It seems like the growing wave of hipster hawkers might just be the solution to Singapore’s dying local hawker culture. Undeterred by the long operating hours and uncomfortable heat, a bunch of young hawker-preneurs are reinvigorating the local hawker culture. They bring with them a youthful drive and modern sensibilities, resulting in a curious mix of bold new flavours served in a rustic and unassuming environment.
So the next time you find yourself at one of these kopitiams, be prepared to be greeted with more than just your usual hawker fare.
1. The Truly Test Kitchen
Driven by a desire to serve authentic and quality dishes, a group of graduates – Joel Chia, Deniece Tan and Joshua Chia – opened their very own eatery on the seventh floor of an industrial building. Spanning a total of five different stalls, Truly Test Kitchen serves up a diverse range of cuisines from traditional handmade yam cake to the American classic chicken and waffles.
“I want to make my food so good, people will come up seven floors for it,” said Chia in an interview with Makansutra.
And the trio have succeeded in doing that. Everything they serve is prepared painstakingly from scratch every morning.
Not to be missed is their Hainanese curry rice served with an assortment of homely side dishes. The curry sauce is the perfect blanket over their plain rice and crispy pork cutlet. It might be shy on spiciness but the fragrance from the spices used makes it a truly delicious dish.
The Truly Test Kitchen
Address: 153 Kampong Ampat, #07-05
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 7am – 2pm
Price: From $3
2. Fishball Story
Opening a noodle stall right in the heart of a school campus, it is rather evident that the owner of Fishball Story, Douglas Ng, 25, is dedicated to keeping the hawker culture alive. Located in the National University of Singapore, Ng started selling fishball noodles since he was 22.
Dedicated to providing a traditional and authentic dish that is true to its roots, the fishballs that the stall serve are blended and made by hand. Right down to the sambal used, this $3 per bowl of fishball noodles is as genuine as it can get.
Ng said in an interview with Toggle: “We use 100% fish meat. To me, authentic fishballs taste like this. I just want to serve what I feel is authentic and traditional.”
Address: 2 College Avenue West, #02-01
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 8:30am – 8pm
Price: From $3
Aptly named, this humble stall in Beauty World Center serves up hamburgers with an Asian twist. They might have a modest menu, but the flavours are certainly something to brag about.
Some of their must-try include the Crispy Pork Belly burger ($5) and the Ayam Buah Keluak ($5), which is their take on the quintessential Peranakan dish with buns sandwiching a buah keluak infused chicken patty and topped with chap chye and homemade chilli.
The young owners, Ryan Wee, 26 and Claire Ng, 23, attributed the reason for opening a food court style eatery to lesser overhead costs. They can thus focus on providing unique east-meets-west flavours at affordable prices. So skip the usual fast-food chain and try Hambaobao the next time you have a burger craving.
Address: 144 Upper Bukit Timah Road, #04-49
Opening hours: Wed- Sun: 12pm – 8pm
Price: From $4.50
4. Ballistic Meatballs
You’ll be surprised at the variation of meatballs served at Ballistic Meatballs, a stall located in The Bedok Marketplace. With an extensive menu that serves up everything related to meatballs and more, it feels almost like a cafe packed into a humble stall.
The owner, 30 year old Ryan Chuang, is certainly giving the meatballs from IKEA a run for their money.
Their crispy Signature Ballistic Meatballs ($5.90) come with a cheesy center with a side of highly addictive furikake mayonnaise. This sesame-battered creation literally blends a world of flavours together in one meatball.
Also addictive is their Crispy Crab Balls ($10.50) that feels like a deconstructed chilli crab and their Plain Jane meatballs that’s used to go with everything from pasta, sliders, sandwiches to even wraps.
Address: 348 Bedok Road, #02-02/03
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 11:30am – 10pm
Price: From $4
5. Lad & Dad
While it might be hard to find restaurants that serve up traditional British stews with fluffy yorkshire pudding, it certainly is easy to find a hawker stall that serves just that. Helmed by a father and son duo, Lad & Dad, brings you new kind of comfort food in a kopitiam setting.
Located in Serangoon Gardens, Keith Koh, 26, dishes out warm and hearty stews choked full with tender meat and root vegetables after picking up his culinary skills from London. His father, Desmond Koh, 57, helps out with the preparation and operation of the stall. As a side dish, the yorkshire pudding serves as the perfect canvas to soak up all the luscious broth, or have it as a sweet dessert served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Lad & Dad
Address: 49A Serangoon Garden Way, #32
Opening hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 12pm – 8pm
Price: From $3
It certainly is heartening to see the younger generation innovating and keeping our local hawker culture alive. Do give them a try the next time you plan to head out with your friends.
(Header image: Hambaobao, words by editor)
Also read: A.R.C. – The Café All Hipsters Dream About