Oldies But Goodies At Berseh Food Centre

Oldies But Goodies At Berseh Food Centre

Set within the storied Jalan Besar district in Singapore, expect long-standing hawker favorites with a hefty side of nostalgia.

Standing distinct from the rows of restored pre-war shophouses, Berseh Food Centre has been quietly serving locals since 1975. The two-storey centre is quite an underdog, rarely making it into tourists’ guides for the best grub in town, but is home to nostalgic flavors that’ll take you back to any Singaporean’s childhood.

Jalan Besar as a whole is a cultural gem, with the area given conservation status on 25 October 1991. Formerly a swampland, sons of an East India Company army officer Richard and George Norris took over the land for a measly 113 rupees (SGD 4 million in today’s conversation rates) and turned it into a betel nut plantation and fruit orchard. This essentially sparked the area’s beginning as a satellite township, and was eventually named Jalan Besar in reference to the “big road” (in Malay) running through the plantation. 

Despite modern housing developments, you’ll still find remnants of its past with the surrounding architecture sporting characteristics typical of the late 19th-century and early 20th-century, with colors popular with the Malay and Straits Chinese population living there. Taking a leisurely stroll along the road to the centre definitely amps up the old world, old-school charm that locals love and know Jalan Besar for. 

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1. Self-Made Fish Balls

Mushroom Fish Cake Minced Meat Noodle. Photo: Jessica Chan

You can’t go wrong with a well-made bowl of fishball noodles but the folks at Self-Made Fish Balls took it further with - as the name implies - handmade fish balls, Xi Dao fish cakes and Teochew meatballs. My choice of al dente mee pok, tossed in a robust seasoning, made for a fitting match with the bouncy, lightly salted toppings hand-shaped by the owner right in front of the stall. Tip: Go for the Mushroom Fish Cake Minced Meat Noodle ($6) to sample the best they have to offer in one bowl. 

  • Stall #02-60
  • Opening hours: Daily, 7am-8pm

Related: 5 Hawker Dishes To Earn Your Old Airport Road Food Centre Foodie Badge

2. Mei Xiang Black & White Fish Soup

Black and white fish soup. Photo: Jessica Chan

Good things come to those who wait. This rings particularly true with Mei Xiang, where a snaking queue can be spotted way before opening hours. Its intriguing name refers to the type of fish served - black for fried, white for sliced. Along with deep fried ribbons of egg, vegetables and their signature zesty chili sauce, the tender slices come swimming in a thick, cloudy broth made simply from fish bones. The store has a no takeout policy, but they’re more than happy to pack your order in personal containers.

  • Stall #02-44 
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 11.30am till sold out (around 1-2pm)
  • Tel: +65 9789 6686

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3. Fu He Delights

Shi Quan with duck. Photo: Jessica Chan

You’d be spoiled for choice at Fu He Delights. It spans two stalls, divided into the claypot rice-cum-tze char section and, our focus today, herbal soups. They are most known for their nourishing turtle soup (supposedly detoxes blood and boosts virility) with a pleasing balance of umami and the bitter herbal note. There’s also the XO Crocodile Soup, but the not-so-adventurous can go for the Shi Quan (translates to ten tonics nourishment) black chicken or the meatier (pictured here) duck version. Equal parts savory and sweet, with just a hint of the herbs at the end, it is further enhanced with a tangy yet fiery chili sauce.

  • Stall #02-40
  • Opening hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun, 11am-8.30pm
  • Tel: +65 6294 9203

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4. Kelantan Kway Chap and Pig Organ Soup

Kway chap with pig trotters. Photo: Jessica Chan

A quiet contender for one of the best braised meats in Singapore is none other than Kelantan Kway Chap. Intestines, skin, tofu puffs, pork belly, duck and pig trotters in an alluring shade of reddish-brown, a sign of a long and meticulous braise, are speedily chopped and presented alongside a piping hot bowl of kway (flat rice noodles) topped with fragrant shallot oil within minutes of shouting your order. A highlight is the trotters with its tender flesh and chewy, gelatinous skin that goes well with their homemade chili sauce.

  • Stall #02-39
  • Opening hours: Mon, Wed-Sun, 8am-8pm

5. Sheng Kee Curry Chicken Noodle

Curry chicken noodle. Photo: Jessica Chan

The ex-hotel chef here serves one dish, and he serves it right. And he even lets you customise it, from the noodle down to whether you’d like to debone your chicken. But what keeps regulars coming back is the curry with its enticing mix of chicken stock, spices and coconut milk. On the lighter side, diners can adjust how thick and sweet they’d like their base to be with a homemade hae bee hiam (dried shrimp) chili. And the chicken is no pushover, with the breast being the most popular with its succulent texture, particularly when coated in the flavorsome curry broth. 

  • Stall #02-45
  • Opening hours: Tue-Sun, 6am-3.30pm

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