Chye tow kueh, salted egg yolk and milk tea: Food that grabbed headlines in 2016

SINGAPORE - Food - the way to any Singaporean's heart.

As 2016 comes to a close, The Straits Times looks at the food headlines that grabbed our eyeballs and - more often than not - our stomachs.

1. Smashingly popular wanton mee

Koka Wanton Noodles at North Bridge Road Food Centre. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER 

In October, a drunk diner at North Bridge Road Food Centre was made to wait half an hour for his food at the Koka Wanton Noodles stall. Furious, he began to smash the stall front with a beer bottle - and then beat up a soya bean drink seller who tried to intervene.

He reportedly shouted: "Do you want to give me my wonton mee? If not I will show you! (sic)"

The 54-year-old man was arrested. The wonton mee stall re-opened to a long queue two days later.

2. Nasi goreng tug-of-war

Former Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand's nasi goreng lunch sparked a Twitter war. PHOTO: @RIOFERDY5/TWITTER 

Former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand, 37, drew the ire of some Indonesian foodies when he stopped by in Singapore in September for the Singapore Grand Prix.

Their grouse? A plate of fried rice that Ferdinand posted on Twitter with the caption: "Nasi goreng lunch.. Keeping it local in #Singapore."

Indonesia foodies were quick to take umbrage at the insinuation that the dish - found in various forms throughout South-east Asia - originated from Singapore, spawning the now-famous retort of "nasi goreng can claim but haze cannot".

Ferdinand wisely did not reply to the social media chatter.

3. Salted egg yolk on everything

Mookata restaurant Talay Kata at Orchard Central serves salted egg yolk soup. PHOTO: ST FILE 

Salted egg yolk proved to be THE flavour of the year, with restaurants and cafes rolling out salted egg variations on everything from mooncakes to Thai mookata.

The culprit who got the fad rolling? Hougang cafe Flavour Flings, which took the cue from its counterparts across the Causeway to come up with Singapore's first salted egg yolk croissant.

The Straits Times' blind taste test of salted egg yolk croissants from six eateries. PHOTO: ST FILE 

Within a week, other eateries in Singapore were unveiling salted egg yolk croissants of their own. The Straits Times even put a couple to a blind taste test.

4. Will the real cheese tart please stand up?

Hokkaido's Bake Cheest Tart debuted in Singapore in April, drawing long queues at its first shop in Ion Orchard. PHOTO: BAKE CHEESE TART 

Hokkaido-based bakery Bake opened an outlet at Ion Orchard in April, selling up to 6,000 of its baked cheese tarts each day. So popular was the cream cheese pastry that Bake opened a second outlet at Westgate mall in October.

Some foodies eager to find out more about the baked cheese tart craze, however, found themselves confused by the similar business name of Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart, an eatery at nearby Jurong Point owned by Malaysian food and beverage company Secret Recipe.

The cheese tart craze was so melting hot that home-grown stores like BreadTalk and PrimaDeli also came up with their own version of the pastry.

5. Milk tea madness

Empty rows in a drinks chiller after Chun Cui He's hugely popular bottled milk tea and latte drinks were sold out. PHOTO: ST FILE  

As soon as it arrived from Taiwan in July, the Chun Cui He brand of bottled tea and coffee drinks was flying off shelves at 7-Eleven stores. Produced by Taiwanese food company Bifido, two of its 10 flavours - milk tea and latte - were available here for $2.80 a pop.

But fans' joy quickly turned to dismay when, in August, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority recalled the milk tea version as it was found to contain an unpermitted food additive, L-theanine, which occurs naturally in tea leaves.

Their roller-coaster ride of emotions was complete when Chun Cui He announced in November that it was introducing its green milk tea flavour.

6. Michelin pride

Mr Tang Chay Seng (left) at his Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle Stall in Crawford Lane, and Mr Chan Hon Meng at his Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle stall at Chinatown Complex Food Centre. PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES, LIANHE WANBAO 

Hawkers Tang Chay Seng, 70, and Chan Hon Meng, 51, put Singapore on the world map when their stalls went toe to toe with celebrity chef-helmed restaurants to clinch French tyre company Michelin's coveted Michelin stars.

Mr Tang, who runs Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle in Crawford Lane, and Mr Chan, who owns Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown Complex, each received one Michelin star.

Mr Chan's new venture Hawker Chan, a quick-service restaurant at Smith Street. PHOTO: ST FILE 

Mr Chan later turned his newfound fame into an 80-seat quick-service restaurant at 78, Smith Street, which opened in November.

7. Murtabak rivalry

The Zam Zam and Victory restaurants on North Bridge Road. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER 

Well-known murtabak restaurant Singapore Zam Zam found itself in hot oil in November. Its owner Zackeer Abbass Khan came before a court for allegedly paying a gangster to attack his business rival.

The restaurant boss is accused of paying an alleged secret society headman $2,000 to viciously assault a staff member a nearby murtabak restaurant.

The victim was slashed in the face and permanently scarred from the attack, which took place in August last year.

8. Kay Lee founders jailed

Madam Betty Kong and her husband Hai Wai Kay at their Upper Paya Lebar Road stall in 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE 

A husband-and-wife team of hawkers made the news in 2014 when they sold their business for $4 million... and then hit the headlines again in 2016 when they were convicted of tax evasion.

Ha Wai Kay, 64, and Kong Kuee Chin, 69, were the brains behind Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint, which was sold to the Aztech Group conglomerate and turned into a seven-outlet chain.

The couple were found to have under-declared more than $325,000 in sales and dodged almost $55,000 in taxes in 2010 and 2011. Both Ha and Kong were sentenced to four weeks' jail and had to pay a penalty of $164,751.45 each.

9. Breakfast of champions

Joseph Schooling with a plate of of his favourite black chye tow kueh from Bee Bee Carrot Cake at Marine Terrace Market. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's Olympic hero Joseph Schooling brought his golden touch to a beloved hawker stall near his home in Marine Parade in August.

He stopped by Bee Bee Carrot Cake at Block 50A, Marine Terrace during his victory parade of the island, and snacked on the fried carrot cake to the crowd's chants of "chye tow kueh".

The stall's owners - cousins Quek Bee Gek, 65, and Teo Kwee Lang, 68 - said that they were proud to have been serving up the US-based swim king's favourite food since he was a little boy.

And how he likes his chye tow kueh? The darker, the better.

10. Iced Milo for all

Nathan Hartono arrives at Bugis+ in a milo van on Oct 15, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE 

It started with a throwaway comment by Singapore songbird Nathan Hartono, who was competing in the finals of Sing! China. "If I win, I will rent a fleet of Milo vans and treat everybody to Milo peng (iced Milo)," he said in a Straits Times interview.

Nestle Singapore, which manufactures and distributes the chocolate malt drink, shot back on Facebook: "Nathan, win or lose, MILO will support you all the way! No need to rent, also can. Just tell us where, we bring the van."

The company made good on its word, giving away free drinks at five locations across the island - and bringing a touch of nostalgia to Singaporeans who grew up seeing the green van at school and community sports events.

Hartono eventually finished second in the singing contest.