Text and Images by Lorraine Koh @ Makansutra
You have encountered these places before; stalls with stellar food and ample publicity, yet they still fail to draw in the crowds for some reason or another. It could be a bad location, selling an uncommon product, unthoughtful pricing policies or just bad luck. We list down five places, and some possible reasons why business is not so hot for them.
Good Morning Nanyang Cafe
Ciabatta toast with kaya from Good Morning Nanyang Cafe is a great start to your day.
They use to operate at Robinson Road, where business was brisk and bustling. However, ever since they have moved to Upper Pickering Street in 2011, things haven’t been the same. The folks here have perfected their skill in making a robust and smooth coffee while the Teh C is silky smooth and they are known to use high quality tea powder. The kaya toast which also uses ciabatta beard, is also something to shout about. Even though its current location boasts of a more laidback and scenic spot, the stall is slightly hidden and easy to miss, if you are not looking for it.
Good Morning Nanyang Café 20 Upper Pickering Street, #01-01 Telok Ayer Hong Lim Green Community Centre Opens from Mon to Fri 7:30am to 7:30pm (Mon to Fri), Sat, Sun and Public Holidays 8.30am-5.30pm
Xiang Xiang Cooked Food
Sweet potato balls from Xiang Xiang make a tasty snack.
Operated by a mother and son team, this stall which sells sweet potato balls is a well-kept secret by regulars (at the expense of the owners). They only make a few trays of this tiny 50-cents-coin-size ball. Own made, it is then deep fried till golden brown. Their style does not include any fillings but the sweetness of the potato shines through. It is crispy on the outside but soft and chewy, once you bite through the crust. Due to the limited quantity, it is usually sold out by noon. They also serve other fried fritters like Jin Deui (fried sesame ball)
Xiang Xiang Cooked Food 335 Smith Street #02-68 Chinatown Complex 7am-12.30pm Opens 7am-12.30pm, Closed Mondays
Alfero Artisan Gelato
Hazelnut and lemon gelato from Alfero makes a refreshing dessert in sunny Singapore.
Owner Marco hails from the Gelato University of Carpigiani in Italy and came to Singapore to share this delectable cold treat with Singaporeans. Filled with natural ingredients, they offer flavours like pistacchio, bacio, hazelnut and even durian (probably to cater to the local palatte). The lemon flavour is refreshingly sour with a tinge of bitterness while the hazelnut flavour is creamy, rich yet not cloying. The shop is tucked away in an obscure corner of Marina Square which may account for its rather slow business. However, fans are actually quite happy with this less crowded and chilled atmosphere, but not them certainly. They also have an outlet at MacPherson Lane where students make the bulk of their clientele.
Alfero Artisan Gelato #02-226A Marina Square Opens 10am-10pm (Mon-Sun)
Twin Sister Cooked Food
The yam cake from Twin Sisters Cooked Food is savoury with a tinge of spiciness.
Despite its popular location, this stall does not seem to draw in the crowds, although they do have a loyal following. Run by an old couple, they sell a small variety of own made kuehs like pumpkin cake, yam cake and soon kueh. They also serve chee cheong fun. The soon kueh shines with its thin yet springy skin and is filled with well-seasoned turnip, carrot and mushrooms. The yam cake is firm, starchy with bits of hae bi. It is accompanied with not-so-spicy chilli and sweet dark sauce which helps make the yam less heavy on the stomach. We can’t fathom why the business of this humble stall is not as good as its food, besides the fact that most of the CBD crowd is in their offices by 10am and it is a more heartland than CBD kind of hawker stall.
Twin Sister Cooked Food Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road, #01-30 Opens 6am-1pm (Mon-Fri),Closed on weekends and Public Holidays
Pao Xiang Bak Kut Teh
Although they have over 20 branches in their homeland Malaysia, and have opened two branches in Singapore, we have to say business here is rather slow. We attribute that to the fact that they serve one of the pricier bak kut tehs in Singapore. It is priced at $26.80 for two (comes with mixed vegetables and minced pork, and a small bowl of you tiao). They also have a luxurious version for four, sold at $76.80 which includes abalone and sea cucumber. Dishing out a Hokkien style, slightly herbal, dark brown soy stew broth, it is savoury and intense while the pork is cooked till soft and is juicy. Service here tends to be inconsistent, in regards to efficiency.
Bak Kut Teh at Pao Xiang is a luxury. (Image courtesy of Pao Xiang Bak Kut Teh)
Pao Xiang Bak Kut Teh 23 Serangoon Central, #B1-34/35 NEX Mall, Singapore Opens from 10.30am to 10pm