Having initially viewed Singapore as a kind of soulless Asian equivalent to Dubai, I spent a day exploring the Katong district of the city and learning about one of the many cultures that call the tiny nation home.
One of my other complaints following my 2015 visit to Singapore was that its food wasn’t exceptionally good. Sure, China Town and Little India are both renowned for serving up fantastic food from their respective cultures, but my previous visit hadn’t exactly enamored me of whatever Singaporean cuisine might be.
The Singapore Food Crawl with Far East Hospitality
Much as they encourage cultural exploration by arranging walking tours of districts such as Katong and Little India for their guests, Far East Hospitality also do the same with local cuisine.
Guests at any of their properties in Singapore can request to participate in a food crawl to experience the local flavours, and that’s precisely what we did during my recent visit to the city-state.
Picked up from our hotel in the early evening, we were taken by air-conditioned van to four local restaurants.
And when I say ‘local’, I mean local. These weren’t gourmet eateries popular with tourists and expats, but the very same restaurants where local Singaporeans stop to grab a meal on their way home after a long day’s work.
#1 – Bali Nasi Lemak
Our first stop was the one I was most excited for, as it was for a bit of Nasi Lemak – one of my absolute favourite Asian cuisines. The aptly named Bali Nasi Lemak was to be our host.
A little hole in the wall with plastic chairs clustered on a narrow strip of pavement, this alleyway restaurant does Nasi Lemak and nothing else. Even at 6pm, well before the usual dinner rush, the place was crowded, and with good reason: the Nasi Lemak was delicious!
#2 – G7
It’s hard to pin-point exactly where any of these places were, as we weaved through narrow lanes of the Geylang district in search of our next desintation.
G7 in Geylang is one restaurant spanning two locations (they also have locations in Chinatown and Bukit Timah), its popularity necessitating a second location directly across the alleyway from the first. Like Bali Nasi Lemak, it was already crowded by the time our party arrived and commandeered a table inside under the blessed touch of the fans.
G7 is most famous for its bullfrog, and we were served up generous helpings of this flavourful dish and the rice porridge to soak it in.
As you can see from the above picture, this was a genuinely local spot. The cutlery and the bowls weren’t spotlessly clean (although the above was not dirt, just stained plastic) and the place was a hive of noise and activity. I loved it!
#3 – Pig Organ
Stop #3 was definitely my least favourite, as our hosts decided to test my boastful proclamation that I’d try anything they put in front of me.
What did they put in front of me? Pig organ soup!
Another popular spot, I swear we had the most trouble getting a seat here than anywhere else. Who knew pig kidney, intestines, and liver would be so popular with locals?
Did I finish my bowl? ….no.
Did I try a bit of everything? I sure did. The kidney was good, the intestines were chewy, and the whole thing was only mildly unpleasant.
Not something I’d eat again, but not something that I regretted trying either.
#4 – 229 Jalan Besar
Stop #4 was where we got to really eat our fill, as we stopped at a place whose name translates roughly into ‘scissor cut curry rice’ for a huge feast of rice, aromatic curry, and a bunch of sides.
EDIT: Google informs me it is called Beach Road Scissor Cut Curry Rice.
It put me in mind of a Chinese banquet, with a number of plates placed onto the table for us to pick and choose from.
Like all of our stops, it was chaotic. Harried servers rushed out large trays heaped high with plates of delicious food to feed the hungry masses, the kitchen clattered and steamed in full view, and it was just a delightfully Asian experience.
End of the Line
Our food tour technically ended there, with our bellies full and a night of exploring the Marina Bay area ahead of us.
But it would be remiss of me to comment on the amazing Singaporean cuisine we tried without highlighting three other fantastic restaurants our hosts took us to.
Read on for three more of my favourite Singapore restaurants from the trip.
#5 – The Banana Leaf Apolo
Our last day in Singapore saw us exploring Little India on foot, and the highlight of this day of colourful exploration was undoubtedly a visit to the very popular Banan Leaf Apolo.
Not as off-the-beaten-track as our other stops, it was nonetheless a delicious culinary journey as we ate a variety of traditional Indian dishes off of banana leafs while throwing back ice cold beers. Heavenly!
#6 – Fatty Weng’s
A Singapore icon and hardly an undiscovered secret, Fatty Weng’s has a link to our hosts – as it used to be inside the Village Hotel Albert Court!
These days, it’s located a short walk away and still serves delicious Chinese inspired cuisine.
Not the least of these is its famous chilli crab, a Singapore tradition and something we were all very eager to try. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed!
My favourite part? Sopping up the deliciously sweet, chilli sauce with Chinese fried bread (mantou). So good!
#7 – 328 Katong Laksa
I made brief mention of the best Laksa I’ve ever had in my previous post about Singapore, but I had to highlight 328 Katong Laksa again.
Like a number of the food crawl spots, this place does one thing and they do it very well. The menu offers you the choice of big laksa or small laksa, and that’s about it.
But they do it so bloody well! The most flavourful, spicy laksa I’ve ever had. It was something special.
Back to the Gym!
Singapore really surprised me the variety and quality of food, but I shouldn’t be surprised that the best food is going to be found where the locals eat.
Hell, that’s the advice I give everybody headed over to China or South Korea to try their luck as a teacher or tourist. The locals know best what restaurants deliver quality and affordability.
Having a local guide is a fantastic way to unearth all of the hidden gems, and Village Hotel Albert Court and Far East Hospitality do a great job of putting you in touch with the people and places you need to have an authentic experience and live like a local.
If you’re headed to Singapore, why not check out www.stayfareast.com to arrange your own live like a local experience?
Disclaimer: My stay in Singapore was sponsored by Far East Hospitality. All opinions are my own.
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