The Best Hawker Food and Wine Pairings
What better way to celebrate our country’s 51st birthday than to enjoy our beloved hawker food. But instead of your usual kopih teh or kopi c, why not up the ante by pairing them with fine wines? Yes, it’s possible. Singapore Tatler, together with our food-loving friends, lugged along red, white and rosé La Vieille Ferme 2013 wines from Rhone Valley to our favourite hawker centres and eateries to find out the perfect pairings.
Tiong Bahru Lor Mee at Tiong Bahru Market Food Centre
This Hokkien dish of thick yellow noodles is doused in a viscous starchy gravy. Dig deeper and you’ll find a treasure trove of fried fish meat, braised egg, beansprouts, ngoh hiang, lor bak and fish cake. Before slurping up, top the hearty goodness with a drizzle of dark vinegar, chopped garlic, chilli and fresh Chinese celery. Maisy Koh’s favourite lor mee is the one sold at Tiong Bahru Market Food Centre. “The sauce is rich without being cloying, and the noodles are springy. I also like the variety of ingredients. Most importantly, the dish is elevated with heaps of minced garlic and delicious vinegar, which I tend to add lots of,” she says.
Pairing: The lor mee partners well with the fresh and fruity La Vieille Ferme rosé whose acidity cuts through the starchy gravy nicely.
Ghim Moh Carrot Cake at ABC Brickworks in Bukit Merah
“Chye tow kway or fried carrot cake is a dish I remember helping my grandaunts make vast quantities of whenever I visited them in Malaysia as a child. Perhaps it’s because of these fond memories, and an appreciation of how difficult it is to get just the right balance of flavours and textures in an otherwise understated dish, that I often take comfort in this dish, particularly when I’m pregnant,” says Jade Kua. This local snack comes in “white” (fried on top of beaten egg) or “black” (tossed with a thick, sweet sauce) versions. The popular Ghim Moh stall at ABC Brickworks operated by a husband and wife team boasts two frying stations; the wife prepares the white chye tow kway while the husband dishes up the black version. “The radish cake is well made with just the right amount of rice flour. It’s packed with a lot of radish and tossed with fluffy egg. The chilli is nicely hot and sweet. It’s a good balance,” notes Emil Teo.
Pairing: The white carrot cake is a good match with chilled rosé, as the spiciness from the chilli brings out the fruity flavours of the wine.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre
Locals and tourists alike love the chicken rice here and don’t mind waiting for their turn to be served, despite the snaking queues. “I think that their chicken is the best. I find it really moist and juicy, even the breast meat. That’s not easy to achieve when poaching chicken,” says Loh Lik Peng. “The chicken is tender, and I love the layer of gelatin under the skin. The incredible chilli sauce and aromatic rice complete the dish,” adds Maisy.
Pairing: The chicken and rice with their condiments go well with either the white, which is soft and balanced, or the rosé, which has a floral nose.
Char Kway Teow
Outram Park at Hong Lim Food Centre
It’s hard to resist the tangle of flat rice noodles tossed with fat cockles, pork lard, scrambled eggs, and a good dose of chilli paste. The result is a plate of kway teow redolent of the elusive “wok hei” or “breath of the wok” and balanced spiciness. Dolly Cheong and Loh May-Han are both fans of the famed kway teow at Hong Lim Food Centre. “The kway teow there is still good after all these years. It comes with succulent cockles, and good wok hei,” says May-Han. Dolly adds that the noodles are moist and not overly sweet, with a nice crunch from the beansprouts. “The crispy bits of fried lard pieces give it that extra oomph,” she shares.
Pairing: The La Vieille Ferme red matches well against the smokiness and spiciness of the kway teow.
Crayfish Hor Fun
Tuck Kee Ipoh Sah Hor Fun at Hong Lim Food Centre
“One of my favourites is the crayfish hor fun at Hong Lim. I enjoy the fresh crayfish and prawns paired with brown gravy over the hor fun,” says May-Han. On weekends, fans patiently queue for these noodles topped with the juicy shellfish and plump prawns as well as green veggies. A piquant chilli dip is served alongside the dish.
Pairing: “The fresh seafood goes well with the white wine, which is fresh yet round with rich texture and a fair amount of body,” says Daniel Chia, president of Slow Food (Singapore).
Bak Chor Mee
Tai Hwa Pork Noodle at Crawford Lane; Tai Wah Pork Noodle at Hong Lim Food Centre
Wildly popular, the Tai Hwa Pork Noodle stall at Crawford Lane, which moved from Hill Street to Marina Square, and then to its current location, welcomes unceasing queues throughout the day. The wait is never less than 20 minutes, but it’s worth all the effort. The owner claims this is the “one and only original stall”.
May-Han says, “I especially love the vinegar, chilli and soy sauce mix in the noodles. The pork lard and dried fish are coronary-blocking but not something I’d skip!”
Equally long queues form at the Tai Wah stall at Hong Lim. The bak chor noodles are generously topped with deep-fried flat fish, minced meat, liver, pork ball and wonton. “Pork broth is used to cook the noodles, which are springy and robust,” says Marilyn Lum, adding that she enjoys the salty, crispy fish toppings.
Pairing: “The deep flavours of the dish go well with the easy-to-drink fruity red,” notes Daniel.
Pairing: The red marries nicely with the rich liver and hearty pork meat. “The red wine is definitely robust enough to handle the vinegar sauce,” says Marilyn.
South Indian Fish Head Curry
Samy’s Curry at Dempsey Road
This institution, which has been around since the 1950s, is most well known for its fish head curry and South Indian signatures. It’s a favourite haunt of Emil and Jade, who enjoy the richly flavoured dishes especially the intensely flavoured masala curry chicken and mysore mutton. “Samy’s Curry is something I enjoy after a hard day’s work. The heady mix of rich, spicy flavours hits the spot,” says Jade.
Pairing: “The lightly chilled red wine is a good pairing with the spicy flavours of the curries. The red is bright with enough ripe fruit, and its light pleasant tannins don’t clash with the chilli. This wine balances well with the warm spices,” says Daniel, adding that heavy tannins would over-emphasise the spiciness.
Mizzy’s Corner at Changi Village Food Centre
Emil doesn’t mind driving to the edge of Singapore to have his fill of nasi lemak at the balmy Changi Village. He particularly likes the version of coconut-flavoured rice with various accompaniments at Mizzy’s Corner, which features sambal chilli that is thick, sweet, spicy and aromatic. The accompanying fried ikan bilis and peanuts are crispy and addictive. Among the many accompaniments patrons can pick from to go with the fluffy rice are fried chicken wings, rendang, smoky otah wrapped in banana leaves and fried egg.
Pairing: The red pairs well with the spiciness of the sambal and rendang, and the bold flavours of the otah and fried chicken.
Tian Jin Fong Kee at People’s Park Complex and People’s Park Centre
This stall was set up by Fong Chee Yen, who arrived in Singapore from Tianjin in China in 1948. The dumpling business started in a coffee shop at Old Market Road. It later moved to People’s Park in 1970 and has been operating there since. You can have the fat juicy pork dumplings boiled or fried. “They are old flavours from my youth. I’ve been to the dumpling shop since I was three years old. On a flavour level, it’s always been something that’s very close to the heart. It’s comfort food for me,” shares Emil.
Pairing: The white wine helps to cut the grease of the deep-fried dumplings, and also refreshes the palate.
Jalan Sultan Prawn Mee at 2 Jalan Ayer (Geylang)
“A must try is the prawn noodle soup at this store in Geylang, originally at Jalan Sultan. The sweetness of the prawn bisque-like soup with the tenderness of pork ribs makes a Sunday breakfast to die for,” says Caroline Low-Heah. This famous shop occupies a corner shophouse along Jalan Ayer and is within walking distance of Kallang MRT. Ngoh hiang is sold as a side order as well. The cook dishes out thick yellow noodles or bee hoon, in either dry or pork rib soup version, and tops them with large juicy prawns and a scattering of beansprouts and fried shallots.
Pairing: Both the aromatic white and floral rosé are ideal sips for this robust dish.
Getting to know La Vieille Ferme wines
La Vieille Ferme red
The deep cherry red wine consisting of a blend of grenache, syrah, carignan and cinsault is kept in vats and large oak barrels for 10 months. It has ripe fruit, rich and spicy nose.
La Vieille Ferme white
Produced within the Parc Regional du Luberon, the grapes of this white wine are harvested relatively late. The varieties of grenache blanc, bourboulenc, ugni blanc and roussanne are fermented in new oak barrels, and matured in stainless steel tanks. On the nose, it boasts green fruit and hazelnuts, while on the palate, it is soft, balanced and aromatic. It goes well with cold dishes of meat or fish.
La Vieille Ferme rosé
This rosé with a lovely deep pink hue comprises cinsault, grenache and syrah varieties. The grapes are handpicked, lightly crushed, and matured entirely in stainless steel. The nose is floral with a touch of aniseed and brown sugar, and the palate rich and balanced with notes of caramel and toffee.
Distributed by Taste of Tradition, La Vieille Ferme is sold at leading supermarkets and stores including Cold Storage, Market Place by Jasons and Bottles & Bottles.