Image: The Straits Times
A hawker centre is not the first place I think of when it comes to Spanish food.
But at Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, along the outermost row of food stalls facing Upper Bukit Timah Road, a three-week-old Spanish-inspired hawker stall called Mi Casa proudly stands.
Mi casa is Spanish for my house.
Its chef-owner Micah Jarrod Lim, 26, is an example of what American TV show host and street-food advocate Anthony Bourdain would call a "hipster hawker", an innovative new-age hawker offering his interpretation of street food. It is a term the celebrity coined two years ago at the inaugural World Street Food Congress.
Here, chef Lim - a Temasek Polytechnic graduate with a diploma in culinary and catering management who has worked at Hilton Singapore and The Fullerton Hotel - offers an adapted version of paella, a Spanish rice dish ($3.20 a serving), and other dishes including garlic roasted chicken ($6.20), prawns in garlic and chilli oil ($6.80) and squid in lemon and olive oil ($6.20). Soup of the day costs $2 a bowl.
Set menus of paella and a choice of chicken, meatballs in tomato gravy or herb-roasted vegetables, served with a side of salad, are priced at $5.80.
For me, the standout item at Mi Casa is its grilled squid - plump and fresh with a light, chewy texture. I love the lemon zest sprinkled over it just as it is served.
Not only is the squid well-cleaned and skilfully prepped, but it also has a splendid char to it. It is a simple dish done well. The paella here has been dumbed down for Singaporean palates - the rice does not have as much bite to it as it usually does and is cooked ahead of time, with spices. I would like to think of Mi Casa's version as a Spanish-style fried rice of sorts.
Kudos to one of the latest hipster hawker stalls for pushing the boundaries of Singapore street food.
Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, 51 Upper Bukit Timah Road, 02-199
Open: 11am to 2pm, 6 to 8.30pm (Tuesday, Thursday to Sunday), 6 to 8.30pm (Wednesday), closed on Monday
This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 3, 2015.