The brand new Hawker Bar on Ossington Avenue is serving some killer Singapore-style street food. Can you even do that indoors, you ask? Yes: We had the restaurant’s Aussie chef Alec Martin prove it by cooking up some of his most popular dishes.
1. Cucumber salad
This refreshing starter combines thin strips of cucumber with ginger, chilies, red onion, and a dressing of mirin and rice-wine vinegar. Martin then finishes the salad with shards of sticky fried rice.
2. Banana fritters
For this popular dessert, Martin coats the small chunks of banana with a mix of beer batter and pandan essence (pandan is a nutty-tasting plant that gives the dish its green colour), then places it on a plate with a palm sugar caramel and homemade red-bean ice cream.
3. Whole fried seabream
“Whole fried fish is popular in Singapore,” says Martin. “But to be honest, I just find it a really quick and easy way to cook a whole fish, and the meat stays moist and tender.” The mild-tasting seabream is set on a bed of sweet, sticky lime and ginger sauce, next to a colourful salad made of thin slices of banana blossom, cucumber, red onions, fresh chili, cherry tomatoes, and dragon fruit. “I had a bloody difficult time getting some of these ingredients,” Martin says of the more exotic items, like the banana blossom. “But now I’ve got nice little old lady on Spadina who I can rely on.”
4. Chili salt tofu
Small cubes of silken tofu are dusted with flour, fried until they have a golden crust, seasoned with house- made chili salt, and served with a chili jam-–based barbecue sauce.
5. Chicken laksa
Think of this as a coconut-based, Singaporean version of chicken noodle soup. Starting with a silky, creamy broth, Martin adds thin slices of chicken; delicate, wispy tofu puffs; robust vegetables; and soft egg noodles. It’s finished with a son-in-law egg and topped with crunchy fried vermicelli noodles. (A vegetarian version is also available.)
6. Son-in-law eggs
This snack is a riff on a traditional Thai dish a new mother-in-law would make for the groom the day after the wedding. The eggs are boiled for exactly four minutes and 15 seconds, then thrown into an ice bath, de-shelled and then deep fried until they’re crispy on the outside but still runny inside. They are then placed on a bed of chili jam, which takes Martin upwards of 15 hours to make.
7. Hainanese chicken rice
To recreate Singapore’s national dish, Martin seasons a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast with salt and poaches it in a dark chicken stock (accented with Shaoxing wine and ginger) for 15 minutes. It’s immediately plunged into an ice bath so that the fat solidifies under the skin. The accompanying house-made condiments allow diners to dress the dish to their liking: Chili sauce gives the dish some heat, a dark soy provides a salty kick, and a ginger purée cools it all down.
8. Singapore chicken wings
“I’m still amazed that there are restaurants here that subsist solely off chicken wings,” says Martin, a Melbourne native. His wings are marinated for a day in soy sauce, ketjap manis (a sweet soy sauce), sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, and a rub consisting of Szechuan peppercorn and Chinese five spice.
9. Curry Pork Satay
Martin marinates thin strips of pork tenderloin in a yellow curry paste for a day and cooks them on a flat-top grill come service time. After they’re plated, the satays are doused in a sweet, chunky peanut sauce and served alongside slices of pickled cucumber, which provide a tart counterbalance to the rich meat.
$4–$12. Hawker Bar, 164 Ossington Ave. #OSS 647-343-4698, hawkerbar.ca.