A culinary journey across Singapore


A culinary journey across Singapore

From street food to Michelin-starred restaurants, there's a little something for everyone in this Southeast Asian city. UAE-based food and travel blogger Sana Chikhalia leads the way

By UAE-based food and travel blogger Sana Chikhalia

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Published: Fri 28 Jun 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 29 Jun 2019, 1:00 PM

For most, a visit to Singapore is all about the 'touristy' attractions and activities - and there are many of those indeed. But those like myself - who have actually stayed in this city-state in Southeast Asia for any length of time - know that the real showcase of their culture is in its dynamic culinary scene. After all, with a number of nationalities living here - including Indians, Malaysians, Chinese and Europeans - Singapore has developed an impressive mix of contrasting cuisines that will please even the fussiest of diners.

One of the best ways to experience this mélange is through food tours. I decided to join the Wok n Stroll tour which takes foodies through Singapore's famed restaurants, markets and hawker stalls. We started at the Tekka Market, where diversified stalls serve cuisines from around the world. Crispy South Indian dosas - complete with sambhar and chutney - could be found from Bunnis Tiffin Corner and they set the bar quite high. This was followed by some Nasi Padang, an Indonesian dish of steamed rice served with your choice of protein. Roti Parata is another Indian dish that is now a much-loved Singaporean streetfood. Finally, we washed it all down with a cup of Chendol - a sweet mixture of jelly red beans and coconut milk. It has quite a distinctive flavour, is easily available in many restaurants and markets and is a must-try while in Singapore.

One of the most widely-known attractions in Singapore is Gardens by the Bay, a 101-hectare garden set in the heart of the city. Considering the vast number of tourists that flock around the area every day, it was a wise decision to open Satay by the Bay a mere two-minute walk away. This open-air food court can easily seat more than 1,000 people and has wonderful views of the city skyline. It has risen in popularity recently after being featured in the 2018 film Crazy Rich, Asians where the actors enjoy devouring treats from the stalls. Roti John is one such stall that serves up a delicious seafood barbeque that can make anyone drool. Prices start from $5, so you can get a hearty meal here too. If you're more experimental, there are some pretty unique dishes here to suit those tastes - from spicy stingray to durian fruit dessert to herbal frog curry. Odd as they may sound, they are specialities!

Speaking of unique dishes, Kaya Toast with runny eggs is a breakfast favourite in Singapore. Kaya is a special coconut jam which is applied onto buttered toast, then dipped into the runny egg mixture and savoured. The flavours are truly startling and delicious. A restaurant that has gained fame because of this breakfast classic is Ya Kun Kaya Toast. I've tried the restaurant a number of times and it has never disappointed.

Of course, a dish Singapore is really famous for is the delicious Chilli Crab, a flavoursome sweet and savoury meal that is often served stir-fried in semi-thick gravy. One restaurant to visit for this best-selling dish is Jumbo, where people queue for hours to get their hands on meaty crabs. The taste will linger in your palate and your memory - don't be surprised to find yourself craving a second visit.
Another dish worth a mention is Hainanese Chicken Rice, steamed chicken served with rice cooked in a rich broth and served with chilli sauce and cucumber garnishing. It may sound simple enough but, rest assured, no visit to Singapore is complete without it. You should be able to find it in both food stalls as well as in restaurants (many of which specialise in this dish alone).

Singapore may be known for its street foods, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a touch of indulgence for its more discerning diners. Luxury hotel Raffles, for example, was launched in Singapore in 1887. It's renowned for a number of things - its afternoon tea, for instance. Unfortunately, it is closed at the moment for a restoration programme and will only open again in August.

Fret not. Singapore also has a number of Michelin-starred restaurants for those who like to have an experience when they eat. Being on this list is quite an achievement in a city where many establishments - be it hawker stalls or fine dining restaurants - have conquered the culinary scene. A few restaurants worth a mention are Bismillah Biryani, Backyard Kitchen and Hararu Izakaya, all of which have worked their way up in the gastronomy scene and have won a Michelin star, or have a chef who has one. As an extra bonus, they are halal as well.

For the party-goers, Clarke Quay is a nice place to head to for the nightlife. But it doesn't stop there - the historical riverside quay also has numerous restaurants that deserve a mention. A great place to relax with friends or family.

Of course, there are quite a few other attractions in Singapore that are absolute must-visits. No trip could be complete without a trip to the iconic Singapore Flyer, Orchard Street, Marina Bay Sands (for the view from its infinity pool!) and last, but not least, Sentosa Island for adrenaline-fuelled adventures. For me, though, Singapore will always be about all things food.

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