WHEN in Singapore for a quick holiday — the city-state famous for its hawker centers and its people who are passionate for food — you might wonder, “What are the must-try dishes?” And more importantly where to get them…
Here’s a list of must-eats when you visit the dining capital of Asia:
1. Chicken Rice at Tian Tian Chicken Rice, Maxwell Food Center
Easily at the top of the list is the Chicken Rice (SGD2.50). Many say it might as well be the national dish of Singapore. Every hawker center and every corner of the city will serve this dish but majority of the locals have already proclaimed the uncontested best one – Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Center along Kadayanallur St. It’s right across the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown. Come for lunch as they are only open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Mondays.
Tian Tian is good from how I remember trying it three years ago, but there is also another place called Heng Ji Chicken Rice located at the 2nd level of the Chinatown Food Complex. This one I tried upon the recommendation of one Uncle Uber driver. If it is not as good, it may very well be a close runner up!
2. Mi Goreng at any random hawker
Mi means noodles and goreng means fried. So, basically mi goreng is fried noodles, like the one at the Geylang Serai Hawker Center (SGD 2.50). Our official STB (Singapore Tourism Board) tour guide Naseem Huseni (#BestGuideEver) explained there is no such thing as fried noodles in traditional Indian cuisine, but the multi-cultural population of Singapore gave birth to this fusion dish that has no single proper recipe. Each cook may have his/her own style of making it. How charming!
Tip: Remember to specify your preferred heat. I always request for less chili whenever I order (anything in Singapore for that matter) since I can’t handle too much heat anymore. So I say, “Only small spicy, please.” Hehe!
3. Bak Chor Mee at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, Crawford Lane
In my recent trip to Singapore I have tried the Bak Chor Mee from three different places and only one stood out the most — Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, and for good reason! Even the Michelin Guide agrees with me as this place was awarded one star in the 2016 edition.
The saucy noodle dish consisted of sliced pork, minced pork, pork balls, pork dumplings, crispy deep fried fish (a genius touch), and the most tender and tasty pork liver – which really popped out as the superstar amongst the other ingredients in the bowl.
Tip: Order the Teochew-style Bak Chor Mee (SGD5.00). It’s the saucy variety (made of vinegar and sambal) that is uniquely Singaporean. Soup is served on the side.
Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle is located at #01-12 Blk 466, Crawford Lane and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Special thanks to Mr. Tang Chay Seng for personally attending to us. His hospitality, generosity, and glorious food, of course, will always be remembered. #TDF #BestMealOfTheTrip
4. Chili Crab with a View at Makan Sutra Gluttons Bay, Raffles Ave., Esplanade Mall
I say go eat at Makan Sutra Gluttons Bay! Get your Chili Crabs at one of the seafood stalls there and enjoy your meal in a more casual, outdoor setting. The Chili Crabs there may not be as life changing as the one at Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, but it will surely do. Plus, the spectacular view of the Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore skyline gives it a more picturesque ambience.
Tip: Take one of the tables closest to the water. The view is breathtaking so it may be worth the wait. Also, try the chicken wings.
5. Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, Smith Street, Chinatown
This joint started out as a hawker stall at the 2nd floor of the Chinatown Food Complex. After being awarded one star by the Michelin Guide, the owner, known as Hawker Chan decided to open a stand-alone store just right outside the building on Smith Street. With a spacious, air-conditioned dining area, an option for automated ordering, and private toilets, their famous SGD2.50 Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle is priced at SGD4.50 at this joint, a premium most people don’t mind paying for the convenience.
It’s still quite a serious queue at the original hawker stall as some people really do prefer eating at the original store for a more authentic experience.
The chicken was delicious. The meat was tender and really tasty. And the noodles? Exceptional! I could have had more if I hadn’t just enjoyed a plate of Heng Ji Chicken Rice and a tall glass of Cold Soya Milk with super dooper delicious tapioca pearls available at the stall right across Heng Ji. That’s how much food needs to be squeezed in such limited time! ‘Coz you know, it may be now or never, right?
6. Peranakan Cuisine at Candlenut, Dempsey Road, Tanjong Pagar
Simply put, Peranakan cuisine is a Chinese fusion cuisine influenced by Malay and Indonesian styles of cooking. Brought about by the intermarriage of the early Chinese migrants who settled in Malacca, Penang, Indonesia, and Singapore, Peranakan cuisine’s palate are mainly from the flavors of ingredients like coconut milk, laksa leaf, candlenut, pandan, tamarind, lemon grass, and lime to name a few that are familiar to us.
Try Candlenut, a Peranakan Restaurant by Chef–owner Malcolm Lee who started the restaurant with his mother in 2010. In 2016, he was awarded one star by the Michelin Guide, an achievement he considers to be more of a win for local cuisine, being the first Peranakan restaurant to receive this recognition.
Chef Lee believes that food is his way of making people happy. He hopes that this award will serve as “An inspiration to younger local chefs… That you can still embrace the local culture and still be recognized for it…” His food is as inspiring as the person that he is. So, if you’re curious about Peranakan cuisine, this may be the perfect place to give it a try.
Tip: Always specify the degree of hotness you prefer since most Peranakan dishes are very, very hot (chili-spicy, hot).
Candlenut is now located at Block 17A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249676 and they are open every day for lunch and dinner.
7. Cheese Tarts at Bake Cheese Tart, ION Orchard
So if you always save some room for dessert just like I do, make sure to drop by ION Orchard to grab some of Hokkaido’s popular Bake Cheese Tart (SGD3.50 each) — made in Japan, baked in Singapore!
They’re so popular, some people dare braved the ridiculous three-hour wait (IKR?!) just to have a taste of these coveted tarts. They have an anti-hoarder policy imposed, too — only 12 pieces max per person (or per queue)…
With so many options in Singapore, there’s always so much to eat but so little time. You can either plan-and-plot your meals to fit in more in your trip or just eat at places you stumble upon along the way to keep things random and exciting. Whatever you do, make sure to enjoy and relish every moment. Challenge and excite your taste buds. Be adventurous! And don’t forget to explore, discover, and maybe even create your very own list that could be useful to the next random foodie that comes across it.