Singapore, August 18, 2012
01-14, Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Market and Food Centre
Block 210, Toa Payoh Lorong 8
There's nothing spectacular at this humble Teochew porridge stall that tries to pack in as many dishes as possible in its little space, but it draws the longest queue at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Food Centre at dinner and supper till past midnight.
So what's the draw? Common Teochew porridge fare, with either items as bland as a steamed fish or as salty and spicy as hae bee hiam.
But it's precisely the distinctive repertoire of modest fare plus some 'economy rice' items that draw diners.
Unlike other more 'upmarket' Teochew porridge, it doesn't offer steamed crab, crayfish, or the more expensive fish.
But its customers are quite content with braised items, which are not overly salty, like the pork belly, duck, pig intestines and skin, boiled eggs, tofu and dried tofu. You can see duck heads with neck and duck webs piled on top of the chunks of pork belly.
One day I spotted a whole snout of a pig, which should delight the Ah Peks and beer drinkers who probably enjoy the texture more than its actual taste.
The stall owner and his cook also churn out cockles in black soy sauce with chilli, stingray fried with chilli, steamed egg with minced pork, minced pork fried with chilli and fermented soybeans, fried cabbage, fried bittergourd, salted duck eggs, steamed and fried fishcakes, and fried yong tau foo.
If you prefer rice to porridge, and like it drenched with a nice gravy, choose the chicken wings cooked with soy sauce and ginger.
The stall's proclaimed signature dish is the steamed fishcake round (below) made with minced meat, chilli, garlic and spring onion. The cake is soft but still offers a bite, and you can still taste the texture of minced pork, which isn't blended well into the fish paste. (Don't confuse this fishcake round with the longer fishcake from a supplier.)
The stall wasn't as popular before as it was hidden at the back of the food centre near the toilet. But it attracted a lot of diners after its move to a more prominent location in the midst of the action.
There are regulars who patronise the stall daily, with different groups using the place as their makan hangout.
I guess they like the freshness of the cooked food, and its not too salty taste.
I had flavourful fried clams one day but they were ruined by the sandy grits in them. They made me give up on the tempting cockles too.
The best time to go is late afternoon or early evening before the working crowds return home to Toa Payoh. There would be more dishes then to feed the hungry hordes.
The selection dwindles smaller after dinner time.
When we went there just before 11pm one night, the stall had sold out the fishcake rounds, braised duck and braised chicken. There were still steamed fish, braised meats and tofu, and vegetable dishes available. I saw the cooks frying new batches of vegetables at 11.30pm.
Pig's snout among the braised items.
However I will return for a soothing bowl of hot porridge cooked just right with plump grains and fishcake rounds.
To avoid the long queue, go before or after the peak meal times. Budget about $4 to 6 a person if you're sharing the dishes, or $8 to $10 if you're eating alone and you have an order of a fish.
Some residents think the food is just mediocre but others say it's one of the better value-for-money Teochew porridge stalls.
Rating: 6 to 7/10
Tian Tian Fatt Rice & Porridge
Block 210, 01-14, Market and Food Centre
Toa Payoh Lorong 8
Open from 4pm till 2am (closed on Sunday and food centre washing days)
What else is good at the same food centre:
- Zheng Heng Char Kway Teow (moved to the middle)
Click on the thumbnails below to see the dishes at Tian Tian Fatt: