Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Singapore Day One: Maxwell Hawker Centre

Hello! WX, JL and I have all returned from our respective holiday destinations in Asia with copious amounts of photos - mostly of our edible conquests. Bare with us as we're all returning to the reality of work and tertiary education so it may take us a while to get you guys (or your stomachs) up to date on our travels. I'll kickstart with my first stay in the hot and humid Singapore...

Before I left, I'd been watching a few episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and this particular hawker store in Maxwell Hawker Centre was meant to have the best Hainanese Chicken Rice. Sure enough, when we arrived, we saw that Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice was the shop with the longest queue in the centre leading all the way around the corner! I've been told that this is just a general rule of thumb at hawker centres - to take your stomach where the queue is the longest! It took us a while, but we finally managed to get to the front of the queue and make our order of a plate of the classic Hainanese Chicken Rice (and spot Mr Bourdain's mark)!

His short message was indeed quite an accurate description of what lay before my eyes. The rice was beautifully flavoured - so much so that I felt like I could really eat a couple of bowls by itself! The question is...why mistreat yourself and take away the other aspect of the dish? Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Hainanese Chicken but this was fresh, tender and nestled neatly on top of the rice - how could I resist? Eating a mouthful of rice and a bite of chicken - savouring every single bit of it was fair compensation for the extreme humidity that left me sweating at our table.

Drawn to Maxwell Hawker Centre in search of Bourdain's recommendation, I really didn't look into other places around the area but I did want to try something that SK had suggested I try: carrot cake. With no particular shop in mind, I stopped at the nearest one which specialised in carrot cake called Auntie.

Carrot cake comes in two varieties - black and white - and is made up largely of Chinese radish which is literally translated as 'carrot'. This dish probably isn't for the health conscious and not a meal to be eaten regularly either. Watching 'Auntie' cook right in front of me with a huge porcelain bowl of oil which she proceeded to drench her mixture inmade me reconsider my previous plan of placing a double order to share with my friends.

Personally, the black carrot cake was my favourite of the two. It was full of flavour (perhaps a little bit too much) having been stir fried not only in oil, but also quite a generous dash of dark soy sauce.

The white carrot cake on the other hand, was a bit too bland and oozing with oil. I could taste the prominent flavour of the vegetable oil.

Balancing out the two two extremes, I found myself eating the white carrot cake and using the black carrot cake as a chaser with a bit of Hainanese Chicken Rice!

With meals ranging from $1 to $4 there was no excuse for us not to get drinks and what better choice but Soybean Milk and Coconut Juice! Icy cold and just as cheap as everything else - the perfect way to quench your first in the Singaporean heat!

On a totally irrelevant note, walking away from Maxwell Hawker Centre, I noticed a street called Sago Street! I was extremely disappointed to find that there was absolutely no trace of the delicious sago to be found on the street and was told that the reason for the naming stemmed from the historical existence of sago factories! Shame!

Maxwell Hawker Centre
Cnr South Bridge Road and Maxwell Road


  1. i love hainan chicken rice! am drooling just looking at the photo. look forward to the posts of the rest of your trip :)

  2. You've gotta know how to pick them...don't think I've found a hawker store which does great chai tow kuih (carrot cake) in Singapore yet. Slow descent downhill...

    Hopefully Maxwell doesn't get too touristy-ed in the next few years. Sounds like it's still holding its own =)

  3. panda: haha, yeah food pornography! it was so yummmmy! and posts are coming...soon!

    the ninja: yeah definitely. i didn't have any recommedations so i went in blind. but i did try a different type later on in my trip.

    it wasn't very touristy at all. or maybe it was the time of day that i went?