If there’s one food trend going around the nation, it’s got to be the surge of ex–restaurant chefs venturing into their own hawker business. Whether it’s the lower rental costs or simply making good food more affordable and accessible, I’m 100% here for it.
From haute cuisine to the hawker scene, these ex-restaurant chefs courageously ditched their toque blanches for t-shirts and shorts. With this, I present to you 10 hawker stalls in Singapore that are helmed by accomplished ex-restaurant chefs.
Ramen stalls in Singapore are a dime a dozen. However, one that’s in a hawker centre and has been featured on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list for years — it has got to be really good and affordable.
After graduating from culinary school, the two hawkers, Gwern and Ben went on to pave their way in the F&B scene, gaining accolades from Michelin-starred restaurants such as Waku Ghin, Saint Pierre and Iggy’s. That was before their passion led them to set up their own shop, A Noodle Story in Amoy Street Food Centre.
Their efforts and hard work are evident in their success with the opening of their overseas franchise in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
So if you are willing to spend the majority of your lunch hour queuing and working up a sweat in a hawker centre, you have to get their Singapore-Style Ramen (S$9 for small, S$12 for medium).
Well, since you’ve already gone through that much just to get that bowl of noodles, we suggest just getting the medium bowl. It’s definitely #worthit.
Tucked in the corner of a coffee shop in Yishun, you’ll find Chef Kin HK Wanton Noodle. Former Crystal Jade executive chef Chan Wing Kin took his 18 years of culinary experience to venture into his own hawker business. After his hawker debut, he has since opened another two outlets in Ang Mo Kio and Bedok.
Personally, the wantons were a hit yet everything else—a miss. Between the Beef Brisket Noodle (Dry) (S$5.50) and HK Wanton Noodle (Soup) (S$5), I’d opt for the latter.
I must say, at its price point, Chef Kin HK Wanton Noodle serves up decent bowls of noodles, but definitely nothing too ground-breaking or worth a long trip. Thankfully, they’ve got one in the East now!
3. Chef Wei HK Cheong Fun
Chef Wei HK Cheong Fun is opened by Thoo Chang Wei, who used to be a chef at Peach Garden. His latest F&B endeavour is similar in nature, and patrons of his Chee Cheong Fun stall can expect the dim sum staple made from scratch.
Menu offerings at Chef Wei HK Cheong Fun do not stray from tradition—take your pick from Plain Cheong Fun (S$3), the perfect no-frills, no-fuss option, or Mushroom Cheong Fun (S$4), a vegetarian option that’s no less satisfying. They also offer Char Siew Cheong Fun (S$4), or Prawn Cheong Fun (S$5) if you want to treat yourself to something more filling.
The queues can get long, so head over early to avoid disappointment.
4. Little Bowl
Previously known as Le Bouillon, this humble establishment in Clifford Centre’s NTUC Foodfare is a hit with the office crowd. Little Bowl is helmed by three chefs that met in Saveur — Kurt, Wei Lun and Yew Tee.
For the quality of the food, and the pleasing presentation that screams atas, this Shio Mushroom Pasta with Chicken Cutlet (S$8.90) is definitely a bang-for-your-buck. They also serve Unagi Rice Bowl (S$10.90) and many other affordable bowls (that are definitely not little).
It’s always thrilling when I find out about chefs hanging up their aprons at established restaurants to open their own hawker business. Maruhachi Donburi & Curry is just one of the many, where Chef-Owner August Wijaya ventured out to run his own hawker stall in Punggol, selling restaurant-quality Japanese fare.
One look at the premium Blackpig Katsu Set (Teishoku) (S$14.80) and you know you’re in for a treat. While It felt odd to indulge in such a masterpiece within such a social setting, it was served just how you’d expect it to be when dining in a restaurant. Super, super grand.
For such affordable high-quality Japanese fare, I would return in a heartbeat. While you’re there, take it from me and pack a box or two home for the family!
6. Meet 4 Meat
Another kid on the block in the hawker scene would be Meet 4 Meat’s Chef Jimmy and Gerald.
For years, this pair of best friends have always talked about their dreams of redefining the accessibility of gourmet food.
“We wanted to make gourmet food more affordable for the younger generation, and have it in a more casual dining location,” says Jimmy, an ex-chef at Wooloomooloo Steakhouse in Swissôtel.
For those who have never tried this dish, the price of their Beef Wellington (S$29) would definitely be one of the main reasons for you to make your way to the East. For less than half the price of those sold in upscale restaurants and steakhouses, it comes with a piece of pan-fried foie gras.
We highly recommend their tantalising flame-grills and homemade pasta— they’re quite the showstoppers here!
7. Nice Rice
As literal as its name, this hidden hawker gem within a clandestine coffee shop along French Road in Lavender serves nice rice bowls with Japanese and French influences.
25-year-old owner of Nice Rice, Mandel Ban, previously worked in a One Michelin-starred Bacchanalia, and later at Vianney Massot.
The main character of Nice Rice hands down goes to the Cow Bowl (S$10.80), which was sublime. Every component of this bowl deserves a huge shoutout. From the execution of the perfectly seared steak slices to the well-balanced seasoned rice and perfect onsen egg—it’s awfully hard to believe this only costs S$10.80.
Not forgetting other stellar items here such as the Fish Bowl (S$7.80), Super Bowl (S$8.80) and addictive Battered Onion Rings with Garlic Aioli (S$4), Nice Rice is a must-visit once in your lifetime!
Do note that they will be relocating from March 2022, so stay tuned to their social pages for the latest updates.
With a passion to own his craft and pursue freedom in baking, owner and sole baker of Nicher, Melvin Koh, left his job as a pastry chef in MBS.
Nestled in a hipster enclave, Tiong Bahru, it was easy for this unpretentious hole-in-the-wall bakery to go unnoticed. However, since its opening in 2013, Nicher has garnered quite a steady following.
From Scones (S$2) to Earl Grey Berries (S$16) and Matcha Azuki Pound Cake (S$14), this quaint bakery will live up to your expectations for an affordable, sweet treat.
So the next time you’re looking for a place to satisfy your cake cravings, give Nicher a shot. It’s one not to be missed!
9. Shi Xiang Ge
Run by former Crystal Jade La Mian Director, Shi Xiang Ge is well-known amongst Bishan dwellers for its Shanxi cuisine.
Here, you can’t go wrong with options featuring braised meat. The Mala Braised Pork La Mian (S$7) is ironically, not one of their bestsellers, but it sure took it one level above any other mala noodle bowls I’ve had to date.
While I did find the Pork Bun (S$4.50) a tad pricey, I must praise the braised shredded meat filling which had a mix of fatty and lean meat, was juicy and oh-so full of flavour.
One thing’s for sure is that Shi Xiang Ge delivers exceptional, authentic Shanxi flavours. A worthy pit stop if you’re looking to spice up your meal—literally.
514 Bishan Street 13, Level 2 Bishan Bus Interchange, Singapore 570514
+65 9151 3586
Daily: 10.30am – 9.30pm
10. Supreme Ramen Xiao Long Bao
Supreme Ramen Xiao Long Bao is helmed by Chinese chef, Li Huaizhi who serves up affordable and superb Chinese cuisine. Armed with over two decades of experience as a dim sum chef, with the likes of popular chain restaurants such as Crystal Jade and Tung Lok Group, he decided to venture out to open a stall of his own.
He reaches the coffeeshop three hours before opening hours to begin his preparation for the first half of the day. From 1.30pm to 4.30pm, they pull down the shutters, but instead of a break, they spend these three hours preparing for the second half of the day.
When asked why he did not hire a helper, Chef Li shared that he wanted to ensure that every single dumpling was up to his standards.
It goes without saying, but if you’re here, be sure to try out their Shanghai Xiao Long Bao (S$4.50). For its price point, I’d say the Westies have themselves a real gem here!
46 Holland Drive, Singapore 270046
+65 9798 2211
Daily: 9am – 1.30pm, 4.30pm – 8.30pm
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