For our last big meal in Singapore, how best to end the trip than with another visit to a hawker centre? We made our way to Makansutra Gluttons Bay, a small hawker centre near the Esplanade shopping mall (the “durian”). It opens only for dinner and closes quite late at night – about 2am most days (full opening hours at the link below). We were there to eat great food! This handful of vendors were invited by those who run the Makansutra guide to set up a stall here for they serve some excellent versions of classic hawker food. If you’re very pressed for time in Singapore (say you’re only there for a night and most hawker centres are already closed), then come here!

Makansutra Gluttons Bay

We went there at about 8:30 in the evening and it was already packed! After securing a table and some drinks, we took it in turn to hit up three of the 8 or 9 stalls there. First up, one colleague ordered a whole lot of chicken and beef satay at Alhambra Padang Satay. The meats were well marinated and didn’t require the equally excellent satay sauce.


From the Huat Huat stall, another colleague procured some barbecued chicken wings and white chai tow kway (aka fried carrot cake). Those chicken wings were really something – ridiculously juicy and absolutely gorgeous. We could have made a meal of these.

Barbecued Chicken Wings

The chai tow kway was pretty good too, if I recall correctly. The plate was wiped clean by the end of the meal. I quite like it when it’s fried up like an omelette – it reminds me of home.

White Chai Tow Kway

I queued patiently at the grilled seafood stall and ordered quite the bounty. I had been thinking about sambal stingray (like skate) all day and now finally I’d have some! But first, there was a request for carbs and so a large seafood fried rice was ordered. It was a passable fried rice, good for filling one up but not a fried rice for which you’d travel.

Seafood Fried Rice

For some greens, some sambal kangkong (or ong choy, or water convolvulus). These are your very basic greens in this region – the long leafy green cooked with chilli and belacan (fermented shrimp paste). They fulfilled our need for vegetables.

Sambal Kangkong

Finally, some seafood! I saw the fried baby squid on display and got tempted to buy a plateful… so I did. They were indeed crispy, crunchy almost, and in a sweet and tangy sauce. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay crunchy for the duration of the meal; perhaps it was the humidity that affected it. The poor things ended up a little hard.

Fried Baby Squid

The pièce de résistance: the sambal stingray! This was a whole stingray wing (like skate… so, I’m not really sure what the difference is. A Google search tells me that the former can sting you and the latter cannot?), sliced horizontally to make it thinner (ours was quite thick) and then barbecued. It was also covered in a delicious chilli sambal – oh, it’s so moreish and I’m once again drooling as I type this. I’m also trying not to look at the photo.

Sambal Stingray

Overall, this is a great place for a solid meal. Fabulous examples of hawker food all in one convenient location. The prices may be a teeny bit steeper than at other hawker centres but not overwhelmingly so. At the very least, let the number of locals there be an indicator of its quality!

The Spread

Makansutra Gluttons Bay
8 Raffles Avenue #01-15
(outside the Esplanade (‘Durian’) mall)
Singapore 039802

I think that ends my Singapore posts – thanks for sticking around for them! All my photos from the trip can be found in this Flickr photoset.


We couldn’t leave Singapore without having one of its national dishes: Hainanese chicken rice. If you’ve not had this before, you’d be forgiven if you take one look at it and wonder what the big deal about boiled chicken and rice is. Ah, but looks are deceiving. The chicken is poached with plenty of aromatics and the rice is cooked with the resulting stock, rendering it wonderfully fragrant. In Singapore, you get the rice, the chicken, some of the stock served as soup and a chilli sauce and dark soy sauce on the side. It’s absolutely delicious but I never expected to have it twice while I was there!

One night, we headed to Boon Tong Kee, a popular chain of chicken rice restaurants, and though it’s a chain, the chicken rice is rated highly there. As it’s a proper restaurant, they also have a full menu of other dishes as well, lending a bit of variety to the meal. Our very friendly waiter suggested that we try both their chicken versions and so we went with half a Hainanese poached chicken …

Hainanese Poached Chicken

… and half a crispy deep fried chicken. This was served with a wasabi dip and very fine salt, both not really necessary. We already had individual sauce dishes of the traditional red chilli, garlic and ginger sauce for the Hainanese chicken. Both chickens were excellent, with the tender poached chicken just edging out the fried one for first place in my books.

Roast Chicken

Individual bowls of chicken rice (that is, the rice cooked in the chicken stock) were doled out and we started tucking in. I loved their rice – according to the Makansutra guide, each grain is lovingly coated in their secret recipe sauce before cooking.

Chicken Rice

My colleague chose this stewed pork belly with preserved vegetable, and in doing so, he went up greatly in esteem in the eyes of our waiter. It was everything we expected: a luxuriously fatty bit of pork belly stewed with dark soy with salty preserved mustard greens. It was excellent and a good way of keeping the meal from being too healthy.

Stewed Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetable

Again we ordered bean sprouts with salted fish, a dish common in Singapore and Malaysia but not so common here. This version was excellent but the attention to detail is what impressed me: they’ve picked off the root part of the bean sprouts! This is quite common practice at home over there or at the very least, it was common practice in my home! My mother would buy a huge bag of bean sprouts and then give them to me to pick off the roots. It’s an activity best done in front of the telly.

Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish

Another colleague’s order of a stuffed aubergine dish was unavailable (they’d run out) and was replaced with a spicy aubergine hotpot. Despite it being listed under the vegetable section of the menu, there was minced pork within and even better, large chunks of crispy fried pork fat! Now that’s a good claypot dish!

Spicy Aubergine Hotpot

With a drink or two each (I had a homemade barley water!), the meal came to about $100 – so $25 per head. It’s very good for a restaurant meal and one dines in air conditioned comfort here too which is always a plus in Singapore! I believe you can order an individual plate of chicken rice but I don’t know how much this will cost.

Boon Tong Kee
401 Balestier Road (there are other restaurants but this one is supposed to be the best)
Singapore 329803

In contrast, Tian Tian Chicken Rice is located in the Maxwell Food Centre, an outdoor hawker centre, and this hawker centre just so happens to be one we went to on our last trip here – it’s smack dab in the middle of Chinatown so is perfect for tourists without being too touristy itself. We found ourselves there for lunch again and almost immediately, Mirna joined the humongous queue that led towards the chicken rice stand. You can’t miss it.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

The chicken was served off the bone and the meal came with a bowl of chicken stock. The meat is wonderfully flavourful as is the accompanying chilli-garlic-ginger sauce (I like the latter better here). Sadly, the rice was a bit of a let down compared to the one we had at Boon Tong Kee. It was certainly tasty but it was the texture I took issue with; it seemed a little stodgy. There have certainly been reports that they haven’t been very consistent with the quality of their rice as of late.

We also chose a few sides (well, I mostly did as I was feeling greedy) since we were faced with so much variety at this hawker centre. From Tian Tian Chicken Rice as well, Mirna added an order of bok choy with oyster sauce.

Bok Choy

From the China Street Fritters stall, I got some ngoh hiang – fried goodies served with a gooey sweet brown sauce and a chilli sauce. I just bought two pieces of the classic five spiced pork rolled in bean curd skin. Crispy outsides and tender, flavourful insides.

Ngoh Hiang

A stand for Hainanese curry caught my eye on my first runaround and the nice man running it sold me a fried pork chop smothered in the curry sauce. This was my first time tasting Hainanese curry, which is odd seeing that I developed a minor obsession with it after seeing photos online. Very happily, it lived up to expectations – it’s a thickened, very slightly sweet and quite spicy and I loved it. I’m still looking for a reliable recipe for it!

Hainanese Curry

When I rejoined the queue for the chicken rice with Mirna, I overheard the women behind me talk about getting some rojak with their meal. Rojak! I hadn’t had that in years! They pointed me to the stand and I bought a small plateful of the salad of cucumber, jicama, pineapple and fried Chinese doughnuts tossed in a sticky, spicy, black prawn paste dressing and covered with chopped peanuts. It may not look like much but I absolutely adore it – it’s one of those flavours of home for me.


All this food came to about $15 total, I think, and I was absolutely stuffed at the end. If it’s just the chicken rice you want, a large plate will set you back only $3.30.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice
Stall 10
Maxwell Food Centre

We girls found ourselves with a bit of spare time while in Singapore and decided to check out one of the big crazes: fish spas! You stick your feet into tanks of doctor fish and they eat your flaky dead skin. As they turn your scaly skin smooth, they’re excellent for very dry skin and psoriasis. We tried this novel spa treatment at a branch of Singapore’s leading fish spa, Kenko. Here, you can have the fishy treatment by itself or paired with a massage – the latter is what we chose as there’s a good discount when you have them together. Well, it turned out ‘massage’ meant a combination of painful foot reflexology (where each part of the foot is supposed to be associated with a part of the body) and uncomfortable elbows into shoulders and back massage. Yeah, relaxing it was not. (We tried foot reflexology while we were here three years ago. It was bloody painful and obviously we never learned.)

We got through the prodding intact and made it to the tanks of doctor fish. Gosh, they were so tickly and I couldn’t stop laughing for the first five minutes! After that though, it was rather relaxing with the fish feeding feeling quite like a little micro massage.

The Little Fishies

After a little while, the receptionist suggested that we move to another tank. It turned out that each tank had a different size of fish and I eventually made my way to the one with the biggest.

With the Big Fishies

What the heck were these?! They were humongous! There was no gentle massaging sensation here as these big boys had teeth and were gently nibbling away at my feet. I felt as if I was being eaten alive! Sure they didn’t break my skin but still, the feeling was quite unnerving. If I ever return, I’m sticking with the cute little fishies!

I got my revenge on the big fishes that night as we dined at Wo Peng, a Hong Kong banqueting style restaurant run by Chef Julian Tam Kwok Fai (who returned to Singapore after spending some time cooking in Guangzhou). We’d never have known about the place if Ivan had not taken us there. He was so knowledgeable and passionate about the place and its food that I asked him whether he was a regular here. By way of an answer, he pointed at one of the group photos on the wall; there he was with Chef Julian and K.F Seetoh of Makansutra. Ah, very much a regular then!

When we arrived, the table was set with fried peanuts and a sambal hae bee (chilli sambal with dried shrimps). This sambal was very moreish and I picked away at it bit by bit along with the fried peanuts as Ivan repeatedly warned us that there was going to be quite a bit of food. He’d actually preordered almost all the dishes that night and finalised the last few things with the waitress upon his arrival to the restaurant.

Sambal Hae Bee

The food showed up semi-banquet in style – i.e. one or two dishes would show up at a time, allowing us to focus on each particular dish. Our starters came out together. First there was a cold cucumber with century egg salad. It’s a simple dish, dressed with dark sauce and garlic oil, and yet it’s just so delicious for all its simplicity.

Cold Cucumber and Century Egg

Our second starter was a crispy fish skin Hong Kong style. The pile of fish skins looked crispier than crisps and I almost snatched one and shoved it straight into my mouth. But then Ivan told us that it’s meant to be dipped into the soup. Ah, ok. When dipped, the skin crackles like Pop Rocks and it does become more flavourful and yet still remains crisp when eaten.

Crispy Fish Skin Hong Kong Style

Broth for Dipping

It was time for the main courses. First came this spectacular charcoal grilled goose, served with a sweet plum sauce on the side. You know how goose can be a wee bit too fatty? Well, something had been done to this goose so that almost all the fat had rendered out and we were left with all its meaty goodness and crisp skin. This was utterly gorgeous and we pretty much skipped the overly sweet sauce to focus on the delicious bird. That said, the plum sauce wasn’t all wasted; I found that a little every once in a while helped cut that richness. The only thing that confused me about this goose was its… four legs. I’m still confused. Anyway, this really was the best goose I’d ever eaten (I’ll even say I’ve not had a duck this good either) and I wondered how the other dishes were going to fare in comparison.

Charcoal Grilled Goose

I needn’t have worried. The next big dish was a whole smoked golden snapper fish, served with a chili garlic dipping sauce. What’s this? A big fish? Yes, it looks like a bigger version of the little guys who nibbled away at my feet that afternoon. I would have my revenge – I’m eating the big mama! I have to say I didn’t expect much when I saw it – yes, it’s a big fish and yes, it kinda looked hot smoked – and to be totally honest with you, if presented with a fish and a pig, I’d pick the pig every time. But this fish – wow. The skin was crispy but the flesh was moist and so meaty and like the goose, it tasted fine by itself, without the sauce. There was a light smoky flavour from the cooking and damn, this is probably going to be the best fish I eat all year! After everyone was done, I rather inelegantly stuck my fingers in and dug out the tender cheeks.

Smoked Golden Snapper

The final main dish was a big bowl of braised pig trotter vermicelli. This was also excellent though not as eye-poppingly wonderful as the two previous dishes. Surprisingly meaty braised chunks of pig trotter had been cooked together with rice vermicelli, the latter soaking up the cooking liquid of the former. A very nice finish to the savoury part of the meal, especially the home-pickled slices of green chilli on the table.

Braised Pig Trotter Vermicelli

When we’d cleared every morsel of the main courses, it was time for dessert. A panfried red bean pancake came out and it was a pretty good version of this classic Chinese (Cantonese?) dessert. However, as we were all pretty greedy and our stomachs could still fit a little more, Ivan ordered another pancake.

Panfried Red Bean Pancake

Oh, and he ordered another dessert too – black sesame balls! So…three desserts in total – my goodness, we really are gluttons. These were good – tasty enough with a good liquidy black sesame filling.

Black Sesame Balls

Chef Julian came out to our table from time to time to see how we were doing and exclaimed when he saw the empty platters. Well, yes, we’re good eaters you see and as it’s so delicious, well, down it goes. Maybe that was his way of saying we were pigs. The cost per head ($50 – there were 5 of us in total) reflects the quality of the food. Sure it’s not cheap but you get what you pay for – and in this case, it’s excellent banquet-style food. Thank you, Ivan, once again!

(And if you go, you’ll need to pre-order the goose and the fish and the vermicelli.)

Wo Peng Eatery
476 MacPherson Road
(tell your taxi driver it’s across from the Mazda showroom!)

After such a fantastic meal there the last time I was in Singapore, it was imperative that we return to Samy’s Curry for another banana leaf rice meal. With a few more of us than last time too, we could order a fish head curry! This dish is exactly as it’s name says – a big fish head (a budget cut) cooked in a curry – and it’s a very popular dish in both Singapore and Malaysia. I think the curry is quite particular to this area of South East Asia – it’s tangy through the use of tamarind and is usually cooked with okra and aubergine.

It was yet another hot and humid day in Singapore when we visited and rather than sit outside, we opted to go inside where the fans were. As before, we chose our dishes from the counter (though a menu is also available) before sitting down at our table. As we came quite early this time (about 1pm), we could see the full range of dishes and the tables were full of businessmen stuffing their faces with the delicious curries and rice.

And like before, a parade of waiters and waitresses will come along to lay your banana leaf, bring you your utensils, dish out your rice, ladle the dal from the bucket, scoop up a spicy potato mixture, place small crispy poppadoms alongside, and pour over some curry if you so desire. As we were ordering a fish head curry, we tried some of the chicken curry gravy – this was very spicy and we ordered some yogurt on the side to sooth our heated tongues! You might also notice that the rice is different to the plain white rice I ordered a few years ago. This time I went for “coloured rice”, their words for what’s essentially briyani rice or a spiced pilao.

Banana Leaf Rice

This is another one of the main reasons we came back – Samy’s magical dal. I’ve been trying to crack the recipe for a while and the last time I forgot one main ingredient that I saw this time – cabbage. It’s a very creamy, soothing cabbage dal and it’s absolutely, gobsmackingly good. All banana leaf rice places in Singapore and Malaysia offer a small variety of vegetables along with the rice but Samy’s has that dal!

That Magical Dal

Of course, you could just sup on this banana leaf rice set but it’s more fun (and greedy) to have a few dishes on the side. From the counter of hot dishes, we chose some black squid, a gently spiced dish which must have included some of the squid’s ink. This wasn’t spicy hot at all and would be good for those who are a little timid with heat.

Black Squid

I thought the squid wasn’t as impressive as the Mysore mutton though. This mutton dish looked dark and dry in its metal bin at the counter but the waiter recommended it as one of Samy’s signature dishes. I ordered it and never regretted it. It’s indeed dry – even drier than the famed dry meat dish at Tayyabs – but the meat was very tender and moist. I actually preferred this to the version at Tayyabs and I’ve been looking for recipes to recreate it at home.

Mysore Mutton

The long awaited fish head curry was also excellent. Our waiter did try to push us into ordering a medium sized pot but I insisted on a small one so we could try their other dishes – and I would definitely recommend this. The small pot was already quite big! Sure there’s less meat in a smaller fish head but the curry was filled with lots of chunks of aubergine and whole okra pods and was good and tangy – this tasted quite like the fish curry my mother used to cook!

Fish Head Curry

With multiple rounds of their delicious lime juices, the bill for the four of us was $65 in total. I reckon this was a fine deal for all the food we consumed – I was trying to lie horizontally by the end of lunch and was rubbing my new food baby. And Samy’s Curry is only a short walk from the western end of Orchard Road. You could work off all that curry and rice by uh… shopping!

Samy’s Curry
Blk 25, Dempsey Road
Civil Service Club

If you’ve been to Singapore before or are a resident there, the words Orchard Towers may bring out a snicker or a smirk from you. If you’re a single male tourist travelling in a taxi in Singapore, your taxi driver might suggest that you visit Orchard Towers for the “pretty ladies” (it happened to my colleague). If you’re a single female traveller (or even a small group of women), I’d suggest that you look elsewhere rather than at the clubs at Orchard Towers for some nightlife. I won’t go into extensive explanations though when Wikipedia already does it so well. After the first meal that morning with Ivan, we were obviously comfortable enough with each other that he took us all here for a Thai meal that evening. This time we were joined by Cheryl of thebakerwhocooks, who made the fifth diner in our party.

If you take the escalators to the top floor of Orchard Towers, just outside the Crazy Horse club is Jane Thai, a small unassuming little eatery that would be our destination. We grabbed one of the tables situated outside the restaurant (but still within the mall) for a full view of the comings and goings at the club – a game of Girl or Guy? will naturally begin as the night progresses!

To drink? Well, a coconut please, just as I remember from Thailand. Coconuts are just as popular here in Singapore as in Thailand, it seems, and they all retail for $3 wherever you go. Good on them for including a spoon by default – no better way to get that soft flesh out after you drink all the water.

A Coconut to Drink

The food came out very soon after ordering. One of my favourite dishes was ordered – a beef with basil and chilli. I adore Thai basil and I love to see how this dish changes so subtly from restaurant to restaurant.

Beef with Basil and Chili

The showstopper on our table was the big flaming tureen of tom kha gai, the coconutty cousin of tom yum. This was a creamy and spicy soup with loads of chicken within – slurp!

Flaming Hot Tom Kha Gai

Fried prawn cakes were moist bouncy bundles in a crisp outer shell – I adored this and ate the one leftover on the plate.

Fried Prawn Cakes

The garlicky and peppery sausage was very Thai indeed though I wish it were like the very heavily spiced version I had in Chiang Mai and of which I still dream!

Garlicky Sausage

A classic dish, though I had no idea that it was also part of Thai cuisine. Bean sprouts are excellent when fried with bits of salted fish.

Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish

Our carbs came in the form of olive rice, a dark and savoury mixture which came with toasted cashews, sliced shallots, and sliced chillies on the side. When all mixed together, this was a ridiculously delicious dish that I would have happily eaten by itself. Does anyone know what kind of olives are used for this dish?

Olive Rice

I can’t remember much of this grilled squid; I do remember that it was tender. I think I was eating too much rice.

Grilled Squid

It was clear that there wasn’t enough food for all of us and Ivan proceeded to order some more. Another coconut milky delight awaited us in the green chicken curry – more soupy than a usual curry and rather than putting it on rice, we ladled it into soup bowls and drank it up.

Green Chicken Curry

Fried chicken wings will never be turned down. I have no idea what their technique is but Asians seem to have the art of frying a chicken wing down pat. No batter (any flour?) but the skin on these was still gorgeously crisp. Once again, I think I ate more than my fair share…

Fried Chicken Wings

The long beans were fine, nothing special. They were stir fried with some garlic and oyster sauce.

Long Beans

Finally, at the end of this long line of dishes, was this grilled pork neck. I absolutely adore this dish (this cut is so tender when grilled) but thought that the sauce lacked the usual fiery punch I was used to.

Grilled Pork Neck

The grand total for the five of us was $160 – or about £80 (I think we had two of the olive rice and quite a few drinks). Not as cheap as hawker food but we did plough our way through quite a few dishes. And really, you can’t put a price on the visual entertainment on offer!

If your hotel is located along Orchard Road and you’re looking for some late night eats and the draw of the multiple  24 hour McDonalds and Starbucks somehow eludes you, may I suggest Jane Thai? We actually returned the next day for late night drinks and excellent chicken scratchings. I do believe they’re open until at least 2am each day.

Jane Thai
400 Orchard Road
Orchard Towers, #04-30