At AKÏN, we’re not fussy or snobby eaters – we’re actually quite easy to please when it comes to filling our tummies during lunch. Since our office is located in an industrial area (Tai Seng represent!), there aren’t that many choices to begin with… or are there?
A Straits Times article published last year touted Tai Seng as a hip food enclave (though a rather unlikely one), with no less than 10 eateries opening in the area over 2015. According to the article, this rise in new F&B outlets in the vicinity could primarily be attributed to a lower rental cost.
Sadly for us, we’re a fair distance away from The Commerze @ Irving, the building that’s currently housing a plethora of fun food choices, so we’ve yet to check most of the eateries in the article for ourselves. While there’s also a stretch along Upper Paya Lebar Road with eateries like Kay Lee Roast Meat, Domino's Pizza and Old Street Bak Kut Teh – it can also be quite a stretch for us from our office, particularly in the unpredictable weather as of late.
#firstworldproblems aside, we have days when we feel like venturing out of our comfort zone, and days we just want a quick meal fix. Here’s a list of our cheap lunch eats in the industrial area we call our work-home, and each joint’s culinary hits and misses in our very own words.
Start point (our office!): 19 Tai Seng Avenue, S’534034
For regular, close to home meal days:
Kim Chuan Eating House
1010 Tai Seng Avenue S’534417
|Kim Chuan Eating House (L); dry U-mian from the ban mian stall (R)|
Even though Kim Chuan (or ‘1010’ in AKÏN terms) is located just across from our office building, crossing the road to get there is quite a feat in itself, particularly when vehicles are constantly whizzing by without a breather!
Located amidst workshops and garages, this humble eating house has over 10 stalls selling meals to hungry office workers and industrial folk based in the area. We typically zoom in on the central row of stalls, which includes Chinese pancakes and dumplings, Korean/Japanese food, and Indian-Muslim food. Prices across the board range from $2.50-$5 for a meal.
Be sure not to stand idly when making your decision – you might get a scolding from the fast moving cleaning aunty with a chilli padi of a temper.
AKÏN-approved makan: “To me, the best fish soup ($4.20) in all of Tai Seng is right here! But the queue at the stall is also ‘best’ – be prepared for at least a 20-30 min wait!”
– Rachel, Digital Strategist
“Never trusted any food court Japanese/Korean food before; but the loud, passion-driven, completely on fleek vendor here makes me want to come back for more. And the meat portions are generous!”
– Kenneth T, Brand Designer
Try at your own risk: “The Malay stall has a tagline on its sign that translates to: ‘Never try, never know; when you try, you’ll come back for more’. I tried it twice and had diarrhea both times! Never ever, ever going back again.”
– Muhammad, (ex-)UX Designer
(Editor’s note: He actually went back prior to giving this quote!)
AKÏN-sider tips: “There will ALWAYS be seats right behind the pancake store regardless of the crowd… shhh.” – Arvin, Business Development
“The more you chat with the auntie (at the u-mian noodle stall), the higher the chances of ‘加面不用钱’ (add noodles without having to pay extra).”
– Harris, Content Strategist
Update (November 2016): The fish soup that Rachel (and now Deborah, our Junior Digital Strategist) raves about comes only in clear soup and with vermicelli noodles. For a milky kick and thicker noodles, order at the zichar stall next to Muhammad's 'favourite' Malay stall. The aunty will also regale you with stories about her food, at no extra charge.
For tired, ‘anything also can lah’ days:
Yew Yi Eating House
1024 Tai Seng Avenue S’534414
|Yew Yi Eating House (L); the 'Bom' from Warung Farlinish (R) is da bomb|
Further down in the heart of an industrial building cluster lies Friendship – or at least, that’s what Yew Yi (友谊) translates to in Mandarin. While this is not quite our go-to lunch haunt, we still make the trek over to 1024 on occasion for variation’s sake.
There may be less stalls here than the other cafeterias in the area, but the food is still decent enough, with yong tau fu, fish soup and mixed rice being the more popular stalls.
Interestingly enough, our favourite food items are fried snacks from the Muslim stall (Warung Farlinish), which we happily buy as comfort food to munch on during the afternoon lull. The ‘bom’ (50 cents) is as dynamic as it sounds – who would have thought that fried banana cake would taste this good? We also love snacking on the fried breaded hot dog (70 cents) and the fried egg/potato pastry (70 cents). Well worth any calorie gained!
“…but not advised if you have loads of work to do after lunch. Zzzz.” – Kenneth T
(other) AKÏN-approved makan: “The zichar store ($3-$5) has about 1,200,029 permutations from their ingredients, and at least one of those combinations will satisfy your lunch cravings.” - Arvin
Try at your own risk: “The team’s dissuaded me from trying any of the in-house drinks from the very start, but I decided to try an iced teh-O (black tea with sugar) at my own risk on a humid day. It was terribly bland and the taste of tea was utterly diluted – the only consolation was that it was cold! Well, at least I can say I tried.” – Michelle, Jedi Wordsmith
Update (November 2016): A fruit juice stall (re)opened here a few months ago, which gives the team a healthier incentive to head over! The vegetarian stall here (Jilin Vegetarian Catering) also seems to be the only place in the vicinity where you can get brown rice as an option for your meal staple.
For caffeine craving, ‘we need a pick-me-up’ days:
UE Print Media Hub Cafeteria
61 Tai Seng Avenue S’534167
|'Gao Gao' (L); the popular Koka noodles (R)|
Affectionately known to us as ‘Gao Gao’ (explanation to come), this is the furthest point on AKÏN’s ‘Golden Triangle’ (which also comprises 1010 and 1024). There is a greater variety of food at this cafeteria, though it’s a challenge finding a seat during the lunch rush.
So, why ‘Gao Gao’?
“Just buy any non canned drinks over there, and I bet you’d agree that Gao Gao is an apt nickname for it!” – Kenneth S, Digital Innovation
In other words, the drink stall there makes our teh peng (iced tea with milk - $1.40) exactly how we like it – gao (thick in Hokkien).
AKÏN-approved makan: “The nasi goreng ayam merah ($4) from the Muslim stall is heavenly good – or maybe it just tastes better because I get hungry from the walking distance!” - Muhammad
“Lor mee ($3-5) your hunger away; they must have added some magic powder in the thick soup to make it undeniably the best version in Tai Seng.” - Arvin
“Gao Gao probably serves the best instant Koka noodles around – the combination of dry banmian and chewy taukee (beancurd skin) makes me crave for more. Even at an affordable price of $3, the portion is just nice too!” – Kenneth T
“Although the uncle never remembers NOT to put chili and brushes it off with ‘放一点点而已’ (it’s only a little bit), our weekly guilty pleasure of that yummy orange bowl of Koka noodles is worth the walk!” - Rachel
Try at your own risk: “Eating in the HEAT.” – Arvin
Update (November 2016): Thanks to the recent bout of rainfall, there's been a lovely (and often over-enthusiastic) East-coast style breeze over here. Ladies - just watch your hair, and your skirts!
For mainstream, sweltering hot days:
BreadTalk iHQ / Sakae Building / Hainan Eating House
30 Tai Seng Street S’534013
|Food Republic at BreadTalk iHQ (L); specialty noodles at Li Xin Teochew Fishball Noodles|
Standing tall at the corner of Paya Lebar Road and Airport Road, BreadTalk iHQ serves as a taste of civilization in the industrial zone. This is one place we come to when we need a break from the Golden Triangle of industrial eats, and we’re clearly spoilt for choice with the BreadTalk group’s family of eateries: Toast Box, Ramen Play, Food Republic, the almighty Din Tai Fung, and of course, the eponymous BreadTalk.
For a fresh after-lunch treat, check out Everton Creamery on level 2 for their fun ice-cream flavours.
Next door to iHQ is the Sakae Building – but in place of a Sakae Sushi outlet is Hei Sushi, its Halal-approved sister restaurant. There’s also Hainan Eating House, but its meal offerings aren’t as extensive as the other places we frequent (though we occasionally enjoy their Sarawak-style Kolo mee).
AKÏN-approved makan: “Quite happy to queue at Food Republic's Li Xin Teochew Fishball Noodles. I’m a fan of their ‘specialty noodles’ ($5) – more tomato sauce please!”
Try at your own risk: “I find the ban mian at Food Republic really mediocre. The dan dan mian is really ‘dan dan’ (bland).” – Elizabeth, Brand Strategist
“The only time we had stuff from the mixed rice stall at Hainan, we ended up having a plate of cold rice, packed with cold dishes, blanketed in cold curry sauce.”
“$8 mixed rice at Food Republic, anyone?” – Arvin
Update (November 2016): A yong tau foo stall has opened at Food Republic, to the joy of most of the team. We also recommend the braised beef noodles at the Taiwanese food stall!
For good mood, adventurous days:
Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee
538 MacPherson Road, S’368222
|Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee (L); Kin Kin's Signature Dry Chilli Pan Mee ($5)|
“Kin Kin – two words that, when suggested, has everyone going for lunch on time.” - Harris
On days when we feel like heading out further for some good food, we cross over to MacPherson to visit Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee, the Singapore branch of the original legendary outlet in Kuala Lumpur. And legendary it is – their Signature Dry Chilli Pan Mee ($5) consists of springy noodles, chewy meatballs, flavourful minced meat and crisp fried anchovies, topped with a poached egg (though not always runny - boo). Mix in the pan fried chilli flakes and you’ve got a slice of culinary comfort right in that very bowl.
“Probably full of MSG but we just don’t care! ♥” - Rachel
For less excitement in your meal (aka the Pan Mee sans chilli – though some would deem it blasphemous), mix in the regular ingredients with douses of vinegar. That does the trick perfectly (at least for Mich).
AKÏN-approved makan: “Aside from enjoying the Signature Pan Mee here, you know a place is worth patronizing when you can add hei bee hiam (prawn paste) to your food!” – Kenneth T
Try at your own risk: “While Kin Kin offers bottled drinks (like lime juice and water chestnut), we occasionally still crave our usual drink choices, like teh peng. The prata shop next door sells in-house drinks too, but the team has ALSO dissuaded me from trying their drinks – and after my 1024 episode, I think I’ll take heed on that. Honestly, nothing could ever compare to our beloved Gao Gao.” – Michelle
AKÏN-sider tips: “One bowl (of noodles at Kin Kin) is never enough… but requesting to ‘add noodles’ makes it too much. Eat in moderation - whatever it means to you!” - Arvin
Other recent (and frequent) lunch haunts:
KOP Building (25 Tai Seng Avenue, S'534104)
Lorong Ah Soo Market (105 Hougang Ave 1, S'530105)
We hope this ‘AKÏN-sider’ list serves as a helpful guide for cheap industrial eats in our Tai Seng ‘hood’. We’re also always up for new eats (especially since we tend to eat lots of noodles, as seen from above) – recommend us a place around the area and we’ll give it a go! Happy lunching!
Note: This article was edited in November 2016 with updated information.