Malaysia and Singapore are two countries that differ greatly in terms of political ideology and economic policies after separation in 1965. Besides sharing a common history, one cultural component that is inseparable between these two nations is their love of food. Travelers who would come to this region would attest to the fact that both Malaysians and Singaporeans can actually recommend up to five different places for a local street dish and have the tendency to talk about what to have for dinner while having lunch. So, early this month my wife, my parents and I headed down south for a weekend of food, fun and more food. From chic cafes to good old-fashioned hawker joints, here’s a recap of what our digestive system had to endure in Singapore.
FORTY HANDS – Tiong Bahru Estate
Hipsters hate it when people label a historic housing estate gentrified with chic cafes and unique stores as a “hipster neighborhood” but that was the vibe that I got when first arrived at Tiong Bahru. Our first stop for brunch was Forty Hands, where I had the Truffle Mushroom Toastie while Ayumi had the Salmon Hash served in a lovely Straits Chinese bowl. We loved the bread (I think it’s home-made) and I finished off with a cup latte is strong to my liking.
MRT: Tiong Bahru (EW19)
78 Yong Siak Street #10-12
Tues – Sun, 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
PLAIN VANILLA BAKERY – Tiong Bahru Estate
Just across the street lies Plain Vanilla Bakery which is some sort of heaven where the aroma of cakes, tarts and brownies flow like an endless river. They’re more famous for their cupcakes so I took on the Dark Chocolate Ganache and it’s so good, the taste still lingers on my palate till now. We didn’t try as much as we wanted after lunch at Forty Hands but this is definitely top on the list when we come back to Singapore again.
Plain Vanilla Bakery
MRT: Tiong Bahru (EW19)
1D Yong Siak Street
Tues – Fri, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm; Sat 9:00 am – 8:00 pm; Sun 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
ABDHUS SALAM ROJAK – Ayer Rajah Food Center
My dad, who’s also a major foodie, dragged us all the way to West Coast to have what he calls the “Best Singapore Rojak Ever.” True to his words, it was one of the best rojak we had this side of the Causeway. It is similar to the Penang Rojak but for two things – this rojak has tempe (fermented soybean) and paru (cow lung) as part of its 20-odd items while its sauce has more chili than groundnuts but somehow able to maintain its nutty richness that is synonymous with Indian-style rojak.
Abdhus Salam Rojak
MRT: Clementi (EW23)
503 West Coast Drive #01-73
Tues – Sun, 10:30 am – 11:00 pm
SINGAPORE ZAM ZAM RESTAURANT – Kampong Glam
We finish off the day at a 100-year old Singaporean institution that serves our kind of comfort food. Zam Zam Restaurant has been serving up the usual mamak fare but its pièce de résistance has to be the deer murtabak. Murtabak is basically pan-fried bread stuffed with meat but they take it up a notch over here by stuffing it with deer which I find savory and meaty enough to pull it off. The one we ate was the “small” version so you can imagine how the “large” one would look like.
Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant
MRT: Bugis (EW12/DT4)
697 North Bridge Rd
Daily, 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
CASA BOM VENTO – Katong
The Peranakans are a unique community molded by cultural assimilation hundreds of years ago and have preserved a distinctly identifiable form of cooking. Casa Bom Vento, Singapore’s only Halal-certified Peranakan restaurant, strives to ensure the centuries-old dishes stay the same as what owner and chef Lionel “Azlan” Chee promises. The must-try keluak chicken (top left) has a strong nutty presence while the prawn bostado (right) is tinged with a right dose of coconut milk and chili.
Casa Bom Vento
MRT: Paya Lebar (EW8/CC9, 20 minute walk)
477 Joo Chiat Road
Tues – Sun, 11:30 am – 3:00 pm & 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
KILLINEY KOPITIAM – Orchard Road
Once upon a time before the age of latte-serving cafes, there was the good ol’ kopitiam with their home-roasted coffee beans. Coffee shops are the embodiment of the Malaysian and Singaporean psyche; where any topic of conversation goes over a plate of kaya buns and “kopi beng” (iced coffee). Killiney Kopitiam at Orchard Road has been serving the same staple for ages and its no surprise that their charcoal-grilled French loaf kaya toast goes oh-so-well with the bittersweet coffee.
MRT: Somerset (NS23)
67 Killiney Road
Mon, Wed – Sat: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm, Tues 6:00 am – 9:00 pm, Sun 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
ALLIANCE SEAFOOD – Newton Circus Food Centre
Newton Circus has shed the infamous image of aggressive vendors and although now its been promoted as a tourism product, it still represents a good microcosm of Singaporean street food. My dad’s yearning for grilled stingray with sambal brought us here for dinner and we sure got a good deal at Alliance Seafood. Cereal-fried prawns and boiled cockles completes the triumvirate and the chicken wings from the neighboring stall were barbequed to perfection.
No 27 Alliance Seafood
MRT: Newton (NS21)
500 Clemenceau Ave North
Daily: 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
WARONG M. NASIR – Orchard Road
Owned by the singer himself, Warong M. Nasir can usually be found on the “Top 10 Nasi Padang in Singapore” lists. Literally a step away from Killiney Kopitiam, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant has solid beef rendang and flavorful tauchu chicken but the other dishes needs some catching up to do. However, this place is the perfect stop to refuel after a long shopping session along the countless malls that line Orchard Road.
Warong M. Nasir
MRT: Somerset (NS23)
69 Killiney Road
Daily: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
That’s it for my first food hunt in Singapore! If you think I missed out on some major SG foodie joints, let me know in the comment box below.