05 March 2013

Singapore ~ Wokin the Suburbs

We hit up Singapore with plans of Peranakan feasting and end up on a suburban bus and beer or bust tour.

On our trip to Sri Lanka we end up with two stopovers in Singapore. The first we arrive fresh and ready to eat. The second we were completely wired from a sleepless overnight flight, arriving at 5am, then killing a day as we fly out again at 2am (delayed to 4am). On this trip we decided to explore the food in the suburbs, devoting much of our stomach space to Peranakan food. We had a list of great Peranakan joints to try (thanks Eve!) but our timing was all out. Instead we turn to plan b: beer.

We bought bus passes and spent the days touring the suburbs in airconditioned bliss, stopping for snacks and beer at foodcourts along the way. Our cultural expedition turns out to be a bit of a roaming piss up. Like that's never happened before.

First pit stop on our trip and we have to start the Tiger worship. Nothing says beer in Asia more to us than having a bucket of ice to chuck in the glass to keep it cold. A hard working beer lady tops our glasses up with beer and ice every few minutes.

The Tiger beers were found just down the road from our hostel, the cheap as chips Fernloft East Coast, a small room/shared bathroom close to the airport and only a short waltz up to the New Leaf Park Food Paradise. As this is Singapore and the temperature is on the 'why is it so hellishly humid?' side we didn't waltz far. It was outdoors, it had beer, it had food, it was open. Paradise found.

 Flat noodles in gravy with prawns and fishcake, similar to a seafood hor fun.

Dish of young greens lightly fried in garlic.

Stuffed fried chicken wings, crunchy and great with the cold beers.

The food court is a quiet place, mostly a few regulars and a lot of takeaway traffic from nearby residents.

We love waking up the day after you have landed in a place to see where you have ended up. Sometimes there's an excellent surprise or a breakfast place close by. We find ourselves in the middle of a small shopping centre with not much else to offer, so we head off exploring for the day.

A short bus ride up East Coast Road we sought out the highly recommended Chin Mee Chin Confectionery Company (thanks again Eve!). It has a great old Singapore charm to it, something that is slowly getting pushed out in most big cities even in Sydney (think Oceanic Cafe.)

This is a long cool cafe with tiles walls and marble benchtops. There was a queue when we arrived and while we waited it gave us a chance to observe how to order and what to order.

Custard tarts for breakfast. We scoff one while we wait.

Third prize for cleanliness in 1975, what an endorsement!

In the end this is what we came for, coffee and kaya toast. They serve the toast as a small bun here, something different to the usual thick slabs of white. But there was a missing ingredient - the eggs! Our table mates (you most probably will share a table here) helped us to rectify a disastrous googie-less situation.

Then the moment Alison has been waiting for - googie eggs and kaya toast dunking. All is well with the world.

The streets around the resto have many examples of Peranakan buildings. They are brightly painted and decorated, a change from the usual high rise in Singapore.

The shops are also built in a similar style, which makes the area an interesting place to walk around.

Further up East Coast Road we find a large outdoor eating area at 81 Marine Parade Central. It's about 11.00 and the place is starting to get filled with early lunchers, others just whiling away time reading the paper.

Shawn does a scout around and finds Bao Bao Popiah, boasting the crispiest popiah in Singapore.

Two popiah, one popiah, gone.

Food prep takes place out in the open in the cool areas of the market. We love this inclusive open style, it makes you feel like you are in someone's home while they prepare dinner.

Pizza art inside a community art gallery, underneath a high rise on Marine Parade. Teachers favourite!

Crossing under the freeway we get down to the waters edge.

We made it an aim on this trip to get to parts of Singapore we've never been to. We didn't expect there to be beaches, swimming, volleyball and even camping areas along this stretch. There were formal camp sites with shower blocks and a lot of informal sites set up along the cool waterside. We hatch vague plans to camp in Singapore, except for the heat it would be one way to beat the high costs of accommodation.

We walked further along the beachfront (past the closed No Signboard Seafood and a cable waterskiing park) and ended up at the much more Al-and-Shawn-like East Coast Lagoon Food Village.

This local was too busy licking to say hello.

Alison decides to follow the queues and lines up at Han Jia Bak Kut Teh Pork Leg.

A feast for $16 - pork knuckle in a dark full flavoured sauce, pork ribs with garlic in a lighter broth, slowly stewed greens and tofu with rice and eggs. Incredible. Really truly incredible.

The very addictive lime drinks become more so when we pour in a bit of ginger beer and duty free bourbon. Suddenly the afternoon is extra cheery.

After watching endless people getting satay we grab a dozen of mixed meats. They have a little sameness to them from the marinade but we love their small size and well charred outsides. What's left of the dipping sauce gets scooped up with the rough cut chunks of cucumber and red onion.

We would have also tried Roxy Laksa down here but were getting on the full side.

The East Coast Food Village was a little isolated for those of us on foot. After a bit of a walk we made it up the main road where luxury apartments grow out of the jungle. We get a (thankfully) air conditioned bus to Bedok.

At the main bus station at Bedok there is a little market in full swing.

Twisted potatoes around sausages on offer.

This little cooking set up intrigues us. Little tin cones on a steamer, what could be hiding underneath?.

Putu piring are little discs of steamed rice flour and coconut with a nub of sweet palm sugar in the middle.There's fighting over the last morsels.

Bedok has a low key town centre with a few supermarkets and clothes stalls as well as places to eat. Something about this place reminds Mr Shawn of the Dixon Shops in Canberra, only with much better food.

Next to the rebuilding / new building is the Cooked Food Centre. With all the construction around it looked like this place may have it's days numbered.

The usual set up and food suspects here.

We're getting kinda full so have a sweet treat instead - almond bean curd and shaved ice with lime.

Construction afoot.

At Terminal 2 at Changi, we have a Heavenly Wang before we head off to Sri Lanka.

Ten days later we're back, this time we not feeling as sprightly after an overnight flight from Colombo. We come up with a plan to get a bus out into the suburbs so we can sit in the air conditioning and get off where we fancy. Ang Mo Kio bus arrives, we figure we are 'Ang Mo' (white trash) too so we get on for the ride.

The ride out to AMK took a lot longer than expected, especially hard was passing numerous food centres along the way. Once there, our spider senses soon led us to the food court near the town centre.

Penang Prawn Mee $3.50 from Stall 8A. Super fast construction of this soup, the bits were pre assembled and the broth poured over, sambal ladled and ready to eat. Great soup, look at the lovely prawn colouring staining the sides of the bowl.

Roast chicken rice $3.50. This is fast becoming Shawn's favourite style of chicken rice, they do a version in Sydney at Singapore Shiok.

At these prices and the hunger we have we can't resist trying one more dish. Curry chicken bee hoon from the stall called Curry Chicken Bee Hoon, it's what they do so its got to be good, right? $3.50 for a regular size. This has a laksa like flavour with noodles, generous amounts of steamed chicken and strips of tofu. Yeh, it's good.

Shawn also has the first of his many Tiger beers for the day here, but who is counting? Beer in this heat just evaporates out of your system, it doesn't seem to have the same effect as home.

We continue our bus adventures, out past Admiralty and end up at the very far out settlement of Woodlands, right up near the Malaysian border. The bus trip takes you through the reservoir area and was a great way to see more of Singapore. Once we arrived, try as hard as we can, we just can't find a food centre (why oh why didn't we just ask someone?). As we leave on the train saddened by our lack of food discovery we are tormented with a multitude of them along the train line.

Next stop is Newton Circus for the food centre, neither of us had been there before. We were getting hungry and needed a beer as well, so decided to try it.

Newton Food Centre is a well known seafood centre, expect to get greeted by menu wavers and pulled over to eat at their stall. After the smaller community based centres we had been to the touts here were a bit of a shock. We felt ill at ease and badgered to eat.

In the end we found a table and ordered beers, then went to the first place that didn't harass us.The food stalls here are all pretty similar, BBQ skate seems to be most popular. Signs around the place advise punters to make sure they know the price before they confirm an order, most of the seafood is sold by weight so make sure you know what you are getting into.

Baby Gai Lan $6. We love a simple veg dish.

Lala (or bamboo clams) in chilli sauce $10.00

Cereal Prawns $18.00. Prawns coated in Cerelac, a kiddies' breakfast cereal that is quite sweet, the flavour reminds us of Milk Arrowroot biscuits. This dish has been on our gimme-eat list for some time, but prawn cornflakes didn't quite work for our Western tastebuds. It was fun but for the price it's not something we'd get again (maybe the version we had wasn't the best).

We high tail it out of Newton and get in a cab. "Take us to Geylang!" we cry and cabbie knows exactly what we need. He agrees with us about the Newton Food Centre, too much money and not that good.

We end up near the train station and as we are weary and the beer is wearing off. We hit the first place we see. Kudos to the taxi driver who gave us a great tour commentary and took great care in finding out what we were looking for, and finding us a spot right near the train station. Singapore taxi drivers are awesome.

The Maco Cafe is a Chinese food joint, with beer flowing and bones on the floor.We dig.

There's a big picture menu to order from and it's Alison does the ordering while Shawn attends to his beer. First up leeks with beancurd skin $6.00. There is a lovely light sauce coating the strips of bean curd skin and a fresh leek flavour.

With a name like Beer Duck, how can we refuse? $15.00 for a huge bowl of sichaun style duck with cabbage and a huge pile of chillis. The beer we assume is in the sauce, or perhaps it's made to make you drink more beer to quench the heat?

As the clock is ticking, we are still trying to get a last feed in, so Shawn gets one last dish. A simple duck rice.

But the party is over, the stall is closing and we have to get to the airport for a 2.00am flight.

Once at the airport we find our 2.00am flight is rescheduled for 4.00am. Most of the places have shut so we head for some biscuit comfort. We're a bit obsessed with Tiger biscuits...

And for Miss Piggy, we have a peach Fanta from the Seven Eleven.

We love Singapore.


  1. Peach FANTA!!! I'll tell The Boy that it wasn't just a figment of his imagination. I cannot wait to get back here later this year for some Kaya Toast and googy egg.

  2. You had me at kaya toast. I love Singapore! Wish you had more time to rummage around the cafes and food courts - this was a great post, wish it had been a book :) Did you pick up a copy of Makansutra Singapore on your travels?

    1. Yes we have that as well as Leslie Tay's books and app. They make it easy to look for great food. Our favourite way to find food though is just to get out there and discover, we don't rely too much on guides.

  3. Makes me miss Singapore. Will look out for Scoot flights for a weekend in Singapore...

  4. Wow!! YOu guys really went all over!!! Next time if you are stopping over again, let's go eat more food. There are still many many more to explore. =)
    I avoid Newton like a plague...not worth the calories. Rather go to Glutton's Bay.
    Oh Chin Mei Chin is closing soon...so I am glad you had a chance to eat at this old school much loved kopitiam. Their buns are made there...can't find it anywhere. I think their kaya too.

    Katong is a beautiful place to stay in. Very different from the rest of Singapore.

    Shawn I love roasted chicken rice...much much more than the steamed ones. Only eat the steamed ones in Sydney and at Tian Tian. Putu Piring is my fave snack since a kid!!!!! Love love love it. DOnt worry Bedok Cooked Food Centre is there to stay cos there are actually loads of good eats there. Man i can just go on and on...let me know when you are next in town...we will feed again!!

    1. I am going to fast before we go out eating again, that was such a great day.

      So sad to hear about Chin mei Chin, that's why we need to get to these places asap. They are dissapearing treasures.

      Maybe December - will let you know..

  5. "ang" is red, "mo" is hair, nothing to do with refuse of any colour.

  6. What a great story and adventure!! I am pinning this as I will be in Singapore in April and I didn't want to visit boring places. I love the beer bus tour :)

  7. Oh...how I wish for $3.50 chicken rice...

  8. So you did all that in one day?

    1. It was over two different days at either end of our trip to Sri Lanka, although we have had mega eating days in Singapore before!

  9. The small green round limes are calamansi... From the Philippines.


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).