Nestled in the neighbourhood of Balestier is Whampoa, an old estate filled with charming shops. These range from heartland bakeries, TCM halls, foot massage parlours to a 24-hour FairPrice outlet and several kopitiams. At the heart of the Whampoa estate is the Whampoa Drive Food Centre and Wet Market.
There, you’ll find a wet market (Blk 92) for groceries and two hawker centres. And out of these two food centres, the one at blk 91 is lovingly known as the morning market as it opens at 5 am and closes by 2pm, while the other, Blk 90, is known as the night market, where hawkers open for lunch, dinner and supper.
Whampoa Drive Blk 91 – The Morning Market
Built in the ’70s, the morning market at the Whampoa Drive Food Centre is notable for its quality food. There are over 20 hawker stalls and some have been at their spot for over 30 years.
Whether you’re stepping into this hawker centre for the first time or revisiting old favourites, here are the 10 best hawker stalls to check out.
Unit Number: #01-39
Opening Hours: 6.30 am to 12pm, closed on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays
One of the oldest stalls at the market, 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles have been selling its Prawn Noodles since the ‘1950s along the streets of Whampoa before it came to this food centre. This stall has one of the longest lines at this food centre but service is prompt, fast and friendly, so that’s a plus. They serve both soup and dry versions of their Prawn Noodles.
Each bowl comes with peeled prawns, lean pork meat and beansprouts. While the soup is packed with umami flavour, some may find it a tad light. Others find it rightfully light and perfect for breakfast.
The dry version comes with noodles mixed in a combination of spicy chilli sauce, ketchup, and a mix of fried garlic and shallots. It’s sweet and satisfying, and it also comes with a bowl of the tasty prawn soup. Priced at $4, $5 and $6 for varying portion.
Unit Number: #01-24
Opening Hours: 7 am to 2 pm, closed on Mondays
One of the more well-known stalls at this market, China Whampoa Home Made Noodle offers a variety of ban mian options (from $4) with varying ingredients like prawns, abalone clams, sliced fish, fish maw and pig’s kidneys.
The queue can get really long, and the wait can go up to 30 minutes. The stall owner Ah Bee, 48, will hand you a buzzer as his wife, Ah Chiam, 42, cooks away, so you don’t have to hang around the stall to wait for your order. This is also the only stall at this hawker centre that has a buzzer-queue system.
Its signature dish is the Abalone Home Made Noodle ($14) that comes with the full works. It has abalone, abalone clams, prawns, meatballs and fish maw, and you can get it in the soup and dry versions.
Unlike most ban mian offerings, the ban mian here doesn’t come with an egg. It is also cooked with mani cai, a vegetable that has a chewier bite similar to what you get with sweet potato leaves. The soup is cooked with dried ikan bilis and soybeans instead of pork bones, so you get a lighter and clearer soup that is just as flavourful and satisfying.
The dry version, mixed with dark soy sauce, has a sweeter taste. If you love spicy food, you have to add its homemade chilli sauce for a spicy kick. If you’re having the soup versions, you can also use the chilli sauce as a dip.
Unit Number: #01-36
Opening Hours: 6.30 am to 1230 pm, closed on Mondays
This stall sells one item only, and that’s deep-fried carrot cake. Mr Lim, 59, has been selling carrot cake in stick forms for 23 years. Instead of the regular rectangular block of carrot cake, he decided to sell them in stick forms.
It is easier to eat but also more time-consuming to fry as each stick has to be flipped on the frying basket to ensure an even crisp on all sides. When you eat these Deep-fried Carrot Cake Sticks right after purchase, you get a light and delightful crunch on the outside while the inside stays soft and firm. You can get 14 sticks for $2, or 21 sticks for $3.
Unit Number: #01-01
Opening Hours: 5 am to 2 pm, closed on Mondays
You’ll find two stalls selling fried Chinese snacks at this food centre. If you, like many, don’t choose specific stalls to get your fried snacks, you will after trying the items at this Delisnacks franchise outlet.
Set up by a husband-and-wife team, Ban Seng, 40, and Stacy, 39, this stall has been at the Whampoa food centre for 10 years. It offers classic items such as youtiao, butterfly buns, red bean buns, salted buns, peanut sesame balls and more, with prices starting at 90 cents per item.
Notable items include Youtiao and Butterfly Buns, which you would find them to be crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. They also offer hot Tau Suan and Pulut Hitam that are freshly made every day.
While this outlet gets their dough supplied from Delisnacks, you’d find their items to be quite flavourful and more crunchy. Perhaps the secret lies in the frying technique? Or perhaps that they use coconut oil to fry up these doughs of glory? We’ll never know. We do know that all items are sold out every day, and you would usually find a queue as well.
Unit Number: #01-18
Opening Hours: 6.30 am to 2 pm, closed on Mondays and Fridays
This nasi padang stall has been in the Whampoa Food Centre for over 30 years. It is now operated by second-gen hawkers, Fauziah, 54, and his husband, Aziz, 54. Originally set up by Fauziah’s aunt, Nurilah Malay Food serves not only nasi padang, but nasi lemak, mee rebus, mee soto, meesiam, lontong and satay as well.
For Nasi Padang, you can choose between its tender and delicious chicken rendang and beef rendang, or fried fish (which we missed due to its popularity). If you pick one rendang type, one vegetable and a smaller side like a fried egg, your plate of nasi padang comes up to around $5.50 (depending on your side dishes). If you want something less hearty, go for the Mee Soto ($3/$4) or Lontong ($3/$4).
The mee soto comes with heaps of shredded chicken meat, and the soup is light and addictive. For the perfect mee soto combo, add a piece of begedil (deep-fried potato patty) and topped the mee soto with Nurilah’s sambal belachan. (Heads-up! The begedil sells out quickly.)
The lontong is perfect for those who want a slightly richer meal without the heaviness of a full-on curry. Nurilah’s Lontong comes with lots of mixed vegetables, a hard-boiled egg and rice cakes. You’d love the mouthwatering, aromatic broth, and feel free to elevate the taste with a dollop of sambal.
Unit Number: #01-34
Opening Hours: 5 am to 12 pm, closed on Mondays
Tanglin Halt A1 Carrot Cake was founded over 30 years ago and is now operated by the founder’s child. The husband-and-wife team, Mr and Mrs Tay, take turns to fry up fried carrot cake in the white and black versions ($3/$4/$5). You’ll love the garlicky flavour that comes with the savoury white version, which has a lighter flavour as compared to the black carrot cake.
The flavourful, sweet taste of the black carrot cake is highly appetising; and there’s also a wok hei flavour to it too. In both versions, you’ll find a generous amount of crispy fried egg and chye poh, making each mouthful even more delectable.
Both carrot cake versions are not starchy and come with large enough chunks of carrot cake. Tanglin Halt A1 Carrot Cake also sells savoury kuehs such as rice kueh, black bean kueh, soon kueh and leek kueh. While these are not made by them, customers appreciate that they get their kuehs pan-fried before being served.
Unit Number: #01-07
Opening Hours: 5.30 am to 10.30 am, closed on Mondays and Sundays
On the signboard, you’ll find the words “Teowchew Kway Tiao Mee”. “They did the name wrongly, it should be ‘Teochew Kway Tiao Mee’, but we just left it as it is,” explained Su Ting, 31, the great-granddaughter of the stall’s founder.
Teochew Kway Tiao Mee started as a stall along Balestier Road and moved into Whampoa Drive Food Centre during the 1970s when the hawker centre was set up. The stall is now run by the founder’s two granddaughters, Christ, 60, who handles the cooking, Susan, 55, who preps the ingredients, and great-granddaughter, Su Ting, 31, who takes the orders.
While there’s no time for chit-chat, you’ll find the trio to be approachable and friendly. As for the queue, be prepared to wait up to 30 minutes for your order. Also, the food sells out quickly. If you’re in the queue at 10 am, you may not be able to get a bowl of this traditional Teochew-style soup noodles.
The humble-looking stall sells the perfect bowl of Teochew Kway Tiao Mee, which you can have them in either the soup or dry version. Each bowl comes with peeled prawns, minced meat, mini fish balls, fish cake and beansprouts, and is topped with chopped spring onions and coriander.
You would be pleased to know that their fish balls and fish cake are freshly made and not storebought. The recipe hasn’t changed much since the 50s. Some of the ingredients were replaced or dropped according to customers’ requests.
The savoury soup, cooked with prawn’s shells, is what you want at this stall. It is flavourful, light, not too salty and doesn’t feel thick or oily. It has that comforting vibe that you get when you eat homecooked food. And if you like, free soup top-ups are available, too.
We recommend that you go for the dry version as it also comes with a decent-size bowl of its delicious soup. For the dry version, noodles are tossed in black vinegar and delicious spicy-sweet sambal. For a more textured bite and taste, choose egg noodles with kway teow for your noodle option. If not, kway teow on its own is just as delicious.
Unit Number: #01-44
Opening Hours: 6.30 am to 2.30 pm, closed on Mondays and Fridays
When you step into this hawker centre, one of the long queues you would notice is for this drinks stall. And that’s curious for any drink stall. It’s not like the other drinks stalls were closed. However, when you join the queue, you start to understand why Wei Rong Cha Shi commands a line.
The stall owner, Aaron Kwek, remembers his customers and their drink orders. And as he preps a customer’s drink, he makes small talk and shares a laugh with every single customer. Aaron has been in the beverage business since 1990 and set up Wei Rong Cha Shi in the Whampoa Drive Food Centre six years ago. He simply loves to mix drinks up and takes pride when his customers enjoy his concoctions. “It’s my hobby,” he says.
At Wei Rong Cha Shi, the coffee beans and tea leaves are specially sourced from Indonesia, and you can taste the difference in every fragrant and flavourful cup of coffee and tea. Beverages are reasonably priced as well. A hot cup of Coffee O/Tea O Kosong goes for 80 cents, a Coffee C/Tea C at $1.10, while a Milo Milk cost $1.20. And add 20 cents to make yours an iced beverage.
If you prefer a non-caffeine option, opt for one of the speciality chilled drinks. We highly recommend the Honey Kumquat ($1.30) that is refreshing and not overly sweet, and the Honey Lime with Prunes ($1.80) that can help soothe a sore throat. These honey-based beverages also come without additional sugar.
Unlike most drinks stall, Aaron uses an electrical water boiling system that allows him to clean it easily, and which he does once every three months.
Unit Number: #01-14/15
Opening Hours: 5 am to 1 pm, closed on Tuesdays
For a classic bowl of fishball noodles, you cannot go wrong with the options from Xin Feng Guo Tiao Tan. The stall has been around for almost 40 years. Second-gen owner Mr Ng now operates it. The stall occupies two spaces and has a unique queue system where one queue breaks into two. “We have two cooks, and by creating this second queue, customers don’t have to wait for too long,” explains Mr Ng. In the evening, his relative takes over the stall and sells fishhead steamboat.
Made with its special egg noodles (shaped like a narrower but thicker meepok), you can enjoy these chewy noodles with a mix of fishball, fish cakes and lean meat slices (option #1 Fish Ball Mixed – signature dish), fishball and fish cakes and without meat, minced meat noodles with wanton dumplings and without fishballs, etc.
Its sauce mixture of black vinegar and inhouse sambal creates a highly palatable meal. We find the signature option to be highly satisfying as it comes with a lot of ingredients.
Unit Number: #01-02
Opening Hours: 5 am to 12 pm, closed on 1st and 15th day of the lunar calendar month
At Whampoa Drive Blk 91 Food Centre, there’s the lor mee stall with the crazy queue, which is all right. And then there’s the underrated Yuan Zhi Wei that’s been in the same hawker centre for around 12 years. Jet Liau, 54, with his wife, Madam Wu, 41, sells lor mee, fishball kway tiao, minced meat noodles, and a malai bee hoon soup.
At first look, you’ll find a bowl of their signature Famous Lor Mee ($3.50) filled with a lot of delicious-looking ingredients. It comes with a fried meatball, chunks of stewed tender pork, a piece of fried wonton and a big piece of fried fish fillet. And is topped with vinegar, minced garlic and home-made chilli sambal. (Its sambal is fiery and so tasty!)
When you dig into it, you’ll find the gravy to be fragrant, and with a very slight, delightful herbal taste. The texture of the gravy is not as thick as the regular lor mee, and that allows every noodle to be coated evenly with gravy. Best of all, you’ll find that the gravy doesn’t get watery as you eat your way towards the bottom of the bowl.
The secret to its great taste is not just in the sauce. You’ll love the breaded fried dory fish and how it even stays reasonably crunchy until the end. Jet, who has enjoyed cooking since his teens, created an original batter powder made from ground biscuit for its fried fish to create that extra crunch. On the whole, this lor mee is so tasty that you forget it doesn’t come with any egg.
The opening hours for these stalls may vary due to COVID-19.