One of my good friends is going to Singapore tomorrow, and I offered to give her some restaurant recommendations. Then I thought how wonderful Singapore is for dining and how it deserved a blog page devoted to it.
The array of food available in Singapore is endless – all cuisines are available from the local nyonya straits cuisine to chinese, indian, malay, thai and western dishes. If you are a foodie, I can’t think of a better place to visit. You can experience fine dining, but you can get just as much enjoyment from street food and shopping mall food courts, and Singapore is such a clean hygienic place that the majority of street food is perfectly safe.
So let’s start with street food or hawker food. The kinds of dishes that you can expect to try are satay, curries, barbecue pork, duck, seafood and chicken, dumplings, soups, claypot meals, roti prata (or roti canai), ngoh hiang, nasi lemak, char kway teow, rojak, popiah, and less appetising options like ‘pigs organ soup’. The hawker stalls are generally very cheap andif you are going out in a group, you can try a whole range of different foods and share them. Ngoh hiang is a particular favourite of mine, also known as loh bak, it is a sausage shaped item containing pork, prawn, carrot and water chestnuts wrapped in a beancurd skin and deep fried. I have even been inspired to make my own.
Nasi lemak is a malaysian speciality of coconut rice served with peanuts, egg and fried anchovies, and usually a sambal (either just chilli or a prawn sambal), and a thick curry such as a chicken rendang.
Char kway teow is a noodle dish using ribbon noodles with vegetables and seafood in a thick sweet sauce (ketjap manis) balanced with garlic and chinese sausage and sometimes cockles. In my opinion, the best char kway teow I have ever eaten is from The Food Place which is a food court on the 3rd floor of Raffles City shopping mall (next to a shop called Precious Thots). For just a few dollars, you can get a meal that will keep you satisfied all day.
Roti prata or roti canai is an indian style dish of flat fried breads combined with a bowl of curry to dip the bread, or a bowl of dhal.
Rojak is a salad containing tofu, cucumber, beansprouts, pineapple and sometimes mango with a chilli, ginger and lime sauce. Everybody seems to make their own recipe, so this dish is quite variable in flavour.
Popiah are fresh spring rolls made with a variety of fresh ingredients such as chicken, pork, shrimp, cucumber, prawns, peanuts, beansprouts, omelette, lettuce – the combinations are endless, and they are usually served with a dipping sauce such as hoisin, or chilli, soy and lime.
There are lots of hawker centres in Singapore. I would steer clear of Newton because the vendors are particularly pushy. A good option is Lau Pa Sat on Shenton Way which used to be a wet market 150 years ago. It is a commanding octagonal building and has expanded into the roads beside the main building where you can buy satay, grilled seafood etc. When buying seafood always agree a price before the vendor cooks your food.
Makansutra Gluttons Bay is a fairly new hawker centre next to the Esplanade arts and cultural centre. Gluttons Bay offer a tasting dish where you can have a plate containing a small sample of a variety of stalls e.g. satay, crab claw, carrot cake etc.
Maxwell Hawker Centre is a famous venue on Maxwell Road in the heart of Chinatown and is the best place for traditional chinese dishes.
The Food Place in Raffles City Shopping Mall (third floor) offers a wide range of choices, and is clean and bright, and has a wonderful selection of fresh juices.
Scotts Arcade in Scotts Road is another good hawker centre, very handy for when you are shopping in Orchard Road, it is downstairs just next to Tangs department store.
I haven’t tried the Singapore Food Trail at the Singapore Flyer, but my Singaporean friend Colin Chin recommends it, so it is definitely on my ‘to do’ list next time I am there.
Now for restaurants. Most visitors to Singapore will venture to Little India to have curry served on a banana leaf. Banana Leaf Apollo is a popular one, but my personal favourite is Muthu’s Curry in Racecourse Road. You can see the chefs cooking in the central open kitchen, and they specialise in the famous Singapore fish head curry which is quite delicious.
If you want to try traditional straits style or Nyonya cuisine, try Blue Ginger in Tanjong Pajar Road. They serve wonderful achar pickle, ngoh hiang, and a traditional chicken curry with black buah keluak nuts.
For Chinese there are three branches of the very classy Peach Garden and if set menus are your thing, try Jade at the Fullerton Hotel which has a really good choice of set menus (every person on the table can choose a different menu).
For seafood, the restaurants on East Coast Parkway are very popular such as Jumbo and Red House. You can choose your fish and crustaceans from the tanks, but make sure that you agree a price before they cook it for you. Try the favourite Singapore Chilli Crab and Singapore Pepper Crab aswell as Crayfish tails in ginger and spring onion.
My friend Colin recommends House@Dempsey which used to be an army barracks and serves wonderful high teas as well as a varied menu of pizzas, burgers, steak and appetisers.
For Japanese, Sakae Sushi has various outlets and is very tasty, offering soft shell crab tempura, lobster salad inari, spicy tuna gunkan among other delights.
For dessert, the Fullerton Hotel hosts a chocolate buffet at weekends in The Courtyard. There is also a gourmet dessert bar called 2am showcasing Janet Wong’s amazing work, which I have not tried, but is on my ‘to do’ list.
You also can’t miss Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar.
Well that concludes my tasty guide to Singapore – a foodie’s paradise. Please tell me about your recommendations so that I can look forward to trying them on my next visit.