The Roast of People’s Park Food Centre
By KF Seetoh - Monday, Mar 28, 2016
One of the Cantonese roast meat stalls featured here has over 80 years of heritage in Singapore and is still standing proud today. I am rest assured such old school makan will not fade off into the ECP sunset anytime soon, not even in my lifetime. But my beef is this, they handed the heritage and business down nicely, but not the quality.
I took this chance to check out and re-visit this uber Cantonese hawker centre in Chinatown which is known today for a string of mala hotpot, yong taufoo and at least four stalls offering roast meats. I descend on these three with my yardstick of measure.
People’s Park Cooked Food Centre, 32, New Market Road
1/ Zheng Zhu Fang Roasted Delights, #01-1098, 9am-9am, Ad Hoc closure days
A hawker from Ipoh, Malaysia, now based and living here once told me about this cranky Hong Kong chef behind this long queue at the corner of the hawker centre. “He’ll yell at you if you hesitate and give him confusing orders” this hawker told me. I think there is something right about the passion behind his food if he has that much anger in his soul. The roast duck, char siew and roast pork platter came looking uninspired but the quality was something else. The cha siew was softly firm, nary fatty and not so sweet though it was well marinated and roasted. The duck was moist and a little gamey which I liked and the roast pork had a wonderfully dry and crispy skin with meat that was not so dry. The best part was the noodles- crunchy and slurpy thin, well sauced and with a scoopful of crispy lard. I was hooked on this one.
2/ Toh Kee, #01-1016A, 10.30am-6.30pm, Daily
Although they still draw a line of customers each day, I think they come more out of habit and familiarity than anything. I had savoured and loved their fare since the 80s, but had sadly watched this old iconic (which had many famous disciples set up equally famous stalls around the island) fade away. Over their 80 plus years of existence, there were changes in management and chefs, but of late, the shine has dulled. The roast duck, although still chunky and wistfully gamey still sits beautifully over steamed rice with a simple cooked black soy sauce. The char siew looked too reddish pink and is nothing like what I remember it to be. Overall, this old name is still notches above many stalls in Singapore.
3/ See Sean Rice Stall, #01-1026, 10am-6pm, close on Wednesday
Their cha siew and the roast pork are winners among their customers. The roast pork was soft enough with a crackling that was thin and very crispy crunchy light. The char siew came chunky and not so fat. The stall looks the most unappealing of the lot but it has a steady line of customers. Their roast duck, I know appeals to those who does not compare Cantonese roast ducks to the Beijing or Peking duck versions. It was nicely roasted and the skin was not the crispy type, but as how these Cantonese roast versions should be- moist yet roasty and still has a thin aroma of gaminess.