Old Airport Road Hawker Centre
Old Airport Road Block 51 Market & Food Centre
Having had food from this place for a quarter of a century, from the nostalgic days of mosaic floors and the POSB office on the second floor, to the temporary site of which now remains an open-air carpark, till the orange-tiled and refurbished contemporary state with the PAP kindergarten upstairs, it is still with much personal bias and selective lack of memory and experimentation that I make available my current (mid-2013) recommendations for this extremely famous eatery:
Vegetarian Zhi Char 1-20 (Near the NTUC Fairprice)
Open from lunchtime to ~9.30pm
(Possibly) the only vegetarian stall in the entire hawker centre, it’s not just the best by virtue of being the only one. Although the old uncle seldom cooks any more, the current generation’s uncle and auntie are still going strong. For $3 (up from $2.50 starting this year) for a plate of fried rice, bee hoon or kwayteow, to $5 for claypot tofu, the simplest way to describe the food is cheapcheapgoodgood.
The queues do get long, even if the people waiting tend to be waiting elsewhere. My favourites are the fried rice, kwayteow (beehoon is my mum’s), claypot tofu and the mushroom omelette.
Western BBQ 1-53
Open from before lunchtime to ~10+pm.
The famous Western stall (Holy Grill and the other one facing the road have a ways to catch up even though they are quite decent last I’ve tried/heard) with a clipping with the photo of very young Bryan Wong and co-host from 城人杂志 era (if I remember correctly) displayed on the storefront. The lamb/pork chops come with its signature garlic sauce. The steaks may not be restaurant-level (it costs about $8) but it’s after all a hawker centre.
My faves are the chicken cutlet and fish and chips (comes with mayo/tartar – have to put it yourself if you order something else), and occasionally the pork/lamb chops when craving the sauce. Prices start from $5.50 for mains, or around $4 for the breakfast-y kinds.
Lor Mee ~1-116
Tiong Baru lor mee 1-129
Opening hours for the famous Lor Mee is ~8am to ~1pm, closed on Thursdays if they haven’t changed it.
Opening hours for the Tiong Baru one should be abour the same, closing around ~3pm or so.
The famous Lor Mee amasses one of the most ridiculous queues, regularly extending to the steps that lead to the open area during the peak hours. It has always delivered on quality and quantity, although it has been likewise hit by the price hike, so to get fish you’ll need to order $4 minimum. It’s on the sweeter side compared to the Tiong Baru one.
I’d reckon the Lor Mee at the old Tiong Baru hawker centre has a lower price and probably also on the savoury side if memory serves well. Based on location and accessibility, this should still be worth trying if Dakota/circle line is the preferred route.
Fish beehoon 1-121
Opens from early lunch to early dinnertime, around ~10am to ~6-7pm.
Solid fish beehoon in traditional porcelain bowls, it gathers a queue to rival (though not quite) the lor mee one. It has gone through its share of price hikes but still worth the buck after all these years. The fried fish tends to run out though if you go after maybe 4pm. Best time to avoid the queue is no-man’s-time at around 3-5pm.
Dong Ji Kway Teow 1-138
Opening hours are very short – it opens for lunchtime and closes by 3pm.
For all the hype of Lao Fu Zi, those who have been around for the last few decades would know that this stall has spanned 3 generations (the son is probably not continuing the tradition though). My earliest conception of it was next to the old soybean stall next to the open air area with beach umbrellas.
Today it’s largely a one-man show, the uncle is quite old and visibly fatigued. However, his surliness belies the quality of his char kway teow. At $3-5 a plate, with prawns at $3 or $4, it’s on the savoury side and the wok hei is evident.
Carrot Cake, Oyster Omelette 1-99 (Facing the main road)
Opens ~lunchtime till ~11.30pm
This stall used to also sell Hokkien Mee until the next stall opened (almost) beside it – they used to give 2 prawns for $3 carrot cake (so shame on them) but no more prawn mee = no more prawn stock (see what I did there). Portions for $3, $5, $8.
A friend supposedly “cannot find a better carrot cake so far”. Another friend had the oyster omelette on consecutive days when visiting. Even with a decent carrot cake stall near the two opposing char kway teows (Lao Fu Zi and the one opposite), this stall still comes up tops in having decent portions(slightly smaller than when it first opened but still) and great quality. Also, the stall opens until close to midnight.
Extra Spicy Hokkien Mee 1-102 (Facing the main road)
Uncertain opening hours, open till about 11+ pm.
Recently opened (maybe around May ’13), the chilli is really extra spicy despite looking an innocuous shade of orange-red. Noodles are cooked on the wet side, good wok hei, decent supply of prawns although they are smaller than the old above-mentioned stall and minimum order of $4.
Note though the queue tends to be long and it seems that ordering from here entails a 15-20 minute wait. It’s probably worth it though.
Cantonese Porridge 1-94 (Facing the main road)
The shiny new shop run by one guy, it’s actually a no frills establishment with a running production cycle centred around the previous pot, the next pot, and the freshly fried youtiao. Blessed with a herbal-flavoured stock, the portions are generous, taste is interesting, and price is close to unbeatable. Poised to overtake the other porridge stall mentioned below if the owner doesn’t burn out.
Selera Rasa 1-42 (Corner closest to the multi storey carpark exit)
Opens from morning to early lunchtime ~1-2pm
2 words: Briyani, $3.
Alright it makes 3 words. Long grain rice, cooked fluffy, with a snatch of veggie and a choice of chicken (fried or curry), fish or mutton. Can’t really say it’s the best Briyani I’ve had (neither can I claim to be a good judge) but it’s priced at a steal, and having a friendly makcik balancing plates of food on the half open lid of the huge traditional iron pot is a priceless.
Fu Zhou Fishball 1-103 (Facing the main road)
Uncertain about opening hours, although definitely open for dinner till about 10.30pm.
Fishballs with a meaty (pork) surprise in them = Fuzhou fishballs. Noodles are springy but maybe a little too oily, queue is decently long until it closes, earlier than the adjacent stalls, but about as late as most stalls do.
Laksa and other noodles 1-16
I had the honour on chancing on this stall after returning hope almost at the stroke of midnight and every other stall (other than the drinks stall mentioned above) was washing up or had the shutter firmly shut. Of course, I ordered laksa on this occasion.
Future heart attacks notwithstanding, I’m rather certain it was not just due to my hunger – the laksa was definitely above average, not cloyingly rich, abundant hum and taupok, chilli that matched well and overall generous serving. It was especially heartwarming when she said 米粉给你多一点 (give you extra noodles), even though it might have helped in clearing her stock for the day.
The stall’s auntie was still chatting with friends at her pet table after I had finished.
Oh, it has prawns for $3 serving too.
House of Drink 1-95 (Facing the main road)
Opens ~before lunchtime till ~midnight.
A drinks stall (no shit, Sherlock). Serves the freshest, unadulterated sugar cane since the old sugar cane stall near the playground side which (as of last information) moved to Boon Keng. Also serves home/self-made sour plum and lemon tea, amongst the standard canned and bottled and brewed drinks.
I’m very partial towards the sugar cane juice ($1.50).
Boiled drinks 1-50
Opens ~before lunchtime till up to 10+pm.
One of the “old guard” stalls, it used to be (to me) that stall with the big metal container of evil-smelling Chinese medicine. Nowadays the auntie(s) or the son of one of them will ask whether you would like a sweet or bitter drink. Drinks come in a bottle.
My poison would be the dried orange peel ($2) or luohan fruit drink ($1.50 or $2).
Opens lunch to ~9pm, hours may be erratic now that the couple has school-going kids.
One of the few (if not only) dessert stalls selling both hot and cold desserts (the hot desserts stalls include one near the vegetarian stall, another near the Hainanese chicken rice stall.
My favourite is the cheng tng but I assume it’s overall decent to above average judging by the queue.
Big Prawn noodle 1-98 (Facing the main road)
Opens from lunch till dinner, closes a bit earlier than the adjacent stalls maybe ~10pm or earlier.
Tried this once, not very cheap but very good. The experience was a bit coloured as we ordered the combo with pork ribs and just as we were carrying it off the owners stopped us to change the big prawns to normal ones. Prices should be about $5 onwards for the actual big prawn noodles.
Beef Noodle 1-162 (Near Dakota MRT side playground and fitness corner)
Opens somewhere around lunch till dinner, probably closes before 9pm.
Very interesting and tasty although not very famous, I think prices start at $4 and above. Last I tried it was quite newly opened, and if the quality and quantity has been maintained it’s still good value for money.
Chicken rice 1-119
Open from early lunchtime till early dinnertime, ~10am to ~7+pm.
Standard chicken rice stall that delivers on the basics, the chilli sauce is on the runny side if you like that kind.
Kuey Chap (random pig parts + fat kwaytiao) 1-135
Should be open in the morning, closing before 1-2pm.
This might be one of the old guards from the old hawker centre days. If memory serves well, it still commands the human-flow blocking queues that it previously did. Some of the adjacent stalls also used to gather queues, including an old duck rice stalls which appears to have been replaced.
Toa Payoh Rojak 1-108
Should be open from late lunchtime till early dinnertime ~1pm to 7pm.
One of the few stalls with a queue number signboard (one of the wanton stalls might still have one), the last tasting still delivered quality, although I’m not certain if the queues are just as long as before. It has quite a lot of sugar, if you like that.
Alishan Mixed Veg Rice 1-154 : Surprisingly, there is a dearth of economy rice stalls. An alternative (and nostalgic mention) is the veg rice/porridge opposite the Western BBQ (the couple has known me before I had my current memory).
Chee cheong fun 1-155 : Well made the last time I tried it, at $2 for generous amounts of filling. Remember to ask for less salt. They also serve noodles (also ask for less salt).
Thai Zhi Char 1-161 : Not super cheap but still decent, it’s located in the ulu corner near the Dakota MRT side playground/fitness corner.
Soy 1-56 : Sells “original” tau huey as well as grass jelly, and respective drinks, it’s better value than commercial chains like Mr Bean.
Lau pa sat rojak 1-151 : A shorter queue but still solid rojak alternative to the TPY stall, it’s probably less sweet as well. Not sure if it still opens regularly.
Fatman satay 1-45
Walked past this past midnight, still smelled as good and smoky as I remembered from a decade or over ago, but have not eaten its satay in years. It’s still probably in the must try list but I’ve put it here for a lack of recent first-hand taste testing.
Tong Xin Roast (Roast Pork and Char Siew) 1-158 (Near the playground & older HDBs)
$2 charsiew and/or shaorou rice (it might be $2.50 now), I vaguely remember them selling duck as well.
Nostalgia abound, this stall has been there since the old site, and the shopkeepers friends of my parents and me. Even though I seldom order food from this stall there’s a decent lunchtime queue and the portions are more than decent.
I prefer (much) more sweet sauce (but then again it might be the 7-year-old me speaking).
The best, if not the only, porridge stall that my family or I would dabao from, a change in management/manpower has seen a subsequent drop in quality. Perhaps a little tweaking and QC would help it to regain the sumptuousness of its glory days.
Nam Sing Hokkien Mee 1-32
The runaway-famous (like Lao Fu Zi’s equivalent) Nam Sing opens sporadically, closes around 4pm, suffered falling quality and value over the last couple decades (it’s still quite decent but less value than the newer counterparts) but still enjoys a queue. I was somewhat surprised to be handed a pre-packaged $5 packet instead of having to wait for a freshly cooked batch.
It has been in that corner practically forever, IIRC.
Mutton soup 1-123
Probably the only mutton soup that I’ve eaten/drunk, the stall has changed hands but serves the same food, to yet another slip in quality and value. The soup and amount of meat has suffered, and the old bones-and-boiled-down flavour covered up by pepper and a generally watery taste. Given the recent price of basic food ingredients though, I don’t find it surprising, but the skill has also similarly suffered.