The elusive “Ah Pui Satay” has gone from a wooden pushcart around the Tiong Bahru Estate, previously settled at 195 Pearl Hill Café, and now with a full-fledged eatery at Chinatown. (Also read: 10 Famous SATAY Stalls In Singapore)
Ah Pui is well-known for grilling smoky old-school Hainanese satay on his push cart at Tiong Bahru since the 1970s.
Of course the other street hawkers have mostly moved on to food centres, while his satay also ‘disappeared’ for a number of years due to the hefty repeated fines from operating in such a manner.
During growing up years, I used to stay near Tiong Bahru on a low-storey flat, and remembering lowering the Milo tin from the second level with a raffia rope to the satay seller downstairs.
The satay man on the pushcart will collect the money within the tin, and place the grilled satay and sauces within. Gone are those days, but these are fond memories that would stay with me.
The new Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay is a stand-alone shop along Smith Street next to Chinatown Food Street.
Word has it that this was opened with previous staff members from 195 Pearl Hill Café. (While they parted ways, the café still serves up satay.)
Other than the AhPui’s Famous Satay ($1.10 per stick, min 10 sticks), other food items include Grilled Prawn with Thai Seafood Sauce ($2.40 per stick, min 3 sticks), Grilled Pork Rice ($8.50), Vietnamese Chicken Wing Rice ($8.50), Chicken Cutlet Rice ($8.50) and Fish & Chips ($8.50).
There are also other snacks of AhPui’s Meat Ball ($6.80), Lemongrass Wing with House Chili Sauce ($6.80), Thai Special Wing ($6.80), Fried Chicken Skin ($6.80), Nacho’s Cheese Fries ($6.80), and Edamame ($6.80).
While there were reports that there was “no more waiting list”, this was short-lived. The last I checked (few days ago), the wait-list for pre-orders is till August 2021.
The eatery has also catered satay for walk-in customers. However, they are also limited by manpower and making the sticks are labour-intensive.
When I checked, Ah Pui and team can make and grill up to 1000 satays per day for walk-in customers and those who reserved.
There is easily a 10 – 20-person queue outside the shop even before opening hours. With each customer buying 20 sticks (which is a conservative estimation), you can do the Maths.
Most items are sold out just slightly after lunch hours.
Here’s why the satay is so sought-after: all the pork meat is still hand-sliced, marinated with spices and secret ingredients, skewered alternating with fats on the wooden stick, then grilled skilfully over charcoal.
Even though each stick is more expensive than the usual at $1.10, the size of the meats are also 20-30% larger.
I can understand why Ah Pui’s Satay is so well-loved – you really don’t get many such beautifully charred satay with aromatic hints and sweetness in the meat anymore.
The magic to me was the ‘block’ of fats in between, with that thin layer of crisp and could burst with juices within your mouth.
The sauce was also very tasty, warm with lovely nuttiness and sweet-fruitiness from grated pineapples. It reminded what I used to have during childhood days.
However, I do need to say that they (both the satay and sauce) tasted best when freshly out.
After the satay was left there for a while (say 20 minutes), the texture turned tougher and also lost some of the sweet juices. So some customers who takeaway may prefer something more tender.
To be fair, the other dishes were not bad choices as well. The Vietnamese Chicken Wing Rice ($8.50) came with Thai-style and sized wings, covered liberally with an addictive chilli sauce with that kick and tanginess.
It would have been made more perfect if they serve chicken rice style rice, rather than the plainer style.
Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay 阿肥中峇魯沙爹
28 Smith Street, Singapore 058942
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun), or till sold out