Friday, June 22, 2012

Singapore Must-Eats

When Zach and I first started going out, one of my favorite dates was him taking me on a mini tour through Noblesville (Indiana) to see the places where he grew up. There is something especially intimate about that knowledge, that special partaking of somebody else's memory. Since that time I've always looked forward to taking Zach back to Singapore to see the place where I grew up.

We took five weeks off this late spring, and other than the 10 days we spent in Seoul and Bangkok, the rest of our time we stayed in Singapore. For those who don't know, Singapore is a tiny island situated on the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula. Being that close to the equator means almost exactly 12 hours of daylight and night, and weather close to 90F all year round. Whatever this little city state lacks, it makes up for in quality. For example, Singapore is known for being an absolute haven for those who love to eat because there is top notch food everywhere you look.

My family and I made sure Zach did some of the obligatory touristy-stuff like visiting the bird park, Orchard Road, and Sentosa. But the best outings were always about the food. We showed Zach the residential estate where I grew up by taking him to a hawker center in the area. We showed him where I went to school by attempting to take him to Bukit Timah market (it was closed for renovation when we went). We filled him up with Tiger Beer (a local brew) when we spent an evening at my dad's golf club ... you get the idea. We had the most fun introducing him to the local cuisine and explaining the different cultures behind each dish.

Zach's comprehensively long list of the foods he sampled in this previous post might sound foreign and scary, but if you are interested in finding out more about Singapore food, this is an excellent website. And for those of you who are curious to know what a born and bred Singaporean eats in Singapore, here's my list of must-eats (in random order)...

Fish Head Curry
Fish head curry, Chinese or Indian style, with plenty of tomatoes, ladies' fingers (okra) and brinjal (eggplant). You wouldn't think there'd be much meat to eat, but these fish heads are huge, and one order is typically enough to feed a family of four.

Beef Noodles
You can find beef noodles in Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and even American-style, but my favorite is the Singapore version with chor bee hoon (rice vermicelli), thin slices of beef, and lots and lots of thick beef stock gravy on top. Comes with a side of clear soup loaded with bean sprouts and beef balls. Super delicious, easy to find, and very affordable.

Claypot Rice
A simple mix of rice with chicken, chinese sausage, and salted fish cooked to perfection in a claypot. My family goes to New Lucky Claypot Chicken Rice in Clementi, where you have to call in your order in advance or suffer the 45 minute wait.

I realize 'seafood' is really more of a category than a dish, but I don't really know where to begin with this one. Seafood in Singapore is plentiful, readily available, and always fresh. It's too hard for me to pick, so I'm gonna entice readers with pictures instead ...

Top row: (L) blanched cockles topped with garlic and red chillies (R) bamboo clams, also with garlic and green onions
Middle row: (L to R) deep fried 'batang' fish, to be enjoyed with chili sauce; chili crab; cereal prawns (recipe here)
Bottom row: (L) sashimi salad with soy ginger vinaigrette dressing (R) steamed pomfret, Teochew-style

Fried Bee Hoon 
A simple dish of rice vermicelli, cooked with cabbage, chinese mushrooms, and strips of egg omelette. Many locals eat this for breakfast. There are many varieties, but my (and Zach's!) favorite is this version from PuTien. It's a little pricier than the ones you can find in hawker centers, but the super fine vermicelli, dry, non-greasy, and light texture makes it worth every penny.

Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow is a dish of big, flat rice noodles that are stir fried in dark soy sauce, shrimp paste, and tamarind juice. Toppings also include fish cake, chinese sausage, cockles, and vegetables. Taste slightly sweet and spicy. This dish, like beef noodles, is easy to find and cheap to boot!

Hainanese Chicken Rice 
This dish of steamed chicken and gingery rice is a staple at all hawker centers and food courts. You get a bowl of chicken broth and some chili sauce (with ginger and dark soy sauce if you like) on the side. Deliciously simple.

Teochew-style Braised Duck Rice 
I posted that we ate some awesome duck rice the second day we were in Singapore. Thinly-sliced boneless and skinless lean pieces of duck covered in a salty/sweet sauce served over a bed of cucumbers with a side of rice. Lim Seng Lee duck rice on South Buona Vista Road is my favorite stall!

Mee Siam, Mee Rubus, Lontong, Roti Prata for breakfast!!!
Breakfast in Singapore can be quite an elaborate feast. We don't have breakfast foods per se. Instead, the foods we eat for breakfast are usually also available for lunch and dinner. We ate with my parents one morning and ordered mee siam, mee rubus, lontong, and roti prata for the four of us. What ensued, could only be called a breakfast "musical chairs" where you fed on one dish for a while, then pass it on to the person on your left, and this keeps going until you've sampled all four dishes and everyone of them is finished.

Laksa is thick rice vermicelli noodles in a spicy coconut broth, served with shrimp, fish cake and bean sprouts. We ate Katong Laksa in Holland Village. Assam laksa served with sardines and onions in a sour tamarind broth (no coconut milk) is equally delicious!

BBQ Stingray 
Yes. Stingray is delicious. Barbecued stingray topped with sambal and raw onions is served on banana leaf. The meat is tender, has a delicious smokey flavor and you never have to worry about bones. This is another of Zach's favorite.

1 comment:

Nixon K said...

Last trip to Singapore was only two weeks and very rushed -- the two weeks included six days in Bangkok and Chiangmai. Looking at your blog and the pictures you posted, I realized that I missed eating some of my favorite food. I wish I know how to make the Beef Noodle. I like the Teochew style with the giam chay! Time to go back!

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