Sampling foreign street food is the best part of traveling. Imagine walking along the streets of Singapore on the hunt for a wonderful plate of Oyster Omelette, or traveling across Malaysia for a comforting bowl of Bak Kut Teh. These are some of the few dishes that are now easily accessible to us because of Makansutra Hawkers, a food hall concept by Makansutra Pte Ltd, founded by KF Seetoh. Now, we don’t have to travel far to taste the explosive flavors of Asian street food.
The food hall covers 14,000 square feet and can seat up to 500 people. Make sure to bring your friends and family, as it’s best to dine in groups, so you can share the different dishes available. There are 12 stalls in total, selling about 60 dishes all in all. One, two, maybe three visits won’t even let you try everything that this food market has to offer.
1. Alhambra Padang Satay & Muslim Food – Based on its name, you can probably guess that this stall specializes in Halal dishes. Its hawker master, Sam, is the second-generation streetside satay hawker of the now defunct Satay club in Singapore. This stall offers Satay sets, Soto Ayam with Rice, and other specialties.
The best part of the satay is that you can really taste the complex blend of spices they used to season to the meat. Dip your skewer in the sweet peanut sauce for an additional layer of flavor before eating. In between bites, try the vegetables on the side to cleanse your palate.
2. Geylang Claypot Rice – Perhaps everyone’s favorite stall in Makansutra, Geylang Claypot Rice offers a one-of-a-kind chicken rice dish. This famous stall was even requested by Anthony Bourdain to be part of his New York Market. However, even before the Parts Unknown host took notice of this stall, it has been a cult favorite in Singapore for more than 30 years.
The moment the Chicken Claypot Rice lands on your table, you would know that you’ve come across something special. From the salty-sweet sauce to the crunchy toasted bits of rice at the bottom of the pot, everything on this dish is simply perfection. Slow-cooked over charcoal, the rice is topped with lup cheong (Chinese sausage), yun cheong (Chinese duck liver sausage), and salted fish to balance off the dish.
3. Gooba Hia – If you need a hot bowl of noodles to soothe your soul after a long day at work, Gooba Hia is your answer. Their Mixed Beef Platter with Beef Ribs is also a hit with the crowd.
There’s a quiet and understated charm present in each bowl of Gooba Hia’s Beef Kway Teow Noodles. Enjoy sipping on the hot broth, as well as slurping the thick rice noodles underneath. If you’re looking for something simple and comforting, this is the way to go.
4. Adam’s Ribs – What’s a hawker food hall without Bak Kut Teh? Adam’s Ribs is your go-to station if you’re looking for this classic street food favorite. Adam’s Ribs version is prepared with sugar cane to calm the intensity of the peppery broth.
5. Jin Ji Kway Chap & Braised Duck – Since 1983, this stall has been serving south Chinese-style braised pork, offal, and stewed duck platters. At the helm of this stall is Melvin Chew, the second-generation successor of the brand.
6. Donald & Lily – Well known for their Laksa and Mee Siam dishes, Donald & Lily isn’t a stall that you should not miss when you visit Makansutra. This particular setup is run by Jennifer Tan, the daughter of Donald and Lily – the first Nonya hawker from Malacca, Malaysia.
Donald & Lily’s Laksa is prepared in the classic Malacca style. Even with all the toppings, the star of this dish is the soup, which features rich tones of sambal, tempered by tamarind. You’d want to sip this one to the last drop. The noodles used for this particular bowl are beehon noodles, though I’d prefer something thicker and more robust.
7. Curry Flurry – One of the most popular starters in the entire food hall is Curry Flurry’s Roti Prata – which is a soft, fluffy, flatbread with a crispy exterior, dipped in spicy curry sauce. Curry Flurry’s other specialty is the Nasi Biryani, which is done South Indian style.
While I would consider Roti as one of my favorite food, I think this particular appetizer would’ve been more enjoyable if the Roti were more flaky, rather than dough-y. I would also appreciate it if the curry had greater depth of flavor – I could only taste the sharp, spicy flavors.
8. Ah Tee – My favorite stall in the entire hawker center, Ah Tee serves Teochow street classics like the Oyster Omelette, Seafood Omelette, and Fried Carrot Cake.
Rich, silky, indulgent, magical – these are just some of the words that I can use to describe this Oyster Omelette. Dip the crispy, gooey egg into the sweet and spicy vinegar mix, and you’re off to some out-of-this-world culinary experience. Try to share this with your friends and family, however, as the oiliness may give you a bit of a headache.
9. Hong Kong Street Old Chun Kee – Helmed by Ah Yau, the disciple of Ah Hon, the Hong Kong cze cha master, this quaint little stall is where you should go if you’re looking for stir-fried goodness. This is also the place that serves the famous Chili Crab.
10. Mian Ji – If you’re looking for Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles, then walk straight to Mian Ji. In this stall, noodles are tossed over high heat in a heavy wok, seared and toasted until they absorbs the seafood stock, made from roasted prawn heads.
11. Bao Ji Xiang – Bao Ji Xiang takes pride in serving Fried Paper Wrapped Chicken. According to the stall’s description of this dish, “each of these paper-wrapped parcels hold chicken chunks that are marinated overnight with a plethora of traditional and comforting Cantonese ingredients, including rice wine, oyster, and soy sauce.” While that sounds exceptionally delicious, I was here for only one thing – the Singaporean Chicken Rice. The Fried Paper Wrapped Chicken seems good for some other time.
Although the chicken was juicy and rich in flavor, I would’ve preferred the rice to be less dry. I wanted soft and fluffy chicken rice, and this one left something to be desired. However, my cravings were definitely satisfied, and I would order this again, simply because of my fondness for this particular dish.
12. Desserts, Drinks, Delicacies – Last but definitely not the least is the dessert and drinks station. This stall is located right in the middle of everything, so it’s easily accessible from wherever you may be sitting. If you’re looking for traditional Asian desserts or drinks, stop by this area to get your fix.
Overall: Makansutra is an interesting concept that would definitely attract adventurous diners. The best part about the food hall is that each stall comes with its unique backstory, which lets you learn more about the history of hawker food in general. Try something from every stall – you won’t regret it.
Makansutra Hawkers is located at SM Megamall Unit 209 AB, 2nd floor, Building A, Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.