Friday 9 March 2012

Spices: SINGAPORE's Melting Pot of Flavors

Known as Little Asia, Singapore is a haven for foodies, it offers different cuisines from its neighboring nations. Plus due to it's strategic location, Singapore's food culture also has influences from all over Asia. The best place to dine here is in hawker stalls, found in almost every corner in every district.

Singapore Hawker Stalls

When we arrived we headed straight to the Mustafa shopping complex area in Verdun Road to look for an African hawker stall but to my dismay the stall has stopped doing business. We ended up eating at Astu Indian Muslim food, it was a great meal to start our food adventure.

Astu Muslim Indian Food
It was my first time to try the Dosa, a rolled up crepe made of rice batter and lentils.  I saw how meticulous the process of making it, the owner kept on dousing the griddle with water and kept on touching it until he felt that the griddle has the right temperature. It reminded me of how french crepes are made. The Dosa has a slight crunchy crust with a soft and chewy center. It kind of resembled a spiced thicker version of a Lumpia Wrapper.

Making Dosa
The Dosa is served with three kinds of dip, Dal and two kinds of Chutney. The tasty Dal is a staple in Indian cuisine, they usually doused their rice with it, it is made up of lentils and peas. Both the tomato and coconut chutney were also delicately spiced. All the dips packs a delicious flavorful punch.

Dosa with Indian Dips

We also had the Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng, an Indonesia term which means fried rice and fried noodles respectively. Both dishes have the same spicy garlicky and salty flavor.What I found unique about both dishes was the the Banana Ketchup on the side.

Nasi Goreng

Mee Goreng

While walking along Clarke Quay we saw people hovering a stall. When we took a peek on what the fuss was about, we became one of the 'hoverers'. We also wanted ice cream, this is how street ice cream is served in Singapore. A huge block of Wall's (Selecta) ice cream sandwich between either a choice of bread or wafer.

Ice Cream Stall
Wafer Ice Cream Sandhich

After our visit to Universal Studios, we stopped by the Resorts World area to try the 'Michelin Star' Xiao Long Bao of Din Tai Fung at Baits Restaurant. There was a long queue and we had to wait for 20mins before we got a table.

Din Tai Fung

The Long Wait...
Upon being seated, you'll be charged for the hot tea and wet towels that was placed on your tables. The menu showed a picture of how their famed dimsum treat is made.

At the center of the resto, there was a kitchen dedicated in making the dimsum treats. The chefs looked like artists who were painstakingly creating little dimsum masterpieces.

Dimsum Kitchen
Making Xiao Long Bao
The Xiao Long Bao looked pretty and tasted good but it wasn't really extraordinary like I expected it to be. I've tried and tasted Xiao Long Bao of the same quality which cost way cheaper.

Xiao Long Bao
I've been frequently asked on how to properly eat Xiao Long Bao. I saw people getting burnt by the hot broth inside the dumpling as they put the whole thing inside their mouth. From what I know, this is how I was taught in eating the dimsum.

While it's still hot, get a piece and place it on top of the Chinese soup spoon.

Step 1
Take a little nib off the wrapper and slowly sip the broth inside.

Step 2

After of which, put in the black vinegar ginger sauce inside and as an option, you can add the ginger strips on top. Eat in one bite.

Step 3

The Siomai looked really pretty with the shrimps on top but just like the Xiao Long Bao it wasn't really anything extraordinary.

Pretty Looking Siomai

After dinner, we passed by the Candylicious store and saw that there was a buy one take one promo for Il Gelato di Bruno. We excitedly got two cups but was utterly disappointed when we tasted it. The fruit flavors tasted so sweet and unnatural, it was artificially flavored.

Il Gelato di Bruno


After going to Singapore Botanic Garden, we headed our way to The Hilton Hotel for lunch at Asia's best restaurant for two consecutive years, Iggy's. We had a three hour lunch that all of us thoroughly enjoyed.

Dinning at Iggy's

That night, we headed our way to Makansutra Glutton's Bay. Makansutra roughly translates to 'eating guide', created by Singapore's most famous blogger, foodie, tv personality and critic K.F. Seetoh. He basically invited his favorite hawker stalls to put up shop along Raffles Avenue. You can find every imaginable Singaporean dish at this place.

Makansutra Glutton's Bay

We started our meal with the Roti John. It is basically an omelette sandwich. Scrambled eggs, minced meat of your choice and cheese in between two halves of flattened grilled baguette. Served with Hot Sauce.

Roti John
The Singaporean Carrot Cake is not a dessert, it is actually stir fried chopped up cubes of radish cake with scrambled eggs. It has two version, Black or White, which only meant stir fried with or without soy sauce.

Black Carrot Cake

The Hokkien Fried Prawn Mee is a simple and nice delicious tasty seafood noodle dish. Lightly sauted prawn, squid, chicken and veggies with rice noodles. It looked simple yet is was nice and hearty.

Hokkien Fried Prawn Mee
The Yang Chow fried rice tasted like how it was supposed to be. For those on a no-carb diet, stay away from this because this can be addicting.

Yang Chow Fried Rice

The Cereal Prawn was new and unique. I was initially shocked on how much breading I was looking at, the shrimps weren't even visible. I took a piece and put the whole unpeeled shrimp in my mouth, it was a delightfully crunchy spicy flavorful treat.

Cereal Prawn

The next day, we were in search for an exotic Singaporean dish. One of the dishes that Bourdain and Bobby Chin ate together in Singapore, the bloody red Sup Tulang. We headed to Haji Kadir at the Golden Mile Food Center  to try out the dish.

Haji Kadir

Sup Tulang is the bone marrow of mutton in a spicy tomato and chilies sauce. This was served with a plate of sliced bread that is used to mop up the sauce. I saw the disgusted faces of my bros when the dish was served in front of us. The bloody red color of the sauce didn't look appetizing, it looked kind of freaky.

Sup Tulang

Sup Tulang with Bread
Though it looked the dish came straight out of hell, the taste was heavenly. The sauce was addicting and savory, it removed the gameyness of the mutton's marrow. Some would use a straw to suck the marrow but we liked picking the marrow out then slurping it with the sauce.

Mutton Bone Marrow

We also ordered their version of the Mee Goreng. We liked Haji Kadir's version because they used the same base sauce as the Sup Tulang.

Mee Goreng

When I saw chicken satay being cooked at Satay Salim, I also ordered a batch . Skewered and grilled tender pieces of chicken marinated in turmeric, the exquisitely flavored meat was served with peanut sauce.

Satay Salim
Grilling Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

When we were at Chinatown, we specifically looked for one of the popular dishes in the area, the Claypot Frog Porridge dish. It is said that Tong Shian serves one of the best, the huge hawker stall was so busy conjuring and serving pot after pot of the frog porridge.

Tong Shian Claypot Frog Porridge
The porridge was served literally bubbling hot. The porridge has a garlicky-ginger taste, the frog meat was nice and tender. The weather was humid and we were sweating from the heat but this didn't stop us from enjoying the warm tasty porridge.

Claypot Frog Porridge

A Huge Chuck of Frog Meat

Beside Tong Shian, I noticed different pictures posted by Huat Huat BBQ Chicken Wing. There were pictures of asian celebrities eating their version of the BBQ chicken wing and a three bowl rating from Makansutra.

Huat Huat BBQ Chicken Wing
Mr. Chow Yun Fat Was Here!
I decided to give the BBQ wings a try. The wings are a definite winner. Aside from being succulent, the skin was crunchy and the meat was so moist and tender. Served with Hot Sauce.

BBQ Chicken Wing

The cheapest place that we dined was at Ananas Cafe, meals such as Nasi Lemak, Chicken Rice and Bee Hoon only costs SG$1.50 to SG$2. The meals that we ordered was surprisingly good enough for its price, the dishes came with a nice tangy Sambal sauce. You can also choose from the different fried foods to go with your meals.

Ananas Cafe
We ordered the Bee Hooon with three pieces of fried seafood roll wrapped in seaweed.

Bee Hoon with Fried Seafood Roll
The Nasi Lemak consists of a slice of hotdog, deep fried fish cake, fried egg and chicken rice.

Nasi Lemak

The Newton Food Center is one of the popular dining places for locals and tourists. It is the biggest food center that we went to,  the food center has rows after rows of hawker stalls and is open till 2am.

Newton Food Center

When we sat down, someone approached us and told us that she was a volunteer. She gave suggestions on what to eat and we could order the dishes we like from her. She told us not to worry for she is not a scam artist and she even showed us her ID. We were a bit hesitant at first but eventually agreed to some of her suggestions.

Newton Hawker Stalls
The dishes came to our table one after the other. The first to arrive was the Roti with a rich and pungent Indian Curry. I have always remembered this tasty snack ever since I tried it before in Singapore. Good thing that it still tasted great as before.

The Yang Chow fried rice was cooked really well.

Yang Chow
The Singaporean Laksa was delightfully rich, thick and flavorful.

Singaporean Laksa
The Grille Stingray with the Sambal sauce on top was excellent.The fish was grilled to perfection, the charred smokey flavor complimented the moist tender fish and Sambal sauce.

Grilled Stingray

The Chili Crab has become one of my favorite crab dishes after eating this. A spicy, sweet, salty, zesty thick tomato and chili based rich sauce doused over stir fried crab. It was such a rich and savoury dish that kept us wanting for more. A must try in Singapore!

Chili Crab

We usually have breakfast at Jim's place but on one occasion we headed to Holland Drive Food Center to try out a hawker stall I read about. K.F Seetoh was raving about Ru Ji Kitchen's dry noodles and fishball soup. When we arrived there were a lot of people in line waiting to be served.

Ru Ji Kitchen
All the components from the meal was handmade. It was simple yet a great meal. The noodles were firm and has a salty and sweet chili paste. The delicious fishballs were irregularly shaped and it tasted more of real fish than flour.

Dry Noodles with Fishball Soup

If there is one dish that Singapore is most famous for, it has the be the Hainanese Chicken Rice or simply known as Chicken Rice.This dish is served practically everywhere and everyone has their own favorite place for it.

Chicken Rice
After doing research and seeing No Reservations' Singapore episode, it seems that Tian Tian has a cult following. Since the Maxwell hawker stall was closed, we headed to Tian Tian's restaurant in Joo Chiat.

Tian Tian

I had eaten my fair shares of Chicken Rice so I basically know what to expect of it. What made Tian Tian extraordinary was the gelatinous chicken fat and skin and the light soy based sauce of the steamed chicken.

Tian Tian's Chicken

Don't be deceived, though it looks so plain, the Rice was so flavorful that you can even eat it own its own. After dining here, I understood why Tian Tian's Chicken Rice is favored by the majority. It's the best Chicken Rice I had so far.

Tian Tian's Rice

Aside from the diversed and delicious food, there are also interesting drinks in Singapore that we tried. These drinks can be found in Hawker Food Centers.

1. The Teh Tarik - 'pulled tea'. A frothy bitter tea mixed with milk which is poured from one cup to another.
2. Sour Plum Juice - Brewed Sour Plums with Sugar with a little squeeze of Calamansi.
3. Barley Juice - Boiled Pearl Barley with Sugar.
4. Bandung - A pink drink which is made of milk and rose syrup.
6. Sugar Cane with Lemon Juice - Freshly squeezed Sugar Cane and Lemon mixed together.
7. Starfruit Shake - Sour Starfruit blended with crushed ice and sugar.
8. Kopi C - Strong Black Coffee with Condensed Milk.
9. Flavored Yakult - Apple, Orange and Grape

Teh Tarik, Sour Plum, Barley, Bandung

Sugarcane with Lemon, Milk Tea

Kopi C

Starfruit Shake

Flavored Yakult

The last and not the least, a cocktail named after the country itself, The Singapore Sling. What's more chic than having the cocktail at the highest al fresco bar in the world, Altitude Bar. Atop the bar, you'll get a 360 degree view of the city.

Altitude Bar

The View Atop Altitude Bar
I raised my glass to Singapore, a country with such awesome, delicious, diverse, flavorful, unforgettable food. Til my next meal la!

Singapore Sling..."Cheers!!"
Travel Tip: Survey the hawker stalls for the Makansutra signage, look for a bowl with chopsticks on it for the rating. Ratings are good, very good, excellent, divine and die die must try. The ratings are a good indication if the hawker stall serves great good.

Makansutra Rating


  1. chicken rice, kaya toasts, satay, noodles, bbq pork asado, chili crab! oh i love SG!