Old Airport Road Food Centre was built in 1972 to resettle street hawkers left evicted from Kallang Airport’s closure earlier in 1955. Since its opening in 1973, the food junction has received praise after praise for both the variety and quality of foodstuff available. Despite its longstanding heritage, not many Singaporeans are familiar with the myriad of food it offers. We decided to find out if their food was grossly overrated by the public. Read on for our verdict of 10 key dishes in the Old Airport Road Food Centre.
Hock Lam Street Popular Beef Kway Teow (#01-22)
One of the stalls that came highly recommended was Hock Lam Street Popular Beef Kway Teow, being named one of the 17 Best Hawker Stalls at Old Airport Road Food Centre.
I ordered Dry Sliced Beef and Beef Ball Kway Teow. When I tasted the dish, it felt like something you would expect from Beef Ball Kway Teow. The sauce was too savoury, with nothing else to balance it — it was so overpowering that you could hardly taste the beef. A little bit of citrus from lime added into the dish would have gone miles in helping balance the flavour of the sauce.
The dish also came with crushed peanuts which gave it a weird and foreign texture you wouldn’t expect from a regular bowl of Beef Kway Teow.
At SG$5, it’s not worth the price as the serving was too small. You would have 5-6 mouthfuls of food and that would be it. Personally, I wasn’t filled by the portion given to me. I feel that Hock Lam Popular Beef Kway Teow is overrated by the general public and shouldn’t be looked highly upon.
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 10.30am to 8.30pm. Closed on Mondays.
Toa Payoh Rojak (#01-108)
Another popular haunt at Old Airport Road Food Centre, Toa Payoh Rojak was similarly picked up by Miss Tam Chiak. Her food review made special mention of the Toa Payoh Rojak stall, which was helmed by an elderly man and woman well into their 50s.
Ordering rojak at this stall is a novel process, as customers had to take a queue number on a slip and wait for their number to be called. I waited for 20 minutes until I could order due to the long queue.
Once I got my rojak and took my first bite, I savoured its sweetness, which was followed by a citrusy aftertaste. A hint of spice hits the back of your throat, creating a perfect balance of flavours.
What I found refreshing was that the vendors added their own twist to the dish. Their addition of bean sprouts and kang kong gave the rojak a rather interesting texture when eaten together with the other ingredients.
For $4, I got a decent serving sufficient for 2 people. One other interesting point about this stall was its option of customisable rojak. You can customise your rojak and create it to your own liking. In my opinion, the Toa Payoh Rojak was worth its price and is worthy of its online ratings. It was one of the best rojak I have ever eaten. I would definitely return to try.
Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 12pm to 8pm. Closed on Sundays.
Unkai Japanese Cuisine (#01-88)
Unkai Japanese Cuisine is yet another revered food outlet, highlighted for being one of few Japanese stalls at Old Airport Road Food Centre. I ordered Salmon Don, seeing how the stall’s salmon is often brought up in online reviews. For $6, you get both the rice bowl and a bowl of miso soup.
To begin, the Salmon Don tastes awesome — the sauce goes really well with the salmon, and is full of flavour. Perfect for people who love sweet sauce.
The dish comes with coleslaw and a small tomato which will appeal to the health-conscious crowd. Furthermore, it has a very reasonable portion that could be a little bigger, but is generally alright for people with smaller appetites. The size of its salmon is very generous too, considering its price point.
This dish is definitely not overrated, and a huge plus point to boot is that the vendors cook it in front of you, which gives you a high level of assurance of its freshness. Feel free to talk to them too — they’re really friendly!
Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily.
Wang Wang Crispy Curry Puff
Walking by Wang Wang Curry Puff, you would immediately notice the large number of accolades displayed on their storefront — from newspapers, TV shows, radio stations, and the like. I bought two curry puffs for SG$2.80. One costs SG$1.40 on its own, which is very affordable.
The curry puffs had a very unique texture and a crispy exterior. It tasted delicious and was full of flavour. The curry was not spicy, but you will get surfeited of the crust because of its thickness. With the curry, it’s fine. But it could be better if the crust wasn’t that thick.
The vendors were very patient when I asked questions like “is it halal?” and they are extremely friendly with great smiles on their faces which let customers feel happy and comfortable with them.
For SG$1.40, I felt that the curry puff at Old Airport Road Food Centre held a generous portion of meat. While the stall did not have a halal certificate, vegetable oil is used to fry the curry puffs, and no pork or lard is used in the process.
While the curry puffs were quite delicious, it wasn’t the healthiest of food choices due to its heavy usage of oil. I would only suggest it as a treat taken in moderation!
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 10:30am to 11pm or sold out. Closed on Mondays.
Mama Recipe Biryani Rice (#01-18)
Admittedly, Mama Recipe Biryani Rice was not one of the stalls we originally intended to visit. After speaking to a vendor, we quickly learnt that the stall has been around for about 5 years — and a quick Google search returned an impressive streak of all 5-star reviews (albeit from 6 reviewers). Nevertheless, we decided to give this stall a shot.
As much as quality of food for any food stall is important, it’s undeniable that customer service plays a key part in our experience too. The vendor was really polite and kind with me as I took my time to order, true to the one reviewer that mentioned their experience with the friendly shopkeeper too.
The biryani carries a fragrant aroma with hints of herbs and sweetness.The rendang chicken was quite spicy, so non-spice lovers might want to try alternative meat dishes, such as the less spicy yellow curry chicken. I added on an egg for good measure. It was pretty decent, but its yolk turned out to be too overpowering.
The order came in at SG$4, which felt a little expensive for me. Compared to most other biryani stalls, the food felt average. I feel it’s a little overrated, but perhaps it’s just because I don’t like its level of spice. 3 stars.
Opening Hours: Mondays to Fridays, & Sundays, 11am to 8pm. Closed on Saturdays.
Jimmy’s Corner (#01-153)
Famous drink stall Jimmy’s Corner is helmed by the jovial Uncle Jimmy Ho who has been in the business for over thirty years. Polite and hardworking, he was very patient in taking my order of the ubiquitous Milo dinosaur.
The Milo dinosaur tasted really delicious. Well-balanced in flavour, it was just right. It was neither too sweet nor bland. Being an avid fan of this popular drink, I enjoyed the separation of the Milo powder from the drink itself, which added a greater contrast in flavours for a cheeky punch of intense Milo goodness. With a rating of 4.3 on Google, I felt that the Milo dinosaur was well worth its rating — and money.
We later ordered another drink from Uncle Jimmy. This time, sugar cane juice. The beverage was served with a bright, friendly smile as always. As the convivial stallowner makes your sugar cane juice in front of your very eyes, you are assured that no additional flavouring is added into your cup of sweet, natural goodness. Excellent if you are watching your diet, but still crave an indulgent drink.
The sugar cane juice tastes natural and is not too sweet. Light and refreshing, the drink leaves you sated without being too heavy on the stomach.
Is it worth SG$1.80? Yes. The reviews for Jimmy’s Corner are true and have definitely lived up to my expectations.
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 06:30am to 01:00am. Closed on Mondays.
Roast Paradise (#01-121)
Could you really say you’ve eaten at a Singaporean hawker centre without having some rice? Roast Paradise is esteemed for both its succulent rice, and a variety of meats made to go with it.
The roasted pork rice we ordered tasted exactly how you would expect a roasted pork rice to taste like — which is great. The roasted meat comes firm, giving a satisfactory texture that is not too chewy., It is also thick where it matters most; the fatty portion. One can even hear the crisp sounds reverberating through your cavities when biting into the crunchy skin nestled at the top of each pork slice, which even then, are still sufficiently soft and easy to bite into.
However, I was not fond of the chilli sauce provided. Perhaps it was due to Food King’s stellar recommendation of the spicy chilli sauce, but it turned out to be more sweet than spicy. I suppose this would probably not be a problem for non-spice lovers. Furthermore, there was no black sauce. Highly disappointing, as this should be standard practice amongst roast pork rice sellers. The sauces are important, as they add another level of flavour to the dish.
There is certainly room for improvement, but it mainly comes down to the condiments.
Coming at SG$4, the roasted pork rice was slightly pricey. While it’s a great plate nonetheless, it’s possible to get something similar at SG$3.50 — if you know where to look.
As for whether it’s overrated? Not really. As far as roasted pork rice goes, it’s one of the best around. It certainly meets my expectations, with its very nicely done pork slices.
Opening Hours: Mondays, 11.30am to 3.30pm. Tuesdays to Sundays, 11.30am to 2.30pm (Lunch), 3.30pm to 6pm (Dinner).
Albert Street Prawn Noodles (#01-10)
Next up, Albert Street Prawn Noodles. I ordered a bowl of Prawn Noodles, which cost SG$5.50. The noodles here are the standard yellow noodles, which taste pretty much like what you would get from any respectable stall. What you should be paying attention to, however, is their broth. The broth packs a strong full-body flavour, with a nice aroma that complements the sweetness of its noodles. The prawns are quite big, and not too chewy — good.
The size of the prawns is especially commendable, given how more and more prawn noodle stalls nowadays are giving out smaller and smaller pieces. Bigger prawns means more meat; more meat that you can mix with your noodles so you don’t need to ration out every other bite.
I appreciate how chilli powder is served on your spoon, rather than mixed with into your broth beforehand. Good for those who prefer to not have their prawn noodles spicy.
At its price, it is definitely a good buy. Would it have been better with pork rib? Definitely, but the size of the prawns is more than enough to justify its SG$5.50 price tag. Either way, it is still a decent bowl of prawn noodles.
As for whether this stall’s prawn noodles are overrated, yes. It’s good for sure, but it’s not something so special that you “must come back” for. It’s definitely possible to find a similar standard of prawn noodles outside of Old Airport Road Food Centre.
Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 8.30am to 11.30pm. Closed on Mondays.
Western Barbeque (#01-53)
Western Barbeque, as its name suggests, serves up a slew of acclaimed western barbeque. Among the awards conferred to this joint are Channel U’s XXX, and a spot on Singapore’s Best Foods in 2017.
I ordered a chicken cutlet from the stall. The dish started off strongly in presentation, with its appearance quickly whetting my appetite. A large portion of chicken cutlet was served alongside several criss-cut fries, a dollop of coleslaw, and a nice square piece of bread. A metal set of cutlery was given, which is definitely a necessity for all Western outlets — stalls who serve up their pork chops with easily breakable forks and knives, take a lesson!
The chicken was tender and was easily cut, and eaten as well. There was no need for tough chewing. Its skin was exceptionally crispy and crunchy, but surprisingly not flaky. It doesn’t turn into an absolute mess when you eat, making the process of savouring this piece of chicken an unparalleled joy.
Yet, with that said, the fries served were a tad disappointing, in both amount and taste. There were much fewer fries than expected, and were given soggy with almost no flavour. The coleslaw and bread were pretty average, being neither very good nor very bad. Priced at $6.50, this chicken cutlet set might not be worthy of its high praise. While the chicken is fantastic on its own and was up to expectations, the sides were a considerable letdown.
Opening Hours: Mondays to Sundays, 11am to 11pm.
When’s all said and done, Old Airport Road Food Centre certainly packs several good eats for your next hawker centre visit. With stellar reviews published for most of the stalls here, it’s probably best to take them with a pinch of salt.
Best to try for yourself and see; reviews are subject to their bias, and more often than not, dishes are judged by specific parts, and not as a whole. The venue has its ups and downs, and even with some stalls being overrated for their food and drinks, it’s certainly worth a visit.
Try the food and tell us if we’ve got it right:
Old Airport Road Food Centre, 51 Old Airport Road, Singapore 390051
Photos by Ding Zhao Yang and Toh Yu En from Northbrooks Secondary School, and Carl Justin Estrella, Kyla Samuel David and Riyana Azmi d/o syed Maricar Saleem from Sembawang Secondary School.