I love food and I love cooking – the buying, the preparing, the smells, the history, the culture, and of course the taste. I record all my experiences, and I create my own recipes. I’m a bona fide foodie. But what about the grub on offer in the hawker centres and food stalls of Singapore? For newbies to the country, they may appear intimidating places, but you can find some of the best food imaginable if you search hard enough – especially on the East Coast, a hotspot for great hawker dishes. In fact, you don’t have to; I’ve done all the hard work for you.
Marmite Ribs @ Sin Hoi Sai Eating House, 187 East Coast Road
This place has people spilling out onto the street it’s that good. A family-run place, it’s reasonably priced and the beer flows – what more can you ask for? You simply have to try the Marmite pork ribs; sweet, tangy and sticky all in one go. The butter prawns with the uniform removed (de-shelled) are deep-fried to a crisp on the outside yet remain sweet, soft and buttery in the middle. Also worth trying is the understated barbecued pork. Smoky until slightly blackened, it just needs a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a squeeze of calamansi lime.
Pork Heaven @ East Coast Lagoon Hawker, East Coast Service Road
Do you like pork? Do you like pork that has been slow-cooked for days on end? Do you like pork that is cooked in secret spices, leaving unctuous black gravy to die for? Would you like that with an ice-cold beer, sir? If the answers to the above questions are yes, then order the pork knuckle. It is off the charts. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but you can’t eat words can you?
Bar B Q Tonight @ 3 Roberts Lane, Little India
This is a fabulous little Pakistani barbecue place – that’s charcoaled barbecue, not tandoor. We delved into a $15 all-you-can-eat buffet lunch: 25 fantastic dishes. We returned and ventured off-piste to the al la carte menu. Don’t miss the Afghani chicken boti, a non-spicy marinade with a truly wonderful Middle Eastern garlic sauce. Lamb ribs can be quite ordinary, but these were steamed in a deep spicy marinade. The big surprise dish of the day, which prompted a double take, was the sheep brain masala – seriously, it’s a million times better than it sounds.
Master Pork Craftsman @ Parkway Parade hawker
I’m addicted to roasted pork belly, I don’t mind admitting it. The Mecca for said fare is at the Parkway Parade hawker – just look for the stall with the huge queue. It’s on the salty side with pork crackling to die for – thick and crispy. The deboned meat even gets a personal massage from the chief hawker himself; I bet his wife doesn’t even get that.
Ice-cold beer @ 245 Hawker Station, East Coast Lagoon Hawker
Come on, a pint and a half of beer at $6.50 a go. The lager is icy cold, and the table service from the family owners is great – they crank fresh ones open before you reach the end of your glass. At this price, it’s well worth venturing away from the city.
Spicy Thai @ Thai Café, 01-35, Block 115, Aljunied Avenue 2
Big on space, big on flavour and big on spice. Please try the deep-fried grouper with special spicy sauce. It’s perfectly fried, not greasy or oily, but moist and crispy, with a big kick of chili. The stir-fried minced pork with basil and long beans is simply amazing, and the holy Thai basil with that little aniseed kick is lovely and spicy. Oh, and the olive fried rice, with kalamata olives no less, is the best I’ve ever eaten.