24 Hours: What To Eat In Singapore

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


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


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.


An Unforgettable Lunar New Year

Every Lunar New Year’s Eve, if I’m not abroad, you can expect me to be having dinner with my family.  By family, I mean all 23 of them from my 93-year-old grandmother to my 2-year-old niece.  It is something my grandmother insists on—she believes a person who forgets tradition, forgets family.

Like any cosmopolitan city, it’s nothing short of a miracle to get so many people to sit down to dinner together in Singapore.  It requires the expert management of multiple clashing schedules, packed with the million little demands modern life makes.

As you can imagine, arranging an unforgettable dinner for 24 is no simple affair.  So this year, I’ve decided to take a leaf from Executive Chinese Chef Lee Hui Ngai of Cassia, Capella Singapore.

During the 40 years of his culinary career, Chef Lee has charmed diners at top hotels in Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore, and made Lunar New Year memorable for so many families.  He generously shares his ‘recipe’ for happiness this Lunar New Year.

Executive Chinese Chef Lee Hui Ngai from Cassia

Executive Chinese Chef Lee Hui Ngai from Cassia

What is the most unforgettable Lunar New Year meal you’d recommend?

Chef Lee: One of the top five fish I’ve tried over the past four decades of my culinary career is the Unforgettable Fish.  In Mandarin, it’s called 忘不了鱼, which actually translates to ‘unforgettable fish’.  Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see why.  The first time I savoured this fish was when a guest from China specially requested it.  I took my first bite, and was instantly enraptured.

The Unforgettable Fish

The Unforgettable Fish

Why is this fish so exceptional?

Chef Lee: I could tell you how sweet, succulent, silky and tender it is, but that barely begins to describe it.  The Unforgettable Fish swims against the current, and its scales are unusually crisp when steamed.  Unlike other fish, we tend to steam this fish with its scales intact.

At Capella Singapore, we import the Unforgettable Fish ‘live’ from Sabah, Malaysia when it’s fully-grown and at least 2kg in weight—any smaller, and it loses some of its unique flavour.  As with the best ingredients, there’s no need to do too much with it.  It is best enjoyed lightly steamed, with a glass of white wine or champagne.

Any other dining tips for an unforgettable Lunar New Year?

Chef Lee: Lunar New Year has special significance for Chinese around the world.  We believe it is auspicious to enjoy a beautiful and unforgettable meal to herald an amazing New Year.

Fortune and good luck aside, what really warms my heart is being with my family, and watching their sheer delight in enjoying a meal together.  As a chef, this naturally fills me with a deep sense of pride.  But as a father, husband and son, this gives me a glimpse of true happiness, in all its richness and simplicity.

Cassia's signature Lou Hei

Cassia‘s Signature Lou Hei

If you are planning your own Lunar New Year’s celebrations, be sure to check out Cassia’s Lunar New Year specials here.

The Perfect Profiteroles Recipe

I have a confession to make.  I have a sweet tooth and easily succumb to delicious treats made with milk, butter and most importantly sugar.  Given that, you can only imagine my sheer delight when Capella Singapore’s Pastry Chef Sam called me into his kitchen to share the new profiteroles recipe he is working on for The Knolls.

I was very grateful that Chef Sam took time out of his busy schedule to teach me.  According to Chef Sam, “I always believe to teach is to learn twice. By teaching I get to learn a second time, and also it gives me insights on ideas other people may have, which could eventually become part of my next idea for a new creation.”

Chef Sam’s profiteroles were indeed heavenly and they were surprisingly easy to make.  They were light with a slight bite and with a rich golden brown colour.  The profiteroles were sweet at first bite, but with a mild salty aftertaste perfectly complementing the chocolate sauce we made.


Serves six

50g Milk
50g Water
¼tsp Salt
1Tbsp Sugar
50g Butter
60g All Purpose Flour
2.5g Baking Powder
2 Eggs

1. Mix the milk, water, salt, sugar and butter into a saucepan.  Bring to boil allowing the butter to melt.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.
3. Remove from heat and pour the flour into the boiling liquid and cook until a smooth dough forms and it pulls away easily from the sides of the pot.
4. Put the hot dough into a mixing bowl. Continue mixing while adding in 1 of the eggs to cool it down immediately.
5. Add in the second egg and continue mixing until the dough forms a smooth shiny consistency.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
7. Pour the mixture into a piping bag and pipe onto a tray lined with baking paper.
8. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until dark golden in colour.
9. Remove from oven and once cooled on a baking rake, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to two days.
10. Once chilled, poke a hole into each profiterole and pipe in ice-cream and serve with chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce
Makes 1 ½ cups sauce

½C Water
⅓C Sugar
2Tbsp Corn Syrup
¼C Cocoa Powder
100g Dark Chocolate Chips

1. Bring water, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in dark chocolate pieces.
3. Stir until smooth.
4. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
5. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
6. Pour generously over profiteroles.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!!