They say that good things come in small packages and our next destination illustrates that idea to a tee. Our next port of call in the “Welcome to” series is South East Asia’s smallest country, Singapore. My former neighbour, dear friend and food blogger, Gina, aka Fatsochef, is kindly going to show us around. If, for you, travel is as much about the food as the sightseeing, read on!
The last time I wrote about my country, I was probably just ten years old! I don’t remember but I’m sure it was nothing but praise for this little island I call home. There really isn’t much not to like about Singapore. It’s beautiful, clean, modern, efficient and safe, from both crimes and natural disasters! It’s got great infrastructure, well-built roads, a first-class airline, and as for the buildings, we’ve got some pretty awesome architecture here on our little space of barely 130 square kilometers.
The Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer
If you’ve ever had the chance to see a picture of the famous Marina Bay Sands building and thought to yourself, “Well, that’s nice”, just wait until you see it in person – the structure will blow you away! The building houses a hotel, casino, theatre, countless restaurants, bars and a mall to meet every shopaholic’s demands, plus there’s a magnificent view of the city skyline from the rooftop which is a staggering 193 meters high. It is a must-visit!
As if being known as the Garden City wasn’t enough, we went and built a garden within the garden city! Even if you’re not into flowers, you’ll be mesmerized by the towering futuristic solar-powered Supertrees and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall here at Singapore’s Gardens by The Bay.
Gardens by the Bay
We’re a young country, just celebrating our fifty-third year of independence in August this year, but we’ve come a long way the past half a century. Watching the country grow and evolve in such a short time is the pride of all Singaporeans.
Speaking of evolution, my own backyard has seen some mind-boggling changes! Built in 1920s, Tiong Bahru is the oldest housing estate in Singapore; also my family home for the past thirty years… and counting! As recent as the early nineties, our walk-up apartment sat amidst mom-and-pop shops selling everything from eggs to haberdashery supplies to freshly handmade noodles. Today, barely a handful of these old businesses remain, and the rest have been converted to hipster cafes, swanky barber shops, lifestyle shops and even spas! Despite the change, Tiong Bahru still exudes an old-world charm that silently refuses to budge! Is it the old-fashioned buildings? Or the quiet elderly couple at their rundown back alley shop that still helps reupholster our equally old couches? I don’t know! But people come from all over to capture and take in this fusion of old and new!
One of my favorite places in Singapore is Haji Lane. Known as the narrowest street in Singapore where hip meets culture, Haji Lane is touted as a must-see in every tourism guide book. Tucked in the center of Kampong Glam, Singapore’s Muslim quarter, this barely 300-meter-long street is lined with vintage shops, ice cream parlors, taco stands, coffee joints and even tattoo studios. And what started out as graffiti in the early days on sleepy Haji Lane evolved into some of the best street art you’ll see in Singapore.
Stunning murals grace the walls and shopfronts in Haji Lane
My personal blog, fatsochef.com, revolves around the greatest pleasure of Singaporeans: eating! So it’s definitely on my agenda to talk a little about food here! Although we have a huge variety of local and international cuisines in Singapore, we are truly proud of our local fare.
Every Singaporean has his or her own idea of our national dish. For me, Hainanese Chicken Rice reigns! Singapore chefs adapted the dish from the early Chinese immigrants from Hainan province. Don’t ask me what was wrong with the original but we decided to tweak it to what it is today and it has become more Singapore than Hainan ever since! You will find chicken rice in every corner of Singapore – from neighborhood hawker centers, to five-star hotels and even on board Singapore Airlines! A serving could cost a mere SG$3 to a whooping SG$25, depending where you choose to dine!
Hainanese chicken: fragrant jasmine rice cooked in aromatic chicken stock, served with freshly poached tender chicken
Think a whole chicken, gently poached to succulent tenderness, drizzled with sweet savory soy sauce and served with fragrant jasmine rice that’s been cooked in the broth from poaching the bird. It all seems rather simple but a good chicken rice hits you with its deep, aromatic flavor!
Of course there will be other claims on our national dish – from Char Kway Teow, to Laksa, to Nasi Lemak. Nonetheless, there’s no starting a food war with a bunch of food-loving people! In fact, when friends are visiting, the first thing we do is treat them to a Singaporean food fest. Believe me when I say they always enjoy it as much as we do!
Laksa – Silky smooth rice noodles in a creamy spicy coconut broth, bean sprouts, prawns, fish cake, and if you’re adventurous, raw blood cockles!
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never quite pursued it. Starting my food review blog was totally unplanned but it’s been really fulfilling, especially on days when I discover something delicious! In or outside Singapore, I love hunting down hidden gems… discovering a quiet beach, or a secret bar always makes my day! When I travel, I always eat what the local people eat. I love chatting to the locals, learning about their culture, their language, and their favorite places to eat and party. My other passion is skiing. Rare for someone that lives in the tropics! But yeah, every chance I get, I’m on the slopes. It’s probably something I’d like to do until I’m 100! But we’ll see about that!
Go here for a peek into my food adventures. Or share your thoughts on my IG, account. Better still, point me to YOUR favorite place to eat and I’ll be sure to put it on my list!
Singapore skyline, Marina bay and Merlion fountain