SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - I have been hearing a lot of great things about Maxwell Food Center that is why after roaming around the Gardens by the Bay, we decided to have our last meal for our latest trip to the Little Red Dot here! Due to the very convenient MRT interconnection plying all over the country, we reached this part of Chinatown in no time.
Alighting on the Chinatown MRT station, we still had to walk a good mile to reach the destination. Maxwell Food Centre is just a short walk from the station and walking there would not feel much like a task at all as a different kind of vibrancy from the atmosphere would take your mind off from the walking per se. I have always loved how busy Chinatown can get and how colorful the rows of low rise establishments are even from a distance, but what I love most about Chinatown among all my other reasons is that you can never ever walk out from this place without catching and finding a bargain. Almost everything there is a good find: from the food, the boutiques, the trinkets, DVDs and more, you are assured to find a favorite thing from your journey through it.
We walked down to the hawker center with nothing more than a big pinch of fate and some dash of expectations. It was a Sunday when we travelled to the foodie spot, way past lunchtime already, and we are not even sure if the food centre is open on that day. Good thing we followed our intuition. I almost run towards it when I saw some signs of life inside. It was indeed open! Some of the stalls were not open though but the stalls in operation were already enough to intensify our cravings.
TIAN TIAN: BEST STALL FOR A HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE
These two connecting stalls with blue and white overheads standing in the middle of the Maxwell Food Centre would immediately catch your eye, not because it is catchy in itself but because of the long line in front of it extending to the other stalls nearby. Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is a hit not just with the locals but also the foreigners. This is brought by Anthony Bourdain's commendation that this stall indeed serves the best Hainanese Chicken and Chicken Rice in the country. Who would even dare doubt him? He is Anthony Bourdain for goodness sake! One by one, people all over the world came to know of this little stall in Chinatown. More often than not, these people go out of their way to taste the infamous dish. What followed then is a boom on the sales and the popularity of the said business. We were excited to be there to taste the most talked-about dish and to see if the praise is truly wroth giving!
THE OTHER DISHES
Another favorite is the Kway Chap. Anyone who loves pig organs, braised duck meat, beancurds vegetables and hard-boiled eggs or any combination of the following should order this! The resulting dish is a generous mix and serving of all the aforementioned delights drenched in dark soy sauce. It is the perfect pica-pica over a bottle of beer and some catching up.
Carrot Cake is a radish cake diced and stir-fried with garlic, egg and comes in black (soy sauce) or white versions. My love for Carrot Cake has not always been a smooth one. I did not grow some fondness over it the first time I tried it. It is maybe because I find it bland then. However, my brothers instantly fell in love with it. The washed out plate of Carrot Cake serves enough proof that they liked it to bits! Because of this, my dad always made it a point to bring us a packet whenever he comes home to the Philippines. It has always been there, a part of every visit to Singapore and a coming-home meal of Singaporean delights that my dad was able to bring back here. Little by little, I have come to love it. Black or white, I find myself indulging in each bite. My perspective on Carrot Cake made a turnaround and I have never looked back ever since. I enjoy it even more with oysters as they enliven the taste of the dish more!
If there is only one Singaporean dish that makes my heart die inside whenever it is unavailable, it would be the Prawn Mee or the Hokkien Mee as the locals call it. The Prawn Mee is a rice vermicelli and yellow egg noodles fried with shrimp, sliced cuttlefish and lard bits. Unlike the Carrot Cake, I immediately love it the first time I tasted it. Succulent and soupy, I can definitely wolf down a big plate of this in an instant.
All the dish that we had for that dinner was amazing. I now understand why a lot of people rave about the Maxwell Food Centre and why some go out of their way to visit this place. Not only are the dishes prepared in generous proportions (usually family-sized) but your money also goes a long way here. We only shelled out Php 1500 here and all of us were already extremely full after we finished eating. Furthermore, the hawker center was able to encapsulate the local cuisine as a whole. If you are waiting for my review about the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, I would honestly tell you now that it truly lived up to my expectations. That was how heavenly their steamed chicken is, as well as their rice. Also, the Hokkien Mee here is one of the best Prawn Mee that I had ever tasted in the country as it comes next to the Hokkien Mee in Food Republic I once had at VivoCity.
ROOM FOR SOME DESSERT
If you can still cram in some dessert in that tummy of yours, go ahead and finish your meal with a Hum Jin Pang, a deep-fried bun-like pastry that is sometimes filled with bean paste and comes in two variants (sweet or salty). Fall in line and wait before you get in front of it. Everyone gets a turn to pick their Hum Jin Pang and put these in a brown paper bag. You can get 6 pieces of these for only $1. Now that's a bargain, isn't it? Bargains really abound here in Chinatown!
Apart from the Tian Tian stall, this stall here is the next one that has a long line in front of it. I may have only fell in line for a short period of time but if there are some life lessons that this stall had taught me it would be these:
- Great things come to those people who wait;
- Hard work, determination and passion eventually pays off; and
- Not all good things in life comes in a steep price, most of the time they are free!
Now, that visit proves to be more than what I have asked for!
- Address: 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore
- Business Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 10 PM