market. Something for everyone, you could say. As an avid fan of Chai Tow Kway, I’m not exactly struggling to find places to chow down but I can appreciate when I’ve found somewhere that delivers: Tian Tian Fa.
Tian Tian Fa served up one of the best I’ve had in a while. It makes up for the pretty wishy-washy opening schedule this place has. The owner tells us they are open from 6am – 12am every day. From experience, though, the schedule is more dependent on the 2 uncles’ mood. Just take that as a little warning should you wish to drop by.
There’s not much online presence to speak of for this stall. In fact, it gets confused with another similarly named eatery in Toa Payoh. What few posts there are about Tian Tian Fa will rave about the omelettes and carrot cake. I went down to see for myself if the hype was justified.
What I tried at Tian Tian Fa
With the small amount of feedback and at the additional recommendation of my co-worker Aaron, I ordered almost everything Tian Tian Fa had to offer. Only 2 things were left out: the Fried Oyster (S$5 for Small, S$8 for Medium, S$10 for Large) and White Fried Carrot Cake (S$3 for Small, S$4 for Medium, S$5 for Large).
I had only intended to get two things at first, starting with the Black Fried Carrot Cake (S$3 for Small, S$4 for Medium, S$5 for Large). As a chai tow kway enthusiast, I know what I like in mine. It’s different for everyone, of course, but I enjoy the dish best when it’s not too greasy and the wok hei is prominent.
Tian Tian Fa manages to achieve the right amount in those categories. The soft radish cake, cai po and egg bits do not overpower each other. Everything is coated fully in the sweet and savoury sauce, so there is no fear of sudden plain patches of Chai Tow Kway.
The next dish on the agenda was the Oyster Omelette (S$5 for Small, S$8 for Medium, S$10 for Large). What few comments I could dig up about this stall online all mentioned the egg dish. So, there was a certain level of expectation for this. Unfortunately, it was to the omelette’s downside.
The oysters just didn’t seem super fresh. It’s such a pity as the uncle was pretty generous with them. But they just tasted pretty powdery. The only upside was, like the carrot cake, the egg itself had a great amount of charred bits and was a standout on its lonesome.
The chilli was not the usual spicy and sour mix you would typically pair with an oyster omelette. It’s more of a sweet chilli sauce. As a stranger to spices, I can’t quite say if it’s any better or otherwise with this version.
Finally, the unexpected third entry on this outing. Before I left for lunch, it was suggested I get the Fried Kway Teow (S$4 for Small, S$5 for Medium, S$6 for Large) as well. After two dishes with relatively strong flavour profiles, I have to say this was, in a word, underwhelming.
In spite of the mix of mee and kway teow being thoroughly coated and well fried with sauce, the taste was a lot milder than I expected. It was jarring, especially right next to the likes of the carrot cake from the same stall. The bean sprouts didn’t add much in terms of taste and just felt like a mix-up in texture between the softer noodles.
Like the omelette, the bits of cockles did not taste very fresh. The powdery taste was masked by the kway teow at least, so it was not as bad as in the egg dish. If not for that, I feel like the inclusion of oysters in a simple plate of Fried Kway Teow would be pretty noteworthy.
Despite all that, there were still some things I liked about it. The bits of egg were soft, even if the overall taste had the same mildness as the whole plate. My favourite ingredient though, was the lap cheong. It added a much-needed and satisfying level of fat and smokiness to everything.
While the Kway Teow and omelette didn’t really hook me in any way, I will be returning specifically for the Fried Carrot Cake.
We just have to hope and gamble that the day you head down, it’s actually open.
Expected damage: S$3 to S$10