January was off to a good start especially during lunch-times, thanks to the reopening of the Bukit Merah Central Food Centre. The newly renovated hawker centre is cleaner, airier and brighter, but more importantly – how is the food?

We try out a few stalls to see if they are worth braving the queues for.
(Note: As with any reviews, views are subjective. Do give the stall a go and let us know what you think!)

Guan Huat Yong Tau Foo
A piping hot bowl of Yong Tau Foo will warm your belly, especially on rainy days. Guan Huat’s winning formula is in its soup base. With close to 30 items for your selection, my bowl of goodness was topped with crispy lard bits. The fish paste beancurd skin went exceptionally well with their homemade chilli sauce. For a healthier lunch option, skip the fried items and crispy lard bits. (Bianca Teo)
Hours: 9.30am to 6pm (closed every second and fourth Sunday of the month)
Price: $0.50/pc (min 6 pcs), add $$0.60 for laksa soup base

786 N.S.J Muslim Food

Ordered a ‘kosong’ prata and a prata with egg, and was taken aback when the stallholder took two pieces from a tray of cold, pre-cooked batch without heating them up. Upon my insistence, the pieces were placed on the heating pan for less than a minute and served up on a plate, with a dish of curry gravy stacked right on top of the pratas. I immediately regretted my order when I saw the hot, piping biryani and mee goreng that others ordered.

Needless to say, the pratas were cold, hard and rubbery. Only consolation was the tasty gravy. If you do visit this stall, you are better off with items that are fresh from the stove, such as fried noodles or nasi biryani. (Tallin Ang)

Hours: 7am to 9.30pm everyday
Price: $1 for a ‘kosong’ prata; $1.50 for an egg prata

Koon Heng Fish Porridge/Fish Soup

This stall serves up a very generous portion of clear fish soup with fresh fish slices in tasty broth. It’s still as tasty as before and a good value for money – I’ve been patronising this stall since three years ago!  Each set comes with white rice, though I highly recommend that you top up $0.60 for fragrant yam rice. (Angela Tan)

Hours: 9am to 3pm (closed on Saturdays and Sundays)
Price: $5 (S), $6 (L)

Soon Huat Lor Mee / Laksa

As a big fan of the stall’s prawn noodles, I was disappointed that the uncle only sells lor mee and laksa now. The dark and thick lor mee gravy was lukewarm and slightly on the sweet side, so a bit more vinegar might help balance that out. I’ll probably revisit, but only if there isn’t a queue. (Tallin Ang)

Hours: 6.30am to 4pm everyday
Price: $3 (S), $4 (L)

Day Night Fried Kway Teow
The long queue and list of gleaming reviews and awards from food bloggers and TV shows don’t lie - this Char Kway Teow (CKT) is good! It may just be the goldilocks of CKT – not too dry nor too moist; not too sweet nor too salty; neither is it too oily. Filled with crispy lard bits, the noodles are rich in flavours and wok-hei that isn’t too overpowering. Each plate comes with a calamansi that adds some tang to the CKT and removes the greasy after taste. Definitely worth the calories! (Stephanie Jade Arlindita)

Tip: There were already about 10 people in the queue at 11.30am, so go early!

Hours: 10am to 8pm (closed on Thursdays)
Price: $3 (S), $4 (L)

Lim Kee Carrot Cake
There was no queue in sight, but granted it was still early for the lunchtime crowd. I asked for the black version but my heart sank a little as I watched my plate of carrot cake being fried. The black sauce was just drizzled on top and there was little attempt to ensure that the black sauce at least coat the pieces of carrot cake. A couple of flips later, it was served on a plate. Taste-wise, I can make out the faint flavor of white radish and it didn’t taste too floury. Spice level was non-existent though despite my request for extra chili.

If you are in a hurry/hungry and just want to fill your tummy without waiting in a queue that spans half the block, then this could be an option. And perhaps, the white version might taste better. (Tian Yee Shin)

Hours: 7am to 1.30pm everyday (or when sold out)
Price: $2.50 (S), $3.50 (L)

Lee Sin Hoon Coffee Stall

Our all-time favourite coffee stall with the pink signboard is back! Enjoy the signature kopi that is aromatic, full-bodied and smooth with no bitter aftertaste. The kaya toast was, however, unimpressive – the bread used was not the traditional white fluffy bread normally used for kaya toast and instead of butter, magarine was used and it just didn't taste right. (Bianca Teo)

Hours: 5am to 7pm (closed on Sundays)
Price: $1 for a cup of kopi


Lian Heng Hot & Cold Desserts
This stall is awesome for your hot and cold local dessert fix, such as Bobo Cha Cha and Ice Kachang. You’ll even find favourite local drinks like bandung and iced lychee, all of which are not too sweet – perfect for those on diet. (Vanessa Choo)

Hours: No fixed hours, approximately 7.30am till hot items sell out in the afternoon (around 2 to 3pm)
Price: $1.50 for a bowl of Bubur Pulut Hitam


Building a gracious community

To encourage the return of trays, patrons are first charged an extra $1 if a tray is needed upon the purchase of food. The $1 is fully refundable when trays are returned at a “smart” tray return system, which is a huge metal contraption that takes in the trays and utensils. There are cleaning attendants stationed behind the station to clear and clean the trays.

A friendly uncle was on standby the day we visited to help those unfamiliar with the system and to give out free apples. With the patrons crowding round to return trays, just don’t forget to grab your $1 after you are done fiddling with the system!