Now, I’m a big breakfast person, and when I have company, it’s a full spread and meal serving up everything from eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, gravy, potatoes and veggies to pancakes, scones, omlettes, frittatas and more. However, I’ve never experienced a Singaporean hawker style breakfast until I did this with Candice Leong, also known as ‘The Gluttenous Temptress’, and her Mom, Jenny! I had no idea what to expect, and, lawsy sakes alive, was I (and my hubby Ben) in for a treat! Breakfast Singapore hawker style does not disappoint!
Candice and Jenny picked Ben and me up at our hotel. Yes, we were in Singapore to experience the food scene. And, there’s no one better to do that with than Candice. A private chef, food consultant, and party conspiratrice, Candice knows her way around Singapore like a pro. Born and raised there, she’s traveled the world in search of food, but hangs her hat here in Singapore where there’s a bustling and outrageously varied food scene.
We traveled about 15 minutes to the Hong Lim Hawker Center. Parked the car in a multi-level parking garage, then walked to what was like a ‘food court’. But, a food court on steriods! Small compact cooking paces lined on each side with small stall after stall being a specialty food. You can imagine the aromas. The sounds. I was amazed at the efficiency given the postage stamp size kitchen, cooking, preparation and serving area. The throngs of people all searching for what their food craving was for this morning. This place is for everyone regardless of age or income!
Built in 1978, the first wave of street hawkers in post-independence Singapore, many from Chinatown’s Hokien Street, moved to Hong Lim Food Centre. Foods mainly served are Chinese, Malay and Indian. The prices are cheap. The quality of the food is excellent. The portions are huge. And, the tastes and flavors are extraordinary!
Many of the vendors are families that have been operating their businesses 20 years or more, so there’s an intrinsic pride and heritage that you get here unlike when you dine at the fancy restaurants. Recipes represent a legacy that is passed from generation to generation.
And, everyone we encountered went out of their way to answer questions and tell us about their featured dishes. There was definitely some hometown and family pride glowing on their faces! The only thing ‘fast food’ about this was standing and waiting for your order to be cooked to perfection right in front of your eyes.
For about an hour, Candice and Jenny made the rounds with Ben and me most of the time following like dutiful children as they selected what we were going to eat. We sat family style at a bright green table among hundreds of other folks who were chowing down.
And, after our ‘first wave’ of food had been eaten, Jenny and Candice jumped up, disappeared for a few minutes and returned with more unbelievable plates of goodliness ! The meal was topped off with things like Chin Chow, a grass jelly drink and Sugar Cane Juice where I witnessed the sugar cane milky sweetness being pressed from the cane.
As we were leaving, we could resist ‘dessert’. But, still in the breakfast genre. Yes, Chinese pancakes, but not pancakes as we Westerners think of. One huge PAN cake that’s filled with either ground peanuts, fresh coconut or red bean paste, then cut into serving size pieces for purchase.
As we made our way back to the car after nearly two hours of feasting, I knew that I had experienced something gastronomically enlightening. Something that would have a profound affect on my thoughts of breakfast and brunch. And something that would make me realize that eggs and bacon, yes, while good, are not the only ‘fish in the sea’ for breakfast.
Here’s what was on our table and rapidly devoured and in our bellies! You can imagine the inspiration I now have for creating new recipes. And, rest assured, that soups will be on our breakfast menu in the future! For now, just know that this breakfast was the best of my life. The proof’s in this pix!
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Char Kway Teow (rice pappardelle fried in lard with chilli, eggplant, bean spourts & cockles)
Pork Patty w/Preserved Vegetables steamed on top rice
Curry Noodles w/Potato Fried Tofu
Mantis Prawn Hor Fun (Rice Noodles)
Won Ton Soup (Shrimp Dumpling)
Kai Lan Vegetables w/oyster Sauce & Fried Shallots
Chinese pancakes (coconut, peanut and red bean paste)