36hrs (or so) of eating / Food Travel Asia

3 Days in Singapore (is not enough)

3 days in Singapore is not enough. It was a thought that struck me as I rode the car from Changi airport to my hotel.

I had a huge list of things I wanted to eat, and the places I wanted to try them. The food in Singapore seemed so exciting to me, and the cleanliness and approachability of the city was another positive factor. While I’m known by most as someone who eats a lot of gourmet, high end meals, what I was most excited about in Singapore was its hawkers stands.

With only 3 nights and 2 full days in Singapore, I knew it would be a push to eat/see everything I wanted to, while getting used to the time change. So almost immediately I prioritized my list without too much regret, knowing I would return to this exciting city. Understanding the heat, humidity and probability for rain was going to be a factor in my time in Singapore, I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot done each day and that my plans may have to change at any moment. Staying at the conveniently located Naumi hotel (next to the Raffles hotel) allowed me to hit the ground running and just an hour after arriving in Singapore, I found myself at the iconic waterfront skyline.

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I had a satay craving for the first night, and while I know Lau Pa Sat would have been a better option, seeing as I wanted to check out Gardens By the Bay at night, I found ourselves at Satay by the Bay.

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While I know it wasn’t the best satay it was still good.  A good walk and a simple meal was just what I needed to get a good night’s rest after more than 26 hours of travel and  to get over jet lag.

Satay by the Bay

Chicken, pork, beef, pork belly and prawn satay.

The next morning I woke up excited for breakfast. Normally the first meal of the day is a matter of necessity rather than desire, but in Asia where anything goes, I am happy for the extra meal.

Hearing the MTR transit system was fast, cool, clean and cheap, I wanted to familiarize myself with it as soon as I could. I picked Tiong Bahru for my first adventure because its market seemed to have the best options for breakfast. Getting off the MTR, I enjoyed walking through the wide tree lined streets with the art deco styled apartment buildings. It was a peaceful start to my day and another reason why I was quickly falling in love with Singapore.

Tiong Bahru

Tiong Bahru sign

I loved the signs all over Singapore with gentle reminders of how to be considerate to others.

I recently watched Anthony Bourdain’s Layover episode for Singapore and on his visit to the Tiong Bahru market he had these sticky rice cakes. They looked so savoury and delicious, I knew I had to try them.

TIong Bahru Jian Bo Chwee Kueh

Jian Bo Chwee Kueh (stall #2-05) – jiggly rice cakes topped with paste made of preserved radish and chili sauce.

Wandering the stalls to see what else I might enjoy, I saw Katong carrot cake, which was also on my must eat list. Must, so I did.

Kampong carrot cake Tiong Barhu

TIong Bahru kampong carrot cake

Chai Tow Kway – Kampong carrot cake  (stall #2-53) which isn’t carrot at all, but actually radish and “blackened” with the addition of dark soy sauce mixture.

Being the worst tourist, I prefer to spend my time in places just wandering the streets rather than seeing the sights with the hordes. So after a delicious breakfast, I was happy to meander through the streets from Tiong Bahru into Chinatown.

When I looked at the various choices for hawker markets, it seemed like the Amoy Street one had the most number of stalls that I wanted to try, a considerable number of them were recognized by the Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Located in the Central business district, this market felt local as it was very crowded with office workers at lunch.

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Michelin Bib Gourmand Hong Kee Beef Noodle  (stall #1-42)

Amoy Street Hong Kee Beef Noodle

Thick yellow noodles aren’t my favourite but I enjoyed the savoury broth with tender beef slices and salty vegetables.

 

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Fried Kway Teow (stall #1-1)

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A nice balance of flavours with the lime squeezed on top helping to cut through the oiliness of the dish. I liked how the use of 2 types of noodles added to the textural interest of this.

The heat of the day was starting to get to me, so we escaped back to the hotel to hang out at the amazing pool.

Susy Bando Singapore Naumi

Feeling a bit peckish after the swim, I remembered I had the perfect snack that I picked up from the Amoy market waiting for me.

Famous Crispy Curry Puff Amoy Singapore

Michelin Bib Gourmand Famous Crispy Curry Puff (stall #1-21) – with flaky pastry surrounding the spicy potato and black pepper chicken filling.

The one dish I was most excited to try in Singapore was chili crab. The difficulty was trying to find a place that was delicious without being overly touristy. After a lot of research, I determined a few things. Most places I was going to get a good chili crab was going to be somewhere that was touristy because it seems like a special occasion/thing to do with out of town guests type meal. The second was that while chili crab was on my radar, it seemed like I was going to miss out on the also popular black pepper, white pepper and butter crabs. Oh well, something to look forward to for my next visit.

In the end I chose Jumbo Seafood on the East Coast seafood centre which was said to serve a classic version, with a thick, sweet, and slightly spicy sauce.

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Jumbo Seafood SIN Crab chili

Unlike the chili crab I’ve had in the past, this was not deep-fried but rather just cooked and and sauce coated on top.

Jumbo Seafood SIN crab

The crab was delicious, but what was most amazing were the fried mantou buns that I used to sop up all the delicious sauce.

After a day in the heat, I realized that the best plan would be to get out early in the morning to see the sights, have lunch and then hide out at the hotel in the early afternoon until it cooled for the evening.

So on my 2nd morning in Singapore, my plans were to go to Gardens by the Bay to the SuperTree Skywalk. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t want to cooperate. And while crummy weather doesn’t make for great photo taking opportunities, it was nice to feel like we had the park to ourselves.

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A friend messaged me while I was in Singapore to tell me about Irvin’s Salted Egg potato chips. Salted egg sauced anything is popular in Singapore, but these chips are a food fad that people were lining up for. A line was just what I found when I got to Irvin’s and I took my place to get in on the hype.

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Their slogan is correct. These were “dangerously addictive”.

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I started to feel sluggish from the bad food I was eating so I stopped at the fruit kiosk to pick myself up a piece of papaya conveniently sold in single serving sized pieces. I’m not sure why we don’t have stands like these back home.

As I narrowed my eating list down, I knew there were 2 last things I had to try in Singapore. The oyster cake and a bowl of laksa. Luckily, I was able to find 2 delicious versions of both in close proximity.

The Chinatown street market seemed touristy but I read it had a delicious oyster cake.

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Katong Keah Kee Fried Oyster – Teochew fried oyster omelette  was made up of a fluffy egg batter nicely crispy on the outside with a smattering of plump oysters.

A short walk away was the Hong Lim Food Centre where I’d find laksa, the last item on my Singapore musts (for this trip). I have recently added laksa to my list of comfort dishes that I seek on cold days back home in Vancouver and while I’ve found a couple of tasty places, I needed to see what it tasted like in Singapore.

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Sungei Road Trishaw Laska (stall #2-66) – this version is not as “lemak” (coconut-y) as others but the lighter brother was served with generous portions of fishcake, prawns, clams, fried tofu and slices of chicken was still deeply flavoured.

 

As I researched Singapore dining, I knew I wanted to go to one of its acclaimed restaurants but also knew I didn’t want it to be Japanese, French or Chinese. After those filters were put into place, Burnt Ends seemed like the best (only) choice. #10 on Asia’s Top 50 list and just 3 out of the World’s Top 50, expat Austrian Chef Dave Pynt is working magic on the custom built 4 tonne, dual cavity ovens and 3 elevation grills.

I was a bit disappointed that when I went to make reservations, the only option was the seats facing away from the open kitchen. But as we were sat, I realized the higher perch actually allowed for a better view of the bustling action.

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Burnt Ends Singapore garlic scape

Garlic shoots with gremolata

Burnt Ends Singapore leeks

Leek, hazelnuts and brown butter was lick your plate amazing

Burnt Ends Singapore sanger

Burnt Ends Sanger with pulled pork shoulder, coleslaw, chipotle aioli and a brioche bun. To see the amount of care put into toasting the bun made me appreciate the attention to detail that must be put into every aspect of what’s presented in front of the diner.

Burnt Ends Singapore onglette steak

Onglet (steak) with burnt onion and bone marrow was swoon-worthy.

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Firing up my dessert.

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Burnt Ends Singapore marshmallow

Marshmallow with orange and cinnamon.

As the title says, 3 days in Singapore and I barely scratched the surface my food “must” list. I guess that means I need to return. Hopefully sooner than later…

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