Personally, trying out the local food is one of my travel highlights. Sure, I do enjoy having my afternoon teas all around the world, but I also love visiting local hawker centres and restaurants, finding out about local delicacies and giving them a try.
Sometimes they’re not to my palate and other times I get completely hooked – take Penang, for example, where I became obsessed with the calorific but oh so delicious murtakbak.
When Justin and I visited Singapore two lovely bloggers we befriended online, the Expat Kiwis, offered to take us on a foodie tour of Singapore, showing us their favourite places to eat as well as showing us the best dishes Singapore has to offer.
Old Airport Road Food Centre
Our evening started at the Old Airport Road Food Centre, a big favourite for locals. One of the oldest and largest food courts in Singapore, it is home to a lot of the city’s most revered food stalls. After we visited I checked it out on TripAdvisor and wasn’t surprised to discover it was rated as 12th out of over 9,000 restaurants in Singapore!
In truth I think we spent as much time walking around and deciding what and where to order from as we actually did eating! Rows upon rows of colourful stalls greet you, the smell an amalgamation of all the spices and dishes cooking, with a deliciously inviting undertone of frying onions. Overwhelmed by choice we decided to let the ‘Kiwis order on our behalf, as they’d told us there were certain things here that we absolutely had to try.
Finding a free table outside in the shade, we tucked into their recommendations. We started off with Asian style ‘carrot cake’, which is nothing like it sounds. The ‘cake’ itself is savoury, and comes in the form of white cubes made from flour and white radish; which is sometimes called white carrot in Chinese. It’s very popular to fry it with eggs, and our serving came covered with egg and prawns. Personally I found it very more-ish.
We couldn’t miss out on the satay, so had beef and chicken with a tasty peanut sauce, and our final ‘starter’ was an oyster omelette. This was simply oysters cooked with fried egg and starch to bind it all together. I gave it a go, but as I’m not into particularly ‘fishy’ dishes this wasn’t really one for my palette.
As is the case across all the hawker centres across Singapore, the food here is hearty, delicious and cheap. If you can’t decide where to order from my tip is to join the longest queue, as that means it’s a popular choice for the locals. Just keep in mind though, that queues can mean a wait of maybe even 30 minutes as the food is cooked fresh…
Hua Yu Wee
After our ‘appetisers’ we took a taxi over to Hua Yu Wee, a highly recommended old school Chinese restaurant that offers delicious food in a relaxed environment.
Another popular haunt, this place is always packed with locals and it’s recommended that you book ahead wherever possible. Set in an old colonial building on Upper East Coast Road, it’s very much what you see is what you get, and as you walk into the building you’ll go past the cooking area and can hear the shouting and banging from the chefs at work.
As well as the air-conditioned main restaurant, out the back is a terrace packed with tables for the majority of guests to eat al fresco. The ‘Kiwis told us that back when the house was built this terrace would be looking out onto the sea, but it’s now inland thanks to Singapore’s epic land reclamation work.
You can expect all the traditional Chinese classics here, and we tried stir-fried greens and pork ribs, but a speciality the ‘Kiwi’s recommended was drunken prawns. These are so called because while still alive they’re put straight into Chinese wine to ‘swim’ around a bit. They’re then cooked immediately and served in a lovely warming wine-infused broth.
These were really tasty, but for me the highlight of the evening was the dish the restaurant is best known for: Singapore chilli crab.
The best place in Singapore for chilli crab
The ‘Kiwis said that Hua Yu Wee is known as one of the best places in the city for Singapore chilli crab and so we were very excited when our order arrived at our table as a gooey mess of broken crab in hot tomato sauce.
I found the idea of a spicy ketchup sauce with crab a bit of a weird one, but it didn’t take long to discover how oddly delicious it is. I can see why you’ll want a side of deep fried buns, as they’re used to dip in and soak up the sauce. I mean seriously, it’s so tasty you won’t want to leave a drop!
Where to eat in Singapore
I’m so glad we made the trip out to both these places as they’re both a little out of the centre of Singapore, but well worth the journey. For those interested in visiting, the Old Airport Road Food Centre is accessible via MRT: it’s a three-minute walk from Dakota CC8 MRT (just make sure head in the right direction, unlike us!) but you’ll need to call a taxi to visit Hua Yu Wee. Please do check them out during a visit, as they’re really wonderful!
We can’t thank those lovely Expat Kiwis enough for taking an evening out to show us the foodie highlights of Singapore. We hope one day to repay the favour if they ever make it over to the southwest UK!