NEL residents, get ready to feast.
Ci what Yuan?
Yah, I know, that was my first response when I heard about this hawker centre. And many of my friends too, when I excitedly shared with them about this new hawker centre at Hougang St 91 that's currently my Sunday brunch hangout.
(Which will most probably be yours - especially if you live on the NEL - so read on!)
1) Lor Mee
This is actually my first bowl of lor mee (yes, in my life!) and I really like how the noodles go with the thick, starchy, flavoursome gravy. Prices start at $2.80 for the yam roll lor mee (super good, the yam rolls are perfectly fried till crispy!) and go up to $4 for the cod fish lor mee.
Jue Dai Lor Mee, Stall 01-13
2) Char siew, siu yok and roast duck
If you're a fan of char siew and roast pork, you probably already know about Fatty Cheong from ABC Brickworks food centre at Alexandra. Their Bu Jian Tian char siew (seee the fatsssss!!!!) is LEGENDARY! Well, if you're living around the Kovan, Hougang, Punggol hood like me, then you no longer need to journey to the west to get your porky fix.
ABC Fatty Cheong, Stall 01-22
3) Kway Chap
Remember THE Blanco Court kway chap? Well, the owners of this stall are the sons of the man himself who both graduated from NTU - not that having a degree is necessary to serve up good kway chap but I do find it commendable that they chose to be hawkers and save the hawker trade from dying out!
To-Ricos Guo Shi, Stall 01-30
4) Handmade fishball noodles
Can I say that I REALLY like these noodles? They are cooked al dente and remained springy and tasty even after we took like 1234567 photos - I can't imagine how good it will taste if we ate it immediately after buying it! Also, for $2.80, you actually get THREE fishballs and one meatball. YUM!
Teochew Handmade Fishball Noodle, Stall 01-07
5) Pork Rib Prawn Noodles
If you have been following this space, you'll know that the husband serves up a pretty mean bowl of prawn noodles so I don't usually get impressed with prawn noodles unless they are like THIS GOOD to make it to this list on my blog haha. The prawns were huge and the broth was really sweet (natural sweetness from the pork bones and prawns and not the MSG-laden kinda stock)!
Traditional Pork Rib Prawn Noodles, Stall 01-29
6) Curry Rice
If you realise that I keep talking about $2.80 meals, it is because that is a unique feature of this hawker centre - every stall here serves up a dish priced at $2.80! For this curry rice stall, this will get you a generous portion of rice paired with pork chop, stewed cabbage and a fried egg all drenched in curry. Talk about a balanced meal!
Curry rice, Stall 01-28
If you're a fan of the rich, lemak kinda chendol served across the Causeway then you'll loveeeeeee this chendol served up by this 23 year-old chio bu who has been featured in several media publications. We heard that her Facebook is now full from friend requests lol.
Dessert, Stall 01-26
Besides these 7 stalls, there's actually a lot more (maybe Part 2?) worth trying out at this new hawker centre, which is part of a new series of food centres built by NEA. Because the stalls are curated, this means that no two stalls sell the same type so you get a good range and variety here.
Also, there are several other things about this hawker centre set up by Fei Siong and NEA that impressed me:
1) It is very well-ventilated.
2) It is incredibly clean. I don't really like eating at hawker centres sometimes cause of how dirty the tables feel but at Ci Yuan, not only is the place very clean and dry (omg you need to check out the toilets - their cleanliness is practically an attraction in itself!), their utensils are also extremely spotless because of the centralised clearing and washing of plates and utensils.
3) Most of the stalls actually have an 'A' rating for hygiene and the rest 'B'. No 'C's at all here.
A large part of the reason why the stalls get such high hygiene rating is cause they don't have to handle money at all.
Every stall at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre is fitted with this bright red self-pay kiosk which allows customers to order and pay for meals - which means the hawkers don't have to handle money at all!
Change is automatically calculated and dispensed which saves the hawkers time and effort and leave them to do what they do best - after all, they are great chefs and not mathematicians right?
This initiative, supported by e2i's Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP), not only helps the hawkers to serve food in a more efficient and hygienic manner, it also helps them to save on manpower costs, especially since we know how hard to employ workers these days.
For now, customers order from the hawkers and the hawkers key in the orders. But in time to come, customers can order directly from the machines and make payment which will further increase productivity.
4) I'm guessing here but this is probably the hawker centre with the most number of young hawkers, a trade which we all know's dying in Singapore. Thanks to Fei Siong's Entrepreneurship Programme in partnership with NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) which paired retiring hawkers with budding entrepreneurs in an attempt to preserve Singapore’s hawker traditions and pass on culinary skills to the next generation.
During the programme, trainees are taught them how to cook and manage a hawker business and are even paid a monthly salary of $3,000 for the first three months before they start their own stalls! (Ya I'm quite sold by it actually... will you guys support me if I sell bak kut teh?) Although these stalls are corporately owned by Fei Siong, stall owners earn the sales profits like business owners. Fei Siong also worked closely with e2i to look into re-designing the work environment to make it safer and more conducive for workers. This also helped to improve productivity and benefitted workers.
Ci Yuan Food Centre is located right next to Ci Yuan Community Club so it can be a little hard to spot as the building might appear too fancy to be the hawker centre we are used to - but hey, I'm all in for this change!
Ci Yuan Food Centre
51 Hougang Avenue 9
Ample parking available at the basement - don't worry!