Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Eating out in Singapore


For travellers, food is one of Singapore's major draws. While you don't need me to tell you the odds of finding a delicious meal in Singas are very, very good, I reckon the below dishes and addresses deserve to be on any to-eat list (disclaimer: I've basically mirrored a stack of Instagram posts from my last few visits to the country and added footnotes and map links).

Since I'm not a Singaporean local, I wouldn't dream of labeling anything "best of", but I'm confident that all the below are solid examples of their respective genres. At the very least, they're priced really well and should help free up some extra dollars to invest at the country's new generation of watering holes.

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Char siu and siu yook rice
After scoping this joint out over this year's Asia's 50 Best weekend, I finally got there in the middle of the lunchtime crush. I was lucky enough to nab a table near the counter and watch the team in action. One very, very well oiled machine with a couple of the waiters able to fill in for various stages of the order taking and filling process. The char siu (neck, I believe) was of the juicy and fatty variety but gosh was it sweet. Some heavy honey and/or maltose action here, and this is from someone that doesn't mind a bit of sweetness. The roast pork was charry and meaty rather than the five-layer Hong Kong style. All in all, a solid barbecue joint worth having in your Singapore black book (so long as you can handle the occasional rush of sugar).
Foong Kee Coffee Shop, 6 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore


Roti canai
I finally found it it! Mohamed Muslim Food is in a small cluster of shops behind the Golden Mile Food Centre that fronts onto Beach Road. The sign can be a little hard to read (I missed it the first time) so look for the blue awning and the colourful Warong Cik Jali sign. The throng of diners is something of a giveaway too. Lots of bowls of curry and plates of bread in front of eaters which is always encouraging. The $2.60 spent on the roti canai and the one-buck teh was a sound investment. Dense, flaky roti. Deep liver curry. Additionally, the walk from Bugis MRT station to here was great and included a stroll past the fantastically named Kampong Glam Community Club. The stall's next door neighbour - Sri Cempaka - has a healthy assortment of Indonesian breakfast items (mee rebus! Goreng pisang!) and its neighbour - Beach Road Home Made Pau Dian - is all about the bao.
Mohamed Muslim Food, Blk 17 Beach Rd, Singapore


All the satay
Impromptu satay showdown after visiting Gardens by the way (worth the price of admission alone because the domes are air-conditioned). And the winner is: Sri Geylang Saté (bottom of screen, mutton and duck)! In addition to having the heftier sauce (rich and spicy with good peanut chunkiness), reckon their sticks had the better char. Interesting to note each stall was grilling over different temperature coals. Sri Geylang was cooking over fiery coals while team CitySatay let its wood die down. Wish I'd seen the menu at Sri Geylang first: we would have gone a lot harder on the liver, heart and other offal sticks. Don't make the same mistake we did.
Satay by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore


Singapore-style ramen
Intriguing "Singapore-style ramen" from a couple of fine dining escapees. For mine, the noodles are more miss than hit but damn the chashu, wontons and egg are on point. Wonder if they'd sell the pork belly as a standalone? At any rate, one of three winning lunch dishes we rocked that day at the Amoy Street Food Centre.
Amoy Street Food Centre, Stall #01-39 Tanjong Pagar Rd, Singapore 



Hainan chicken rice
You know what this is all about. Mad good rice, but so solid across the board. Excellent specimen of the national dish, as recommended by Singaporean food bible, Makansutra. If you're headed to Singapore, do yourself a favour and spend some time on the site and then buy a copy of the current guide the moment you get to Changi airport. Interestingly, some Singaporean fine dining figures also name-checked this place as one of the city-state's realest chicken rice examples together with the well known Tian Tian. Check it out as part of my man Pat's wrap of Singapore's new dining heavyweights.
Wee Nam Kee, #01-08 United Square, 101 Thomson Rd, Singapore




Chicken satay
I've been fortunate enough to eat great, charcoal-grilled satay in plenty of places but the sticks from Shi Xiang (one of the Satay Club originals) remain my benchmark: it's all about the nugget of fat they thread onto every skewer. While the Chinatown Complex deserves a starring role in any food trip, the presence of craft beer stall The Good Beer Company makes Smith Street's multi-level eating house a no-brainer.
Shi Xiang Satay, #02-079 Chinatown Complex, 335 Smith St, Singapore



Frog porridge
Always order frog porridge as two separate dishes. Always. You want your steaming congee in one pot and your sizzling gung bao frog in another, leaving you free to combine them yourself. When cooked in the porridge itself, the frog loses a lot of the silkiness that makes it such a tremendous protein. Very, very righteous gong bao frog from the wonderfully named Eminent Frog Porridge ($8, at your 3 o'clock, plus the congee at your 7) and a compelling reason to check out this 24-hour food centre. There's also a well regarded wonton mee joint here called Kok Kee (its wares are at 12 o'clock in the picture and the hawkers themselves are the hero picture for this post). Sure it's cheap, but the noodles were forgettable and the char siu dry and thin. Maybe it was an off day, but we didn't get what all the fuss about. Kermit, for mine, was hands down the star.
New Century Food Paradise, 380 Jalan Basar, Singapore