A trip to Singapore has to include a meal or two in one of the many Hawker centres throughout the city. Not only are they cheap, tasty and conveniently located, they also provide an insight into the real food of Singapore. There is nothing fancy about these cluttered, semi enclosed buildings, but you will find rows and rows of tiny food stalls selling simple honest food to the masses.
Maxwell Rd Hawker Centre
Located on Maxwell Street in Chinatown, this is one of Mr GG and my favourite places to get a quick bite to eat. It is home to one of my favourite foods, the bau, pau, bao, or as I know them, the steamed buns. The Maxwell hawker centre is where I first spotted a gigantic 10cm Char sui pork bau being made! YUM! …this is my happy place, whenever we return to Singapore I can’t resist stopping in for a “bau break”.
On this trip I also wanted to sample one of Singapore’s national dishes, Hainanese Chicken. This dish can be found all through out Singapore but I particularly wanted to sample the version produced at Maxwell Rd Hawker Centre by Tian Tian. Tian Tian is a very modest stall in the hawker centre, but it has become famous for producing the most perfect example of Hainanese Chicken.
It’s true when they say the longest lines are at the best stalls in the hawker centres. I took a place in the queue which snaked past two other near empty stalls to order my meal. There is a set ordering method, firstly you queue to place an order, pay and receive a ticket. Then you join the second queue and wait to collect your dish.
Despite the length of the line I was quick to be served, and in no time I was holding a tray containing a chicken broth, sliced chicken, a bowl of the famous chicken rice and two condiments.
The moment of truth was with the first mouthful of chicken, it was so moist it just melted in the mouth, the meat even looked more delicate than I am used to seeing chicken. The immediate flavour was ginger and garlic with a sweet and salty seasoning.
The chicken broth was the children’s favourite part of the meal, clear and tasty with a rich chicken flavour.
Anthony Bourdain is reported as saying the chicken rice is so good you can eat it on its own. I have to agree with that statement. The chicken rice was so flavoursome, like a perfect rich chicken risotto, rich in the chicken fat and with a lovely garlic flavour.
Served with the Hainanese chicken was a chili condiment which had a delicious lime zestiness. It was so fresh, but as hot as you can imagine. Mr GG and I kept wanting to add more of the chili for the flavour but the heat was indescribable. The other condiment served with the dish was a thick sweet soy, ketchup manis which was an equally good match with the chicken and rice. When the dish is eaten together with the condiments the flavour profile is amazing, such a wonderful comfort food, it’s easy to see why it is so popular.
Thankfully the Hainanese Chicken is served cool as the heat is stifling!
To combat the heat there are also stalls dedicated to various uniquely Asian drinks located throughout the hawker centre. The popular choice seems to be sugarcane juice or coconut water served in the coconut. Locky was keen to try the sugar cane juice so we ordered a large glass for the kids to share. Surprisingly it is not overly sweet and has an interesting and pleasant flavour.
On this visit to Chinatown the streets were decorated in lanterns for the mid autumn festival which run from 31august to 4 October.
We will be checking out the Little India Hawker Centre next.