31 May 2013

Only The Best - Lesley Tay - Singaporean Street Food guide book

If you are a fan of the Singapore blog I Eat I Shoot I Post then you will well know the work of doctor come blogger Leslie Tay. He is also responsible for the previous excellent book on Singapore hawker food and history The End of Char Kway Teow. His new book Only the Best guides you through Singapore's feast of street food options.

We were very lucky and grateful to be given a copy of the food obsessed doctor's new book Only the Best flown in all the way from Singapore by our food loving friend (or is it fiend?) Eve. We're not sure if it is available in Australia as yet, but keep an eye out for it if you are travelling to Singapore or beg a good friend who lives there to send you one or search online.

There are two ways you can seek out food when you travel. One is to use a guide like this or research blogs and target your eating to cover what has been tried and tested and judged the best. If you have limited time for research or means to get around then a list of the best food options can be a great asset. One of the downsides of this is you end up eating someone else's opinion which might not match your own, so you really have to trust the judge (including us!). We keep on bumping into food places that were once graced by Anthony Bourdain several years ago now and seem to have been duly anointed as 'the best' when across the aisle or road are just as many great places without the queues and sheep like followers. We liked the chicken at Tian Tian  in Maxwell Food Centre which he was taken to in 2008 (over 5 years ago), but not as much as the other place we ate there - so does that make our choice any less better? It's sort of like the Lonely Planet effect on a review, people will only stay/eat there if it's been in a guide book.

The second way is to take a punt and just go out and discover for yourself. We are more likely to do this when we have some time and want that sense of exploration and discovery. We did this recently on our last visit to Singapore and practice it whenever we can. Sometimes we follow a queue, however Robyn Eckhardt from Eating Asia  argues in her great article on street food myths that long queues don't always mean the best and it's something we have experienced hit and miss with. We've also had some good and bad taxi driver recommendations so I guess it's sometimes down to luck.

We like to mix it up, we mostly like to wander around and see what we find, but it's also good to know where the famous places are in case an opportunity comes up to try them. We were once semi-lost in Mong Kok when we discovered we only a street away from the world's cheapest Michelin Star restaurant. How could we not give it a go, we did and it was worth finding.

There's a lot to like about this guide. Unlike a lot of food guides published in Australia, this book is divided up by the particular dish you might be searching for and then tells you the best place to find it. Singapore food and the quest for the best seems to be a national obsession so there has been a lot of serious food dedication by Lesley and his team to get all this great information. While it's still a guidebook, it is probably one of the most well researched and food passion fuelled books we've come across, an independent view with little sway from advertisers or sponsors.

All of our favourites are here: Bak Kut Teh, Carrot Cake, Chicken Rice, Fish
Head Curry, Kopi and Toast, Nasi Lemak, Nasi Pedang, Popiah, Prawn Mee and Teh Tarik. There's also a lot of dishes we haven't tried, so this book becomes a sort of Singapore eating bucket list for the next time we visit.

Most spectacular of all is a guide to the best durian, the types and where to find them. We had no idea there were so many varieties besides just stinky! Alison claims to like it but Shawn is not convinced she's telling the truth.

Below are some pages to give you an idea of the book's contents. Whatever way you get your info, get out there and eat!

Only the Best is published by Epigram Books.


  1. Thanks for letting us know. Looks like a great guide and will be definitely pick a copy up when next in Singas!

  2. Fantastic! I so wish I had this guide when I was in Singapore not too long ago. I will definitely look for it if I get the chance to go there again.

  3. I am a fiend!!!! Wooohooo....note my name is derived from Evilyn!!! Mwahahaahahahah....
    Ok your next trip i shall endure the smells of durian and drag you to have some...
    As a local , i do use his blog and guidebook to sieve out the good and bad...but also have my personal favourites especially peranakan food cos I am a true blue Bibik...so it is hard to compete with my grandma's cooking.

  4. Wow, great guide! Will have to ask my friend to send me a copy.. :)

  5. this looks like an awesome read. went to Singapore last year but didn't get enough time to try out all the good places so hopefully another visit will happen sometime soon


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).