Outram Park Fried Kway Teow
Blk 531A, Upper Cross Street
#02-17 Hong Lim Market & Food Centre
Every day, 66-year-old Ng Chin Chye and his wife wake up at 2am to get ready for work. By 3.30am, they arrive at Hong Lim Market & Food Centre, where their hawker stall is. Ng is the proprietor of the popular Outram Park Fried Kway Teow, and for the last two decades, he’s been dishing out plates of sweet, smoky char kway teow to customers at Chinatown’s first and most iconic hawker centre.
The first customers start to arrive at about 7.30am, ready for a breakfast of wok-kissed, eggy noodles studded with plump cockles, bean sprouts and crunchy, fragrant chunks of pork lard.
Frying up each batch of noodles in his large, blackened wok takes skill and strength. While his wife can manage the frying of individual plates, once the line starts to form at lunch hour, Ng takes over to fry up big batches of about 20 plates at one go. “The important part is to control the fire and to fry the noodles evenly, scraping right to the bottom of the wok so you get the wok hei,” he says, referring to the elusive smoky, charred aroma that cloaks his noodles.
Ng’s retirement will probably spell the end of Outram Park Fried Kway Teow. He doubts his two sons will be interested to take over the business. With Hong Lim Market closed for renovations till the turn of the new year, Ng and his wife will be taking a long overdue vacation to Taiwan, along with some neighbouring hawkers. “I haven’t had a holiday in eight years, the last time was in 2009 when the market was also closed for renovations,” he chuckles. “Now it’s time to rest, go out and see the world for a bit.”
In July, Outram Park Fried Kway Teow received the Bib Gourmand award in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 selection. For Ng, it was an encouragement and acknowledgement of his work. “Just seeing my customers finish their plate of char kway teow makes me happy,” he says. “But I get a real sense of satisfaction when someone tells me they enjoyed their food. Getting this recognition from Michelin is a big encouragement for us.”
There’s only one dish on this hawker’s menu, but every customer has their favourite variation. A plate of char kway teow with egg, cockles, beansprouts and crispy pork lard costs $4, with the option of adding more cockles for $2 or an extra beaten egg for 50 cents. You can have your noodles spicy or non-spicy, though Ng strongly recommends the version with chilli for the extra fiery kick that goes so well with the smoky aroma and cuts through the sweetness of the sauce.