PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM/@HONGCHENGGGGG (ROJAK), @THESILVERCHEF (CHICKEN RICE), @DBNARCIS (BAK KUT TEH) AND @DARRENN9 (SEAFOOD SOUP)
“If you want to eat hearty, cheap and fast, come to Woodlands,” says Parry Chong.
The security specialist and foodie has lived in Woodlands for over 30 years and has a very, shall we say, grounded view of the makan scene in Singapore’s north.
“Let’s be real lah, most of the food here is catered to the factory workers in the area. It’s just meant to fill up stomachs - and only for breakfast and lunch. Most workers head back to Johor Bahru in the evening after work and dinner is probably a lot better for them over there!”
The no-nonsense chap frankly admits that for a “damn good meal”, he usually has to head outside of his neighbourhood. But that’s not to say that there’s nowhere in Woodlands that meets this picky foodie’s standards.
“There are a few places here I would go to even if I wasn’t living here because they’re actually quite yummy. Not many lah, but better than nothing!”
Here are four spots he recommends in the ’hood that are worth the trek from wherever you are.
Black N White Rojak
Location: 515A Woodlands Drive 14
It’s black, it’s white, it’s... rojak. If you’re the type who can’t decide how you like your rojak - “black” with a pungent shrimp paste base, or the more fruity, tangy “white” style made with sweet-sour plum sauce - this stall will satisfy both your cravings.
Chong recommends the black version in particular. “The prawn paste is full of flavour and super gao [thick],” he says. “And the tau pok and you tiao are always crispy. It’s so good I sometimes do a 20-minute jog from my place for this!”
FYI, the stall is in a KPT coffee shop, where a different stall once earned notoriety for charging a customer $6.40 for a pack of economic noodles and assorted dishes (eventually it emerged that the price was because he didn’t realise he had ordered sotong... how sotong is that?!). But don’t worry, the rojak here starts from just $3.
Feng Feng Hainanese Chicken Rice
Location: #01-125, 304 Woodlands Street 31
Maybe you recognise this stall (which is confusingly also known as AFE Delights Hainanese Chicken Rice) from one of our ministers’ social media feeds: Both Lawrence Wong and Ng Eng Hen have hen-dorsed it.
It’s located inside the S-11 coffee shop near Marsiling MRT and apparently run by one of the siblings behind the famous Yishun 925 Chicken Rice. The specialty here? Juicy white boneless chicken cooked using the “poach and dunk” method.
According to Chong, both the chicken and rice here are equally delish, with “very soft and tender chicken meat” and “fantastic, very flavourful rice”.
One tip from him before you go: “Be there for lunch, because sometimes they close shop in the late afternoon. And even if they don’t, you may not get your choice of chicken parts if you go late.”
Hong Ji Bak Kut Teh
Location: #01-329, 19 Marsiling Lane
“If you miss JB and Malaysia, check out this bak kut teh!” recommends Chong. “This is my comfort food fix.”
What you get here is an authentically Malaysian, herbal version of bak kut teh, subtly laced with the flavour of over 10 types of herbs including dang shen (a type of root said to help nourish the lungs and spleen) and yu zhu (a rhizome that’s supposed to clear heat from the lung and stomach). The herbs are boiled for about five hours in the broth before being served.
The queues can be brutal at lunchtime, but actually, you don’t even have to travel all the way to Marsiling for this. While this stall is Hong Ji’s flagship outlet, the family also has shops in Ang Mo Kio and Thomson, and they deliver islandwide as well.
Yan Ji Seafood Soup
Location: #01-26 Marsiling Mall, 4 Woodlands Street 12
Once called “the best soup in a Singapore hawker centre” by food blogger JohorKaki, this OG stall may be Woodlands’ most well-known. It doles out steaming hot bowls laden with luxe ingredients like crayfish, large prawns and chunks of dory fish swimming (not literally okay, ’cos that would be creepy) in a robust broth that’s only made when you order it.
“This is good, but it used to be damn good when it was in the old Woodlands Centre before,” says Chong. “Now they’ve raised the prices and I find it a bit expensive, but it’s still better than a lot of other seafood soups lah. Even the famous ones in town.”
Warning: This seafood soup isn’t the cheng type that you eat when you feel like you’re coming down with something. The broth - served in a small portion, since it’s more like a concentrated seafood stock - is pretty rich and potent, and all that seafood “confirm raise your cholesterol level”, chortles Chong. Want to eat but don’t want to go all the way there? They deliver islandwide too.