To me, there is no greater foodie paradise than Singapore. Hawker centres, food courts, the smells of sizzling garlic as you walk down the beachfront against a backdrop of neon lights. And the tantalising creations that come out of my Mum’s kitchen. (I had to include that in there, she’ll never feed me again if I don’t. Only joking Mum. You’re the best.)
Before every trip, my sister & I compile a hit list of all the foods that we want to eat while we’re there. This is not unjustifiable in my opinion, more foods feature on our list than there is the time to eat them. It’s quite simply a case of good planning.
Google Docs are involved (No, I’m not kidding), 3 meals a day, plus snacks & desserts, are all carefully evaluated and each given consideration & debate, arbitration is often required to take into account rival tastes and favourites, for it is during these conversations that we revert back to being stroppy teenagers. Deep down, I think my parents are probably quite grateful that these visits are not a regular occurrence.
In case you’re starting to worry that I’m going to take you through every element of the week, then allay your fears. I’ll make this quick, here are my best 5 things I ate in Singapore:
In Fifth place, I have to add in Durian. The King of Fruits & one of the smelliest things you will ever encounter, it’s banned in public places, public transport, hotels etc and also banned in the our family home. So much so, that the women of the family are forced to eat this outside on the street. And once in the rain while my Dad locked the car and stayed inside in air conditioned comfort.
But it matters not to me, smelly or not, Durian is my nectar of the gods.
In fourth place, had to be Dim Sum. Gorging on Dim Sum is a family favourite activity and it’s something that I miss a lot over here. Dragon Castle & Lotus Floating Restaurant go some way to fixing that, but there’s nothing like heading to Singapore for the best. We headed to Imperial Treasure restaurant in Great World City and this fulfilled the Dimsum requirement of the trip very well. It’s not something I’d go into raptures about (We’ll save that for Durian) but it’s a solid 8/10.
In third place, although I suppose you could sort of call it Dim Sum, is Japanese sumiyaki, found at Shunjuu Izakaya on Robertson Quay. We started off with a glass of fizz at Verre and meandered down to sample some Japanese tapas. While I don’t take kindly to being charged for the nibbles dumped on your table to start, there is no denying that the food was top notch. The garlic fried rice could keep the vampires at bay, but almost every other element was top notch. On a whim, I ordered the Garlic wrapped in Chicken skin, assured by the waitresses that this was a popular suggestion. The polite reply to this could easily be an incredulous ‘Why’? Forget vampires, this sort of stench could well stop any future productions of True Blood/ Twilight etc. Such is their potency.
Hawker-style food features pretty highly on my list. For all my fine-dining snobbery, the truth is that I am happiest at the cheap n’ cheerful as long as the food served is of the highest quality. There’s a time & place for linen and bone china, but on holiday is not one of them. I sampled many of the famous Singapore eats – I ate Roti Canai, Char Siu Pork noodles and washed it down with vividly coloured desserts in the form of Chendol & Ice Kacang
We even made a visit to Din Tai Fung – in Hong Kong, this is a Michelin starred eatery, but in Singapore, these little beauties are everywhere. This is a place for dumplings and oh what dumplings they are, created with military precision and concentration, they offer a hit of warm broth and succulent tender meaty morsel and fine pastry all in one hit. Despite garlic chicken-skin gate, I’ve gone adventurous and opted for the green chillis stuffed in pork, but thankfully these weren’t the disaster that was predicted, but an absolute deligyht.
But where street food is concerned, it is Chicken Rice that has my heart. Quite literally a plate of Chicken and rice, it is a food like no other. The chicken is poached and falls off the bone, the rice tastes like a marriage between garlic and chicken and heaven and all this is washed down with a tangy spicy chilli sauce. We even went visiting the home of the most expensive Chicken Rice – Chatterbox at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this simple dish is a delight for the senses. Mum decided to partake in their other specialty – the Lobster Laksa and pronounced it heaven.
All this leads me to describe my favourite (Ever) restaurant. It’s nothing fancy, in fact many may turn their noses up at it, but in first place is Jumbo Seafood restaurant. You can barely move in Singapore for falling over one of these, they are always full to the brim, run in military operation fashion, no social niceties here thank you very much. We’re incredibly lucky to have secured a table with a seaside view in East Coast Park (Trust me, they could have just as easily have plunked us unceremoniously somewhere else) but perhaps they knew it was our last night and decided to be generous.
Excuse the photos, the lighting does not do any of them justice. The main reason for my Jumbo fondness is the crab, in particular the Black Pepper crab. It’s a simple enough dish, fresh crab cooked liberally in the black stuff, enough to put hairs on your chest and yet not enough to keep me from licking my hands.
To make this a more nutritionally rounded meal, we also add Kang Kong, some stir fried mushrooms and other things, but who am I kidding – nothing but the crab can truly compare.
So there you have it, my culinary hit list of Singaporean eats. There are so so many more but this is about all I could manage in the space of a week. I left happy, many many pounds heavier, but content with the fruits of excellent food-planning.