I’ve lived in the east all my life (in fact I was born in Tampines), so trust me when I say that I was super excited to hear that Century Square‘s renovations were finally completed in June 2018.
Amidst the slew of over 40 food tenants, is the ever trustworthy and affordable food court. The Food Market, located on the third floor of Century Square, is operated by Food Junction and has more than a dozen food stalls ranging from nasi padang, beef noodles, grilled western food, and even our beloved mala hotpot.
What you might not have known is that majority of these stalls are halal-certified! In fact, six have been certified while two are in the midst of being approved.
When I walked into The Food Market, I was immediately impressed by how sleek it looks. It has wooden parquet flooring, rustic hanging lightbulbs, and even wall plugs near high stools for you to charge your phone while you eat.
I love food courts like The Food Market – not only do you get the luxury of choice between a myriad of cuisines, each stall also has its unique offerings which will definitely leave you spoilt for choice.
Here are 6 hidden halal gems at Century Square’s The Food Market that all you Easties will definitely love.
1. Minang Nasi Padang
This has got to be one of my favourite nasi padang joints in Singapore. Minang Nasi Padang has so many different meats, vegetables and fishes that choosing my ingredients to go alongside the steamed rice was such a challenge!
Still undecided? Go for one of their staples, such as Mee Siam (S$3.80), Nasi Lemak (S$4.50), or Warung Set (S$5) for an equally satisfying meal.
Here’s what I got for my Nasi Padang: a chicken drumstick, fried fish, beef rendang, sambal goreng and sayur lodeh, which is vegetable curry.
The chicken drumstick was coated in a sticky sweet sauce with a hint of spiciness, almost like Korean fried chicken. The meat itself was tender, moist and fell off the bone. I really enjoyed the tempeh, which was slightly nutty and earthy, and tossed with long beans and chilli for that added kick.
Prices vary according to the dishes — plain vegetables are S$1.20 to S$1.50 per portion, chicken is S$2 to S$3.50, seafood is S$3 to S$3.50, beef is S$3.50 and mutton is S$4.
I paid S$11.50, which is a little on the high side for food court food, but relatively decent if you consider the fact that I had practically one of everything.
2. Hong Kong Beef King
For those who love a good, steaming bowl of beef noodles, Hong Kong Beef King is something you’ll definitely enjoy.
Hailing all the way from Hong Kong (thus the name), this stall is famed for its signature flavour-filled beef soup that’s brewed fresh daily, consisting of thick beef bones, plentiful herbs and other ingredients boiling for hours on end to create that succulent, luscious clear and milky broth. Mmmm!
I absolutely loved this bowl of Beef, Tendon & Tripe Noodles (Soup) (S$9). Savoury, mellow and smooth, this soup warmed my entire belly and was wonderfully soothing.
I could soy sauce and a strong beef broth base that you know can only be achieved by boiling the beef bones for hours. Though the flavour was so strong, it was surprisingly clear and light, and I didn’t feel jelak at all.
Though the beef pieces itself were a little tough, I was really impressed with how generous they were with the beef tendon. It was cut into huge rectangular pieces and melted in my mouth the minute I ate them.
3. Fire Western & Grill
Western food is a definite staple in food courts, and Fire Western ‘N’ Grill doesn’t disappoint at all.
Its head chef has over 18 years of experience professionally dishing out classic western fare, plus he grew up in a home that loves to feast, so all the food that you see on the menu will not only be delicious, but it’ll also have that personal touch, as if being cooked by a loved one or friend.
We tried the Gamberoni Pasta (Olio Style) (S$8.50). Fresh prawns were tossed in spaghetti, chilli, tomatoes and broccoli to create this simple but classic dish.
The servings were huge and generous for just S$8.50, there were a total of eight prawns and they were succulent and fresh. I loved it that the al dente spaghetti was coated reasonably with oil such that each bite was slurp-worthy smooth and yet not too overpowering.
4. JJ Korean Cuisine
JJ Korean Cuisine was founded in 2008 by John Ong and Li Xuee, a couple who simply wanted to dedicate their lives to serving good, delicious, nutritious food to customers at a decent price.
John garnered his experience in cooking by working in a reputable Japanese restaurant in town for years before opening JJ Food Express Pte Ltd. Fun fact: when they first launched the business, the couple focused primarily on Japanese food. But once the trends of bibimbap, tteok-bokki and kimchi jjigae hit Singapore (alongside the kpop fever), they started introducing Korean and Chinese cuisine to their menu.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Bibimbap (Stone Bowl) (S$6.80) because of how simple and delicious the entire dish is.
It consists of white rice, assorted vegetables, meat, gochujang (sweet red pepper paste sauce) and an egg in a stone pot, and the portions are huge and it never fails to fill me up. Plus, there’s a good ratio of meat to vegetables too, so everything you’d need in a meal is in that one stone bowl.
I love to let the rice bits burn a little just so I can scrape them off the bottom of the stone bowl once I’m done. Little joys, wouldn’t you say?
5. Ah Po Hokkien Mee
Run by twin brothers, Ah Po Hokkien Mee is a crowd favourite because of dishes like its signature Fried Hokkien Mee (S$4 for small), Fried Kway Teow w/ Cockles (S$4 for small), and Fried Carrot Cake (White) (S$3.80 for small).
Ah Po Hokkien Mee doesn’t use any lard in their dishes, so this was a real plus point for me.
Its Fried Hokkien Mee is infused with a special rib and prawn stock, so the gravy is rich and full-bodied, with a hint of salty and sweet.
They use a mix of yellow noodles and thick bee hoon, accompany it with a generous serving of squid, juicy prawns and eggs, to create this delicious dish.
If you’re a fan of seafood, be sure to try its Fried Bee Hoon w/ Cockles (S$4 for small) as well. Tossed with bean sprouts, fish cakes, eggs and fresh cockles, the fried bee hoon was smoky and delicious with a good wok hei fragrance.
6. Halim’s Fish Soup
What makes Halim’s Sliced Fish Soup different from the rest of the usual fish soup stalls is how they fry their sliced fish.
While typical stalls might coat their fish slices in a flour-based batter and fry them till they’re crispy and brown, the couple that runs the stall dip the fish in egg instead of flour, resulting in a golden brown crispy outer skin that doesn’t turn soggy.
Fun fact: this unique way of deep frying fish slices comes from the stall owners’ prior experience as a sushi chef.
The Double Fish Steamboat w/ Rice (S$7.50) is affordable and super yummy. The impressive fish broth uses fish bones, ginger, ikan bilis and yellow beans, and is left to simmer for eight full hours, resulting in a lusciously sweet and tangy fish soup.
What makes this stall such a standout is also their choice of fish. Dory fish is used primarily for deep frying, and because dory is lean and tender, what you get are fried fish pieces that have crispy exteriors and a soft interior.
For fresh fish slices, they use toman (also known as snakehead), which is firm and succulent, so your fish slices won’t dissolve or break apart in the soup.
Bonus: two more stalls are in the midst of getting their halal certification, but we checked them out as well!
7. Xiao Man Niu Mala Xiang Guo
Spicy lovers, step up to the challenge at Xiao Man Niu Mala. Specialising in si chuan hotpot, this stall uses over 23 Chinese herbs and spices to perfect their mala paste, which is tongue-numbing and outrageously spicy.
For those who can’t handle spicy food, don’t worry. You can opt for the mildly spicy version.
They’re one of the two stalls that are in the process of applying for their halal certification, so it’s only a matter of time before our Muslim friends can enjoy a bowl of this peppery, hot mala too!
Pile your bowl with vegetables, such as cabbage, lotus root, broccoli, and mushrooms (S$1 – S$2.20 per 100g). Then, top off your hotpot with freshly sliced chicken and beef (S$3.20 per 100g) and seafood (S$4.20 per 100g) for the ultimate comfort food on a rainy day.
If you’re like me and you can’t decide on what to order, there’s the Mala Set Meal (S$6.80), which is great for people who are dining alone.
Believe me, I was super excited to find out that KL Traditional Chilli Ban Mee had finally set up a stall in The Food Market. I’ve been to their outlet at MacPherson countless times for their signature ban mee and fiery red chilli, which comes in five different spice levels, and I’m an absolute fan.
KL Traditional Chilli Ban Mee is also in the midst of getting their halal certification approved, so be sure to look out for it!
Go for its Mini Combo Chilli Ban Mee (S$7.90), and choose between four types of noodles: ban mee, mee poh, mee kia or mee hoon kuay. You can also have your ban mee dry, with soup, or with tom yum.
Its noodles are springy and firm but a little plain on its own, so mix it well with the marinated minced meat toppings, which are salty and slightly piquant. Their fishballs are larger than regular fish balls. It’s chewy on the outside but soft on the inside, the minute you bite into them, you can taste their freshness and sweetness.
If its chilli isn’t spicy enough for you, ask for the tom yum soup base. Sour and tangy, with a hint of sweetness and lime, it’ll definitely make you sweat buckets!
As if I didn’t love Tampines enough already, Century Square’s The Food Market is making me wish I hadn’t moved out of the area.
From nasi padang to fiery mala hotpot, and even my favourite KL Traditional Chilli Ban Mee, you’ll be spoilt silly by The Food Market’s wide variety of food choices. Not to mention, they are all at affordable prices, so not only will your tummy be thanking you, your wallet will be as well.
*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Food Junction.
Our Rating: 3 / 5
The Food Market
Century Square, #03-19, 2 Tampines Central 5, Singapore 529509
The Food Market
Century Square, #03-19, 2 Tampines Central 5, Singapore 529509