Food in Singapore (bonus post)
If you have read my previous posts about Singapore, you might remember that I was mentioning the idea to write a separate gastronomic one, where I would describe the stuff I’d been eating during the trip (and other stuff which I had only seen but not necessarily eaten). Those who enjoy food as much as I do will hopefully appreciate.
So, on our first day in Singapore we ended up at the Paragon shopping mall, which, as pretty much everywhere here, had an extensive food court. It seemed logical to actually start the acquaintance with the food in Singapore with a Singaporean cuisine restaurant. There was one here – the Grandma’s restaurant was proudly proclaiming its authenticity.
The Singaporean cuisine is represented by a large variety of dishes of different origins, which is not a bit surprising given such a diverse ethnic composition of the population. The whole concept of the “Singaporean cuisine” is a kind of mix of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian cuisines, with influences from other Asian and even European cuisines.
The very first thing I ordered was fried red snapper, which I really like – and it was indeed delicious!
But what I probably like the most was a Chinese (namely Hokkien and Teochew) fried snack called mini ngo hiang – that was spicy minced chicken meat wrapped in very thin beancurd skin.
In the next photo there are two Malaysian dishes: nasi lemak on the left and curry laksa on the right. The former, consisting of coconut rice, chicken curry, anchovies sambal (a type of sauce), hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers and achar (pickled vegetables), was very nice. The latter – basically a curry noodle soup with prawns, chicken and tau pok (deep-fried tofu) – was pretty decent too, but started to cloy quite quickly.
Another dish that was either Indonesian or Malay was beef rendang, made from meat chunks stewed in coconut milk and some spices.
And here is a rather interesting drink called Grandson’s Favourite, made with almond soy milk, grass jelly and palm sugar.
The next day, if you remember, we were exploring Chinatown; therefore, we had lunch right there, in a Chinese restaurant, of course. It wasn’t entirely clear how the restaurant was called, but Google now suggests that it’s Chinatown Shanghai Kitchen. We ordered a hell lot of food, and it was all excellent.
Here is the good old sweet and sour pork, which is popular throughout the world and, by the way, as far as I know, belongs to Cantonese rather than Shanghainese cuisine:
This is some quite ordinary roast duck, not the famous Peking one, and not even the slightly less well-known Cantonese one, but nevertheless very tender and tasty.
And this one is sizzling beef with ginger and onion, also very tender and spicy:
Chili crab is yet another must-try Singaporean dish, along with laksa and nasi lemak, that we had the day before. It tasted pretty good, although not particularly to die for, was moderately spicy, and very messy to eat: no matter how hard you try to keep it neat, you’ll still end up eating with your hands and getting yourself all dirty.
In addition to all this meaty-fishy food, we also got a variety of side dishes, such as these noodles with vegetables and some spongy mushrooms, which looked more like pieces of bread:
Or this asparagus with snow peas and bean sprouts:
This is sautéed kai-lan, or Chinese broccoli, except that it doesn’t look much like the broccoli we’re used to. I’d never heard of this vegetable previously, but during this Asian trip it definitely became one of my favourite.
And one more side dish – sautéed Chinese vegetables (pak choi and some mushrooms).
Later the same day, we discovered the huge food court of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall, where we were hiding from a heavy downpour. My companions decided to go for tea and cake only, while I, not being a big fan of the latter, opted for a proper meal. After a long indecisive walk along the various food booths, I stopped at the Korean one and got a BBQ set consisting of a seaweed soup, spicy BBQ chicken, rice, fried dried anchovies and cabbage kimchi (that is spicy pickled cabbage). Honestly, I wasn’t wild with delight – whether because I wasn’t too hungry or simply this combination of flavours was not my thing.
Other booths, as I already mentioned in this post, offered a huge variety of cuisines, mainly Asian ones – this one had Singapore’s local delicacies:
Yong Tau Foo is a Chinese Hakka dish, which originally used to be a soup with tofu stuffed with meat or fish (hence the name), and now can contain lots of various other stuff like meat or fish balls, seafood, vegetables, crab sticks, mushrooms, and in fact doesn’t even have to be a soup, it can be eaten as a dry dish as well.
Bak kut teh is a Chinese soup made of pork ribs with various additional ingredients; the name literally means “meat bone tea”. Despite the fact that the dish is of Chinese origin, it is mostly common in Malaysia and Singapore, where it was brought in the 19th century by Chinese workers of Hokkien and Teochew origins.
As far as I understand, Chinatown Beef Noodle is a chain, serving, obviously, different sorts and varieties of beef noodles.
One of the elements of Cantonese cuisine is the rotisserie style called siu mei, which includes different meats (pork, chicken, goose, duck) and is very popular in Hong Kong.
Here you can get Singapore-style fried noodles with various ingredients.
Nasi Padang is basically steamed rice served with all kinds of meat and vegetable dishes, comes from the city of Padang in Indonesia.
Ajisen Ramen is a Japanese fast-food chain, serving, as the name implies, different kinds of ramen soup (wheat noodles in broth, with all sorts of toppings).
Jia Xiang Sarawak Kuching Kolo Mee is yet another chain that specialises in Kolo Mee (a dish of egg noodles with pork, originating from the Sarawak state in Malaysia).
Continuing the topic of noodle soups, another variation thereof is ban mian, a dish common in Hokkien- and Hakka-speaking areas (in particular, the Fujian province in China, Singapore and Malaysia).
This looks like the Malay cuisine booth, although I wasn’t able to identify any of the dishes on the signboards.
The Indian cuisine booth:
I believe everyone is familiar with the concept of dim sum, as this invention of Cantonese cuisine is widespread worldwide. For those who are not – these are light snacks, served in small plates or bamboo steamers. There exists a great variety of dim sum choices: all sorts of dumplings you can even think of, buns with various fillings, fried chicken legs (the so-called “phoenix claws”), pork ribs, meatballs, even congee, and many, many more.
Judging by the dishes represented here, this booth also serves dim sum, and not only shrimp dumplings, as the name suggests, but also other kinds of dumplings, as well as the aforementioned chicken legs, egg custard buns, etc.
And here is Japanese food and, as seen in the picture, many of the dishes are served in traditional bento boxes with multiple compartments.
More noodles – and they are prepared right here, before your very eyes.
Philippine cuisine is the least known to me out of all the mentioned above, I would have loved to try it, but didn’t have the opportunity this time.
The next day I felt the urgent desire to have some Chinese dumplings, so half of us headed to Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese chain restaurant specializing in xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings).
As it is often the case in dim sum and dumpling restaurants, you are handed the menu with a pen, and you can mark off what you want and in what quantities.
Tea and shredded ginger are served immediately and free of charge.
We ordered vegetable and pork wonton soup (wontons are a variety of dumplings, wrapped in very thin dough), some rice and my favourite kai-lan, stir-fried Hong Kong-style, with special oyster sauce.
And then came the dumplings. Minimum portion was 6 pieces, so even though we wanted to try as much as possible, due to the lack of spare stomachs, we had to limit ourselves to two types only. These are chicken dumplings:
And these are shrimp and pork dumplings, called shao mai (or siu mai in Cantonese pronunciation – and that is how they are best known, due to the already mentioned worldwide popularity of dim sum).
The next day, we found this eatery on the Sentosa Island:
The place is pretty small, and the menu, although not extremely abundant, is somehow very diverse in terms of the number of cuisines represented.
So our selection was quite diverse as well – we, already missing familiar food, started with a mushroom soup and a plain vegetable salad.
Indian dum biryani is a dish of rice with meat (in this case – chicken) and/or vegetables and spices, a spicy one, as one would expect from Indian cuisine, though in moderation.
Gong bao chicken is also spicy, and, as one would expect from Szechuan cuisine, not in moderation. Szechuan cuisine is generally characterised by extensive use of pepper – in particular, the combination of dried chili with Szechuan peppercorn (which in fact is not quite pepper, but rather husks of the zanthoxylum plant) creates that sensation of numbing heat, which is a distinguishing feature of this cuisine.
Another meal we had on Sentosa Island was in Hollywood China Bistro in Universal Studios amusement park.
This time we weren’t really up for new exotic dishes so we ordered the familiar stuff. For example, sweet corn soup with egg:
Here is quite an ordinary dish with a not-so-ordinary name: braised ee fu noodles with mushrooms. Ee fu, also known as yi mein is a Cantonese egg noodles variety made from wheat flour.
Lemon chicken is quite a famous dish, served more often in Chinese restaurants around the world, than in China itself.
And this is Cantonese roast duck, with a fragrant sauce – one type of siu mei, which I mentioned above.
All of this was accompanied by wonderful jasmine tea.
If you remember, we were spending the first half of the next day at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, therefore, we had lunch right in the Ginger Garden, at the Halia restaurant, whose name actually means “ginger” in Malay. From noon to 2pm they serve a set menu of two or three courses to choose from. The portions are quite small, but delicious and generously seasoned with ginger, just as one might expect.
Here’s what their starters are like (out of those we tried): these are pieces of home-cured salmon, cucumber and kipfler potato with some rye croutons and English mustard:
And this is a salad of heirloom tomato, watermelon and goat cheese with black olives and balsamic vinegar.
The soup of the day was pumpkin soup:
And then, the main courses arrived: grilled fillet of barramundi fish with local organic mushrooms and Chinese roast duck consommé. The waiter pours the consommé into the bowl from a small pitcher, right at the table.
One more main – roasted corn fed chicken breast with carrot puree, potato mille-feuille and Brussels sprouts.
Quite unexpectedly, I really loved the desserts, perhaps even more than the starters and mains. The ginger nougat parfait with caramelised pineapple and spiced pineapple sauce was simply amazing!
And this is coconut panna cotta with mango, passion fruit, mint and lychee granita.
But that wasn’t it for our gastronomic adventures that day. After lunch we headed to the Gardens by the Bay, where we stayed right until dinner. The dinner, which we had nearby, at the Majestic Bay seafood restaurant, turned out great. Right near the entrance there stood a few big tanks with live seafood.
We went for the set menu consisting of small portions of several courses, so as to try more different food. The first thing to be served was the snack combo: soft shell crab with lemon buttermilk sauce, some kind of crisps and Japanese scallops with pickled cucumber, grapes and Kyoto dressing.
The next course was chicken soup with cordyceps (at that time we had no idea what it was, thank goodness – but having googled it later I discovered that it was parasitic fungi!), con poy (dried scallops) and Chinese ham. The soup tasted quite unusually.
Then came wok-fried pork ribs with espresso sauce – yummy!
It was followed by stewed 10 heads abalone (familiar to us from our last Hong Kong trip), with tofu and my old friend kai-lan. Generally, abalone tastes quite nice, although I wouldn’t include it among my favourite food.
Next we had some stewed Boston lobster with bee hoon (South-East Asian rice noodles). The lobster was very good, but for some reason I didn’t enjoy the noodles much.
And last, but not least, we were served the dessert: essence of mango puree in a whole young coconut (i. e. with soft meat) and a glutinous rice dumpling with fresh cream stuffing. Both were delicious.
And finally, we had our last meal in Singapore right at the airport, before the flight to Hong Kong, in the Peach Garden Noodle House.
First of all, I ordered my long-time favourite Szechuan-style hot and sour soup.
The main course was noodles with roast pork, and broth served separately. The broth had to be poured onto the noodles to turn them into a soup, which I didn’t do – that would be way too many soups for me.
Hainanese chicken rice is one more dish, considered Singapore’s national (even though it derived, of course, from the cuisine of the Hainan island in China). This dish is served with chicken broth, pounded ginger, dark soy sauce and chili garlic sauce. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but a bit too greasy for my taste.