On Michelin-starred budget trail in Singapore

Four meals in Singapore that serve a variety of textures, flavours and memories

‘Chicken rice is so fragrant and delicious that it can be eaten on its own’, a quote attributed to Anthony Bourdain alongside a life-size picture of his, is plastered on the front of the food stall. As I take in the aromas and the splash of colour, I notice his face all over Singapore’s Maxwell Food Centre. Home to the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall, Maxwell has become a must-do destination for food lovers visiting Singapore.

While most Indian travellers think of Singapore as a quick shopping or a child-friendly destination, there’s an integral part of the Singapore experience that many miss out on — food. With 39 Michelin-starred restaurants, the city-state is a gastro-tourist’s heaven. While Singapore holds the world record for most restaurants per square kilometre, Singapore’s ‘real’ food scene can only be experienced at its many hawker centres. It’s not uncommon to have tourists and locals share a table laden with Chinese chicken rice, Indian biryani and Malay satay.

Food central

On a weekend trip, I decided to eat my way through various hawker stalls and find out for myself. A short walk from my hotel, is Chinatown’s Maxwell Food Centre. I joined a long queue of hungry locals for a plate piled with boiled chicken over a mound of rice cooked in chicken broth and a small dipping bowl of chilli sauce infused with chicken again. This might sound bland, but Tian Tian is one of the most popular destinations for Singapore’s national dish — Hainanese Chicken Rice. This Michelin-rated hawker stall has received praise from Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain.

The following morning, I returned to Maxwell for breakfast and headed to the Fuzhou Oyster Cake stall. Started by Madam Pang in 1962, the stall sells only the batter-fried snack of oysters, peanuts and mince. It’s a rare delicacy and can be found in only a couple of places, as Fuzhou cuisine is disappearing from the streets of Singapore.

I picked up some kuih bingka ubi (steamed tapioca cakes with coconut and sugar) from Xing Xing Ondeh Ondeh and grabbed a coffee. As I meandered out, Weng Pancake caught my eye, and I indulged myself with a min jiang kueh, a peanut pancake best known to Hokkien cuisine. The pancake has green bean, red bean and coconut fillings, apart from peanuts and a strong fragrance of pandan essence.

For a late lunch, I headed to Lau Pa Sat, the grande dame of Singaporean markets. Seng Kee Local Delights’ perfectly balanced spicy and aromatic laksa was worth braving a tropical thundershower for. At one of the many communal tables, I happily slurped down the thick concoction of coconut milk, chilli, dried shrimp and herbs.

On Michelin-starred budget trail in Singapore

There’s no better way to dry off than shopping, and that’s how I spent the rest of my afternoon. I grabbed an early evening snack of chicken and prawn satay — dipped in delicious, thick peanut sauce — at East Coast Lagoon Food Village. I headed back to the hotel to freshen up for one last evening of indulgence.

Newton Circus is one of the city’s oldest and arguably the most touristy and expensive of Singapore’s food centres; it boasts a range of food you won’t see anywhere else. The oyster omelette, locally known as orh luak, has new-found celebrity status after it was featured in the film, Crazy Rich Asians, and I headed straight to Hup Kee, one of the better rated stalls for the dish. After braving a line of 20 people and a grumpy owner, I was handed a plate that had sunset yellow and white in parts with some deep red dipping sauce. This omelette differs from its contemporaries around the globe, in that it isn’t beaten before it hits the pan. The end result is a crispy texture with different tastes of egg yolk and egg white in every bite, and a deep umami after-taste released by the oysters.

Grand finale

There’s only so much one can eat alone, and after a long debate with myself, I decided to splurge a little on the sambal stingray at Alliance Seafood, one of the biggest food stalls in Singapore. The stingrays are priced between SGD12 (₹610) and SGD20 (₹1,015), and I picked the smallest I could find while I settled down with a bottle of Tiger beer.

On Michelin-starred budget trail in Singapore

Barbecued to perfection, the stingray was served drenched in spicy sambal (red chillies, shrimp paste, lime juice, fish sauce). This one’s not for the faint-hearted. As I cabbed it back to the airport the next morning, I couldn’t help but think that four meals in Singapore just aren’t enough. I still had places to go, and things to eat. For those of you who have more time to spend, check Michelin’s Bib Gourmand selection that lists 50 street eateries and small restaurants — it’s enough to keep you well-fed for a month.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 11:44:08 PM |

Next Story