BB.com Goes To Singapore 6: My Culinary Journey in the Lion City
Food is another celebrated tourist attraction of Singapore. Since the country has been a melting pot of ethnicity due to its strategic location, the diverse food culture influenced by neighboring countries have created a unique identity for authentic Singaporean dishes. My trip to the Lion City took me on a culinary journey wherein I would eat nothing but the local grubs (that is when I get out of the house I’m staying). Join me as I delve into hawkers, food carts, and stalls in search of Singapore’s gastronomic delights.
Kopi ‘C’ Peng or Iced Coffee with Evaporated Milk (sweetened)
Kopi ‘C’ Peng, or simply Iced Kopi, was my sinful pleasure that delights me not only on mornings but also during midday, afternoon, and evenings. Not a single day passed without me having a cup (some are also served in plastic bags with a straw) of the local iced coffee found in over 2,000 hawker centers and traditional coffee shops called Kopi Tiam. These coffee shops also serve coffee, and tea, plain or with milk, others might like it hot, maybe cold, you might prefer unsweetened or unsweetened – it’s your coffee, it’s your choice.
Uncle (or elder) making Kopi and putting it on a small plastic bag.
Iced kopi in a plastic bag. (SGD 1.30)
Considered as the “national dish” of Singapore, the Hainanese Chicken Rice or Chicken Rice is the dish you cannot miss. Almost every hawker centers and food courts (that I’ve been to) have chicken rice but I always look for those who serve the complete package. There are side dishes like boiled egg and kai-lan, the Chinese broccoli blanched in chicken and pork broth topped with oyster sauce, and of course, the highlights of the chicken rice, the chicken and the rice. Boiling the chicken in chicken and pork broth used over and over again brings taste to the chicken. Even the water used in cooking rice is from the chicken-pork broth which gives it a unique taste.
Hainanese Chicken Rice with Kai-lan, Boiled Egg, and dips. (SGD 5.00)
Chicken rice can be an all day food. I don’t mind having them during breakfast, lunch, or dinner, especially when you’re out touring Singapore. If there’s a hawker center, there must be chicken rice.This Singaporean delicacy of Chinese origin ranks number 45 in the 2011 CNN Go’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods.
Makansutra Gluttons Bay hawker stalls.
Chicken and mutton satay (photo from 2008).
Makansutra Gluttons Bay, located beside Esplanade – Theatres On The Bay, is a fine collection of handpicked hawkers from all over Singapore. The al fresco dining center offers the best of Asian cuisine like Chinese, Malay, Indian, and many more. Singapore tourist favorites like Satay, Barbeque Sambal Stingray, and Barbeque Chicken Wings. Makansutra is a brainchild of K.F. Seetoh, TV host of Travel and Living Channel’s “The Food Surprise” and author of “Guru of Grub”.
Cha Siu Bao or Pork Buns
Cousin Carl almost done with his Cha Siu Bao. (SGD 3.00 – SGD 5.00)
Catching our attention as my sister and I crossed the bridge from Pagoda Street in Chinatown was a long queue of people anxiously waiting in a stall with a sign written in Chinese. To know what the fuss was all about, we moved towards the kitchen (which was visible from outside) and found out that they were selling Cha Siu Bao, or what we locally call as Siopao. Cha Siu means pork filling in Cantonese, and bao means buns. What’s “jumbo” in Cantonese for they forgot to add it to the name. This Cha Siu Bao was so huge that my sister and I ate halves for our dinner – and we were full.
Making a vegan Cha Siu Bao.
Ice cream vendor in Orchard Road.
Since Singapore lies only a degree above the equator, climate really gets hot and humid. To counter the blistering heat when you’re on the go is a block of ice cream sandwiched in between two wafer biscuits colloquially called Phia Ice Cream, phia meaning biscuit in Hokkien dialect. The wafer ice cream comes in unique flavors like red bean, ripple, yam, sweet corn, durian, but they also have the regulars like chocolate, chocolate chip, and my personal favorite, peppermint. Vendors sell this wafer ice cream on food carts which is equivalent to the Philippines’ sorbetero.
Phia Ice Cream
Ice cream vendor under Esplanade bridge.
Commonly found in Singapore hawkers and food centers is the the Indian delicacy called Roti Prata, roti means “bread” and prata means “flat” in Sanskrit. This South Asian version of pancake is based on flour then cooked on a flat pan, and served with curry sauce for dip. Roti Prata could also come with different fillings such as egg, cheese, or garlic to name some. I had my taste of roti prata in Mr. Prata, one of the few 24-hour prata places in Singapore. Aside from pratas, the restaurant offers a wide variety of Indian cuisine.
Cheese Prata with curry sauce.
One of the best Indian dishes that I’ve tried was the Chicken Tikka. Tikka means bits or pieces, as pieces of boneless chicken are skewered and baked in a clay-based oven called tandoor. Different people have different ways of eating it, but I was told its best way to eat by wrapping chicken tikka on a piece of prata then dip it into your choice of sauce, then savor the spices bursting into your mouth. I can still remember the night at a hawker center on the corner of Verdun and Kitchener Roads where I indulge this Indian delicacy using my bare hands. It was messy, it was saucy, but it was so good.
Chicken Tikka with prata and curry sauce.
The puzzling roads and alleys of Arab Street is home to numerous nooks serving the finest flavors of Middle-Eastern Cuisine. In Bussorah Street we found a Amirah’s Grill Restaurant & Cafe owned by the award-winning, Chef Ashraf, who has been in the Singapore restaurant scene since the late 90’s. Amirah’s Grill’s dining areas varies from sofas to carpeted floors while the walls are brightly painted and adorned with Arabian decors. Simply dining at Amirah’s Grill gives a thrill of a magic carpet ride.
Lebanese Hummus served with garlic bread and pita bread.
Turkish Grilled Kofta
Diners could begin their meals with Amirah’s Grill Cream of Mushroom Soup, a homemade soup with shitake and button mushrooms, or you may want to get slices of garlic bread or hot pita and dip it into Lebanese Hummus for appetizers – I prefer having both. Choose western or middle-eastern signature dishes of Amirah’s Grill for your main course. They have the Turkish Grilled Kotfta, grilled minced lamb roll marinated with herbs and spices. If you would prefer chicken and beef, they have the Turkish Mixed Tenderloin Kebab, grilled skewers of boneless chicken, grilled beef tenderloin & pieces of kofta marinated into a secret sauce. Everything served with vegetables, and your choice of Arabic fragrant rice or roasted potatoes.
Turkish Mixed Tenderloin Kebab
Family dinner at Amirah’s Grill.
His.tori BBQ Buffet in Tanjong Pagar.
His.tori is a yakiniku-style restaurant.
If you have a huge appetite, His.tori BBQ Buffet would definitely delight your hungry tummy. The Korean-Japanese fusion restaurant in Tanjong Pagar sports a cook-your-own yakiniku style of buffet wherein you could choose from a wide variety of raw food. The buffet table boasts of bite-sized meats of the finest cuts and fresh seafood like shrimp and fish, together with vegetables, salads, and kimchi, the traditional fermented Korean dish. End your hefty meal with several scoops of ice cream which comes in different flavors.
Complete with meat, vegetables, and seafood.
Spiced and marinated raw meat ready for cooking.
According to some, local cuisine is one of the best ways to know the country’s culture and history. History tells us about the strategic location of Singapore for trade and commerce which brought merchants from neighboring countries and even from as far as the west. Different cultures influenced the local cuisine which created a unique style and sets of dishes for Singapore. Thus, Singaporean cuisine reflects the diverse culture of the country but unified in celebrating the joy of eating.
Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. This is not a complete Singapore food guide actually, rather just want to share some places where I’ve tried different dishes that I don’t usually taste back home.
2. Kopi can be bought anywhere. Hawkers, food courts, stalls. It cost around SGD 1.30 – SGD 2.00 (price in classy coffee shops)
3. Chicken Rice can be found in most hawkers, food courts, and stalls. It cost around SGD 5.00 – SGD 7.00. For me, it was a pretty huge serving.
4. Read more about Makansutra in BB.com Goes To Singapore 5: On The Banks Of Marina Bay.
5. The giant Cha Siu Bao‘s stall was somewhere in the ext of Chinatown MRT, the other side from Pagoda Street. It cost around SGD 3.00 – SGD 5.00
6. Wafer Ice Cream cost SGD 1.00 nationwide.
7. Mr. Prata is located in 26 Evans Road and open 24 hours daily. There’s also in Century Square and 320 Clementi Avenue 4, I’m not sure, though, if its open 24/7.
8. We got the delicious Chicken Tikka from a hawker center at the corner of Verdun Road and Kitchener Road. I’m not sure if it’s really the My F & B Cafe.
9. Amirah’s Grill is located at No. 14 Bussorah Street, Singapore (199435). Check out their website for the map. Restaurant is open from 11:30 AM to 11:30 PM
10. His.tori BBQ Buffet is located at Tanjong Pagar Shop Houses, 20 Tanjong Pagar Road (S)088443. Buffet costs SGD 20.00 for adults and SGD 15.00 for kids under 12 years old.
11. For directions, click on GoThere.SG
11. Read more about the BB.com Goes To Singapore Series.
12. More Singapore destinations in Biyaheng Singapore.
13. Like Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.
14. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter
15. Happy travels everyone.
Family photo in Masjid Sultan Mosque after our dinner.