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Sep 25, 2013 06:46 AM

Singapore - Mamacita's Authentic Costa Rican Cuisine at Maxwell Road Food Centre

Singaporeans yearning for something "new" at Maxwell Road Food Centre (besides its famous fish porridge, Chinese rice dumplings and "lor mee") can now actually opt for Costa Rican.

Yup, this is no typo - you heard me right: Mamacitas, which served surprisingly tasty stir-fries with rice, right up the alley for many Singaporeans. I tried the "Casado Fajitas de Pollo", very tasty, well-seasoned saffron-tinted chicken-capsicum-onion combination, served with a colourful gourd, corn kernels, long beans and carrot stew, and a sharp tomato-onion salad, with steamed rice. It was a delicious departure from the usual Hokkien or Malay rice and noodle dishes one usually finds in Maxwell Rd FC.

Address details
Mamacitas Authentic Costa Rican Cuisine
Amoy Street Food Centre #01-50
7 Maxwell Road
Singapore 069111

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  1. wow that is random...are the owners costa rican?

    22 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      The owner-chef's a Costa Rican woman, who's assisted by a local woman. The food's piping hot and fresh. I'd recommend anyone to be there before 12 noon as the lunch crowd's pretty massive that part of the city, and seating's a problem.

      1. re: klyeoh

        thats pretty cool, i dont know if u can even find costa rican food in NY!

        1. re: Lau

          You'll never run short of eating options in Singapore, Lau. Besides homegrown Chinese (Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hakka, etc.), Indian (Punjabi, Sindhi, Bengali, Tamil, Gujerati, Konkani, Keralan, Andhra, etc.), Malay/Indonesian, Nyonya, and Eurasian-Portuguese; Singapore also offers very good Spanish (Catalunya, Ola Cocina Del Mar), Italian, French and other European options. Mexican and Brazilian (mainly churrascos) are old favourites. Japanese, Korean, Thai, Burmese, Filipino, and Nepali eateries are also pretty solid.

          Some more recent, interesting alternatives:

          1. Colombian:

          2. Venezuelan:

          3. Trinidadian:

          Unfortunately, my fave Nigerian spot is no more, and I'm still looking for an alternative:

          What I'd like to find in Singapore is a good Cajun-Creole eatery. We'd had some in the past (New Orleans in the old Holiday Inn Park View, and more recently, The Big Easy at Resorts World Sentosa) but they're not any good at all.

          1. re: klyeoh

            yah costa rica is obscure cuisine to have (ive been there, its an awesome country). NY from a breadth of types of cuisine available is probably one of the best in the world, but im honestly not even sure costa rican cuisine is available here! how things have changed from when i lived in singapore (2002)! although i noticed that the last couple times i was in singapore

            seems like your international cuisine is getting much better although in the blogosphere most lament that the local cuisine is getting worse

            1. re: Lau

              Singapore's local cuisine is mainly hawker fare - traditionally, the cooking skills are passed down from one generation to another, but how many Singaporean parents want their children to inherit a gritty, sweaty, grinding business? Most hawkers' children are now white collar professionals, more likely to work at a desk in Raffles Place or Shenton Way than in Maxwell Road or Amoy Street food centres.

              Families have also grown smaller these days - in the past, you have an extended family to help, oftentimes with no salaries (but meagre allowances) to help offset high rents. But these days, the one-child or two-child families won't be able to afford that luxury.

              Old hawker "masters" (as the Makansutra food guide or Singapore Tourism Board like to call them) are dying out, bringing their trade secrets to the graves with them, and without any long-serving apprentices to take up after them. Comparatively, Penang in Malaysia is doing much better: for example. long-time hawkers like the legendary "Two Sisters Fried Koay Teow" in MacAlister Road, which has seen one of the octogenarian sisters passed away a couple of years back, now has the 50-something-year-old son of one of the original sisters cooking - he's been apprenticing under his mother for 30 years before he's even allowed to run on his own. And some Penang customers of the place tell me that the fried koay teow now tastes even better!

              1. re: klyeoh

                oh yah i totally understand why; i mean would you want to work grueling hours, in a hot hawker center standing on your feet and not really earning that much vs earning multiples of what you would as a hawker working in a white collar job.

                i mean im actually the perfect example of that if you look at the progression of lines of work my family has done (my grandfather worked as a baker in the a cantonese bakery during the day and as a cook and later waiter in a cantonese restaurant at night...brutal hours).

                i think singapore's economic success inevitably leads to what is going on today vs malaysia who has been materially less successful economically than singapore since they became two separate nations

                1. re: Lau

                  I'm actually hoping (against hope) that Singaporean food purveyors would take after the Japanese - who have achieved a high-level of economic and social development, but yet see traditional and artisanal preparations of Japanese everyday food items (ramen, soba, kushiage, sushi, etc) as *the* way to go.

                  Hence, in modern-day Tokyo or Osaka, I can still duck into a small mom-and-pop eatery in a small alleyway, and get stupendous food, made-to-order and traditional to boot. That's what I hope Singapore cuisine will aspire to be in future - but we're running out of time. Even today, to get a taste of the traditional flavours of our childhood, we go to Malaysia - most often to Penang or Malacca, the way some Hongkongers go to their ancestral villages in Guangdong to seek out long-lost foods.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    yah thats true, Japan food-wise has done an amazing job preserving one of the best food cultures in the world

                    i think HK has done a decent job as well although it does seem that the high rents in HK are really finally taking their toll on some great low end restaurants, a consequence of pegging to the US dollar (although pegging to the dollar was probably quite beneficial for a long time)

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      btw speaking ancestral villages in guangdong, this was sent to me when i was talking to someone about food in the villages of guangdong (which is apparently amazing!)

                      check out the hakka yong tofu

                      1. re: Lau

                        Some of those *traditional* food stuffs don't look too savoury actually :-D

                        One of my office colleagues here in KL who's Hakka follows her family members back to their home village in Guangdong each year during Chinese New Year - and they'd have the elaborate "pun choi" dish served in the village square, with tables for hundreds of their clansmen and clanswomen attending. If only I can be there to capture the event on camera.

                        One of my brothers-in-law is also a Hakka, and their family lunch on the first day of Chinese New Year involved plates of traditional Hakka dishes stacked like a pyramid on the communal table - to signify a bountiful meal, I guess. My sister, who's married into their family, was very lucky to get to partake in the feast, and takes photos of the meal each year. I can only salivate - it's a bit awkward to ask if I can come along as a "outsider" to what's essentially a traditional Hakka family gathering. The dishes served look so different from our family's own Teochew-Hokkien-Nyonya dishes for the Chinese New Year.

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          haha it all looks so rustic, i want to eat all of it

                          interesting, ive only had poon choi a couple of times. ive seen the one in singapore, it looks different from the one i had in love to see it in the hakka villages in guangdong as thats probably closer to the original

                          what'd they say about it? did they like it?

                          i thought it was decent when i had it, but i wasnt like blown away or anything

                          1. re: Lau

                            My colleague said it was very greasy and very rich - but, other than that, she *really* liked it more because it was a traditional, heritage food for her clan, which makes it pretty special, rather than the taste itself.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              yah thats the sense that i got of the dish, its more about tradition etc vs being an amazing dish

                              id love to eat more hakka food; ive only eaten it a few times. well ive had stuff like hakka yong tofu alot of times, but it always seemed like hakka people ate hakka food at home (and ive only met a handful of hakka people, there are very few in the US)

                              i was debating trying to go find some good hakka food in HK next time im there since u can find it there although it seems like u really need to go to guangdong or maybe parts of taiwan to get it though

                              1. re: Lau

                                The Hakka diaspora is very strong in South-east Asia, and modern Singapore's own founder, Lee Kuan Yew, is Hakka - and he roped in many fellow Hakkas to form our city-state's first cabinet. Hakkas are 8% of Singapore's Chinese population and the 4th-largest after the Hokkiens, Teochews and Cantonese - Lee Kuan Yew is a Dapu-Hakka. In Malaysia, the Hakkas are the 2nd-largest Chinese dialect group, just behind the Hokkiens and ahead of the Cantonese and Teochews.

                                Some Malaysian towns like Kuching are almost entirely Hepo-Hakka. The Malaysian states of Sabah (formerly North Borneo) and Negeri Sembilan (bordering KL) have majority Hakka-Chinese populace, over other Chinese dialect groups.

                                When Axian, the Malaysian TV food critic, made a series on Hakka food in Malaysia, he travelled to various towns and discovered that each of those towns will be dominated by a particular Hakka sub-dialect group: Dabu, Jiaoliang, Hepo, Hinen, Ng Fah, etc. He also found that the respective traditional Hakka dishes and cakes in each town all have slight variations to reflect their respective regional characteristics from their home counties in China!

                                I can appreciate the subtle differences between different Hakka sub-dialect groups. Even among us Teochews in Singapore, there are 7 Teochew sub-dialect groups but only 5 are strongly represented in Singapore today, and my maternal family's sub-dialect group is no longer among those dominant 5. Hence, to find a coiled tofu dish (which my maternal uncles *love*), we have to buy fresh supplies from Penang (1 hour's flight north in Malaysia), where our sub-dialect group is still strongly represented. Numerous times, I have to hand-carry bags of delicate freshly-made coiled tofu on the plane from Penang back to Singapore, where we'll deep-fry those before serving.

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  Just sharing a pic of the Teochew crisp-fried coiled tofu dish I was talking about - this was taken during my family's Sunday lunch in Singapore, together with other dishes.

                                  1. re: klyeoh

                                    yah i knew about hakka in southeast asia although i didnt realize how big they were in malaysia. The only hakka people ive ever met actually were in singapore except one person i went to university with who in turn studied with me in singapore and was the only reason i even realized there were hakka people in singapore (had relatives or family friends, i can't remember). That said i don't recall seeing much if any hakka restaurants in singapore with the exception of hawker food like yong tofu and the abacus balls (which i remember seeing a couple of times, but it wasn't common at all) although im sure it exists.

                                    Speaking of all of this i just remembered in taiwan they actually still have hakka language TV. I saw a hakka language channel in taiwan last time i was in taipei a few years ago (the only time ive really heard the dialect).

                                    that TV show sounds awesome, i love watching stuff like that. i just watched an entire series that did that in taiwan, there were a ton of dishes id never seen and places id never seen or heard of (like in the mountains and eastern taiwan etc). one day ill make to all these places

                                    that's surprising about the sub-dialects given how small an area teochew people come from although i guess there are alot of sub-dialects in cantonese although greater guangdong is much larger than the area that teochew people come from. Actually many or most cantonese in the US are actually toisonese which is definitely different than regular cantonese; you hear old people in NY chinatown speak it sometimes. In fact my dad's side of the family is actually from xinhui in guangdong, which has its own dialect of cantonese. i watched a video where a taiwanese tv show stops there and subsequently i found out we're famous for chenpi these dried orange skins and they cook duck with it (this show is interesting to watch btw). Plus Andy Lau is also from there! maybe im related to him way down the line haha


                                    that coiled tofu is very interesting! ive never seen anything like that before. btw that pic of all the home cooked food is awesome. so you've got the coiled tofu, crab, <blank>, teochew kueh and cha siu. what's the dish on the far right?

                                    i love teochew kueh btw

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      The right-most dish consisted of braised tofu puffs and fishcakes. We usually also have braised or tea-smoked duck or goose on Sundays.

                                      1. re: klyeoh

                                        ah thats awesome, sounds like you've still got a very foodie type jealous!

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          Good ... and bad: I think we all have cholesterol problems :-(

                                          Off on a road-trip to Sitiawan this weekend - 3 hours' drive north of KL. It's one of the Foochow-dominated towns in Malaysia, so hoping to find some very interesting eats :-D

                                          1. re: klyeoh

                                            haha yah im still pretty young, but i actually got my cholesterol checked for the first time a couple years ago...luckily ive got perfect cholesterol levels and good blood pressure, so i was happy about that!

                                            Ah look forward to hearing a report back. Btw if you happen to see something called 扁肉 or 燕丸 / 燕皮 give it a try. It's one of the fuzhou foods that i've come to like in NY's chinatown.

                                            扁肉 are wontons in a light soup, but the wonton skins are paper thin, very delicate and quite long (they look like they have long tails) and they are also quite small (even smaller than the traditional sized one in HK). Much more delicate than the wontons im used to eating, i like them quite a bit. Supposedly the real way is that the soup is supposed to be this great fish broth, but people here don't make it like that (probably bc its a pain in the ass)

                                            燕丸 / 燕皮 are similar except they have a skin that's made out of pounded pork (very weird!) although they honestly taste quite similar to 扁肉

                                            I'm not sure if this is universal to all of fuzhou bc i realized that most of the fuzhou people in NY are from 長樂, so not sure how super regional these dishes may or may not be

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              I'll look out for those food items.

                                      2. re: Lau

                                        A thread on Plum Village, one of the rare Hakka restaurants in Singapore: