Hip food, heartland setting: What to eat at the new Pasir Ris hawker centre

The new Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre offers a mind-boggling variety of food

The 11-day-old Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre is so cool that it has become a hot foodie destination.

This is due in part to Fareground, a spacious area on its second floor. It houses 22 stalls run by a new generation of modern hawkers presenting hipster food - wagyu grain bowls, Thai boat noodles and beef bourguignon.

Those who prefer traditional fare need not feel left out - the first floor of the 770-seat hawker centre holds 20 stalls serving traditional local hawker fare, which will not disappoint purists.

Muslim diners? There are options for them too, with stalls on both floors selling dishes that range from Cajun-style seafood buckets to ayam penyet to burgers.

Diners are required to return their own trays (no extra charge for taking trays) and crockery. And most did so during The Sunday Times' visits.

This is the third new food centre to be managed by NTUC Foodfare. The other two are Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre & Market in Bukit Panjang Ring Road and Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre in Woodlands Drive 71.

Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre also follows in the footsteps of hip hawker centre Timbre+ by the Timbre Group at one-north, which houses veteran hawkers alongside young ones.

NTUC Foodfare has also introduced a hawkerpreneurship programme to encourage aspiring hawkers to join the trade. There are three people on the programme so far.

 
 
 

One of them is Tasty Street owner Cheryl Tan, 24, a culinary and catering management graduate from Temasek Polytechnic.

She says: "The long hours as a hawker may be exhausting, but I like the friendly and vibrant environment here.

"We feel at home with the other hawkers and our friends think that it's cool for us to set up shop here. Many have come to support us."

The young hawkers whom The Sunday Times spoke to all said they were overwhelmed in the first few days of opening because of the huge crowds that descended there.

Even now, almost two weeks on, there is a constant flow of diners all day long, with the crowd growing at 5pm. So, be prepared to wait.

Pasir Ris resident Marissa Tan, 45, says: "My family has been waiting for this hawker centre to open and we come here almost every other day to try the food. My children like the Korean food from Seoul Shiok and I like the Thai boat noodles.

"I have no issue with queuing. I can tell that the young hawkers are doing their best to cope and it's nice to see them running the stalls."

• Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ

• Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre is at 110 Pasir Ris Central, and opens from 7am to 10.30pm daily. Individual stalls have their own opening hours.


THE STEW HOUSE (02-07)


THE STEW HOUSE (02-07). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: Soup stalls in hawker centres are not rare, but one that sells stews is. The Stew House's signature beef bourguignon with rice ($6 or $8, right) comes with a generous portion of tender beef chunks, mushroom, leek and carrots. The thick gravy is good as a dip for bread or drizzled over rice.

Other options include chicken and mushroom veloute ($5), cream of mushroom with soft roll ($4.50 or $6.50) as well as more Asian-inspired choices such as Nonya curry chicken ($5) and chicken tikka masala with rice ($5 or $7). Complement your soup with a smoked duck salad ($7) or chicken Caesar salad ($6.50).

Open: 11am to 9pm, Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Mondays

SEOUL SHIOK (02-20)


SEOUL SHIOK (02-20). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: Korean stalls in foodcourts and hawker centres can sometimes take on a samey feel, serving the usual beef or pork bulgogi, watered-down kimchi soup and noodles.

So it is refreshing to see stall owner Cheryl Sou, 27, push the boundaries with Korean restaurant dishes, such as army stew ($24.90, $29.90 with cheese) and mini army stew ($7.90, with Korean fried chicken wings). It is comfort food with springy noodles, sliced sausages and Spam.

There are also plenty of add-on options to jazz up the stew, from pork belly ($2.90) to tteokbokki ($1.90).

The menu also has spicy kimchi soup with rice (from $4.90), rice bowls (from $4.90) and Korean fried chicken (original, spicy or soya garlic, from $3.90 for two pieces). The chicken has a light batter and juicy meat, and is a good side dish to complement other dishes at the hawker centre.

Seoul Shiok has another outlet at a coffee shop in Sengkang, which is run by Ms Sou's business partner who also runs Mujigae Bingsu at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre.

Open: 11.30am to 9.30pm, Thursdays to Tuesdays, closed on Wednesdays

Info: www.facebook.com/seoulshioksg

TASTY STREET (02-16)


TASTY STREET (02-16). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: Tasty Street's rice bowl options are very affordable.

Wagyu beef ($6.50) is a clear winner with tender beef, black pepper sauce, brown and pearl rice and an onsen egg.

The rice bowls all come with daily greens such as charred corn, mala vegetables and kang kong.

Other options include Iberico Lor Bah ($6.50), with chunks of braised pork belly; sous vide chicken breast with truffle hotplate tofu sauce; and griddled prawns ($6.50) with wolfberry wine sauce. Add $2 for salted egg yolk sauce.

Open: 11am to 9pm, Thursdays to Tuesdays, closed on Wednesdays

Info: www.facebook.com/tastystreetsg

THE HUMBLE BURGER (02-22)


THE HUMBLE BURGER (02-22). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: What is unique here is the chicken rice burger, with buns made from Japanese rice coated in breadcrumbs and fried till golden brown. Eat it hot to get the best of its crispiness.

The meat patty comprises chunks of chicken cooked in soya sauce and topped with chilli and ginger sauce.

It is a clever idea and the flavours work. It is also the only burger with rice "buns".

Another burger with a local spin is the sio bak burger ($5.50), miso-glazed roast pork belly in a bun. Other items include beef burger ($5), fish burger ($4) and portobello burger ($4).

Side orders include Twister Fries ($1.50 or $3), house-made slaw ($1.50), caramelised onions (50 cents) and cheddar cheese (50 cents).

The stall is run by Ms Christie Tang, 37, who also runs the four-year-old NOM bistro and bakery at Macpherson Community Club.

Open: Noon to 9pm, Wednesdays to Mondays, closed on Tuesdays

Info: www.facebook.com/thehumbleburger

JIN HO LIM AH (02-15)

Ms Cheryl Tan (above), owner of Tasty Street.
JIN HO LIM AH (02-15). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: This drink stall's menu can easily fit in any hipster cafe or bar. It has an extensive list of craft beer, cider and mead (made by fermenting honey with water).

It also offers gourmet coffee with 100 per cent Arabica beans from Sumatra. The ice latte ($5) has a good, robust flavour with a creamy finish that may not even be found at cafes.

There is also charcoal latte ($4 for hot, $5.50 for cold), which is made with charcoal - said to help with detoxification. It does not bring much in terms of flavour, but it sure is Instagramable.

There are also some speciality drinks such as the stall's namesake Jin Ho Lim Ah! ($4), which is a refreshing cucumber and lime soda; and Jin Jia Shiok ($4), with black tea and lychee.

The stall front also has an interesting array of bottled and canned drinks.

Look out for Sparkling Chupa Chups ($2.50) in strawberry, grape and orange flavours.

And for that extra hipster factor, drinks for takeaway are poured into fancy pouches.

Open: 11am to 11pm, Wednesdays to Mondays, closed on Tuesdays

Info: bit.ly/2nBqz07

SAAP LAH THAI BOAT NOODLES (02-09)


SAAP LAH THAI BOAT NOODLES (02-09). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: The boat noodles served here may not be those tiny bowls found in Bangkok, but that is no matter when its $5 portion is a satisfying one-bowl wonder.

The broth of the beef boat noodle ($5) is piping hot and deliciously beefy. It comes with sliced beef, meatballs, kang kong and thin rice noodles. Add chilli flakes to spice up the dish.

There is also pork boat noodles ($4.50), as well as tom yam versions. Sticking to the original flavour is recommended.

Open: 11.30am to 7.30pm, Thursdays to Tuesdays, closed on Wednesdays

DABURU (02-11)

Ms Cheryl Tan (above), owner of Tasty Street.
DABURU (02-11). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: Daburu, which means double in Japanese, is double the fun. It sells "hot buns" (inspired by popular pork buns from Macau) and "hot plates", like those sizzling steak platters from Taiwan.

The menu has a double hamburg hot bun ($6.90) and double pork belly hot bun ($7.90). Or have the best of both worlds with the deluxe pork belly and hamburg hot bun ($7.90). You get a thick piece of grilled pork belly, alongside a juicy hamburg patty made with Australian beef.

The other hot item on the menu is the Champion chicken chop hot plate noodles ($7.90, right), which is a generous portion of seared chicken, noodles and corn. Consider replacing your noodles with curly fries ($1.50, $2 for add-on, $3 for a la carte portion).

Open: 11.30am to 8pm, Wednesdays to Mondays, closed on Tuesdays

Info: www.facebook.com/daburuSG


Traditional stalls

AYAM PENYET (01-02)

Ms Cheryl Tan (above), owner of Tasty Street.
AYAM PENYET (01-02). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: If you want to ease the guilt of eating ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken), opt for brown rice instead of white. The ayam penyet set is $6 and, for $8, you get an additional bakso (Indonesian meatball) soup. Switching brown rice for white costs an additional 80 cents.

Want to take healthy eating to the next level? Then go for its ayam kukus (steamed chicken) with brown rice.

My favourite dish is the ayam panggang (soya sauce grilled chicken) with bakso soup set ($8), which makes a filling meal. The chicken skin is coated with a slightly sweet, sticky glaze, while the meat is juicy and tender and goes well with the sambal on the side.

Other sets available include ikan bawal penyet (smashed pomfret, $7.50), udang penyet (smashed prawn, $5) and sotong panggang (grilled squid, $7).

Open: 9am to 10pm, Thursdays to Tuesdays, closed on Wednesdays

BAI NIAN TRADITIONAL STIR FRY (01-20)

Ms Cheryl Tan (above), owner of Tasty Street.
BAI NIAN TRADITIONAL STIR FRY (01-20). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

What: This stall sells all kinds of delicious fried food, such as fried Hokkien mee (from $4), fried carrot cake (black, from $3, or white, from $2.80) and char kway teow (from $3).

But I notice many diners sitting near the stall eating fried oyster omelette (from $5) instead, so I try that. The oysters are plump and fresh and the omelette has lovely crispy edges, plenty of egg and not too much starch. It also sells fried prawn omelette (from $5).

I tried its carrot cake and prefer the black version, which is not too sweet.

Open: 11am to 9pm, Mondays to Saturdays, closed on Sundays

Info: www.facebook.com/bainianstirfry

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 04, 2018, with the headline 'Hip food, heartland setting'. Print Edition | Subscribe