[Updated: 5 July 2021]
We've heard the news of Covid-19 clusters emerging in Singapore in recent weeks. Since one of them was located in Bukit Merah View Market & Food Centre, the popular hawker centre was ordered to shut down for deep cleaning, leaving the hawkers with no choice but to shutter their stalls and quarantine for two weeks. Now, one hawker is opening up their stall after the two-week closure to continue to serve despite business being slow. If you're in need of a good char kway teow fix, here's why his stall is worth making a trip to Bukit Merah! ?
I'll admit that when someone first told me about this Char Kway Teow stall run by a Chinese revert, I felt a bit sceptical about whether I'd enjoy it. I grew up eating the version cooked by my Chinese revert mother, but I hardly ever order Char Kway Teow when I'm out with friends. ? The noodles usually feel too greasy for me, or the taste too salty or flat - so that was what I had on my mind when I was heading off on this foodie adventure.
But still, this stall has a reputation for the story behind it (watch our video to hear Mr Anis talk about how the stall got started!) and so off I went to Bukit Merah to seek it out! ? The first thing that struck me was the fact that it was located in between a series of non-halal hawker stalls. Usually, the stalls in hawker centres are very neatly arranged - halal on one side, non-halal on another side. But since this was a stall Mr Anis inherited from his relative, its location was a unique departure from this.
The prices are affordable and straightforward - $3/$5 for the plate of Char Kway Teow, an additional $1 for cockles, and an additional $0.50 for more kway teow. When I placed my order, I was surprised when he asked if I was Malay. In Mandarin, he explained that it was because I looked not-quite-Chinese and not-quite-Malay. When I replied in Mandarin that I was mixed, I got a smile back.
"Some customers speak Malay to me. They think that because I reverted to Islam, I understand Malay, but I don't." Mr Anis isn't a loud man, but his words echoed with me. I'd heard from others how patrons would sometimes demand to see his conversion card because it seemed so impossible that a Chinese revert would be cooking halal char kway teow. A photocopy of the card is pasted onto the side of an appliance too, clear as day.
The radio is suspended from the ceiling - you could only hear it if you stood close to the counter!
But he didn't look upset about any of this, and we even chatted briefly about this common experience of ours as he threw more ingredients into the wok. He told me how he opened the stall 8 years ago - and business is still doing pretty good! ? Standing there talking to him, I also heard soft sounds of Arabic that played from his radio as he bent over his wok, and my eyes were drawn to the Islamic calligraphy pieces hung up on the wall. It was a heartwarming reminder of how diverse Islam is within Singapore too.
By the time I got my plate of food, I was beginning to feel hungry. ? The wok hey smell was strong and fragrant, and you could see the chilli stir-fried into the noodles (which were a mix of kway teow and yellow noodles). The beansprouts, fishcakes, and cockles were all delicious, and the gravy was slightly sweet. But what really stole the show for me was the noodles themselves! They were soft and very savoury, but there was no greasy feeling left behind. ? It definitely exceeded my expectations, and while I'm still not a big fan of Char Kway Teow I think this is one plate I'd recommend to anyone who's looking for a meal that's light yet filling.
If you do visit 786 Char Kway Teow do remember to say hello to Mr Anis! His experience is truly a unique one and his humility transforms a simple plate of food into something more. Share this with your friends and family to let others know to support these hawkers! ?
Halal Status: Muslim-owned
Opening Hours: 2.30PM - 10PM (Sat - Thurs), closed on Friday. Do note that the stall is sometimes closed during prayer times, but will reopen within 10-15 minutes.
Address: 115 Bukit Merah View, #01-28, Singapore 151115