We’ve been here twice at dinner time, but on Thursday we finally got a chance to come here during the day, to try the stalls that are usually closed by dinner time. On our agenda today was: Tian Tian Chicken Rice, the beef brisket noodle at Guangdong Wanton Mee and the Fuzhou Oyster Cake. With the exception of the noodle, the other two items were sampled and highly praised by Anthony Bourdain, who tried them on one of his visits here.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice has one of the longest queues in the food centre. We were there just before 12, and already I had to stand in line for about 15 to 20 minutes, partly because some people in the queue order up to 20 packets thus holding up the queue considerably. My evil glares at them went unnoticed…
I was afraid that the chicken rice would be overrated, and my first bite of just the chicken alone seemed to give me that impression. But the rice, the chili sauce and the sauce that they douse the chicken with elevate the whole dish to another level. The rice is fragrant, not oily, and just the right texture, and the sauce is almost like a rich, chicken juice reduction of sorts. Finally, the chili sauce just brings everything together – it’s quite spicy, and what sets it apart from other chicken rice chili is that they use lime juice instead of vinegar.
The beef brisket noodle probably isn’t a particularly famous stall, but I’d read about this place that uses lam yu (fermented bean curd) to make the beef brisket so I wanted to give it a try. This was pretty good, definitely more interesting and fuller-flavoured than generic beef brisket noodles, and the texture of the noodles was nice and springy too.
Needless to say, we were quite full after all that (even though we only shared one plate of chicken rice), but I still wanted to try the Fuzhou Oyster Cake so we bought 2 and had them for tea. You can order the $1.50 or the $2 one, the difference being the amount of oyster they use. I decided to have the one with less oyster, so that I could taste all the other ingredients as well. Essentially, it’s a pancake of sorts, made by putting some batter in a ladle, sprinkling some coriander, minced pork, prawn and oyster, covering it with more batter and deep frying it.
I must say the coriander was a slight low point, but most of the coriander stench… er, I mean flavour… had been cooked out so it wasn’t that bad. This was a surprisingly tasty snack – crispy on the outside, almost creamy inside, and all the flavours from the oyster, pork and prawn permeating into the batter.
While everything was good, only the chicken rice probably warrants a repeat visit and even so, I don’t think it’s worth battling the crowds and the queues. Maybe we’ll either come here on a weekend to see if the queue is any shorter, or alternatively have the chicken rice at the Margaret Drive food centre, which is almost as good.
Random: nothing can beat the Swee Kee chicken rice of old, the one that used to be in the 2-storey shophouse along Middle Road. I used to stare mesmerized at the shop window, watching the man expertly carve up the plump juicy chickens. My family used to have lunch here almost every weekend, and between us we pretty much polished off the entire bottle of chili sauce that they provided at each table. Those were the days…
Chicken rice was good but I think I’d still go for a Scissors rice just according to personal preference. Or maybe I’d just have a couple of goreng pisang (the famous one formerly at Somerset).
Tian Tian Chicken Rice
11 am to 8 pm, closed Monday
Guangdong Wanton Mee
6.30 am to 3 pm daily
Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake
10 am to 6 pm, closed Sunday