Top Fried Rice: Hawker stall with phenomenal pork cutlet also stir-fries udon & ramen

I’m not the type to go crazy over fried rice but on the recommendation of a friend residing in the area, I was introduced to Top Fried Rice. What puts this hawker stall ahead of other suggestions is how close their menu comes to being a carbon copy of Wok Hey’s. Perhaps I have an inclination for food places that emulate a successful formula.

Top Fried Rice - Stallfront

This marks my umpteenth escapade to Ayer Rajah Food Centre, yet I can still appreciate how the dainty lit signs make locating an unfamiliar stall stupendously easy. The hawker stall’s simple name is plastered across a plain lightbox free of any Chinese characters. Nice!

What I tried at Top Fried Rice

Top Fried Rice - Shanghai Fried Rice with Shrimp

Listed separately from the menu, Shanghai Fried Rice (S$5++) had a thumbs up on it so that had to mean it was good. We opted to top it with some Shrimp which brought the cost to S$6.80.

Top Fried Rice - Prawn zoom

With just 4 teensy shrimp on a medium-sized mound of fried rice, I was completely underwhelmed by the first dish. I’d had a good run of avoiding bad seafood for some time but that streak came to an end when I bit down on these twiddly bits. 

At first, I was surprised by the gentle yet springy texture that oozed a faint brininess. Within the next second, that smidgen of flavour faded. This extremely brief acquaintance with my taste buds left me wholly unsatisfied.

Top Fried Rice - Shanghai fried rice zoom

Delightfully, the Shanghai Fried Rice mended my wounded expectations. Each grain had an almost slick texture from the oil and sauce but the true determinant was the absence of a greasy aftertaste. The rice was perfectly seasoned to be lightly sweet and tossed to a pleasant level of wok hei. Even the scrambled eggs possessed a discernible saltiness.

Against shrimp that had undershot by a mile, it was a staggering disparity. This trend of peaks and troughs would continue for the other dishes.

Top Fried Rice - Chilli fried rice with Pork cutlet

I was told to avoid Mala Fried Rice as it was ‘oversalted’, according to the same friend. Hence, I picked Chilli Fried Rice with Pork Cutlet (S$6.50) instead.

Top Fried Rice - Chilli fried rice zoom

Deary me, I should have chosen something else as the grains were desert-dry. Their pervasive chilli scent would have been greatly complemented by spoonfuls of rice loaded with some pep, had the grains not been as rough and moisture-sapping. There was still a hint of wok hei underneath all that, and that was the only saving grace. Much respect to Joseph, my colleague, for finishing the rice.

Top Fried Rice - Pork chop zoom

The pork cutlet, on the other hand, was tender and juicy with a balanced sweet-savoury flavour. It was so much like moo ping that a skewer through its centre would have completed the experience. Each cross-section was tinted a light brown, perhaps the result of a thorough marination. I had to fight the urge to take the cutlet all for myself.

Tong Siew Fried Rice: $3 plates of hor fun & fried rice by 72-year-old hawker

Top Fried Rice - Stir-fried Udon

Presentation isn’t Top Fried Rice’s strongest suit, as you may have noticed from their fried rice. The black sesame seeds do a minimal job of spiffing up the messy plate of Udon with Yakitori (S$7).

Top Fried Rice - Yakitori zoom

As the priciest add-on, the sticks of yakitori should really be bigger. Most of the heavy lifting was done by the tare but the chicken itself was soft and juicy.

Top Fried Rice - Udon zoom

The spotlight was instead seized by the stir-fried noodles. A good amount of wok hei had been breathed into the thick strands of soft and chewy udon. At the cost of a greasier mouthfeel thanks to their inherent slippery texture, a special housemade sauce lent its addictively sweet profile checkered with some umami to every component of the dish.

My friend had drawn an accurate comparison to stir-fried mee tai mak as the textures of both are strikingly similar. 

Top Fried Rice - Stir-fried Ramen with Beef balls

The Ramen with Beef balls (S$5.80) is stir-fried in the same secret sauce with cabbage and slices of onion. While I had been warned against choosing the beef balls, first-hand accounts have been rather important of late.

Top Fried Rice - Beef ball zoom

I should have listened. These soulless skewers could easily pass off as (or very well be) generic store-bought beef balls. Dry, textured meat offers little that can improve a dish and I could have done without them entirely.

Top Fried Rice - Ramen zoom

The stir-fried ramen was essentially yakisoba in a different skin down to the crunchy cabbage sprinkled throughout. Both ramen and soba noodles are made from wheat flour, so the observation made is not without basis. An identical mix of sugary and savoury to the stir-fried udon bolstered the less chewy noodles and was given depth by a slightly alkaline feedback.

Final thoughts

Top Fried Rice - Overall

At their peak, Top Fried Rice is on the level of, if not better than established franchises. Yet the troughs can be difficult to overlook given the inconsistent quality.

For a reliable combination, the pork cutlet is head and shoulders above the other add-ons. You can opt for fried rice variations like Mala, Tom Yum, or just Egg. My vote goes to the udon or ramen if greasiness isn’t a chief concern.

Expected damage: S$4 – S$8.50 per pax

Hi Fan Tian: Hawker stall by ex-restaurant chefs with fragrant fried rice & amazing chicken wings

Price: $

Our Rating: 3.5 / 5

Top Fried Rice

503 W Coast Dr, Ayer Rajah Food Centre, #01-37, Singapore 120503

Price
Our Rating 3.5/5

Top Fried Rice

503 W Coast Dr, Ayer Rajah Food Centre, #01-37, Singapore 120503

Operating Hours: 11am - 8.30pm (Daily)

Operating Hours: 11am - 8.30pm (Daily)

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