The Weekly Getaway: a Chef's guide to Singapore
By Sushil - Executive Chef and Partner at Savor.
One of the smallest countries in the World. Located in the Center of Business trade route in South East Asia, The city has one of the most diverse experiences to offer. It takes an hour from the center of the country to reach its borders on each side. One cannot imagine the success this tiny country has achieved in its 54 years of Independence. Even though the country has attained so much but still adheres to it original Culture and Values.
We tried to explore a lot of things but you need at least two full weeks to cover most of the city. The Culinary trip brought many good experiences and mainly lot of food for thought. From Hawker center to fanciest of restaurants, there was a gourmet experience at every price point. We mostly had what locals would eat to experience real Singapore. We used a lot of public transport to reach various destinations as it was very well connected and organised.
When we reached Singapore the first thing that got my attention was the organisation of things. It felt like everyone and everything knew it’s place. The Parking lot at an apartment basement had separate parking for toddler scooters. It rightly reminds me of ‘Start them young and raise them right’.
Food is great. Presentation simple and emphasis a lot on Contrasting Flavour Profile. The wine pairing was okay and desserts are classic but with a little twist.
Top left - Lamb tenderloin with carrot and celery
Top right - Spinach Ravioli with Hazelnut and Pecorino
Bottom left - Classical Tart au tatin and Chocolate with Raspberry
Bottom right - Mignardises
Old Chang Kee
A 63 year old legacy. Serves local snacks ranging from Crab Claws on stick to Variety of noodles, Tea and coffee. Service is spot on and crisp. We observed there was lot of use of plastic but apparently Singapore is very good with recycling of plastic and has made a piece of their land from it.
Chilli Crab at stall no. 27, Alliance Seafood
Alliance Seafood has been recognised by Michelins Bib Gourmand Guide and has been known for it chilli crab. They take 20 minutes to prepare your order from a live crab but the wait is totally worth it.
The Breakfast at Toast Box
The toast box are located all over Singapore. They usually get very busy during morning hours and are strategically located at the entrance of he mall. Service is very quick and to see the guy behind the counter making tea and coffee is no less than a show. The butter is locally made and spooned from a heap of butter on a small dish as per order. The Coffee is great and eggs are just perfectly cooked. The menu is not long and has items which can be assembled quickly.
Bee Cheng Hiang
Bee Cheng Hiang was established in 1933 and has over 260 outlets over the world. The Bakkwa (Smoked and roasted piece of pork almost similar to Jerky) is there specialty. It is a good snack and has a very intense flavor.
The Japanese curry was worth trying and chicken was crisp and the quantity of rice was just enough for on person. The Serve great Yuzu and Matcha tea. They have outlets located in malls across Singapore.
Tai Yang Café
This was a local eatery serving Char Siu Pork, Hainan Chicken Rice and some other Chinese and Malay dishes. We took an accompaniment of ‘Achar’ which sounded familiar but was a Malaysian Preparation of Pickled vegetables with peanuts and chillies
J.B. Ah Meng
Located on Geylang road (Which is also a red light area), JB Ah Meng is an institution. Widely know for there white pepper crab, JB San Lou Hoon, Chili Garlic Clams. The restaurant gets very busy during dinners but the food is great and service is fast.
In search of Durian. The fruit has a very strong aroma and is a very acquired flavour profile, Hence it is banned in many public places and also has a fine at some locations. It still is a favourite amount the local crowd though.
Ah Chew Desserts
Located on Thompson Road the place is known for authentic Chinese desserts. The menu has lot of options and We had to write the order on the kitchen order ticket (KOT) and handover the counter. We were here especially for the Durian Ice cream. The dessert apart from the Mango, Sago and Grapefruit were okay and can be given a miss.
Adam Road food Center
It is a hawker Center which is relatively small than others but it has some of the most reputed of stalls in it. Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak being once of them. Most of the stalls serve Halal and Malaysian food.
Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak
Probably one of the best Nasi Lemak stalls in Singapore. It has the meals named after poker game cards variations example Full House, Royal Flush etc. We got a Royal Rumble which has Malaysian dishes like Otak-Otak Fried fish cake, Basmati rice, Sambal – Chilli Paste (probably the best I have eaten), Fired Chicken Wings, Ikan Bilis – Anchovies, Bergedel – Fried Potato Patty
Buildings in Singapore lack creativity in design. Most of them are rectangular boxes with basic colours. Real estate value is very high. It is 11thmost expensive city for real estate in the world. Every inch of the house is utilised to the fullest. Many residential building do not have a passage outside the door. The Elevator opens in the flat itself.
Local markets with some familiar produce and with some not so familiar produce like Frogs, Turtles etc. It is located next to China town Complex food center .
Popiah - Type of spring roll stuffed with vegetables and soft to eat more like a crepe.
Kueh Pie Tee : Small tarts filled with sweet vegetable filling
Tian Tian Chicken rice at Maxwell market is again something that should not be missed. It is the most famous stall for Chicken rice in all of Singapore. We reached early to try the same but the store was not open by then. Will surely visit again in my next trip. Anthony Bourdain once said about the dish served at the iconic store that ‘The rice was so fragrant that it can be eaten on its own’
The Dish we tried at a stall known at Old Amoy Chendol. It is again one of the best stalls to try the dessert. It is made up of Azuki Beans, Shaved Ice, Coconut, Chendol and drizzle of treacly gula melaka. It is a traditional dessert and a must try.
Ah Heng Curry Chicken Noodles
The Place is recognised by Bib Gourmand Michelin Guide. It served a Bowl meal with chicken, Noodles. Tofu, Noodles chicken is put in a bowl and topped up with piping hot flavourful Curried broth.
Our Journey of Singapore came to an end with the most perfect dish in the entire journey. It was The Legendary Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung. The Taiwanese restaurant is know for its Xiao Lon Bao and was one of the top ten restaurant by New York Times in 1993. The Hong Kong Branch has also won a Michelin star in 2010 edition. Xiao Long Bao are Chinese dumplings with Liquid stock trapped in the skin. Best way to eat it is to pierce the skin to have the stock first followed by dipping the dumpling in Vinegar with ginger julienned in it. Some also pile up the ginger on top of the dumpling.