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Sep 6, 2013 05:11 PM

Singapore - Fried Koay Teow and other Hokkien hawker favourites at Jackson (古早炒虾面)

Jackson's array of Hokkien hawker food offerings make this one of the most popular stalls at the Old Airport Road Food Centre, often touted as the best food centre in Singapore. Jackson's fried Hokkien prawn noodles and fried koay teow are often top-rated in their respective categories in local surveys of popular food stalls in Singapore. Jackson's oyster omelette and fried carrot cake also have their loyal fans.

What I tried today:

- Fried carrot cake. The name's a misnomer for this very popular Singapore hawker dish - as the starchy cubes of steamed cake are made of radish (daikon) rather than carrot. However, the Chinese name for radish roughly translates to "white carrot", hence the "carrot cake" moniker. Jackson's rendition tasted blander than others (my fave is in Tanglin Halt) - there're just too much eggs in fried carrot cake in Singapore these days! I rather miss the traditional version where the carrot cake cubes themselves were the centrepiece, flavoured with fish sauce, soy sauce and chopped preserved radish ("chye poh").

- Fried koay teow: not to be confused with its lighter-flavoured Penang cousin - this is the "heavy" dark Singapore version: a mix of "koay teow" (flat rice noodles) and yellow Hokkien noodles, stir-fried in lard and liberally flavoured with sweet dark soysauce. Water is often added in towards the end of the frying process, to give the noodle dish its trademark wet, gluggy appearance.

Jackson's fried koay teow was superb - aromatic, with lardons on the side. The Singapore version is usually pretty spartan, garnished only with cockles, fishcake strips and eggs - unlike the Penang version with its large prawns, Chinese sausages and sometimes crabmeat.

Note: Despite the fact that fried koay teow is often sold by Hokkien hawkers in Singapore these days, it's actually Teochew in origin - as also evidenced from its use of cockles to go with the flat rice "koay teow" noodles: both Teochew staples.
In Penang, all the top Penang "char koay teow" hawkers are Teochew (Lorong Selamat, Siam Road, Two Sisters @ MacAlister Road, etc.). But one can see the Hokkien influence in its Singapore counterpart by the addition of yellow Hokkien noodles to the "koay teow".

Address details
Jackson (古早炒虾面)
Old Airport Road Food Centre - Stall #01-131
51 Old Airport Road
Singapore 390051

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  1. ah interesting, i ate at several of the famous stalls with fourseasons at old airport road, but i hadnt heard of this one

    that carrot cake does look quite egg-y, more than most no?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      Sadly - that's what most fried carrot cake renditions in Singapore have become :-(

      It is quite a "recent" phenomenon, because fried carrot cake during my childhood (1970s till 1980s) was definitely a different dish altogether - usually, it consisted only of cubes of carrot cake, fried with garlic and preserved radish, seasoned with soysauce (light and/or dark versions). An egg was sometimes added to the mix upon request by the customer, but it's not usual. These days, the dish has somewhat evolved into an eggy omelette, studded with carrot cake. Ridiculous, I say.

      1. re: klyeoh

        ahh interesting

        btw was the carrot cake they serve always cut into really small pieces? the reason i ask is there is a place in NY chinatown that serves it (i think its chinese from vietnam who run the place) and its cut into big blocks, so i was wondering what the original way was

        1. re: Lau

          No, in the old days, the carrot cake were cut into pieces slightly smaller than a mahjong tile.

          The ethnic Chinese from Vietnam are also mainly Hokkiens, originating from the same counties and villages as those who eventually settled in Malaysia/Singapore, so oftentimes the food tastes similar, with slight variations due to localisation in their respective host countries.

          1. re: klyeoh

            ah interesting, i thought they were cantonese and to a lesser extent teochew. anyhow i was just curious, i prefer the smaller pieces

            1. re: Lau

              I'd thought the same, until I visited Saigon and Hanoi and spoke to them. There's also a Cantonese minority there, plus Hakka and Teochew.

              1. re: klyeoh

                i know there is alot of cantonese bc ive met many of them who moved here

                i always thought it was alot of teochew bc in CA there are alot of chinese-viet restaurants (they are awesome sort of fusion-y kind of chinese with viet influence) and most of them advertise as teochew restaurants although it a toss up as to whether the lingua franca spoken by the staff if cantonese or teochew

                1. re: Lau

                  The ethnic-Cantonese in Vietnam are dominant in the F&B industry - I noticed when I was in Saigon that the Cantonese spoken there was closer in accent/vocabulary than Cantonese spoken in Singapore or Malaysia.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    closer in accent/vocabulary to what?

                    interesting side note i read an article about the guy who started sriracha sauce in LA (david tran) and i think he was ethnically teochew from vietnam although he spoke cantonese as his 1st language

                    1. re: Lau

                      Oops, I meant closer to HK's, compared to the Cantonese spoken in Singapore/Malaysia, where Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew and other dialects affect our accent when we speak Cantonese.

                      Most ethnic Vietnamese in the US also prefer to speak Cantonese to blend in with the Chinese crowd.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        ah yah that makes sense; the ones here in chinatown sound largely indistinguishable from anyone else