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Nov 3, 2013

Zi Char Corner at Kim Pong Road in Singapore


This archived photo of the pre-war building at the junction of Kim Pong Road and Tiong Bahru Road, Singapore in 1960s.  Photo credit:  National Archives of Singapore.

Whenever I pass by Kim Pong Road in Tiong Bahru on a little street in Singapore, it brought back nostalgic memories of this place about fifty years ago.  The building is now demolished and a new condominium is under construction to be replaced.  The location of Kim Pong Road as shown in the street signboard.  Same place.  Different times.

Several of my senior citizen friends who grew up in Tiong Bahru would remember this building.  The corner shop was a furniture shop and next to the right was a hairdressing salon for ladies.

While the "zi char" can be loosely translated as “cook fry”,  it was the favorite of  most Singaporeans during the bygone days of Singapore before the advent of the air-conditioned restaurants and food courts, fast food outlets  became popular.

Along the five-foot way in the evening after the furniture shop closed, the best "zi char" ( 煮炒 ) at Kim Pong Road was opened for business from 7:00 pm to 12:00 midnight throughout the year, except during the Chinese New Year.

The "zi char" stall was operated by a short, portly and friendly uncle who speaks in Hokkien.  He was the only person to cook the food and a mesmerising array of Hokkien dishes was ordered by the "towkay" with their family, friends and businessmen clients patronised this "no signboard restaurant".  His cooking must be famous among "zi char" food connoisseur and critics.

Hokkien fried "Prawn Roll" (Hae Cho)

The "zi char" stall's Hokkien favourite, "hae cho" (prawn roll) was a mouth-watering bite, full of flavour and texture. Noodles are prepared in a dizzying number of ways. Popular selections include Hokkien mee, flat yellow noodles sauteed in a dark brown sauce with bits of lard, and stir-fried vermicelli noodles with green onion, bean sprout, egg and whatever else chefs have up their sleeves. An always filling favourite is hor fun, broad flat rice noodles in a thick and gooey sauce with meat, egg and vegetables.

However, there were only a few tables and chairs for the customers along the shop corridors.  Most of the business was done for "take away" and the customers would park their cars nearby at Lim Liak Street and Tiong Bahru flat in the housing estate.


Fried "Hokkien mee"
Authentic Hokkien Cuisine from the "good old days".

Every strand of fried "Hokkien mee" was lavished with its sauce and it crispy pork lards was the bonus that brought the dish to another level of aroma.

The food was cooked in a charcoal stove and packed with "opeh leave" in an old-fashioned ways.

Whenever my father had his favorite "mahjong" sessions in the weekends at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee in 1960s,  I would run errands in the evening for him to buy supper for him at the "zi char" corner at Kim Pong Road.  The stall was opposite Boon Tiong Road via a steep staircase at Block 9, Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, Singapore.

Veterans of Tiong Bahru and Bukit Ho Swee are welcome to remember and share the memories of this "zi char" stall at the corner of Kim Pong Road.

Blog update on 3 November 2013

Thanks to Marie Mann for kind words of encouragements for my blogs.  I am glad to learn and share through these nostalgic blogs.

I appreciate Facebook friend and blog reader AJen Teo for prompt response and reply to the furniture shop's name "新再發" and the hairdressing salon "彩英" as the shop name.  How wonderful to help our collective memories to blog about places decades ago in Singapore to remember.  These are the "memory aids" from everyone and to acknowledge them with thanks.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Chun See Lam said...

Thanks for this article. It brings back memories of those days when my kids were small. Every Fri evening we go out for this type of zhi char dinner at the HDB heartlands. Most of our favourite stalls at Ghim Moh and Dover Estate have gone now.

November 3, 2013 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger FL said...

Hi, James, I couldn't recall a zi char stall you mentioned at Kim Pong Rd. Probably, I was too young to know the food outlet there, however, I could remember vividly, the furniture shop you mentioned at the corner. Why not ? When I was young, my family stayed in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee (BHS) from 1963 to 1975. The shop was just across the road & my parents did buy some items from this furniture shop. Our former BHS home was at the site of the present Tiong Bahru Plaza! BTW, I still staying around Tiong Bahru/Bt Ho Swee area ! Many thanks for the old photos.

November 6, 2013 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for sharing fond nostalgic memories of the zi char stall at the corner of Kim Pong Rd., FL.

The unlicensed stall was demolished by the Hawkers Dept when my family and I moved out of Blk 9, Jalan Bukit Ho Swee in November 1962. The furniture shop, "新再發" was still there when you moved to Tiong Bahru/Bt Ho Swee in 1963. So you are right and I am not wrong.

Thank you for your kind compliments for the colored photos which are shared from Internet contributors. The only memorable black and white photo of the building at Kim Pong Rd with credit to the National Archives of Singapore. Best Regards.

November 7, 2013 at 2:56 AM  

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