Singapore is famous for its skyscrapers and luxury hotels but the south-east Asian city is also a culinary capital with thousands of street food vendors in market halls providing tasty titbits for just a few dollars. Typical dishes on offer include fish curries and traditional chicken satays, fried rice and chilli crabs freshly prepared with top quality ingredients.
Singapore is populated by food fanatics. The only thing locals are more interested in than stock prices and the English football league is where to buy the best Nasi Lemak, a dish of steamed rice, coconut milk, fried fish and chilli. No culinary experience is regarded as too audacious in Singapore. Even the durian, a fruit that smells of over ripe cheese, is so highly regarded it has its own festival that lasts several weeks.
“You can go the ‘Durian Fiesta’ on your own,” says tour guide Danny with a hint of revulsion in his voice. He would much prefer to go to Changi Village in the north-east of the city where the best Nasi Lemak in the world can be found at corner stand number 57 in the Hawker Centre.
And indeed there is a long line of customers waiting as Danny and his guests arrive in the late morning for a sample. Almost 2,000 portions, at S$3 (Singapore dollars) ($2) each, are sold here every day, according to the owner’s daughter.
Three dozen other stands are in the Hawker Centre selling Asian delicacies such as shrimp soup, satays with sweet peanut sauce and grilled ray with fresh pineapple juice or coconut milk. No dish is more expensive than a couple of dollars.
The street food guide book Makansutra has tested over 1,000 hawker stands in Singapore which provides visitors with plenty to choose from. However, real Singapore street food fans always have one favourite that they are prepared to travel a long way to get to.
Thankfully a taxi ride does not cost much in Singapore and tourists can easily and cheaply go on a culinary odyssey.
Street food in Singapore tastes good everywhere. All stands are checked by the city health authorities and the city is rightly famed for its conspicuous attention to cleanliness in public places. To get the best Laksa, a popular fish and noodle soup, Danny takes a group across half of the city to Katong where many long-time Singapore-Chinese residents known as Peranakan live.
Peranakan are the descendants of Chinese settlers and have combined together the region’s different culinary styles. For example street vendor “328 Katong Laksa” at 216 East Coast Road sells a hot, sour soup with fresh vegetable and pink shrimps. Though many customers like to add some extra chilli sauce to the soup, some tourists might prefer tea to quench the fire in their mouths.
Katong district is a good place to go if you are feeling in the mood for a culinary adventure. Just a few steps away on the East Coast Road 109/111 is Kim Choo restaurant.
The junior cook Raymond Wong has created a Best Of menu including beef strips with tamarind sauce and cooked Black Nut (Ayam Buah Keluak). To follow are sweet and sour marinated bass with tomatoes, aubergine and okra. Desert is a kind of sorbet made from shards of ice, coconut milk and squashed red beans (Chendol).