First set up in 2002 and perennially popular with both locals and tourists alike, the pedestrianised Chinatown Food Street, which was revamped with improvements, includes seating for up to 700, an overhead glass shelter for rain protection and service hours extended to include all-day dining on the permanently closed-off street. It also now offers a crop of hawker stalls, chosen by local food service providers Select Group (who operate the stretch) after a taste test that brought in some big name local hawker franchises. So don’t expect to see any of the original hawkers themselves working there. As a result, there’s a good representation of local cuisine, though prices tend to cater more towards tourist premiums – for something more local-friendly (though a bit dingier), there’s also the two-storey Smith Street Food Centre nearby.
But long time tenants like Boon Tat Street BBQ Seafood (stalls 1 and 3) and Food Street Fried Kway Teow Mee (stall 8) have remained to cook here – don’t miss the chilli mussels ($12) at the former, which are grilled to perfection and topped with spicy-with-a-hint-of-sweetness chilli sauce. Other standouts include Chomp Chomp Good Luck BBQ (stall 11), who have priced their roasted chicken wings at $1.70 each. For sharing, there’s the BBQ steamboat set ($30/two persons, $40/three persons) at Old Airport Road Satay Beehoon & BBQ Steamboat (stall 2) that throws in meat, seafood and vegetables to cook in a clear broth.
The classic Tiong Bahru favourite, Meng Kee Roast Duck (stall 7), is worth a stop – their hearty mixed combination of char siew, roast duck and roast pork with rice ($10) is a one-plate filler of textures and savouriness. Lorong 9 Geylang Frog Porridge (stall 10) supposedly only moved in after being personally persuaded by Select Group’s executive director, Jack Tan – the rice porridge with frog ($8 for small, $16 for medium, $22 for a large bowl) in plain, dried chilli and ginger spring onion flavours proves that it wasn’t an effort made in vain. If you’re looking for something spicy, go for the dried chilli version, which packs an amazing kick of heat.
For something non-Chinese while you’re in Chinatown, go for the chicken or sardine murtabak ($6.50) or the Indian mutton soup ($6) from Serangoon Raju Indian Cuisine (stall 17). If you want a snack, supplement your meal with an egg prata ($2), which comes with a spicy-enough curry kuah for dipping.