In honour of the transit café

Here’s a little something I put together to submit to the Weekend Australian newspaper travel section. They liked it enough to publish Hope you do too.

For the past two years I’ve had a mission to discover Singapore’s best MRT station food.

It began after a wander through the suburb of Tampines on the East West line. Always in search of eateries, I strolled through the high rises and searched the small shopping strips. After two hours of wondering where on earth the locals ate, I discovered a hawker centre and stopped for a welcome meal.

Returning to the station, I circuited the complex before heading out to explore the other side. Oh wow – some of the best local food I’d ever seen was on display in the crowded platform kiosk. Known for my ability to squeeze in another meal to try something new, I chose vegetarian satay skewers from an Indonesian stall, edged into a spare seat, and polished off the lot.

From that moment, I vowed always to circuit the station before venturing on my journeys to explore the suburbs. Some stops have been disappointing, others have had magnificent culinary spreads.

Meanwhile the mission continues, incorporating the transport hubs of other cities. On a recent trip to Malacca I sampled a nasi padang stall at the bus transport hub – twice, it was so good. Walking around Victory Monument in Bangkok I discovered fascinating street food I hadn’t seen before, plus a great selection of take-away dishes for those about to embark on long journeys.

Having visited many Singapore MRT stations over several trips I’m prepared to offer a few suggestions for those wanting to venture off the tourist guide map. Tampines, my original inspiration still holds a special place on the list; Jurong East has a whole industry built up for feeding travellers; Toa Payoh – hawker centres situated in a beautiful development around the station; Choa Chu Kang has a fascinating ramshackle market under canvass on one side and a modern indoor food court on the other; Eunos – a large array of stalls around a grassy field with all the options you could hope for.

However I won’t disclose the location of my most favourite place for fear of swamping the tiny 3-table Muslim diner. Run by women, the wholesome, home cooked food is tasty, spicy, fresh and full of flavour. As I looked around the café on my first visit, a lady was stripping branches of kaffir lime leaves and Vietnamese mint – both featuring on my plate.

You won’t find this place reviewed in the media. Buy yourself a train ticket and go find it – somewhere amongst the 30-odd stations on the East West MRT line.


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