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KennethT

Recommendations for a week in Singapore

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My wife and I will be in Singapore for about a week in mid-July. We are most interested in hawker stalls and restaurants that are uniquely Singaporean - meaning that we are not looking for Italian, French, Japanese, etc no matter how good since we are coming from NYC and already have excellent examples of those cuisines - or we have travelled in those regions.

I have read the Dining in Singapore 2011 thread (and printed!).... but now, rather than a random smattering of places people have popped into, I'd like to focus on your favorites! Favorite chicken rice, char kway teoh, chili crab, and all the other things that make Singapore, well Singapore!

Thanks!

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oh gosh where to start?

Blue Ginger - Peranaken food at its best

Chilli Padi - again great peranaken food in joo chiat, a bit off the beaten track but delicious local food

Newton Circus hawker centre - locals complain its touristy but its great, open 24 hours and open air - seafood specialities.

Lau pasat - at night for the satay stalls in the street behind the hawker centre

maxwell road hawker centre - hainanese chicken from tian tian - very good and you will queue for around 3045 minutes at lunch but its worth it for sure.

Din tai fung (ok this is tawainese dim sum but i love it)

Those would be my recommendations to be starting with :-)


"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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check out local blogger lady ironchef for his list of the best local places to eat too


"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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Thanks for the replies so far! Is Lau pasat the area where there's tons of satay stalls? I've heard about that place and definitely wanted to try it. Any stalls that are your favorite? It's funny you mention Din Tai Fung - even though it's dim sum, we were planning on going anyway because we went to one in Hong Kong and were blown away, and ahven't been able to find any even nearly comparable dim sum in NYC. So, I think if we go anywhere that has one, we would probably go.

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I've also downloaded the Makansutra app - it looks pretty good! But I'll definitely check out lady ironchef too.

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Kenneth,

My favourite place for local seafood has always been Old Lai Huat on Rangoon Road. The must-order here is sambal belachan fish (pomfret or sole) - fish topped with a pungent fermented shrimp paste fried with chopped chillies and minced dried shrimp. The chilli crab here is also excellent, richer and spicier than you will find a the chain restaurants such as Jumbo. Ridiculously good value also - for a group of 4, we never manage to spend more than around US$12 a head for more food than you can finish (a large fish, meat dish, tofu, veg, rice and tea). It's also down the road from Little India (Serangoon Road and Race Course Road), so it could be a nice change from the myriad Indian restaurants in the area.

If you are not so much into chilli heat and spices, Ming Kee Live Seafood on Macpherson Road is also a very good option (think bamboo clams steamed with garlic, crab braised with vermicelli, etc.)

Just a word of warning on Singapore food bloggers in general. Singapore is one of the most connected countries in the world in terms of who has a fast internet connection and smartphones with internet connectivity. The PR machine here is very finely tuned to this, and they actively invite bloggers for comped meals to create online buzz for their clients, so be wary of any recommendations. There was a huge blow-up a couple of years ago with Lady Iron Chef over whether he should have to pay for his meal or not (I know...). Do also use the Makansutra app carefully - there are many dud recommendations within, which I think do not at all do justice to the vibrant local food scene. When I first arrived here, I followed a couple of their tips and was disappointed every time.


Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

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Julian, thanks for the feedback. Old lai huat sounds right up our alley. 6 years ago, we spent a short time in SG on our way to Thailand and had chili crabs at Long beach UDMC. At the time, we thought it was incredible - but if there's somewhere better, I'm all ears! Also, I appreciate your thoughts on the Makansutra. I wondered if something that was so big would be able to keep quality control, and not allow some inaccurate reviews.

Any favorite hawker stalls?

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Kenneth, just a small selection to start you off. I prefer the hawker food in Malaysia, particularly in Ipoh and Penang (only a 1.5 hour flight direct from Singapore, incidentally!), but the ones below don't stack up too badly.

Rojak, a local salad of cucumber, pineapple, yambean / jicama, dough fritters, tofu and beansprouts in a fermented shrimp paste. One of the best versions is at Balestier Road Hoover Rojak, Whampoa Market (around 7 mins by taxi north of Orchard Road). There is also a famous oyster omelette stall at Whampoa, Ah Hock Fried Oyster Hougang, but it's too greasy and inconsistent for my taste (incidentally rates 2.5 chopsticks out of three in Makansutra).

Prawn Noodles - Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles at Pek Kio Market at Cambridge Road, just off Rangoon Road. You can choose what "grade" you want, from $3 to $20 - the only difference is the size of prawns you get. Do as the name suggests and order the big prawns! Typically, the $15 and $20 sizes won't be available, but they have a good supply of $10 ones. The lady has always been nice to me (maybe that's because I always order the $10 size!), but I have heard many stories of grouchy non-service. Now don't take the following as gospel truth, but I've found the stock tastier around lunchtime. I can only surmise that as they cook the prawns to order in the stock, it becomes more concentrated as the day wears on, as well as reducing further.

Nasi lemak - a classic Malay dish of rice cooked in coconut milk and served with spicy sambal, crunchy anchovies and other condiments. Try it at Golden Shoe Food Centre, not far from the Fullerton Hotel and Boat Quay. Again, not from the stall that Makansutra recommends, but one called Setia Jaya, which is on the second floor facing the staircase exit. The chicken wings and crunchy fried fish are excellent - ask for more sambal and also the sambal peanuts. The lady running the store is very friendly and helpful.


Edited by Julian Teoh (log)

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

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I had the chance (some may say the misfortune) to stay in Geylang my first week here. Tried maybe 15 places in the area as I did not have the luxury of previous recommendations. Don't go out of your way for those but...

At the corner of Crane Road and Onan Road, a man fries up some parathas (my breakfast of choice in that area). You might spot him throwing the dough around in almost meter wide circles of potential deliciousness. 80c gets you a basic one with a couple of sauces, but I upgraded for the mutton at 2.50 SGD. This was hands down the best of all parathas/pratas/variations thereof I've had in Singapore so far. If you are somehow not filled and fancy something different, walk along to Carpmael road, turn left and somewhere across the road from what Google Maps calls 88, there lies a prawn and rib soup noodle place. This is a dish I have tried in many hawker stands but never again have I found the deliciousness of what I assume is stock that is topped up continuously. That stock was close to Ichiran's tonkatsu stock (in Tokyo) in terms of concentrated flavour. I almost wish I still lived in Geylang!

I tried Fei Fei's wonton noodles, they were no better than the average in the area if a dollar more expensive. Tried a few Viet places looking for decent hu tieu, forget about it. Nobody cares about stock. Just that prawn mee place. Tried Smokey's, well, it's what it says on the tin and not a bad choice if you are fed up with hawker stands, why not pay 15 hawker meals' worth for 48 hour slow cooked smoked meat and fries?

PS: Durian: just no. The smell stays in your mouth for hours. Hours.

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I'm not sure what your schedules will be like, but I'm not sure if you will be zipping around to different parts to try the recommendations. So, I'll share with you some locations with foods that you may want to try as these are supposedly highlights of those places. Again, taste is subjective and I'm not making claims that these are the best.

Maxwell Food Centre (near Chinatown)

- Hainanese Chicken Rice. There are two stalls there - Tian Tian (Stall #10) and the recently opened Ah Tai (#7) a few units away (Ah Tai was opened by a former Tian Tian chef). The things to look out for in this dish are the rice, the chicken and the chilli sauce.

- Fuzhou Oyster Cake (#5). A fritter that has an oyster, shrimp, pork, vegetables and not commonly found. I've never actually tasted this myself, but it appears to be selling well as the stall has been around for many years.

- Ngoh Hiang. There are various types of foods that you get to select, and these will go through a quick deep fry to reheat them before being cut into pieces for serving. There are two sauces - one spicy hot and the other not - that are served with this. Ngoh hiang refers to a (primarily) minced meat roll wrapped in a dried soy skin. There are other choices - a sausage of pork, garishly coloured pink or red (don't be put off by the colouring), prawn fritters, tofu (called tau kwa), fish cake. Each stall has their own specialties. There are two such stalls that I know of - #97 and #64.

- Porridge. There is one with long queues - #54. The rice grains are cooked until they have dissolved into the liquids. You can choose various options which includes pork, fish amongst others. I personally think that part of its popularity lies in its low price.

- Fried Sweet Potato Dumplings #76. A snack really, I prefer those without any fillings, but you have a choice of different fillings ranging from pandan coconut, red bean paste, peanuts).

- Hum chim peng #28 - These are dough dumplings that can come either without fillings or a red bean paste filling. The quirk about this stall is you have to fry your own dumplings. These are small and relatively inexpensive. People are known to buy bags of these.

- Banana fritters #61 - This particular stall has been around for ages, and the banana used is pisang raja (king banana). This particular banana retains a bite even though it may be cooked. I think they would also sell other types of fritters - chempadek (a relative of the infamous durian), yam, sweet potato.

- Tapioca cake #31 - Another one that has been around for a long time. These snacks are made from grated tapioca, steamed and then cut into pieces and rolled in grated coconut. The stall also sells ondeh ondeh - glutinous rice balls encasing a burst of gula melaka (coconut sugar).

There are also other stalls featuring differents foods - fish head bee hoon, Hainanese curry rice. You will be spoilt for choice.

One thing to note is that most stalls generally close on Mondays as there is no pork on that day (all the abattoirs are closed) and most stall holders take the opportunity to have a rest day. It is also advisable to go before the lunch crowd which usually picks up around noon.

Not far from Maxwell Food Centre is Hong Lim Food Centre

Hong Lim Food Centre boasts of several well-known stalls.

- Char kway teow. Essentially, a dish of fried noodles, there are variations that have their own camps of friends. At Hong Lim is the famous Outram Park Char Kway Teow stall #02-17. I was a regular customer when they first started at Outram Park, but because of health reasons, have limited to once or twice a year. This dish is normally cooked in lard, and comes fried with egg, cockles, bean sprouts. Some variations include Chinese sausage, lap cheong, fish cake, vegetables. It is cooked with dark soy sauce and can taste sweet. It's a lovely, decadent dish.

- Prawn noodles. Long ago along Hokkien Street were two famous prawn noodles. The servings were small and come with chilli powder and vinegar besides the usual soy sauce with cut chilli dips. One of these stalls is supposedly to have continued here at Hong Lim. #02-68. I'm not sure about this claim, but there have been such claims.

- Rice dumplings #02-38. Wrapped in bamboo leaves, these rice dumplings contain different fillings. The Hokkien bak chang (meat dumpling) contains a piece of pork, lard (but increasingly absent these days), chestnut, dried shrimp, mushroom. Some also add a salted egg yolk (a delicious addition if you ask me). The nyona/peranakan variety contains chopped meat (never minced), sweet melon strips, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp with a coriander seasoning.

- Crayfish hor fun/rice noodles 41A. Another famous stall with Ipoh rice noodles. Ipoh rice noodles are known for being silky smooth.

- Curry noodles. These are wheat noodles served in a chicken curry sauce. The stall there is famous for long queues.It is on the ground floor.

The Hong Lim Food Centre had recently gone through some renovations so I'm not sure if the stalls have stayed at where they were originally located. So, please check. There are also lots of food stalls here that merit trying - bak chor noodles (minced meat noodles with a vinegar sauce), wanton noodles with roasted pork/char siew, steamed soups et cetera.

There's also the Chinatown Food Centre, which is almost opposite the Maxwell Food Centre where you can also find lots of food to eat.

One other dish that visitors normally try is chilli crab or pepper crab (white or black). These are prepared in many stalls and restaurants all over the island. One of the latest variation is the salted egg yolk crab.

I hope you have an enjoyable time eating out. Make sure you bring a big appetite.

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Thanks for all the input! To clarify, we'll be there for 8 days on vacation, not for work, so we have all the time in the world to go to a place - even if it's out of the way, as long as it's worthwhile. Also, eating is our primary reason for being there so we'll definitely be hungry!

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What are locals thoughts as to going to JB for a day or so? Is this worth the time?

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I wouldn't if your primary reason was eating. If you wanted to burn a day / day and a half elsewhere, and I think it would be a good idea to break it up, I would hop on a plane to Ipoh or Penang, the local / street food meccas of Malaysia.

Low cost carriers fly to both destinations multiple times a day (the MAS-owned Firefly has two flights daily back and forth to Ipoh). You could, for example, arrive at Ipoh in time for lunch, and have afternoon nibbles, dinner and supper on your first day, then have breakfast, morning tea, lunch and maybe an afternoon snack and fly back to Singapore in time for dinner.


Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

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Thanks, Julian - exactly the advice I was looking for.

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Not wanting to appear too strident an advocate for my hometown, but I would really, seriously consider a detour to Ipoh for some ridiculously good old-school street food, pastries, Chinese food, etc. :biggrin:

And if you do decide to go, drop me a line and I will gladly share some top spots with you to tide you over!


Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

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Kenneth (and others),

I mentioned Old Lai Huat in an earlier post upthread. Well, I was here for a wine pairing lunch earlier today and the food was as good as ever.

It always amazes me that this place is always quiet (except for weekend nights, when it is completely packed out). The sambal belacan pomfret or sole is a wonder to behold, and its deep, rich chilli crab is far superior to the insipid versions that you find at the famous chain outlets. Its sauce is truly worthy of mopping up with fried mantou buns.

Sambal Pomfret

Sambal Pomfret.jpg

Sambal Sole

Sambal Sole.jpg

Yam ring is another must order, a very rustic but deliciously filling dish.

Yam Ring.JPG

Old Lai Huat is currently offering a 10% discount for lunch, including on weekends and public holidays. Definitely one to keep an eye on if you are looking out for an excellent seafood cze char.

Wine tasting notes and photos are here: http://julianteoh.bl...singapores.html

Old Lai Huat Seafood

223 Rangoon Road

Singapore (off the CTE Rangoon Road turn-off)


Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

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What do people think of Sin Huat Eating House? Is it worth the hype?

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Went to Din Tai Fung (@ 313 Somerset) yesterday for lunch as we were in the area... big disappointment. Compared to the two we tried in HK last year, the menu here was extremely limited and the service was inconsistent. The first 4 dishes came practically all at once, and there was about a 30 minute gap between the main meal and the sesame buns we had for dessert, and the only reason they came that fast is that we finally were able to flag someone down and beg them to push it through. The Xie long bao were excellent as to be expected though... I was curious as to whyI there was no line to get a table at 12:30 - whereas in HK, there would be a 30-45 minute queue at least.

Where are other well known places to have chicken rice (besides Tian Tian in Maxwell)? We would like to compare different versions

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Here are some of the better known ones -

- Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice - various outlets at 425 River Valley Road, 401 Balestier Road, 18 Cheong Chin Nam (Upper Bukit Timah). http://www.boontongkee.com.sg/outlets.html

- Wee Nam Kee - original outlet at Toa Payoh and branch at 275 Thomson Road #01-05 Novena Ville

- Five Star Chicken Rice - various outlets at Cheong Chin Nam Road, 419 River Valley Road,

- Tiong Bahru Boneless Chicken Rice - Seng Poh Road Market

- Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice @ Mei Chin Food Centre Blk 159 Mei Chin Road

Of course, there is the expensive chicken rice @ Chatterbox at the Mandarin Meritus Hotel in Orchard Road.

You may want to go to Cheong Chin Nam Road or River Valley Road and eat at two outlets for comparison.

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Thank you!

Went out to Lavender to the Hill st. Tai Hwa pork noodle... Waited on line for about an hour but totally worth it...thanks for the recommendation.... Then we went one more stop out and walked to durian culture and had some excellent durian... Great day so far!

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Thanks also for the recommendations of Wee Nam Kee, on Thomson... Worth the trip out of our way. Also really enjoyed Old Lai Huat tonight for dinner. They were out of pomfret, and the only sole they had was huge, but totally worth it. We also had the chili crab and not only was it perfectly cooked, but their chili sauce was far superior to other versions we've had. Much more subtle, rich and gelatinous. As reported, they were about half full at 8PM.

Also wanted to check in about Sin Huat Eating House on Geylang. We arrived at around 7 and had our choice of several tables. Our order was taken promptly, and, contrary to other reports I've read, chef Danny was very hospitable, as was the rest of his staff. He answered our questions and was quite courteous. Since it was only two of us we only ordered the scallops and crab bee hoon (and of course some kailan). Scallops were probably the best cooked we've had anywhere - and that's saying something. The texture was incredible and you could tell their freshness by their slightly briny flavor. Crab bee hoon was also amazing. As good as you've most probably read elsewhere, and the crab was a monster. While the prices were high as reported, I personally thought they were worth it, especially for the quality of product and prep. Our total (with one beer and 2 water) was S$115.

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I like beginning the day at with toast and coffee at Ya Kun. And a few bags of their coffee, and some jars of their Kaya (egg & coconut jam) make great (and inexpensive) gifts to bring back to the folks that are watering your plants and feeding your dog.

http://www.yakun.com/


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thanks also for the recommendations of Wee Nam Kee, on Thomson... Worth the trip out of our way. Also really enjoyed Old Lai Huat tonight for dinner. They were out of pomfret, and the only sole they had was huge, but totally worth it. We also had the chili crab and not only was it perfectly cooked, but their chili sauce was far superior to other versions we've had. Much more subtle, rich and gelatinous. As reported, they were about half full at 8PM.

Also wanted to check in about Sin Huat Eating House on Geylang. We arrived at around 7 and had our choice of several tables. Our order was taken promptly, and, contrary to other reports I've read, chef Danny was very hospitable, as was the rest of his staff. He answered our questions and was quite courteous. Since it was only two of us we only ordered the scallops and crab bee hoon (and of course some kailan). Scallops were probably the best cooked we've had anywhere - and that's saying something. The texture was incredible and you could tell their freshness by their slightly briny flavor. Crab bee hoon was also amazing. As good as you've most probably read elsewhere, and the crab was a monster. While the prices were high as reported, I personally thought they were worth it, especially for the quality of product and prep. Our total (with one beer and 2 water) was S$115.

Glad you enjoyed Lai Huat. I was just there a couple of days ago and last night's dinner was some sambal sole leftovers (gorgeous!), so we were probably eating the same thing at the same time!

Very glad that Danny was well-behaved. I've never been to Sin Huat myself; I am prepared to be abused (or run the risk of being abused) for good, cheap food, or to be charged a lot for good food and service. I haven't yet made the conceptual leap to paying a lot for good food and getting abused. That said, your bill is not unreasonable for what you had.


Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

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I understand your feeling - it took a trip to Rafa's (in Roses, spain - near El Bulli) to change our minds forever about the concept of paying for product and preparation, rather than the service, pampering and other trappings usually associated with fine dining. We had some things there that I still dream about, and Sin Huat was similar, the only unfortunate difference being that Sin Huat's portion sizes were much larger, so we couldn't try a lot of dishes. I wish we could have tried the sea snails and prawns. I was very jealous looking at other tables who were smart enough to come with more than 2 people. Too many times we've had the problem of relatively mediocre food with exceptional service, and personally, if my choice was of the two, I'll take food over service.

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