Singapore is unique in many ways. This multicultural island city-state just off Malaysia is extremely diverse and has earnt its place as a global financial centre with its centre in Padang.
Despite its small size, Singapore also packs a punch when it comes to its tourist scene. It is for many people perhaps best known for its local cuisine and so last year we flew over to check it out and have come up with some of our top street foods that you simply must try when visiting Singapore along with a few other worthwhile attractions.
We would recommend starting your day with Kopi or Teh, which is coffee or tea done the Singaporean way and do be sure to order it with a stack of delicious kaya toast filled with butter and kaya, which is a very sweet jam made with sugar, eggs, pandan leaves and coconut milk. This will set you up perfectly for the day ahead.
Alternatively, many locals start the day with a bowl of Frog’s Leg Porridge and yes you read that correctly! This amphibian appetiser is extremely popular and mixes juicy protein-heavy frog meat with plain porridge.
A little more down-to-earth is Rojak, a sweet vegetable salad which is deep fried and contains fried dough fritters in with slices pineapple, beansprouts, chopped peanuts, whisper-thin ginger, all coated in a molasses-esque sauce consisting of fermented prawn paste, sugar, citrus and chillis.
If on the other hand fried food is not your thing then may we suggest a bowl of Laksa, which is a spicy noodle soup consisting of fishcakes with prawns and cockles and chopped up bee hoon rice noodles. And we do suggest that Hainanese Chicken Rice is best tasted on the Streets of Singapore. The chicken is poached below boiling point and the stock that is skimmed from the top of the broth is mixed with some of the fat, ginger, garlic and pandan leaves to cook the rice; tender strips of meat are then added before serving, often alongside minced garlic, chilli, ginger and soy sauce. It really is quite delicious!
Another stir-fried noodle dish worth a mention, is Hokkien Mee, which is a mix of pork, prawn and squid simply thrown into a wok along with a cracked egg and garnished with sambal, various vegetables and fresh lime. Give it a try!
Many people come back to Singapore not just for its food but because of its year-round shopping. And for those of you interested in the culture and like visiting museums, you will not be disappointed.
For the motor racing fans amongst you, like me, this year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Singapore Grand Prix, which has become an extremely popular race on the Formula One Calendar and is the only full night race with the street circuit brightly lit up, adding to the excitement and thrill of the race itself. The fireworks that fill the sky immediately after the winner takes the chequered flag is a spectacle not to be missed.
Whilst Singapore has many excellent hotels in which to stay, including the iconic Raffles and five-star Park Hyatt, we chose to stay in the superb 42-room five-star Hotel Vagabond, which is just a short 30-minute taxi ride from Changi Airport, centrally located and within easy walking distance of Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam. Our cute bijou room would not look out of place in a country retreat and there are several fun touches such as the ‘old school’ ornamental telephone which isn’t really ornamental at all and dials reception on ‘0’. The dainty clock by the bed is also gorgeous, as is the wireless radio that hooks up to laptops and iPods to pump out the tunes for any impromptu pool parties that you may (or may not) be having. However, the most impressive element of the room is the ‘Handy’ smartphone that each guest has use of that can be taken with them around the city, as well as being able to make calls to six major countries around the world. Now that’s what we call a very ‘handy service’ indeed.
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground
Singapore Grand Prix photo courtesy of AUSmotive.com and Vagabond Suite photo courtesy of Hotel Vagabond