2 hipster hawker stalls to check out this week

What do GRANDPA’S BELLY and LAD & DAD have in common? They’re both owned by young cooks who’ve roped in their families to help at their fancy hawker stalls

1. Grandpa’s Belly
1. Grandpa’s Belly
29 Sep 2015

1. Grandpa’s Belly

100 TYRWHITT RD. TEL: 9788-3629 OPEN DAILY EXCEPT SUN. MON-SAT 11.30AM-2.30PM; 6.30PM-9PM (TILL 10PM FRI & SAT). LAST ORDERS AT CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/GRANDPASBELLY

Twenty-three-year-old Jean Loh is another enterprising young foodie attempting to feed the masses with restaurant-style nosh. With a little help from her businessman dad, the At-Sunrice Academy grad who honed her skills at eateries like Spruce and Bread Yard, invested $15,000 into her first F&B venture.

Her two-month-old hawker stall Grandpa’s Belly is located at a spacious coffeeshop near Jalan Besar Stadium (where our fave Soon Kee Boneless Duck Rice stall is housed too). It serves “Asian fusion” grub and is dedicated to Jean’s 92-year-old grandpa, her source of culinary inspiration.

Just look for the signboard with the illustration of a smiley old gent on it. “I wanted to do something for my grandfather,” explains Jean. “He loves to eat and we both believe that people love comfort food best. So I wanted to provide affordable comfort food for everyone.” She adds fondly, “Ye ye likes the food here and his favourite dish is the kong bak slider. We would go to his house every Sunday for dinner prepared by him and my grandma. But that has stopped because of his age. Now, he’s here at the stall at least twice a week. Customers have asked about ye ye — some have seen him and realised he’s the person on our logo." Jean also has ambitions to open a wanton mee stall one day. “I want to contribute to the local hawker food scene in Singapore too," she says.
 

1. Grandpa’s Belly: On the menu
1. Grandpa’s Belly: On the menu
29 Sep 2015

1. Grandpa’s Belly: On the menu

Jean’s signature Duck Confit (above, $12) is comforting on many levels — it’s easy on both the wallet and palate. The bird is cooked on low heat for up to six hours in its own fat in the oven before being seared. It’s then drizzled with a sweet and tart balsamic reduction. Well browned, beautifully crisp and scrumptious — but it does teeter precariously between moist and dry — a few seconds longer on the grill and it would’ve been a different story. It comes on a bed of “briyani-inspired” couscous, a combination of flavours you’ll either love or hate. We find that the jarring spices of coriander, cumin, and turmeric overpower the duck.

Still, this is better than the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($10), served either on a ciabatta or burger bun. While the slow-cooked pork is tender, the homemade barbecue sauce is too sweet and drowns out the flavour of the pork and makes the meat mushy. Unfortunately, the one dish we were hoping to try, Beef, Egg and Mash (twice-cooked sirloin cubes with mash topped with a sous vide egg), wasn’t available when we visited. 

1. Grandpa’s Belly: Order this
1. Grandpa’s Belly: Order this
29 Sep 2015

1. Grandpa’s Belly: Order this

The Mini Kong Bak Sliders (above, $7), thick slices of stewed pork belly with luscious fat sandwiched between pillowy deep-fried mantou and slicked with cinnamony soy gravy, are sinfully good. The appetiser is meant to be shared, but we can easily polish off the whole plate by ourselves.

1. Grandpa’s Belly: Order this
1. Grandpa’s Belly: Order this
29 Sep 2015

1. Grandpa’s Belly: Order this

We also enjoy the sweet and salty marriage of flavours in the Pumpkin Salted Egg Fries (above, $7) accented with the aromatic punch of curry leaves.

BOTTOM LINE: We’re not sure if stuff like duck confit counts as comfort food to Singaporeans — especially those from ‘grandpa’s’ generation. But the prices and portion sizes here are pretty comforting. Some dishes need fine-tuning, but the nosh is generally decent.
 

2. Lad & Dad
2. Lad & Dad
29 Sep 2015

2. Lad & Dad

STALL 32, SERANGOON GARDEN MARKET & HAWKER CENTRE, 49A SERANGOON GARDEN WAY, S555945. TEL: 9247-7385. OPEN DAILY EXCEPT MON & TUES. WEEKDAYS NOON-9PM. WEEKENDS 11AM-9PM. LAST ORDERS AT CLOSING.

Think British ‘cuisine’ and golden strips of battered fish and chips come to mind. Or a roast. Maybe curry with beer. You’ll find none of these at this English-inspired hawker stall in Serangoon Garden. Standing out amid a clutch of run-of-the-mill stalls with its olde English pub signage is F&B rookie Keith Koh’s month-old ode to Brit nosh, Lad and Dad.

The 25-year-old, who pumped in $25,000 into the venture with Dad’s help, honed his British home cooking skills at three different brief culinary courses in London while studying for his business degree. “I’ve always had a passion for food. I got a degree for my own personal satisfaction, but now, I just want to be able to prepare comfort food for friends and family,” says the ‘lad’, who’s doing this biz full-time. Although the stall is named ‘Lad and Dad’, dad, who used to run a vegetarian zi char stall in a school canteen, doesn’t actually cook there. He helps out at the stall with the back-end stuff, but it’s mum who’s the “pillar of support” in the kitchen. “My mum helped me tweak the recipes for the local palate ’cos traditional British food can sometimes be too salty or bland. She was the one who first taught me how to cook, while dad was my food critic — he loves my cooking.” ‘Lad and Mum’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, we suppose.
 

2. Lad & Dad: On the menu
2. Lad & Dad: On the menu
29 Sep 2015

2. Lad & Dad: On the menu

For now, the only main courses available here are beef or mutton stew. “We try to do a healthier version of British comfort food, so there’s no deep-frying, MSG or preservatives.”

The Lad Set (above, $12), served on a fuss-free metal tray, includes your choice of stew with three sides (mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, seasonal salad or fragrant rice) while the Dad Set ($8) is a la carte. We prefer the beef stew to the peppery mutton one (reminiscent of kambing soup), which is way too gamey for our taste. The fork-tender chunks of beef shin and shank, slow-cooked for eight hours with thyme, rosemary, potatoes, carrots and “lots of love”, are flavourful and hearty.

We also like the rustic charm of the hand-mashed potato with its uneven texture. It’s rather bland on its own, but pairs nicely with the rich and robust alcohol-free beef gravy. We don’t care much for the too-doughy Yorkshire pudding made with milk, water, eggs and flour, though. Keith tells us “soggy” is how the English eat it traditionally. We prefer our Yorkshire puds a la Jamie Oliver — crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Customers can also opt for basmati rice infused with butter, onions, spices and raisins. Keith plans to introduce Sunday roast (like beef) and traditional English breakfast on weekends in future. 

2. Lad & Dad: Order this
2. Lad & Dad: Order this
29 Sep 2015

2. Lad & Dad: Order this

If you’re curious about Yorkshire Pudding (above, $3), have it as a dessert here instead. Keith says he got this idea from English grannies who paired ice cream with the pudding for their grandkids. We’re not sure if it’s a consistency issue, but the pudding we got with a scoop of New Zealand vanilla ice cream is perfectly crisp and flaky on the outside and fluffy inside, like a less buttery croissant. Great for soaking up all that creamy goodness.

BOTTOM LINE: The hearty stews here are a little more local-skewed in flavour than Brit — they’re not as bitter (’cos they’re alcohol-free) or heavy. And prices are a tad steep for the locale. But they do make for quite a tasty meal.
 

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