Funny how we often use the word ”Rojak” in our colloquial language, yet the dish has somehow gone under-the-radar in the recent few years.
For foreign friends who are wondering what exactly is Rojak… in Malay, it means “eclectic mix”.
It is a uniquely Singapore experience to try – this humble dish, with its interesting mix of ingredients, is a spot-on reflection of the multi-cultural diversity of Singapore.
Some call this our local-style salad (some call it a fruit salad) and what makes this dish much talked-about is its killer sauce and unique ingredients.
Balestier Road Hoover Rojak in Whampoa Makan Place (right next to Liang Zhao Ji Duck Rice), is perhaps one of the best known Rojak places in Singapore. (This stall serves the Chinese style, while there is another version elsewhere called the Indian Rojak which is entirely different.)
Founded by Mr. Lim Ngak Chew (who passed away 2 years ago) in 1961, it humbly began as a push cart in Toa Payoh.
After receiving his hawker’s license in 1971, he settled at a spot opposite the now-defunct Hoover Theater at Balestier Road. Shaw Plaza now stands where Hoover Cinema used to be.
He eventually moved to Whampoa Drive Food Centre, and retained its name “Balestier Road Hoover Rojak” since it has become so popularly linked to that old location.
It is also one of the hawker stalls awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand in Singapore, securing the spot for a number of years.
Famous for its Rojak ($4 or $5 for a small plate), the Hoover rojak uses hardly-seen ingredients such as jellyfish, century egg, and bunga kantan (torch ginger flower buds).
Joining the seemingly-odd combination of ingredients are bean sprouts, cucumbers, turnip, guava, chunks of pineapple, unripe mangoes, taupok (deep-fried beancurd puffs), and you tiao (deep-fried dough fritters).
Everything is tossed in a gooey sauce that’s wonderfully well-balanced: sweet, savoury, tangy, and spicy.
The base is made up of assam (tamarind), sugar, chili sauce, and fermented Penang hae kor (prawn paste), creating a taste that borders on addictive.
It is finished off with a generous sprinkling of ground peanuts, coriander and lettuce leaves.
What draws me was its luscious sauce with that distinct hae kor taste, with the crunch of the peanuts.
I would recommend adding a century egg into the mix, though that is always a love it or hate it item. (Well, century egg even appeared on Fear Factor before).
This delicacy may be an acquired taste for some people, but its creamy texture is a welcome addition to the bevy of ingredients.
Prepare to queue, and you may stand in line for up to 40 minutes since they prepare your rojak only upon order.
If not visit the stall during its off-peak hours like 11 am on a weekday. Come early as it closes at 4pm (or sometimes earlier).
There are reviews that comment that the taste is not quite the same as in the past, and portions are smaller than expected.
What made people loyal to the brand is its consistency in every plate. The challenge now of its second-generation owner to maintain this legacy of flavour for the years to come.
Balestier Road Hoover Rojak (Whampoa)
#01-06 Whampoa Drive Makan Place Block 90, 90 Whampoa Drive, Singapore 320090
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 4pm (Wed – Sun) Closed Mon – Tues
Other Related Entries
Liang Zhao Ji (Whampoa)
Hoo Kee Rice Dumplings (Amoy Street Food Centre)
Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puffs (Tanjong Pagar)
J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff (Amoy)
Shi Hui Yuan Hor Fun Specialty (Mei Ling Food Centre)