What better way to test out the hype that is Hawker Hall than to have a native Singaporean to test what they’ve got to offer right? Inspired by the hawker food at the hawker centres in Singapore, the boys from Lucas Group (aka Chin Chin, Kong fame) have transformed the space over on Chapel Street in Windsor to resemble that of a hawker centre. For those wondering WHAT exactly a hawker centre is, well, it’s basically stalls selling food – much like your air-conditioned food courts without the air-conditioner. That’s the TRADITIONAL hawker centre, with hawkers (food sellers) cooking their food, fresh on the spot with tables strategically littered and where sights, scents and sounds collide. It’s the hustle and bustle, plus the freshly cooked food that makes the hawker centre an amazing fanfare for us. Oh and the cheap prices too. Although, with the rising cost of living in Singapore, cheap really is such a relative term.
It certainly is noisy at Hawker Hall, with the open plan kitchen where we could see, smell and hear the cooks busily churning out their wares. But, I think it’s the loud music that was actually contributing to the noise factor because, that then leads to us having to talk over the music to hear each other speak. I loved the ability to see what was going on in the kitchen and thankfully, unlike the traditional hawker centres, we have an air-conditioned space. The downside? While I loved the scents emitting out of the kitchen, I have never been a fan of getting my clothes smell of food even when I was in Singapore.
The wait staff were highly attentive, warm and helpful. Service was pretty quick, which is always a welcomed aspect of any restaurant experience.
We went in as a table of 10 so decided to go for Hawker Hall’s Hawker Feast, where we were served dishes that the chefs had chosen for the night. At almost $60 per head, there were 10 different dishes to share amongst us and two desserts. I will give you a breakdown of what we were served and my thoughts on each dish.
As part of our entree, we had a curried potato cake each, made from sweet potato and some bits of potato marinated in some lovely curry spices and served with the lemon and five spice mayonnaise. This got a tick of approval from me, even though I have no idea what part of Singapore’s or southeast Asian hawker food that came from. Could it be the curry maybe? Or maybe the deep fried taro/sweet potato/yam in batter that we traditionally buy from some hawker stalls? So I did love their take on this dish – if that’s what they were taking their inspiration from.
Or what I would call – har gow! I am not a fan of dumplings but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this dumpling! It was pretty big compared to our regular ones that we would have at yum cha, and OMG… there was no skimping when it came to the quality and quantity of the prawn inside. The black vinegar caramel it came with was pretty yummy too, although I maybe should have asked if they had chilli oil for me to dip the prawn dumpling into, for an added kick.
I am very picky when it comes to my satays. VERY picky. Why? Because I grew up eating this from vendors that sell it on the streets. I remember being at my paternal grandparents place and we would wait for this man to come by with his portable satay carts, complete with his charcoal bbq pit. They were grilled on the spot!
There are a few things that could make or break satays – the tenderness of the meat, the way the meat is marinated and most importantly, the peanut sauce. I was surprised that they managed to hit this on all the points I’ve made, when it comes to the perfect satay. Sure it’s far from perfect if you compared it to the ones you have in Singapore or Malaysia, but close enough.
Honestly, there is no such thing as a Malay chicken salad. I know because… HELLO! I AM A MALAY!! Anyway, the salad is a mix of shredded chicken, bean sprouts, shredded carrots and cabbage (I think?). I’m guessing the “Malay” element could be the dressing that has a hint of tamarind to give it a slightly tangy taste. I’m not a huge fan of raw bean sprouts. Heck, I actually hate bean sprouts, so this wasn’t my favourite dish. BUT, that’s not to say it wasn’t good. It had a nice, fresh yet tangy taste to it. Perfect for those who usually love Thai style salads.
I’m sorry, but this was definitely a miss for me. It had the right amount of spiciness to it but texture-wise, the rice was a bit too soggy for my liking.
This was my favourite dish on the night. It’s not easy to recreate a traditional Asian dish and give it your own twist AND hit a home run with it. But, this was one of their exceptional dishes. I have always loved the grilled ground fish meat, wrapped in banana leaf, seasoned with a lovely mix of spices for that extra kick. My favourite ever! So when that was served I was curious to see if their take would hit the mark. Using a salmon fillet instead of ground fish, was definitely a different take on the original and something I wholeheartedly approved. Hawker Hall’s rendition was simple yet amazing, completed with the lovely aroma of curry leaves. It was tasteful without being overpowering.
Not something I would eat again, for sure. I thought the spices in the thick sauce were a little bit too much, all competing against each other so much so that I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking out for.
I missed out on trying this because I was too full by then but the ladies who did get to try this dish loved every bit of it.
Another dish that I’m very fussy about because I can make this thing from scratch, in the traditional way. Yes, something I am actually very proud of, thank you very much! 😉 . I only make this ONCE a year, in celebration of Eid. This dish takes a darn long time to cook and get it right. The end result is a tender meat, with a lovely texture and nice mix of spices.
You need the right spices, and the right amount, plus the one thing that makes it taste bloody amazing? The toasted, grated coconut that has been pounded in a mortar and pestle that you add to the dish right at the end for that lovely aromatic finish and texture. What we call the kerisik. Something a lot of Malaysian restaurants here even don’t do because it just takes way too much work.
Hawker Hall’s beef rendang was too salty for my liking and I couldn’t taste what SHOULD be what rendang should taste like. A HUGE miss for me.
It was soft, fluffy and definitely to my liking. But, I can get there elsewhere too. 😉
Simple yet amazingly good, only downside was it was served after we’ve had our Nasi Goreng. Would have been nice if it was served earlier because really, who eats green beans without rice??
Hello Milo!! This was a definite hit! Served along side what I think might have been vanilla ice cream, the milo ice cream was decadent indeed. The crushed chocolate biscuit gave a lovely texture to a simple dessert. If you’re wondering what the actual Milo dinosaur is, well, it’s basically iced milo with powdered undissolved milo added at the top. Yum! I loved how they transformed that into a sundae instead.
This was served with some coconut ice cream to lighten the heaviness of the pudding. I thought the pudding was a tad too sweet, too much palm sugar. So you would definitely need to eat it together with the coconut ice cream. The texture was different from your everyday sticky date pudding because they used red dates instead. Something that has been traditionally used whole in sweet soups and herbal drinks.
Hawker Hall had a rather comprehensive drinks list, but I opted to try out the array of beers they had on tap. I had the Mildura Honey and Kaiju! Metamorphis. My favourite had to be the Mildura Honey, which had a lovely light, sweet taste.
Definitely a place you could get a few friends together for a catch up if you’re in to that funky, fusion atmosphere. But if you’re after authentic hawker style food, I’d suggest that you head out to Papa Rich or Mamak. But if you’re after amazingly authentic satays, then definitely head to Singapore Kampung Restaurant over on Clayton Road in Clayton. If you’re a true blue Asian, born and bred in Asia like me… I’d say, skip it altogether, unless you’re there for the beer.
Have you been to Hawker Hall before? What were your thoughts on it? Would you go back?