Text and Images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra
Food queue is a friend and a foe. On one hand it is an indication, though not infallible, of the food quality, yet, it does what a traffic jam does to you – saps your energy, starves you and then turns you into a giant fireball of anger. And despite of cursing and swearing under your breathe never to foolishly spend most of the lunch hour anticipating instead of eating, there are some queues that draws you in time after time like a whirlpool. Who are they and what’s so great or special about their food?
One could finish watching a TV programme while in the queue.Hill Street Tai Wah Pork Noodles Blk 466 Crawford Lane #01-12 Tai Hwa Eating House 9.30am – 9.30pm, closes on first and third Mondays of the month
The wait here is easily 45 minutes during weekday lunchtime and between 15 to 30 minutes even at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. People from the neighbourhood and office crowd from everywhere else arrive punctually everyday. What draws them is the combination of fragrant black vinegar and chilli in the dry version of bak chor mee. The boss prepares it bowl by bowl, ensuring that the standard is consistent. Everything else is also done to perfection – the noodles are al dente, the pig’s liver is soft and pink, and the minced meat is moist and flavourful.
You do not see the queue but does not mean it is not there.Toa Payoh Rojak Blk 51 Old Airport Road #01-108 Old Airport Road Food Centre 12pm – 8pm, closes on Sundays
Don’t be fooled by the absence of a queue in front of the stall. Chances are, there are a couple of dozens waiting at their own table, with a queue number in their hand. Well, at least you get to rest your legs and eat food from the other stalls while waiting for your turn. Like Tai Hwa they prepare portion by portion, so that the ingredients (including the less common ones like jelly fish skin) are evenly quoted with their brilliant concoction of shrimp paste sauce. The contents come fresh, juicy, crispy and crunchy as they should be.
Almost everyone sitting around this stall are their customersLian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice Blk 335 Smith Street #02-199 Chinatown Complex 4pm – 11pm, closes on Tuesdays
The rice is moist with a smoky aroma, the chicken is tender from head to tail and nicely flavoured with Chinese wine, and even the usually dry and chewy waxed sausages are soft. As all these are only possible with some elbow grease, so be prepared to wait for at least an hour.
Nestled in a hidden corner at the hawker centre, one will spot the queue before seeing the stallXiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu Blk 335 Smith Street #02-87/88 Chinatown Complex 5.30am – 3pm
You see the queue before you see the stall, and by the time you see the stall and go back to the end of the queue, it has gotten even longer. Patience and perseverance will yield you a bowl of Yong Tau Fu that is quite different from the rest. Firstly, it is sprinkled with freshly fried ikan bilis that gives the dish a savoury crunch. The four ingredients – tofu, stuffed beancurd skin, taupok and fishball – are handmade and wholesome. Lastly, the soup is light so it’s okay drink it all.
Their chilli is the main reason why people are willing to queueChong Cheng Chilly Mee, Prawn Mee, Laksa 505 Beach Road #01-59 Golden Mile Food Centre 8.30am – 9pm, Closes on Tuesdays
They are the only ones left, and that is a good enough reason to queue for it. Chilli Mee, many people of the older generations will have fond memories of it. It is basically noodles slathered with a mean chilli sambal made of over 10 spices and ingredients. But as its name suggests, the chilli – spicy, sweet, fragrant, not oily – is the highlight while the accompanying ingredients like prawns and pork ribs are not the best that you can get in town.