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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  1. Hambaobao
    Photograph: Fabian Loo
  2. Hambaobao
    Photograph: Fabian Loo
  3. Hambaobao
    Photograph: Hambaobao

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Asian flavours sandwiched between fluffy buns

Hamburgers might be a firm American icon, but a local joint has reworked the classic sandwich to incorporate Asian flavours between two fluffy buns. Couple Clare Ng and Ryan Wee first started Hambaobao – a term that loosely translates to ‘burger’ in Mandarin – as a hawker stall at Beauty World Centre in 2014. They began slinging patties prepped with an Asian flair, and drew a large local following.

Then, in 2019, the owners closed the stall to pursue other endeavours. But memories of their sloppy sandwiches endured; when Hambaobao announced its return – this time as a café – earlier in September, the Internet buzzed with excitement.

Like their no-frills hawker stall, the new counter-service setting remains just as simple: an industrial-looking space dressed plainly with concrete counters, metal stools, and an exposed ceiling. The open kitchen sizzles with smoke and heat, and coupled with the lack of ventilation, might make the 30-seater feel warmer than it should.

The menu brings back five of its well-loved creations. Prices are a tad higher than before, but still highly reasonable. Nothing comes above $8. Throw in a side of fries ($2.50) and a meal for $10 is possible. 

Each palm-sized burger (much easier to consume than other enlarged versions) also comes laced with homemade sauces. Ayam buah keluak ($8) is a lovely take on the Nonya dish; spiced, earthy patty drips with plenty of juice from the layer of soft-cooked chap chye and aromatic rempah. Crackling from pork belly ($8) could afford to be crispier, but the meaty slices, doused with hoisin and mustard, lend an addictive balance of sweetness and spice.

Also popular: buns with spiced pull pork ($7.50) and grilled dory fish fillet ($8). There should still be plenty of room for desserts. Instead of the usual milkshakes, apom berkuah ($5) reimagines the sweet kueh as cake, with smooth banana paste rolled between fully sheets of blue-stained sponge. Not cream pie ($5) is a take on key lime tart, with acidity to help cut through the grease, or choose to wash everything down with a pot of 20-year-old pu’er ($5.50). Burgers might belong to the States, but Hambaobao has put their own rendition on these sandwiches that they now feel and taste like home.

Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals. Read our restaurant review policy here

What the stars mean:
★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional

Fabian Loo
Written by
Fabian Loo


#03-08, Trio Building
11 Sam Leong Rd
Opening hours:
Tue-Sun noon-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm
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