Actually, I do have a favourite Singapore food: char siew wanton mee. Easy-peasy! But rather than write about that alone, here's a list of my personal favourite places for all kinds of local (and some not-so-local) food.
Chicken rice --- Margaret Drive hawker centre, second floor.
I don't know the name of this stall, but the second floor of this once thriving hawker centre's now practically vacant, so just look for the only stall that looks busy. It's a white chicken rice place; you'lll have to look elsewhere for your roasted chicken variety. I prefer white, anyway, especially when it's unabashedly oily and just a touch bloody like they make it here. I've been eating at this place since I was a kid and I doubt the hawker centre building will be upgraded anytime soon, so there's a decent nostalgia factor too.
Char siew wanton mee --- Alex's along Beach Road, opposite Shaw Tower.
A recent discovery (last year), courtesy of Terz. The char siew (roast pork) is actually a little fattier than one should consume on a regular basis, but what I really like area the noodles. A lot of places serve mediocre noodles --- not the right thickness or consistency or elasticity or flavour. This place has good noodles and good chilli sauce and fatty meat and juicy wantons. It all comes together.
Popiah --- No favourite place, and I'll tell you why.
I enjoy popiah but I'm not very discriminating when it comes to popiah. As long as it's got the canonical ingredients and the stallholder doesn't try to stiff me for more than $1.50 per roll, I'm pretty much sold. Nevertheless, among the decent places that I've sampled are the stall at East Coast Park lagoon hawker centre (along the same row as the "famous" char siew mee that I don't find particularly satisfying) and a stall at Bedok North hawker centre.
Beef hor fun (wet style) --- the coffeeshop with white tiles along Keong Saik Road, opposite the nasi padang place.
Nice thick gravy that isn't too soupy, and tender beef slices. Most importantly, they serve it with the right kind of chilli slices (red, not green). The place also seems to do a roaring cze char business at night.
Beef kway teow soup --- #01-33 East Coast Park Lagoon hawker centre.
Rich, fragrant, flavourful. The only problem is the long queues generated by the fact that the old man who runs the stall makes each bowl of noodles not only individually but at a very leisurely pace.
Yong tau foo --- this place on Syed Alwi Road. Yeah, I'm not being very specific, but I know how to find the place if I have to.
This isn't the deep-fried Ampang variety, which I'm not crazy about, but the healthier and, in my opinion, tastier option. Besides the grand variety of items you can pick and choose from, what's really excellent here is the chilli sauce with bits of dried chilli in oil. I'd eat everything with this chilli sauce if it didn't so readily set my tongue on fire.
Claypot rice --- Chinatown Complex, at the stall run by an old couple to the left of the top of the escalator.
No one really makes claypot rice like my mom, but if I'm out and about and craving some, this is a good place. The price ($5) is slightly higher than average, but it comes with good sauce and a healthy portion of chicken and lap cheong (Chinese sausage).
Chicken or mutton murtabak --- Zam Zam restaurant along North Bridge Road, opposite Sultan Mosque.
Another preference inherited from my parents. The trick, really, is to get the flour layers chewy but not in that been-sitting-on-a-plate-all-day way, and not to overwhelm the meat's flavour with too much onion.
Claypot fish head (the Chinese kind) --- Le Wan Tian, at the corner of Telok Kurau and Changi Roads.
Black pepper crab and sambal pomfret --- cze char place along Tyrwhitt Road, at the corner of Plumer Road, I think.
Magnificent, just magnificent. One bite and I was sold. We would bring our parents here all the time, except that such regular doses of the food probably wouldn't be too good for their cholesterol or gout levels.
Indonesian food --- Bumbu, without a doubt.
Details here and here.
Thai food --- Depending on budget: Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen (low), A-Roy Thai (middle) or Sabai (high).
It's hard to cough up plenty money for Thai food here, knowing that Bangkok is just a short budget flight away, where good street food may be had for less than the cost of a fruit juice at Sabai. Which is why I mostly eat at a cheapish place like Tuk Tuk. All three places have really good food nonetheless, though as you'd expect, it's served up with the most finesse at Sabai.
Iced lemon tea --- Epicurious, no contest.
I've said it all. On further consideration, I'd give Toast a close second, but theirs is technically a different concoction where they blend the lemon with the tea. Also zealously refreshing, though.
60-cent black coffee --- the coffeeshop at the corner of Keong Saik and Teck Lim Roads.
You can't go wrong with a cup of thick black coffee at this price, whatever time of day it is. They also serve up kaya toast with heaps of butter and my ex-colleague swears by their sliced fish hor fun, but I'm not so crazy about it.
Chwee kueh --- the popular stall at Ghim Moh market (closer to the block 21 side).
Again, it's about the consistency of the rice cake --- sticky, but not too sticky, with the right level of savouriness for the radish topping. I prefer mine without chilli sauce (yet another holdover from childhood days) and I will always associate this with breakfasts at Whampoa hawker centre in the '80s when my brother and I stayed over at my grandparents'.
Tau huey (soya bean curd) --- the stall at Dover Road market.
The Ang Mo Kio version a friend introduced me to last year was pretty good, but I think Dover Road still has the smoothest bean curd around.
Char siew baos --- Crystal Jade, the winner, hands down.
Moist on the inside, light and fluffy on the outside --- it's not as easy as it sounds.
Salad --- There are many salads available in Singapore, but I'm currently in love with Brewerkz's concoction of fresh fruit, arugula and other greens. I'd go there to eat it just for a pick-me-up. I also enjoy their burgers, though I consider my great hunt for the Good American Burger as still ongoing.
Pies (chicken, steak and mushroom, lamb, whatever) --- Big Ben's, no contest.
Ramen --- Megumi, at Siglap.
The ramen with cod in milk broth is exquisite. The one place I'll actually order ramen and try to wolf it down without waiting for the soup to cool because you just can't, can't wait to get more of it in you. The last time we were there, they also recommended brinjal stuffed with prawn in the agedashi tofu sauce, which was rather incredible.
Sashimi --- Hanabi and I can only speak for the Kings' Arcade restaurant 'cause I haven't eaten at the Odeon one.
One of the first Japanese a la carte buffet places we tried, and still my favourite. Their sashimi's always fresh and tasty. I could just sit there all day eating sashimi.
Yakitori --- Damon, at Katong.
So many choices, so many large prawns, and so many glittering bottles of sake waiting for their owners to come finish them.
Teppanyaki --- Shima, at Goodwood Park Hotel.
Too bad we can't afford to eat there more often.
For the record, other food I enjoy that I haven't quite pinned down a favourite place for yet (in alphabetical order, 'cause I'm anal retentive that way):
- Bak kut teh
- Buffalo wings
- Carrot cake
- Dim sum
- Fishball noodles
- Fish head curry
- Mee siam
- Nasi padang
- Olua (oyster omelette)
- Peranakan food --- we loved loved loved Yuen's along Upper East Coast Road, but a change of operators or cooks, not to mention what seemed like perpetual renovations, made me give up on it
- Steak (obviously there's Gordon Grill, but with its prices, we can't afford to eat there all the time)
- Teochew moi (porridge), ever since our favourite place at Joo Chiat was inexplicably taken over by an inferior cook
- Xiao long bao (northern Chinese dumplings, with a squirt of oil and soup inside, different from the southern Cantonese varieties I'm more familiar with)
Okay, now I'm hungry.
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