The internet makes it easier than ever to find the gems hiding in plain sight across the world’s great cities, but nothing compares to local knowledge when it comes to food. Singapore is truly a culinary capital, and there’s a lot more to eat than Chilli Mud Crab. We sent Mark Hughes on a whirlwind tour of Singapore so he could eat his way through some of Asia’s best street food.
Catch Part 1 here. Get ready for Part 2!
07:30 – Day 2 begins with brekky at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre. As the name suggests, this hawker hall — the largest such complex in Singapore — is situated in the heart of Chinatown and is home to over 260 food stalls. You can find all the local delicacies here, with BBQ Stingray a personal favourite. Mark starts slowly — can you blame him? — with a simple meal of Kaya Toast, Soft-Boiled Eggs and Hainanese Coffee. Kaya Toast is grilled sliced bread spread with Kaya (coconut jam) and butter, then dipped in the runny slow poached eggs, with soy sauce and white pepper stirred through. Hainanese Coffee is sometimes roasted with margarine and sugar and is made using 2 jugs: a pouring jug and a brewing jug. The coffee is brought to the boil in the brewing jug, and then taken off the heat and stirred for 20-30 seconds. It is then tipped into the pouring jug through a coffee ‘sock’ which filters and aerates the coffee.
A typical Hainanese breakfast: Kaya Toast and Soft-boiled Eggs.
Next is a tour of the wet market and a visit to the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant – Hawker Chan.
10:30 – Despite the prestige that comes with receiving a Michelin Star, Hawker Chan is still a pretty simple restaurant. Before being awarded a star in Singapore’s inaugural Michelin Guide (2016), the Malaysian-born chef and proprietor Chan Hon Meng was selling his Soya Chicken and Rice dish for $2 in Singapore. Now, people regularly wait hours at the original hawker stall and outside his restaurant for the chance to try his chicken. Luckily for our food pilgrim, he’s ushered straight through into the restaurant. And Hawker Chan lived up to its lofty reputation.
Top: Meeting the man himself – Mark with Chan Hon Meng; Left bottom: Soya Sauce Chicken with Noodles; Right bottom: Mark having a chat with ‘Hawker Chan’
11:30 – After leaving Hawker Chan, it’s a short walk to Maxwell Food Centre. This food court is divided into 2 rows with over 100 stalls all serving local favourites. Our eaters are treated to Hainanese Chicken Rice, considered one of the national dishes of Singapore. Brought to the island by Chinese immigrants, the chicken is slow-poached in a delicious broth, which is then skimmed and used to cook the rice.
Hainanese Chicken Rice @ Maxwell Food Centre
12:30 – Next up is a bit of touristing, with a lovely stroll through Chinatown Food Street and visits to a traditional Peranakan house (or ‘Baba house’), the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and the Sri Mariamman Temple.
Top: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple; Left bottom: Challenge some elders to a game of checkers; Right bottom: Giant clogs at the Chinatown Heritage Centre
13:30 – Matt’s next pit stop is the People’s Park Food Centre and a quick snack of Bakkwa (BBQ pork jerky). This delicious meaty treat is prepared with spices, sugar, salt and soy sauce, and grilled on racks.
Left: Bakkwa (BBQ meat jerky); Right: Bakkwa grilling on the racks
15:30 – Our food guide takes a culinary side step and heads to Little India. Like the name suggests, Little India is the home to immigrants from — you guessed it — India, who brought their food with them to Singapore. After a tour of the Jalan Besar and the Tekka markets, it’s time for another meal. First up, it’s Roti Prata and Telur — delicious flatbread with eggs and onions folded through. Next up is the ‘Roti John’, which is a Singaporean food legend. Legend has it that in the ‘60s, an Englishman tried to order a hamburger from a hawker stall. Not having the ingredients to make a hamburger, the hawker owner had the ingenious idea to fry eggs, mutton and onions into a loaf. Served with Roti and named ‘John’ after the generic name locals use for Westerners, it’s a delicious and unique flavour package. Murtabak (a spicy-folded-eggy-meaty-veggie-pancake), Nasi Biriyani (a Singaporean take on the traditional and delicious baked rice and meat dish biriyani) and Indian Rojak round out the meal.
18:30 – The final meal of this gluttonous odyssey is forced down at the Long Beach. Here, finally, our foodie gets to try 2 of Singapore’s most famous dishes — Chilli Crab and Black Pepper Crab. Despite its name, Chilli Crab is not very spicy. Traditionally eaten with your hands, so you can savour the juicy crab meat, the crustacean is stir-fried in a thick tomato, egg and slightly sweet sauce. Black Pepper Crab is not cooked in a sauce, so has a dry texture when compared to the Chilli Crab. It’s often paired with a fresh jackfruit sauce to add sweetness.
Top: Mark enjoying the Chilli Crab; Left Bottom: Black Pepper Crab; Right Bottom: Cereal Prawns
Accompanying the crab are dishes of Cereal Prawns (prawns literally coated in spices and cereal), morning glory fried in garlic and chilli paste and Coffee Pork Ribs (fried pork ribs smothered in a sticky-sweet coffee sauce). What a glorious and decadent way to finish a food trip across Singapore!
You can catch Part 1 here, and stay tuned for some of our favourite recipes from the Singaporean adventure!
Find your nearest Asian Store