Good Singaporean Restaurant anyone?
re: Deb H.
Here's a bit of generalizaing (I'm sure there are exceptions):
Singapore Malaysian has good noodle dishes and chendol (spelled cheng doh on their menu, it's little green colored rice stripes in coconut milk and palm sugar). Their main dishes are so-so. The satay is bland.
I'm a regular at Tracy Garden on Judah and 48th - their noodles are so-so but the main dishes are good. The satay there is excellent.
Avoid Old Singapore Noodle House (if they're still around) at all costs.
Straits has good satay, but the rest of the menu isn't very good, especially at their prices.
I haven't found any place in SF that has anything close to what a hawker center in Singapore would offer if that's what you're looking for. Speak to your travel agent. *grin*
re: elise h
Personally, I couldn't tell the 2 cuisines apart (except perhaps for a few specific dishes that are specialities from particular spots - more on this later). A disclaimer is that I've not been to Malaysia that many times (<10 times and mostly Kuala Lumpur), and I've never been to Penang, which is a good place to eat in Malaysia.
Culturally, Singapore and Malaysia were not really separate until very recently (relatively speaking). Both countries were colonized by the European seafaring powers in the 1800's for trade reasons. This led to immigrants streaming in from similar parts of China and India, and mingling with the Malay natives. Singapore has a higher percentage of Chinese (about 70%, assuming my numbers are still right) than Malaysia (about 40%), but that doesn't make much of a difference in terms of available foods. After colonial rule, Singapore and Malaysia were briefly 1 country, but didn't get along, and Singapore became independent in 1965, when both countries went their separate ways.
The climates of both countries are virtually identical given their proximity, and the fruits, vegetables, seafood and meats available do not differ significantly. The culinary influences are more or less identical as far as I know.
Sometimes I find it hard to describe what Singaporean and/or Malaysian food is like, because IMHO, there is huge diversity and variety, with all sorts of influences. Sometimes dishes are unadulterateed versions of what the individual ethnic groups have always made. At other times, there's some fusion, often as a result of intermarriage. Take the food made by the Nonyas for example, essentially a mix between Malays and Chinese. Where else would one find pork curry? The primarily Islamic Malays don't eat pork, and the Chinese certainly didn't invent curry. :)
Having said all that, there are some examples (not exhaustive by any means) of differences, but these are more specific rather than general. Roti prata in Singapore is roti canai in Malaysia. Assam laksa (more common in Malaysia) is a noodle dish that comes with a light tamarind curry broth (assam=tamarind I believe), whereas laksa in Singapore usually means noodles with a spicy red coconut milk-rich curry broth. Ipoh hor fun from Ipoh in Malaysia (but very widely available in Singapore) involves narrow pasta like stripes cut from rice sheets that is then boiled and served with a mix of boiled chicken stripes, char siew, wontons, vegetables in a dark brown sauce (different varieties can exist) whereas hor fun (without the Ipoh designation) refers to a Cantonese rice noodles of the same stuff that is broader and often fried with a variety of ingredients (this seems to be fairly common here as well).