24 Hours: What To Eat In Singapore

item_1.thumbnail.carousel-img.740.416

As Singapore turns 50 this month, our nation is in a grand party mood.  And one of our favourite ways to party is to indulge our palates.  We are in love with our food, and fussy to a fault when it comes to eating.  And you can hardly blame us.  Most of our dishes are born of our multi-racial culture, and the best dishes are Singaporean-ised over the years to perfectly suit our taste buds.

So if you are in Singapore for a short visit, join me on a food trail that is sure to impress.  This is 24 Hours: What To Eat In Singapore:

Prata for Breakfast

Roti Prata picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

Roti Prata picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

When I’m up bright and early, I usually make a beeline for roti pratas.  When done right, this South Indian flat bread is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the perfect morning nosh.

My personal favourite is what we call prata ‘kosong’.  ‘Kosong’ means ‘zero’ in the Malay language and refers to plain prata, which tastes best when dipped with fish curry.

However, if you are craving something a little more sweet or savoury, many prata stalls also offer modern variants such as cheese, onion, chocolate and bomb pratas – a flakier dough with margarine, sugar and condensed milk.  Enjoy these with strong local coffee for the perfect early morning pick-me-up.

Chicken Rice for Lunch

Chicken Rice picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

Chicken Rice picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

Though chicken rice has its roots in the Hainan province in China, it is widely hailed as our national dish.  In fact, it’s rare to walk more than five kilometres anywhere in Singapore without passing a chicken rice stall with a row of cooked chicken hanging from the stall front.

While this may seem a little shocking to tourists at first, it adds to the distinct flavour of the cuisine.  In fact, Singaporeans tend to like to see our meat in its entirety, and associate this with freshness and wholeness.

Quirks aside, Singaporean-Hainanese Chicken Rice is very different from the original version from China, which tends to feature a bonier fowl with green chilli dip.  In Singapore, we prefer tender spring chicken served with fragrant rice steamed with chicken stock and ginger.  This is accompanied by a tangy red chilli dip, minced ginger paste and thick sweet soy sauce.

Widely available at humble hawker centres and renowned restaurants, this national dish has inspired our nation so much that we have named movies such as Chicken Rice War after it!

Kaya Toast for Tea

Kaya Toast picture from https://yakuntoast.wordpress.com - a national favourite

Kaya Toast picture from Ya Kun (https://yakuntoast.wordpress.com) – a national favourite

As far as Singapore’s tea culture goes, the Kaya Toast probably sums it up.  Kaya is a local jam made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan leaves, which lends it a unique fragrance and distinctive green hue.  Served with toasted bread and generous slivers of butter, it the perfect mid-day energy booster.

Singaporeans love enjoying a Kaya Toast even when we’re not hungry.  It is most commonly savoured with local milk tea, or what we call ‘teh’ during a casual catch-up with friends, especially on a lazy weekend.

Chilli Crabs for Dinner

IMG_3555

Whenever I host overseas friends for dinner, I love to take them for some authentic Singaporean chilli crabs.  Usually served with the shell intact and drenched with a savoury chilli-tomato gravy, this is a messy eat.  Be ready to get your hands dirty, and expect a lot of splatter.  However, if you ask any Singaporean, this simply adds to the flavour of the crabs, and makes it a unique bonding experience for diners.

My three tips for enjoying the iconic chilli crab: 1) Never wear white or pricey clothes for this unless you are prepared to go home with stains.  2) Request for a female crab if you enjoy roe.  3) Always order mantou (fried buns) to soak up the chilli gravy after you’ve polished off the main!

Satay for Supper

IMG_3545

Think of this as the Southeast Asian version of the ubiquitous kebab, marinated in a piquant bouquet of local spices.  Satays tend to be sweeter than your regular kebabs, and served with a distinct sweet and spicy peanut dip.  Usually available as bite-sized chicken, beef and mutton sticks with a side of raw cucumbers, onions and ketupat (rice cakes), they are my favourite after-dinner snacks!

Since the best satays are freshly grilled over an open charcoal fire, they are usually only available from evening till late night.  Bear in mind that you can’t order one or two sticks of satay – nor should you.  Stall owners offer satay beginning from 8-10 sticks. And believe me, once you’ve tried it, you’ll wish you had ordered more.

 

Capella Singapore serves many of these delightful local cuisines.  Alternatively, if you are spending time around town, ask your Personal Assistant for recommendations.

 

Asia’s Gemstone: Jade

Jade

Yesterday my colleagues and I were having an interesting conversation about the “Feng Shui Trail” on Sentosa Island which features one of the largest Jadeites in Singapore.  This led to an insightful discussion on the significance of Jade, an ornamental stone, commonly worn as jewelry in Asia.

Jade

Jade is very fascinating and has much mystique surrounding it.  Known to be a “living” stone because it is said to turn greener when worn by a person, according to Chinese superstition, how green the stone appears depends on how much it “likes” you.

Following that notion, Jade is also thought to absorb the feelings of its owner and if the previous owner had a lot of “negative energy”, it would be transferred to the new owner. This is why when buying the gemstone, it is important to go to a feng shui or fortune master to get a reading.  They will then prescribe the appropriate pieces to suite your personality.

Jade is also believed to ward off evil. One story holds that if you were to have a fall, the Jade would crack, absorbing the injury you would have sustained from the fall.  Furthermore, it is believed to ward off bad dreams and to bring good luck in games of chance.

The word “Jade” in Chinese is written as 玉 (yu), but did you know it is actually two different stones?  In Chinese it is given two separate names.  The first,  硬玉 (ying yu) or “hard Jade” is the term for Jadeite and 軟玉 (ruan yu), meaning “soft Jade” describes nephrite or the common Jade you would find in most Chinese stores.  As you might have guessed, Jadeite is the more refined and exclusive of the two.  One key differentiation is the color.  Nephrite  is usually dark green or grey-green in color.  Jadeite on the other hand shows more color variations, including yellow, lavender-mauve, pink and emerald-green.

Next time you are travelling to Singapore, be sure to stop by the Merlion Plaza on Sentosa Island where the giant Jadeite is located.  You can also visit some of the Feng Shui Masters for more insight into the properties of Jade.  Your Capella Singapore Personal Assistants would be more than happy to recommend a few good stores.