During my past few trips to Singapore, I rarely had the chance to venture out alone, let alone go to Chinatown to explore. Travelling solo during this weekend in Singapore gave me the liberty to go wander. As I only had the morning to spare, I decided to go to Maxwell food centre as the food stalls along Smith Street were not open yet.
At 8 am, most of the stalls were not open but this particular one already had a steady queue. After joining the queue, I still had to wait about 20 mins before it was my turn. But by then, I could see the long waiting time was not really due to the number of people waiting in line, but due to the slower preparation time in the stall itself. An uncle was cooking every order separately, while another filleting fish at a corner. The aunty taking our order was not very friendly and had quite a long face. And I have heard her telling off the people in front of me already! The porridge here must be out of this world for people to put up with this?
After ordering, I still had to wait at the side for about 10 minutes before I was “summoned”. I say that simply because a lady in front of me accidentally touched a bowl of porridge that wasn’t hers and got barked at so I decided I would wait till I was called. Heh.
This “yu sheng” (鱼生) or raw fish salad seems to be on everyone’s tray so I too ordered the smallest portion. At $3, it’s value for money as you can see how the ingredients has piled up on the plate. A good squeeze of the lime, mix the whole lot throughly and dig in.
This was the highlight for this meal. It was more memorable than the porridge to be honest. The flavours of the fresh fish, ginger, spring onions, chilli, sesame seeds with the lime and oil blended very well together.
The porridge here is thick, with no whole rice grain in sight. I decided to have the 鱼腩 or “yu lam” which is the fish belly porridge. The single bowl of porridge was literally laden with ingredients, so much so that every spoonful I had was not only porridge alone, but with bits of fish, or spring onions, gingers, shallots etc. I forgot that the fish belly came with those long, curving bones and that did make this porridge a bit more troublesome to enjoy. But at $3, this was really value for money and if you’re the type that likes smooth, dense congee, then this is worth your time.
Zhen Zhen Porridge 真真粥品
Stall No.54, Maxwell Food Centre
Opens 5:30am to 2:30pm.
Another famous stall in Maxwell food centre is Tian Tian which sells Singapore’s national dish, the Hainanese chicken rice. It needs little introduction and is touted as one of the best chicken rice in Singapore. Even though it opens at 11am, by 10:40am when I passed by, the queuing had already started. A quick peep confirms that they’ve already started serving, I quickly jumped into the queue too and within 10 minutes, received my own plate of steaming hot chicken rice.
So the verdict. The chicken was really good… succulent, juicy, and tender. I enjoyed every bite of the meat. As for the rice, it was flavourful and fluffy yet lacking the bite I was looking for. Perhaps I was expecting too much as even celebrity chefs have said so much about the rice. I loved the chilli, with it’s slightly sourish signature tinge. But instead of coating it on the chicken, I had it mostly with rice as I wanted to taste the chicken in its natural flavours.
The chicken won me over but not the rice so I guess the search for Singapore’s best chicken rice is still on for me… I reckon this would be my next stop?
Tian Tian Chicken Rice 天天海南鸡饭 (www)
Stall No.10 Maxwell Food Centre,