Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue, Maxwell Food Centre: Old-school Hainanese western food with large portions since 1976

You’ll spot Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue‘s queue before you see its storefront.

A snaking line of office workers will be lining up in a snaking queue, patiently waiting to place their orders at arguably one of the more popular Western stalls at Maxwell Food Centre.

Photo of storefront

Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue dishes out authentic old-school Hainanese western food and it’s been around for more than 50 years.

Its original chef and owner, the late Mr Leong, used to be the head cook for the British Navy. When Britain pulled out of Singapore, he went on to open his own western food stall in Tanglin Halt in 1971, before moving to Margaret Drive Food Centre in 1976.

After the late Mr Leong passed away in 1998, his original recipes were passed to his son, Mr Leong, who now runs the stall with his wife. The stall moved to its current location at Maxwell Food Centre in 2015 to target the office crowd. Based off the snaking queues at lunchtime, this decision definitely seems to have paid off.

What I tried

Photo of chicken chop

After what seemed like an eternity waiting for my food, I finally got my hands on Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue’s Chicken Chop (S$8.50).

Granted, I was a little surprised at its price (considering I can get a plate of chicken chop elsewhere for a few dollars cheaper), but its large portions soon justified the price tag.

Photo of chicken chop

I spotted two large slabs of chicken chop, which were slathered in a brown sauce. The chicken chop was accompanied by a pile of freshly deep-fried crinkle-cut fries, an assortment of mixed vegetables, and a soft bun.

Close up of chicken chop

The two pieces of chicken chop were cooked just right. I was impressed with how Mr Leong managed to get that crispy, almost caramelised exterior, while leaving the meat on the inside tender and juicy.

As for the brown sauce, it tasted like a combination between barbecue and tomato sauce, with a nice smoky tanginess to each bite. I was glad that Mr Leong had served up plenty of brown sauce, because I ended up dipping my freshly deep-fried crinkle-cut fries in the sauce as well.

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Close up of vegetables

I was a little disappointed with the mixed vegetables. These were nothing fancy, just your average frozen vegetables like green peas, carrots and corn, that had been boiled and served on a plate. I felt like a child being asked to eat my vegetables, and frankly, I’d rather have been given a serving of baked beans or sliced cucumbers on the side instead.

Photo of bun

The buns are purchased from a traditional bakery, and while the bun itself was soft and fluffy, it was served cold with a small slab of spreadable Lurpak butter on the side.

I really wish it had been toasted in an oven before being served, as that would’ve elevated the soft bun and made biting into it more satisfying.

Photo of chicken cutlet

Moving on to the second dish from Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue: Chicken Cutlet (S$9).

Close up of chicken cutlet

The breaded exterior surprised me because it was actually mildly sweet. Despite that, I enjoyed biting into the Chicken Cutlet because it was delightfully crispy without being overly dry.

The sauce used for the Chicken Cutlet is different from the Chicken Chop‘s brown sauce. Here, the sourness from the tomato paste is a lot more pronounced, much like those from other authentic Hainanese western joints.

This was a real satisfying dish because of how each bite had a good balance between breaded crust and juicy meat. Plus, the breaded crust was still crunchy despite being covered in that tangy sauce.

Would I pay S$9 for this dish? Perhaps only when I’m feeling indulgent, and certainly not on a daily basis.

Photo of fish and chips

The last dish I tried was Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue’s Fish and Chips (S$9).

While I spotted the usual crinkle-cut fries, mixed vegetables and soft bun, I noticed an extra side with this dish— coleslaw.

Close up of fish

While most Hainanese western stalls would usually serve you one large piece of deep-fried fish, Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue’s rendition of the popular Fish and Chips included three decently-sized fish fillets, which had been breaded and deep fried.

Close up of fish

This was a dish I really enjoyed. The fish itself was fresh and soft, melting in my mouth easily with every bite. Plus, there was actually more meat than breadcrumb coating, making each bite extra satisfying.

Close up of coleslaw

The first thing I noticed about the coleslaw was that it had no mayonnaise. Instead, it seemed to resemble pickled achar or even sauerkraut, as it was tangy and sour, with a hint of vinegar crawling in with every bite. Its crunchy texture gave it a refreshing and appetising touch, which made it a much preferred alternative as compared to the boiled peas, carrot and corn.

Final thoughts

Flatlay of food

If you’re looking to grab a taste of authentic old-school Hainanese western cuisine, Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue might be worth a visit. While its side dishes are nothing fancy (in fact I ended up forgoing the mixed vegetables and disappointing bun) and its prices aren’t the most affordable in the area, its grilled and deep-fried meats make for a really satisfying meal.

Mr Leong and his wife only open specifically for the lunch and dinner crowd— you can spot them opening the store at 12pm and 6pm on the dot on weekdays— so be prepared for long queues!

Expected damage: S$8.50 – S$20 per pax

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Our Rating: 3 / 5

Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue

1 Kadayanallur Street, Maxwell Food Centre, #01-94, Singapore 069184

Our Rating 3/5

Ye Lai Xiang Tasty Barbecue

1 Kadayanallur Street, Maxwell Food Centre, #01-94, Singapore 069184

Operating Hours: 12pm - 2.30pm & 6pm - 9.30pm (Mon to Fri), Closed on Sat and Sun

Operating Hours: 12pm - 2.30pm & 6pm - 9.30pm (Mon to Fri), Closed on Sat and Sun