Malaysian food has always been deeply rooted in the hearts of Singaporeans. Unsurprising, really, given how Singapore used to be part of Malaysia. Today, Singapore is home to an impressive selection of Malaysian restaurants serving traditional Malay and Peranakan delicacies.
From the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant to a venue so good it was filmed in Crazy Rich Asians, Culture Trip has hand-picked a drool-worthy list of Malaysian restaurants in Singapore for you to makan makan.
Located in the heart of heritage town Joo Chiat, Baba Chews is a Peranakan eatery serving both modern and traditional cuisine from the Straits of Malacca. When early Chinese migrants to Singapore (back then part of old ‘Malaya’) met, married and mixed with local Malays over generations, they created a unique community called Peranakan – and their cuisine has left a lasting legacy in the world of food. Order their signature Ayam Buah Keluak, which features an entire chicken thigh braised in black nut and spices, and the Iberico Pork Ribs Pongteh, which is painstakingly slow-cooked for 12 hours.
Lau Pa Sat turns into a bustling hawker centre every night from 7pm to midnight. True to its name, every vendor here sells satay in wonderful varieties, from beef, chicken, duck and mutton to shrimp – except pork. This outdoor Halal-friendly satay club resembles the bustling streets of Malaysia, where hawkers are seen fanning the charcoal with a rattan fan with one hand and brushing the skewers with oil with another. Lau Pa Sat’s Satay Street might not be a proper full-fledged restaurant but it’s certainly one of the best destinations for succulent satays.
Candlenut is the very first Peranakan restaurant in the world to be awarded a Michelin star. Helmed by young Singaporean owner-chef Malcom Lee, Candlenut has successfully propelled the previously unknown Peranakan cuisine into the global spotlight. Malcom draws cooking inspiration from his Peranakan mother and grandmother, and every spice paste is hand-made from scratch with the freshest ingredients (without preservatives and MSG). While the authentic flavours are retained in every dish, one should note that Candlenut’s food presentation is by no means traditional. Guests can opt for either the a la carte or ah-ma-kase menu (lunch – $64.20 USD per person; dinner – $86.10 USD per person).
With six locations across sunny Singapore, Penang Culture is a successful halal-certified Malaysian restaurant specialising in food from Penang. The comprehensive menu boasts staples such as Penang White Curry Mee and Penang Assam Laksa. The delicious laksa’s noodles are specially imported from the island and cooked in tangy assam gravy. The claypot assam curry fish head, ideal for two diners and highly recommended, is served with a generous portion of cabbage, eggplants, long beans and okra.
Set foot inside Chong Wen Ge Café and you will be instantly transported back to grandma’s golden years. The rustic-looking café is hidden from plain sight, but is actually positioned right beside national monument Thiam Hock Teng temple in Telok Ayer. Decked out in colourful, ornate Peranakan tiles and antique furniture, Chong Wen Ge Café’s interiors are reminiscent of Singapore’s olden days. The café serves a selection of old-school Nyonya favourites such Curry Chicken and Mee Siam. Complete your meal with an assortment of artisanal kuehs such as the Ang Ku Kueh and juicy Kueh Dah Dah.
Specialising in Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak, The Coconut Club only opened its doors in late 2016 but it’s already listed on the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2018 list. Even Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is a customer and was seen eating here with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The owners have spent two years sourcing the best ingredients and fine-tuning their recipes. The end result: fresh kampong chicken from Malaysia, coconuts from Selangor and Johor, and dried anchovies from Pangkor are used to prepare the nasi lemak. Their sambal sauce and coconut milk are also impressively made from scratch.
Situated on the ground floor of Swissotel Merchant Court, Ellenborough Market is ideal for first-timers of Peranakan cuisine (and those with a massive appetite). The restaurant specialises in Nyonya-themed buffets and you can indulge in free-flowing Peranakan dishes such as the classic ayam buah keluak, babi pongteh and nyonya laksa. Start your feast at the DIY Kueh Pie Tee hot station, where you can customise your own snack with sliced hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, radish and prawns. The ultra rich and smooth Durian Pengat is also a hot favourite here.
Fourth-generation owners of Michelin-starred Haig Road Putu Piring have transformed the almost dying trade into a booming business. Their traditional putu piring sell like hot cakes, which are steamed rice cakes filled with melted palm sugar and served with grated coconut atop pandan leaves. They are best eaten when hot! These lovely sweet treats are cooked to order, and a relentless queue is formed daily at its original outlet in Haig Road Market and Food Centre.
Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant has been around since 1953, way before Singapore gained independence. The late Singaporean president Lee Kuan Yew was such a fan of this quintessentially Peranakan restaurant, he would order even their food for his Istana events. The no-frills eatery is Singapore’s oldest Peranakan restaurant and has been with the same family for three generations. Singaporeans from all walks of life frequent the east-side eatery for its home-cooked food. Aside from the famous otak-otak, Culture Trip recommends nonya chap chye, ngoh hiang and ikan assam goreng.
Malaysia Boleh! is a well-kept secret of west-side dwellers in Singapore. The spacious air-conditioned Malaysian food court – home to 32 hawker stalls – can be found on level three of Jurong Point. To ensure quality, the experienced cooks running the stores here are actually carefully hand-picked and trained by the original Malaysian stallholders. Look forward to a scrumptious feast and sink your teeth into a plethora of Malaysian classics such as clay pot chicken rice, iced chendul, herbal bak ku teh and mee hoon kway.