Rojak is our Singapore salad, but it doesn’t taste anything like a salad. It’s more like sweet, sour, spicy and nutty. I used to think it was healthy but now discover that with the prawn paste and all that sugar in the dressing, it’s probably not. But if you’re in Singapore, you have to try this at least once. And if you’re going to try it just once, I think you should have the best and in my humble opinion it’s the one at Airport Road Hawker Centre called Toa Payoh Rojak. This is the Chinese Rojak. There is also Indian Rojak which is totally different and a whole other blog post. We also use the term rojak in Singlish to mean everything mixed up together. A bit like Singaporeans.
Ok here’s what you do. It’s a bit like a clinic. Once you reach the stall, you take a number and then go sit down till you number appears on the electronic signboard at the stall. Then and only then do you place your order, which the father or son-in-law will prepare right then and there. If not, as I noticed, you might get a bit of chiding. Some people did not know the system and thought that they could place the order once they picked up the number, which would actually be better for the customer. The rationale is the store owners want to make the rojak really fresh and so only make it when you reach your queue number and they want to make it right in front of you. It just takes a minute or two. The sweet elderly mother works in the shop too. The son-in-law started helping out in the past 2 years or so, because I previously did not see him at the store and assumed he was the son. Combined they produce the best rojak in Singapore.
But if you come here, you have to be patient. To me, the wait is worth it. My mum would find the rojak sauce a little too sweet but the sugar is what gives the sauce it’s lovely thickness. She will love that it’s very spicy and that they are generous with the crushed peanuts. I also usually ask for more You Tiao, which is the toasted crullers. My mum loves the beansprouts and slices of cucumber and radish.
As with most Singapore hawker stalls, this one is named after its original location which was in Toa Payoh back in 1971. They only moved to Airport Road hawker centre which is in Kallang in the east, 12 years ago. I know all these minute details, because I read the little newspaper and magazine cut-out stories that were proudly pasted in front of the shop as I was waiting. Yet again I tried to take my photos discretely and always feel like I will get scolded, because not many people like their photo taken. But since my article is flattering I hope they won’t mind. I hope it brings the nice elderly couple loads more customers. It’s not like they really need the publicity though. Makansutra has already given them fame by giving them 6 chopsticks (which is like full marks) in their annual best hawker food book.