I must admit, I was a tentative Asian food eater. I did not grow up eating Asian food. I had my first taste of VERY “americanized” Chinese food at 16. I was not impressed. Later, during my college years in New Orleans, I tasted Sizzling War Bar for the first time. Shrimp, chicken and pork stir fried with vegetables in a yummy sauce and served sizzling on a hot metal platter. I was in love. My Asian food journey continued a few years later when I took a Chinese cooking class. I showed off my skills for CaptK by preparing Peking Duck, which included a drying period hanging over our bathroom shower curtain rod. Our time in San Francisco, introduced me to Dim Sum and the deliciousness of dumplings. Fast forward 25 years and our son marries a beautiful Japanese woman and the world of Asian food exploded for me.
When my sister invited me to tag along on a Spring Break trip to visit friends living in Singapore, all I thought about was the food that could be experienced. We arrived in Singapore ready to taste everything the city had to offer. I had read all the blog posts and travel guides that said the food was amazing, especially the street food. I was determined to try as much as I could. We ate most of our meals in Hawker Centers and shied away from high end dining. Listed below are the very best things I ate in restaurants.
Dumplings, what is not to love? Pillows of thin rice or wheat dough stuffed with pork, shrimp or vegetables, steamed or pan fried, and dipped in salty, tangy sauce. We headed to the acclaimed Din Tai Fung, a Chinese/Taiwanese dumpling house. The original location in Taipei has a Michelen star. That high level of quality and attention to detail is replicated in all their locations. The dumpling are made by trained sous chefs in full view of the patrons. These truly are the best dumplings I have ever eaten! The filling was rich and moist. The light dough enhances the flavors in the filling. We feasted on a half dozen varieties and by far my favorite was the pork. There are multiple locations in Singapore. Be prepared, the wait for a table can be long. It is definitely worth the wait.
I arrived in Singapore thinking, Ramen, Pho, Udon and Yakisoba were essentially the same thing. The nuances of each was lost on me. I would still call myself an Asian noodle novice. Now, I realize Ramen is far more delicious than the instant packets beloved by children. I also realize some version of noodle soup exists in all Asian Countries. Singapore is the place to do some exploration because each Asian culture is expressed deliciously in its unique way. I had traditional Tonkotsu Ramen, Yakisoba with a softly boiled egg on it, and Tom Yum Thai noodle soup. While it is hard to say which was the best with so many flavorful choices, I prefer Udon Noddle Soup. I love the thicker chewy noodles, the rich broth, and the multitude of choices of topping, especially the tempura options.
During our visit, we frequently ate food from Southeast Asia because the choices were plentiful. The Southwest Asian food was amazing as well. The best Indian food we ate was at Khansama Tandori Restaurant at 166 Serangoon Road, a Northern Indian restaurant in Little India. Pictured below was our feast, which we ate family style so we could taste a variety of things. Our shared meal included, Murg Makhaui - Butter chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer - Spinach with Cheese, Rogan Josh - red lamb stew, and lots of homemade Naan. I can not say which was my favorite, it was all so flavorful and filled with exotic spices. We visited midday on a Saturday after exploring the sights and scents of Little India. The restaurant was delightfully chaotic, buzzing with locals and tourists enjoying the spicy richness from their kitchen.
Once you begin to explore Singapore, the diversity of the population becomes apparent. A trading center since the 3rd century, Singapore has become home to people from all parts of the world. Each person brought with them the culinary delights of their own country. Guacamole, a combination of salt, lime juice and avocado, was first cultivated by the Aztecs in what is now Central Mexico. While waiting for the nighttime Singapore River Boat Tour in Clarke’s Quay, we enjoyed a snack of guacamole, chips and margaritas at Cafe Iguana. The creamy spicy guac with the salty chips and the tangy cold margaritas were served at outdoor tables. This allowed us do some serious people watching as tourists from all over the world walked by. Our second guacamole stop was at Piedra Negra on Haji Lane and Beach Road. This location served as our meet up point as the shoppers in our group hunted for treasurers in the fabric, carpet and jewelry shops of the Arab Quarter. Once again the creamy, spicy, icy combination of guacamole and margaritas plus the people watching did not disappoint.
Middle Eastern Food
As part of a treaty that allowed the British to locate a trading port in Singapore, the ruling Sultan negotiated part of the city for himself and designated the land around it a muslim settlement. It is commonly referred as the Arab Quarter. It is a vibrant area of shops, and restaurants with a golden domed Mosque at its center. After a day of shopping and exploring, we had dinner at 1001 of Arabia. The menu is filled with Middle Eastern dishes prepared by traditional Halal methods. We shared a starter of an assortment spreads and I enjoyed plate mixed grill. A beautifully presented tea finished our meal.
Eating in Singapore's Restaurants gives you a perspective on the breath of cultures that shaped modern Singapore. Eating in Singapore's Hawker Centers gives you a perspective on the depth of those cultures. Next week's post will be the Best Things I ate in Singapore's Hawker Centers.