It’s difficult to tell most overseas visitors just what heritage hawker street food in Singapore really is. The overwhelming experience they have of eating at street food hawkers around the world is at a food cart or table by the street.
Tell them that street cuisine in Singapore is comfort food pre – served in a safe and clean hawker centre and you get a quizzical look.
Now we have millennials like Joseph Yeo helping raise the profile of local hawker food.
The 29-year-old, who left his western chef gig at a top restaurant, is probably the only local hawker to use a $20,000 Josper oven at his humble hawker stall in Yishun.
The Josper oven, used by some of the best grill establishments, is essentially a stainless steel box with a chimney connected to an airflow valve and runs completely on wood fire. “I have always wanted to give hawking a try and this is the only way I know how to cook best,” the young chef said. He added that he invested $40,000 into Smokier’ Joe.
His marinades are simple and on-point, based on a yakiniku and-yakitori-plus “secret”. While anyone can up the marinade ante, it is hard to introduce the wood oven smokiness to the food, especially in a hawker centre. His prices are reasonable, just check out his $32 grade 6 wagyu beef, which would generally cost about $100 at steakhouses.
His bestseller is the BBQ Boneless Chicken Leg ($8), which comes with mash, garlic bread and sesame vinaigrette salad. It is perfectly smoky with light special yakitori aromas, and nicely cooked through, retaining moisture and flavour. The “secret” sauce tastes nothing like hawker centre stuff.
The 200gm Korubuta Pork Collar ($18) came naturally sweet and the wet yakiniku rub made this one my favourite too. “One trick I use is to rest the meat for a minute or two before serving it,” said Mr Yeo . “It allows the flavours and textures to shine through and settle.”
He suggested I forgo the wagyu and try the medium rare Reserved Rib Eye Steak ($18), knowing I am not into branded cuts of meat. All cuts can be done nicely if you know how.
The steak was pink and juicy inside, and touched with a breath of salt and pepper, but the deal sealer was the smokiness from the Josper oven.
I am not a fan of salmon but again, this lightly salted sashimi grade Baked Salmon ($15) was moist, soft and again, smoky.
His fries are fine restaurant-quality, and do not miss out on his Onion Rings ($4). They are the best I’ve had, thanks to the batter used and those sweet and soft onions inside.
Published in The New Paper on Thu 28 Jun, 2018, by K. F. Seetoh, founder of Makansutra.
Read the full article here.