Singapore for me would undoubtedly be one of the most amazing melting pots in the world. From its inhabitants, cuisine and even as far as its architecture goes. The bulk of the population is made up of Chinese, Malays, and Indians, in that order of ratio. Throw into the mix a splash of Eurasians, Peranakans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Anglos, and settlers from the Middle East, well then, you get my drift, right?
5.8 million people of different backgrounds and religions inside an area of 720 square kilometres and believe it or not, living in virtual harmony. How good is that?
So, it makes sense that this place has to be a mecca for us foodies, right? I will answer that one, my friends. 100 percent it does! The gastronomical varieties here are something to delight in.
My mission on this exploit was to infiltrate Singapore's must-try epicurean pleasures, taste test and rate them for you. I decided the best way to achieve this was with a local as my guide, that way I would hopefully get a mix of opportunities that were not just the standard tourist haunts.
Locals always have their finger on the pulse of their community and they also will have a heads up on the venues that are tried and true stayers, local favs and the newest offerings available. If you don't want to get yourself a guide talk to the concierge at your hotel. Mine at Swissotel, The Stamford www.swissotel.com/hotels/singapore-stamford/ was always eager to suggest one or three! So, over the ensuing 24 hours with my trusty guide Augusto at my side, it was taste testing time.
Got to start at the beginning, right? Kaya Toast was described to me as the only true Singaporean breakfast creation around.
Kaya is the Singaporean breakfast equivalent to Vegemite but is served with soft boiled runny eggs mixed with a tiny splash of black soya sauce and dash of pepper. Kaya is a coconut-based spread sweet in taste that goes over the toast. It looks as unusual as it sounds, but wow the combination was extremely agreeable and I was an instant convert, even making my own at the Swissotel buffet the next morning!
Hawkers centres are an institution in Singapore and known for not only super fresh offerings but perfect for those on a budget. We visited the Tiong Bahru locale where I was treated to another morning option. Chwee Kueh, and oh my, the taste buds were humming. Soft and fluffy steamed rice water cakes covered in a wonderful mix of savoury radish, garlic, and black soy and served on simple waxed paper. Looks can deceive, these are a must-try!
Little India is a hive of activity throughout the day and the locals here love to express their roots and cultures that originated in the south of their country. This is articulated via their cuisine as much as their passion for colour and extravagance in their dress and general way of life. A terrific spirit. Enjoy a wander around Little India and take all of that in and when you have relished in the action and aromas that fill the streets and lanes, let yourself be taken on a culinary magic carpet ride at one of the many restaurants available. I can defiantly recommend Banana Leaf Apolo on Racecourse Rd with its infectious vibrancy combined with the most delicious fare to have a crack at. Make sure you join the locals and eat with your fingers off a banana leaf and do not go past the Fish-head Curry! Might look a little confronting for some, but the flavour will help you see past that almost immediately.
Another lunchtime option I could suggest is one of the more popular dishes which is readily available at many local eateries. Singaporean Hokkien Mee is an offshoot of the Chinese version and features a mix of Egg and Rice noodles, stir-fried in a mouth-watering stock usually made from stewing prawn heads, meat, clams, and dried fish. Prawns and a sprinkling of squid, spring onions or chives. With a side order of local Satay, you cannot go wrong with this dish. So delectable I enjoyed the dish on more than one occasion during my stay and can highly recommend Geylang Lor 29 which has 40 years of experience to draw from, also The Noodleman in Smith St, Chinatown which is probably easier to find and open all hours and also home to some freaking fabulous dumplings!
Evening and late-night options are abundant and I would love you to experience the seaside excitement at East Coast Lagoon Food Village. Fifteen minutes in a cab (which are very affordable) from Singapore's centre and you are right in the thick of the action. So many diverse choices to savour here you best arrive with an empty belly.
Singapore style Crab served either with the accompanying tomato and chilli based savoury sauce, or the dry style Black Pepper version (my favourite) will see you pleasantly pleased no doubt.
Singaporean Carrot Cake which is far removed from the version you may be used to is also a must-try. Firstly, there is no carrot to be seen, it's actually a combination of white flour and radish. The mixture is steamed, then cut into cubes and fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish called 'chai poh'. Don't care what it sounds like, because the taste is remarkable.
Finally, a dish I discovered many years ago when I was starring in the musical 'Cats' and one I always return to rekindle my 'memory' (see what I did there) and taste buds with is the dish known to me as Fish-Fish, but commonly known as Singaporean Chilli Stingray. The flaky texture of the flesh combined with chilli and fresh lime squeezed all over is one that will surprise and delight. Trust me on that one.
The bottom line is this, my friends, when you visit Singapore if you must expand your cuisine culture. Try something new. Step out of your culinary comfort zone, and let embrace all that is on offer.
Getting there: Scoot is the low-cost arm of the always popular Singapore Airlines and I will have a review of their ScootPlus offering soon. Scoot offer great value and fly to Singapore direct from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth on beautiful wide body Dreamliner's, every day! www.flyscoot.com/
Stay: Do yourself a favourand enjoy the affordable luxury of a stay at Accor's Swissotel The Stamford. Perfect location, exquisite dining options and super friendly staff. A visit to Skai Restaurant and bar on the 70th floor will deliver magic views, with mouth-watering cuisine. www.swissotel.com/hotels/singapore-stamford/dining/skai/
For all the gear on Singapore: www.visitsingapore.com
Scotty McRae is The Travelling Guy: visit www.thetravellingguy.com for more travel love.