328 Katong Laksa
Locals flock to 328 Katong Laksa to try the famous laksa, a Malaysian dish of Chinese origin, consisting of rice noodles served in a curry sauce or hot soup. Locals consider this unassuming eatery as the best location for laksa in the whole of the city. It is typically served with shrimp, tofu and cockles, and is a staple food both in Malaysia and Singapore. A perfect laksa carefully combines the perfect amount of sweetness from the coconut milk, the seasoning of the broth, and the heat from the chlli paste.
The Blue Ginger Restaurant
The Blue Ginger Restaurant is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Situated near the Tanjong Pagar district of Singapore, it sits in a row of traditional, multi-colored shop houses. The restaurant’s name originates from galangal (a root similar to ginger), a key ingredient in Malay cuisine, while its classic and sophisticated décor evokes the feeling of colonial Singapore. Cooking up a range of traditional Malay dishes, the restaurant is particularly renowned for its ‘Blue Ginger’ – deboned chicken thigh and drumstick, flavored with coconut milk, which is rich in exotic spices and grilled to perfection. The seafood selection is also extremely diverse, from halibut to mackerel and everything in between. The traditional home-style Nyonya fish-head curry of red snapper, okra and eggplant is a particular house favorite which attracts a crowd of locals.
The Blue Ginger Restaurant, 97 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore, +65 6222 3928
Set up in 2010, Candlenut is a Perankan-inspired eatery run by its head chef and owner Malcolm Lee. All of the rempahs (spice pastes, the base of Peranakan dishes) are made from scratch with fresh ingredients, and without MSG or preservatives. The dishes are slow-cooked for hours to emphasize their vibrant flavors. Malcolm’s love of food was inspired by his mother’s cooking. She was the first Singaporean to be awarded a scholarship through the Miele Guide to study at the At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy. The contemporary and classy restaurant prides itself on creating authentic dishes with a contemporary twist. The buah keluak, a signature Peranakan dish is recommended.
East Coast Food Village
This hawker center was given a full revamp in 2004 after 25 years of heavy use by the locals. It still remains a popular hangout, and is the finest area in the city to try traditional food. The hawker etiquette is a little unusual: guests have to scramble for a table, note the table number, and then browse the various eateries. The East Coast Food Village is a cornucopia of traditional Thai, Malay, Chinese and local cuisine. In addition to the staple peanut satay, popular dishes with the locals include satay beehoon (thin noodles with a spicy peanut gravy), the beef noodle soup, and tender barbecued chicken wings.
Mamanda’s ethos is to ‘present the pinnacle of heritage cuisines’. The restaurant’s emphasis is on making food as fresh as possible while combining traditional cooking methods with authentic spices and eastern culinary techniques. Best-known for serving authentic Malay cuisine in a classy and exclusive surrounding, Mamanda is set in the very peaceful Bendahara House, in the Kampong Glam neighborhood. Originally built in the 1920s, the house used to be home to Tengku Mahmud, an heir to the throne of the Sultan of Johor. Along with its restored fine dining interior, an al fresco meal in the picturesque courtyard is a must for a romantic dinner. On the menu, of particular note is the restaurant’s asam pedas, a spicy, sour seafood stew, which is a very popular dish amongst the locals.
Mamanda, 73 Sultan Gate, Singapore, +65 6396 6646
PeraMakan is owned by head chef Kathryn Poh Neo, a true disciple of Nyonya traditions. The restaurant recreates dishes from Kathryn’s childhood, which have been passed down from her parents. Coming highly recommended is the ayam buah keluak, a tender chicken braised in a spiced nut paste, but apart from the vibrant spices and flavors of the mains, the restaurant also serves great desserts. One dessert in particular, the buboh cha cha, comes recommended. It is made from steamed yams and potatoes in coconut sauce, with sago pearls and tapioca jelly. PeraMakan is situated on the third floor of the Keppel Golf Club, which offers stunning views over Singapore’s harbor and Sentosa Island.
Singapore Food Trail
Singapore Food Trail is a unique food emporium which groups makeshift stalls along the roadside to create an authentic street food dining experience. The outside dining area, covered by canopies, protects diners from the midday heat. Amongst others, the vendors include: Rong Chen Bah Kut Teh, Boon Tat Street Barbeque Seafood, and Katong Keah Kee Fried Oysters. One of the most notable, The Alhambra Satay Club, is a local family-run business that started in the city all the way back in 1967. Specializing in BBQ wings, the selection of hawker food here includes kacang puteh: roasted, steamed, or fried nuts and beans.
Jonker’s Nyonya Deli
Specialising in Nyonya and Peranakan cuisine, Jonker’s Nyonya Deli takes inspiration from across the Far East. This welcoming and cozy deli is situated in downtown Singapore within the grounds of Republic Plaza, one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers. Juxtaposing its industrial surroundings with a warm inviting ambience, the deli feels like a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city center. The Penang asem laksa, which consists of rice noodles in a tamarind fish gravy, comes recommended. For dessert, the sweet and refreshing coconut milk-based dessert Nyonya cendol is an ideal palate cleanser.
Straits Kitchen at Grand Hyatt Singapore
For a simple yet tasty buffet of traditional Singapore and Malay cuisine, the Straits Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt is a must-visit. Whilst this is a contemporary take on Singapore’s hawker centres, the flavors are authentic, and the dining experience superbly elegant. There are a number of staple hawker favorites, from satay, and Hainanese chicken rice to beef rendang, laksa, as well as a wide selection of curries. Malay dishes on offer include the otak otak, which is a spicy fishcake, and popiah, a spring roll of braised turnip, prawn, egg, and peanuts. For the more adventurous foodies, the durian ice cream is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Whilst pleasantly sweet-tasting, a rather pungent odor emanates from the fruit, which can be off-putting to some.
By Jake Setterfield