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Mar 14, 2012 10:12 AM

A Good Snapshot of Singapore Cuisine Needed

Hello to all !!

I will be in Singapore almost 4 days on business. I need to spend friday/saturday before departing to my next destination. That means that I will have probably the afternoon free on Friday and all day Saturday to explore the city. I'm expecting business dinners on Wed and Thursday. I assume I can influence the decision making process as well.

Klyeoh encouraged me to open a new thread since my objective is to have a good exposure or snapshot of Singapore Cuisine along with the experience to going to a country with such a diverse culinary culture. He also shared with me a link from the board with solid information.

To make it easier, I will appreciate if you can send an itinerary that includes places you will go if you only have two days at most.

I'm open for ideas and recommendations: Chili Crabs, Hawkers, Indian, Laksa, Malay etc. Will prefer authentic places and not Michelin Rest.



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  1. Not a very well-known spot, but Old Lai Huat on Rangoon Road is great for authentic Singaporean seafood dishes. Their chilli crab, if you must have chilli crab, is better than Jumbo or No Signboard's IMHO but the must-have is their signature sambal belacan (fermented shrimp paste and chilli; tastes much better than it sounds!) fish. It is also ridiculously good value if you can get a group of 4+ together; you can stuff yourself silly for well under US$20 a head. I bring all of my "Western" guests here and they are blown away, without exception.

    Business dinners - if your guests/hosts are local, Les Amis on Scotts Road is the place where deals are done. Very good and wine-friendly modern European food with an obscene wine list.

    1. Since I recommended you to start this thread, I guess it's only fair that I start the ball rolling:

      Day 1
      Breakfast at Tiong Bahru Food Centre - most famous stalls are fried carrot cake, fried koay teow, roast duck/char-siu-siu-yuk rice, and pig's organ soup. If that sounded a bit "nightmarish" for you for breakfast (Ha-ha!), you can always go for the steamed rice cakes ("chwee kueh"), or kaya toasts-and-coffee stalls there, many also selling Chinese "kuehs".

      Lunch options:
      - Dim sum at Imperial Treasure, Great World City
      - Casual Thai at Coffee Stars by Dao, Wisma Atria
      - Banana leaf curry rice at Samy's, Dempsey Road, or else Apolo (sic), Race Course Road
      - Trawl Maxwell Road Food Centre for hawker food - try and go *before* the crazy "Singapore lunch hour" crush.
      - French bistro fare at Brasserie Gavroche, Tras Street

      - Chilli crab at Long Beach (East Coast Parkway or Dempsey Road branches), or Palm Beach @ One Fullerton, or No Sign Board Seafood @ the Esplanade
      - Go fine-dining at Resorts World Sentosa: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (casual) or Restaurant Joel Robuchon (fine dining), OSIA by Scott Webster, or Chinois by Susur Lee.

      Day 2
      Breakfast in Little India: had to be either Komala Vilas (Serangoon Rd), Madras New Woodlands (Upper Dickson Rd) or Murugan Idli Kadai (Syed Alwi Rd)
      Or else pop over to Hong Lim Green for Good Morning Nanyang Cafe's orange-ciabatta kaya-butter toast & coffee - BEST in town!!

      Lunch options
      - Malay nasi padang at Hajjah Maimunah (Jalan Pisang, Kampung Glam) or briyani rice at Islamic Restaurant nearby
      - Nyonya food at Guan Hoe Soon (Joo Chiat Place) or Ivins (Binjai Park)
      - Faux-Russian at Shashlik, Far East Shopping Centre
      - Lunch with a view at Salt, ION Orchard

      Dinner options
      - Fine-dining Cantonese at Crystal Jade Palace @ Ngee Ann City or Crystal Jade Golden Palace @ Paragon, or Hua Ting @ Orchard Hotel
      - One of the celebrty-chefs' dining spots in Marina Bay Sands: CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza or DB Bistro Moderne by Daniel Boulud. I won't recommend Guy Savoy or Waku Ghin by Tetsuya Wakuda in view of your having young kids.
      - Go casual and try one of the good centres like Glutton Square at the Esplanade, or Newton Food Centre.

      7 Replies
      1. re: klyeoh

        Hearty savory breakfasts are "normal" or at least "common" in non-Western places such as Singapore and Malaysia. What about some recs for Bak Kut Teh, or hearty noodle soups (besides those you have mentioned) or congee/jook/chook for our intrepid traveler to consider eating as something other than his normal morning routine back in the West? :-)

        1. re: huiray

          I have serious reservations over whether Western travellers who're not exposed to Asian norms can take "bak kut teh" for breakfast :-D

          Unlike in Klang or KL in Malaysia, Singaporeans regard "bak kut teh" more as lunch item. However, if domenexx would like to try this quintessential Singapore "bak kut teh" (it's the Teochew peppery version, unlike the Hokkien herbal versions in Malaysia), go to Founder or Ng Ah Sio. Details in this thread:

          1. re: klyeoh

            klyeoh, there is a 'bak kut teh war' in Rangoon Road at the moment when Founder of Balestier Road opened a branch, run by Founder's owner, Chau Chee Whatt's, daughter in Rangoon Road itself:-

            Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh
            208 Rangoon Road; Tel: 6291 4537

            Founder Bak Kut Teh
            154 Rangoon Road; Tel: 9455 9629

            1. re: klyeoh

              "Singaporeans regard "bak kut teh" more as lunch item."
              I see! Interesting read, that other thread. Yet following from that thread (on to the place pages) I gather Ng Ah Sio opens from 6am to 2 pm - whereas Founder opens from, yes, 12 noon - 2 pm and then in the evening till late. Well, even in KL I believe some of the BKT shops on Ipoh Rd open in the afternoon or evening, not in the early morning? I do remember that one went to "morning stalls" for BKT breakfast (as I did), or to other places for lunch, yes (but rarer, I thought) and to "evening stalls" if you wanted your BKT fix later at night after gallivanting around town in the evening, for example. And/or in the morning *after* that gallivanting around you did. ("Hangover cure!!!")***

              [Aren't the more herbal versions associated with Cantonese rather than Hokkien (dark soy sauce) traditions, although certainly one would have Canto-Hokkien versions as the dark *and* herbal ones could be said to be? Just wondering.]

              ***So, if domenexx happens to "party hearty" that night at Resorts World (wine courses, etc; then some of the night clubs, maybe) it might be something to consider - all in the interest of research, of course. P.s.: RW Apple seems to have had that impression, too, while traipsing along with KF Seetoh... . :-P

              1. re: huiray

                @Huiray: I don't think 'bak kut teh' is a Cantonese dish (I'm Cantonese myself) but more a Teochew or Hokkien dish. I grew up on Teochew style bak kut teh which is common in Singapore. Of course, we Cantonese are always famous for our herbal soups so its invention is attributed to us. But I like to think that it was some enterprising Hokkien bak kut teh cook who first copied Cantonese cooking style by adding herbs to his soup, giving birth to herbal Hokkien bak kut teh.

                Singapore bak kut teh ony uses pepper and garlic in the soup, and it's very popular among Thai Teochew tourists visiting Singapore as the pepper-laden soup is similar to Thai 'kuay chiap'. That's why Thaksin Shinawatra was seen eating bak kut teh in Founder in one of the threads above.

                My first introduction to Hokkien style bak kut teh is in JB and also Muar, Johore in Malaysia. I haven't the opportunity to go to Klang yet but I read somewhere that 'bak kut teh' the way Klang and KL people know it was invented by the uncle of the current owners of 'Under the Bridge' bak kut teh in Klang town. Apparently the uncle's surname was 'Teh', and he sold 'bak kut' (pork bones) and he was called 'Bak Kut Teh' by his customers. Lol, not sure how reliable that story is, but I liked to believe in it as it sounded so 'romantic' and quite a fable.

                Anyway, in Singapore, we always liked to think that 'bak kut teh' was introduced to our food scene back in the 19th century by dockyard workers working in the wharves. It makes a good story, rather than the fact that it may have started inconspicuously as a home-brewed Teochew pork-rib soup by local housewives using leftover bones after the meat had been used in cooking other dishes!

                1. re: makanputra

                  Oh, I'm aware of the general history and background of BKT, thanks - though I doubt that story of Klang BKT starting with that guy with the surname Teh (What would it have been in that story, anyway? The Chinese for it, I mean) I'm more inclined to subscribe to the simple notion that it simply meant - and means - "pork(meat) bone tea".

                  When I wondered about "Cantonese" tradition I really should have said Cantonese influence. The dish is not specific to the Hokkien community nor is it purveyed or consumed by Hokkiens and Teochews only, as you know, even if the general origins of it were associated with Min-Nan folks from Fujian and Eastern Guangdong. Most of the BKT milieu I knew when eating it for years back in KL in Malaysia was Cantonese in nature. :-) In fact, we used to go out for "Yook Kuat Cha" more than we did for "Bak Kut Teh". Yes, i ate BKT in Klang, too, but preferred the KL versions better.

                  BTW I note that the Wikipedia article also discusses the Cantonese version in the "Varieties" section. ;-)

                  1. re: makanputra

                    Thank you for the edits/additions I notice you put in your post about Cantonese herbal influence after I first replied to you. It is helpful.

          2. Addtional places I would like to suggest:-

            1. Wee Nam Kee or Boon Tong Kee for Hainan chicken rice

            2. Mary's Kafe or Quentin's for Eurasian lunch

            3. Vansh for Indian lunch at Tanglin Mall, or Patara for Thai

            4. Tanglin Halt A1 fried carrot cake in Whampoa Drive

            5. Katong laksa at Roxy Square.

            PS - at Tiong Bharu for breakfast, can also try Tanglin Teck Kee char siew pao there.

            3 Replies
            1. re: M_Gomez

              i'd recommend quentin's too. love their prawn bostador. haven't tried mary's kafe personally, so can't comment.

              1. re: akated

                Oh yes, Quentin's prawn bostador is very, very good. My fave dish there are the "Meaty Cutlets" - deep-fried potato-and-corned beef balls.

                But for all other things Eurasian (especially Beef Smore and Curry Devil), Mary's Kafe is the best! Note her current location at the Kum Yam Methodist Church building on 1 Queen Street:

                1. re: klyeoh

                  You are talking about Quentin Pereira, son of Robin Pereira the Eurasian cook, right?

              1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                Julian, Klyeoh, Huiray,Makanputra,M_Gomez, Curt and Akated THANKS FOR ALL THESE RECOMMENDATIONS !!!

                This is extemely helpful as I sails through unchartered waters; Just for future feedback, I will do the fine dinning and Chinese in Hong Kong prior to my arrival in Singapore. So the focus will be in local cusine. Over the weekend I will review all the feedback and research more on other specifics (i.e. Teochein/Hokkien, etc) . Is Chilli Crab a must or this is a tourist ritual?

                Thanks again to all !!


                1. re: domenexx

                  Chilli crab has become a tourist must, but be assured that Singaporeans are as likely to indulge in a chilli crab dinner every once in a while - and there's no difference in taste between the ones served to locals and foreigners.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    got it ! I'm also glad to know the versatility of the BKT as a cure for hangovers as explained by huiray. I might need a few of them.