Maxwell Food Centre (Kim Hua Market)

Restaurants, Hawker Chinatown
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Maxwell Food Centre (Kim Hua Market)
Rachel Tan eats her way around what might just be the city’s most famous hawker centre

What’s it like? A spartan hawker centre featuring a densely packed, utilitarian layout, and more than 100 stalls across three rows, Maxwell is a Chinatown-area institution, dating back to pre-war days (it was converted into a hawker centre in 1986 and renovated in 2001). During mealtimes, the centre is packed with customers, and provides something for all taste preferences, from queue-worthy chicken rice to green curry, doughy fritters or sweet peanut soup. Even with stadium-sized covered seating areas, be sure to bring your tissue packet to chope an eating spot.

What to eat? So many stalls, indeed: deciding on your lunch here is a daunting task. The first row (facing Maxwell Road) can appear overwhelming, with everything from ramen to Indian food, but a popular choice is Senat Issan Thai (Stall 85) at the left end. The bright red-and-yellow-signboarded stall serves up authentic and balanced Thai green curry ($4.30) among other dishes featuring fried basil leaves, eggs and minced meats. A viscous yet easily drinkable broth surrounds ambitious portions of chicken; its milky consistency is so addictive it begs for more white rice.

For most visitors, chicken rice is the Maxwell standard (and a good option on particularly humid days). Famously endorsed by celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, who visited the stall for his show No Reservations in 2008, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (Stall 10) has a seemingly constant queue (which the stallholders deftly handle with a streamlined purchase-and-pick-up system); their tender, succulent chicken meat is drizzled with special sauce and sesame oil, which tastes especially lovely with their punchy chilli. A satisfying mound of well-coated rice sits under glossy-skinned chicken, retaining its flavours without being too oily. Choose from drumstick, wing, claws, or spare parts ($1.60-$3.50).

Impatient eaters can get their chicken rice fix a few stalls down at Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice (Stall 7), another popular kitchen opened by a former Tian Tian chef. Its tender meat and bed of rice have an impressively voluminous and comforting quality, providing satisfyingly nourishing mouthfuls ($1.50-$5). If noodles are your carb of choice, grab a luscious bowl of Jin Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon (Stall 77). Generously portioned, bouncy rice noodles marry well with equally plentiful fish slices in a milky stock, pacifying the pickiest of bee hoon fans with a flavourful slurp ($4-$5). Following their successful stall at Old Airport Road, this noodle purveyor also has an exhausting lunchtime queue, but your patience will go a long way.

For those wanting to snack, there’s plenty to indulge in. 75 Peanuts Soup (Stall 57) has been a long-standing star player, with only three flavours available: choose from peanut soup, red bean with brown-rice soup or traditional tau suan($0.90-$1.20). Its cooked peanuts are tender perfection, infusing the stock with nutty aromas, while the red-bean soup celebrates natural sweetness and malty finishes. Family-run China Street Fritters (Stall 64) offers addictive, generations-old ngor hiang, a traditional Peranakan five-spice sausage roll, accompanied by pork liver rolls and egg slices (around $4). Coat each umami mouthful with braised sauce and chilli.


Venue name: Maxwell Food Centre (Kim Hua Market)
Address: 1 Kadayanallur Street
Opening hours: Daily 8am-10pm
Price: up to

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