Jia Ji Mei Shi, Chinatown: The food ain’t pretty, but it will feed you well

When my editor told me to eat my way through Chinatown Complex Food Centre, I thought, “That’s a rather herculean endeavour, indeed”. Not to drop such an early pun in the article but navigating the Chinatown Complex Food Centre is complex. With over 400 stalls that have been split into four sections, it’s a maze. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’d be circling those coloured tables for hours. Seeing as this is my first entry into my Chinatown Complex series, I decided that breakfast food would be apropos. No, not a S$17 plate of eggs ben or an overpriced plate of avocado toast (but how blasphemous would it be to find such prices in a hawker centre). Instead, we shall head to Jia Ji Mei Shi.

Store front of Jia Ji Mei Shi

What I tried

Jia Ji Mei Shi is one of those staple hawker stalls you can find in nearly every hawker centre. They serve the standard chee cheong fun, fried bee hoon and porridge, amongst other old-school breakfast favourites. It’s nothing ground-breaking or Heston Blumenthal-worthy, but there is something to be said for these homegrown comforts.

In a hawker centre, arriving at 10am for breakfast is late. As I walked through the labyrinth of stalls, I was silently praying that Jia Ji Mei Shi wouldn’t sell out of my favourites. I joined the snaking queue and counted the number of people in front of me. Alright, just five people—I’m safe. Having been thoroughly scarred by Hong Pancake, I never wanted to feel that stone-cold disappointment again.

Also, I should tell you these kinds of breakfast stalls aren’t usually popular with ‘youngsters’; you’ll notice that the demographic of the patrons belong to the baby boomers and silver generation. So, the stall owners are usually a little perplexed when they see me with my artsy social-commentary T-shirts and mammoth DSLR.

Top down shot of dishes from Jia Ji Mei Shi

I ordered the usual mix of Chee Cheong Fun (S$2), Century Egg and Minced Meat Porridge (S$3), and Yam Cake (S$2) to start. If you are marvelling at the prices, you’re not the only one. It’s part of the reason why I love these breakfast stalls so much.

chee cheong fun from jia ji mei shi

These breakfast dishes don’t aspire to be pretty; they just need to feed you. The chee cheong fun is spooned roughly onto the plate, ladled messily with sweet sauces, and passed to you quite brusquely at the counter.

Yes, it’s part of their charm and oh-so-Singaporean. The chee cheong fun is silky enough, coated with fragrant onion oil, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Most people would tell you they like their chee cheong fun gossamer-like, delicate, and almost translucent. They’re talking about the Hong Kong-style of chee cheong fun, but I prefer mine this way. Sweet, salty, a little greasy, sure, it’s less refined, perhaps, but with a lot of heart.

Steamed yam cake at Jia Ji Mei Shi 3

Elsewhere, the Yam Cake comes to us as Eliza Dolittle did before her time with Henry Higgins treatment. Taken from a larger serving tray, ‘rough around the edges’ is the purported aesthetic for this one. Of course, there is more than meets the eye with these grey, fubsy, oddly shaped pieces. Their appearance belies just how velvety smooth and palatable they are. And yes, they are ‘loverly’ indeed.

century egg porridge

Besides slinging plates of chee cheong fun and yam cake, Jia Ji Mei Shi also has a selection of porridge for an easy breakfast. As a staunch purist for Century Egg and Minced Meat Porridge, if I see it, you know I’m ordering it. There isn’t much to it; a spoonful of sesame oil and fried shallots as embellishments, and we shall call it a day. It’s comforting, tasty, and devastatingly simple.

fried bee hoon

Most people who frequent Jia Ji Mei Shi would either get porridge or fried noodles. A plate of Fried Noodle or Fried Bee Hoon would set you back a S$1, and toppings of fishcake, fried eggs and sausages are S$0.60 each. When you’ve been operating as long as Jia Ji Mei Shi, there is a kind of dependability and practised perfection to their wares. A mix of both noodles that’s topped with a fried egg and fish cake is all you need to start your day.

Moreover, it’s hard to find fault in a dish that’s prepared just like your mother or grandmother would. I wolf it down pretty quickly and sip on my teh ping, wholly satisfied with my meal.

Final thoughts 

Breakfast shouldn’t be complicated, and Jia Jia Mei Shi proves exactly that. The frills and the fanfare just get in the way of you filling your tummy bright and early in the morning. While Jia Ji Mei Shi doesn’t aim to blow you away, its purpose as the ever-dependable stall is an important one indeed.

As one of the first stalls in my great pilgrimage into Chinatown Complex Food Centre, I’d say we are off to a great start.

Expected damage: S$1 – S$3 per dish

Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Jia Ji Mei Shi

335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, #02-166, Singapore 050335

Our Rating 4/5

Jia Ji Mei Shi

335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, #02-166, Singapore 050335

Operating Hours: 6am - 10pm (Daily)

Operating Hours: 6am - 10pm (Daily)