The prospect of finding all manner of international cuisine seized my attention when I first caught wind of Tiong Bahru Food Fair taking place from 3 to 16 Aug 2023. A single escalator trip away from the gantries of Tiong Bahru MRT station, it’s hardly an inconvenience to drop by the atrium at Tiong Bahru Plaza. So having skipped lunch, I made my way to the fair fully intending to stuff myself.
I was delighted to see that a designated seating area had been set up for shoppers to enjoy their food. The crowd was at a tolerant shuffle speed so moving between two stalls to make an order before whipping back to collect from the first was easy.
The very first stall that caught my eye was Spuds Shack, with its menu that featured rosti accompanied by a variety of choice sauces and toppings. Torched Mentaiko Rosti (S$8.50) was a touch above in price, but the ‘BEST SELLER’ label successfully swayed me. Other selections like Garlic Parmesan Rosti (S$7.50) and Spicy Mala Rosti (S$7) were just as compelling.
I had to resist the urge to poke at the distractingly seductive egg. Its liberal coating of mentaiko sauce ensured that each spoonful of grated potato had a delectable combo of crispy savoury-sweetness. Interestingly, the torched splotches of sauce worked in concert with the seared rosti edges to deliver a heavy smoky aftertaste.
Within the pancaked layers were perfectly moist potatoes. There was a capsule of sour cream that could have added much more had it not been so microscopic. Its subtler, fermented undertones were outmatched by the mentaiko sauce though, so just as well. Highly recommended to wrap the remnants of rosti with the egg for a final sendoff.
At the rear of the food fair looms a titanic vat of broth, and in it sit globes of proportionately colossal bakso. Awe-struck, I curiously made an order of Bakso Telor (S$8).
As it was my first time trying bakso, I had not expected it to come with bee hoon. The meatball was overtly tender despite needing both a fork and spoon to slice through. Its size made it difficult to justify drinking the soup, but amid mouthfuls of bee hoon, there was a faint kick with some saltiness – lemongrass, spring onion, celery were visually discernible.
Excavating the rotund meat, I discovered 2 quail eggs laying within. The thoroughly cooked yolks readily soaked up the flavourful soup and offered some respite from the the meatball’s fluffy consistency. My suspicions about the meatball’s beefy nature were later confirmed after asking around. Overall, the dish was refreshingly filling. Perhaps the Bakso Tahu (S$6), Bakso Mercon (S$8), or Bakso Biasa (S$6) might be worth trying in a reduced capacity.
I usually give the beef cubes a pass but decided to make an exception seeing how the sizzling meat looked so tantalising. They were cooked on the griddle slightly longer than I would have preferred.
The Nacho Beef (S$12) smelled heavenly when I opened the package. Taste was inoffensive barring some slightly overcooked cubes which were unpleasantly resilient. Ultimately, beyond peppers and the cheese sauce, I could detect no seasoning. Probably not the best use of S$12.
Some smaller purchases I made were taro cookies (S$3 for 2pc) fried in a delicious batter with sesame seeds and fried taro (S$6 for 4pc). Everything had to be brought home after the hearty meal of bakso, so my plans to buy the Teochew meat puff (be prepared for a long queue) and taiwanese super pancake were dashed.
Speaking to a few sellers, most stalls are open by 11am so lunch there is an option.
In essence, it would be unfair to say that Tiong Bahru Food Fair is a glorified pasar malam. True to the phrase ‘Local Meets Global’, the variety of unique and different foods make it a worthwhile visit. I’ll definitely be making a return trip to try the rest of the stalls.
meat fish cheese fermented