In my About Me page, I talked about how food can be art, and how eating extremely well-done food is a near-transcendent experience.
You know, the one where at first bite and taste and swallow, an imaginary choir of pre-pubescent boys erupt in sweet choral symphony, and the soundtrack to Netflix’s Chef’s Table starts playing in your head as you savour each and every morsel.
One of the most recent dishes I’ve eaten that embodied this experience was – believe it or not – a simple dish from a hawker stall – the humble char siu (caramelised bbq pork) and sio bak (roast pork) rice from Roast Paradise at the Old Airport Road Hawker Centre in Singapore.
The Old Airport Road Hawker Centre was the first place my friends took me when I first arrived in Singapore last October end, and I was spoilt for choice with all the hawker stall options available. Finally, I decided the join the queue at Roast Paradise, and boy was that line long.
But if the line is long, it must be good, right?
Turns out that even my expectations were blown away.
OMG the char siu melted like butter in my mouth, and the sio bak was an explosion of texture and flavour with its crackly skin and oh-so-soft fatty meat. The saltiness and sweetness and umaminess of the pork was in just the right ratios, and blended perfectly with each spoonful of rice to make up the perfect mouthful
The high fat content in the meat definitely contributed to the tenderness of the meat, but the years of acquired skill by the hawker stall owners cannot be discounted at all.
Hawker food is really an embodiment of the pursuit of perfection, where chefs spend years and years making the same few dishes over and over and over again until it is just right. Culinary award institutions like Michelin have started to recognise this, and are starting to award stars to Singapore hawker stalls. Arguments can always be made that there are other stalls that are more deserving, or other countries that aren’t on Michelin’s culinary maps, but overall, the recognition can only benefit the hawker industry as a whole, for a rising tide lifts all boats, and all stalls benefit by a recognition of standards and by having the spotlight put on Singapore’s culinary scene.
Hubby (who is Singaporean) made the observation that the hawker landscape is changing in Singapore. A lot of younger hawkers went to culinary school, and have learnt the classical French and Japanese techniques, and these young entrepreneurs are choosing to enter the hawker industry themselves and innovate and elevate Singaporean hawker food. They are good, but not yet great. But give them a few decades, and they will undoubtedly become so.
Roast Paradise is only a recent fixture in Singapore’s food scene, even though the original had been open in KL since 1970. But in the short time it has been in Singapore, it has earned its place as one of the best roast meat stalls in the country thanks to their skilled young chefs. This article on Traveller tells a more in-depth story of the two men behind the stall, and its origins.
Their Facebook About Me description proudly declares “Roast Paradise aims to provide the best roasted meat that you would ever taste in your lifetime.” So far, they’re doing quite well for me on that account.
Location: Blk 51 Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, #01-121, Singapore
Phone: +65 9786 7396
Opening Hours: Daily from 11:00 AM to 3:45 PM or until sold out
How to book?
Haha you siaw1 issit? Go line up.
1 Hokkien for crazy