Pamelia Chia has a deep appreciation for Singapore cuisine. "You can eat like a king without the pretentiousness," says the chef, podcaster, and Wet Market to Table: A Modern Approach to Fruit and Vegetables author. These are her fave hometown spots.Less
"When people talk about Singapore's food history, I feel that we don't talk enough about kopitiams. The specialty at these traditional coffeeshops is Hainanese-style kopi, a style of coffee made distinct by roasting the coffee beans with margarine and a bit of salt. This kopi spot has retained the historic aesthetics of the traditional kopitiam so when you go, you see uncles sitting around reading the newspapers and drinking coffee. I come here to bask in that kind of old-school atmosphere."
"I was introduced to this place by a friend who grew up in Geylang. When I first visited this place many years ago, it was located in an obscure back alley, but they have since become so popular that they are a larger air-conditioned eatery now. Luckily, the food is just as good as before. I love their white pepper crab, as the sauce is so well balanced. They also serve green dragon vegetables, an ingredient that's unique to the region and that I featured in my wet market cookbook."
"Sometimes you go to restaurants and there are many theatrics, like the chefs are trying to impress you. Candlenut is different. You feel well taken care of, as though there is a grandmother in the kitchen who's cooking for you. Candlenut serves a modern take on Peranakan cuisine, a fusion between Malay and Chinese cuisines, so expect a lot of curries and sides to eat with rice. My favorite thing here? The kueh salat that is sometimes off the menu."
"When you think about snacks in Singapore, what tends to come to mind is kueh, an umbrella term that describes a range of bite-sized sweet or savory treats. Kueh Dadar is one of my favorites; it's a pandan-scented crepe filled with grated coconut and gula melaka (coconut palm sugar). Though they cost no more than a dollar or two, kuehs are just as artisanal as anything else that you can find in the West. This spot is good because there is a fairly wide range of kuehs for you to pick from."
"Most of the time when I visit Singapore, it's always eating, eating, eating. This is a great spot where I can just spend a few hours in between meals. It's right in Little India and has everything from electronics and food souvenirs, to meat and produce - think of it as a shopping mall and supermarket in one. I like that they stock ingredients here that you might not necessarily find in the supermarket - things like pink guava or whole-grain flours. The best part? It’s open 24/7. "
"There is a strong supper culture in Singapore and this is where I go when a craving strikes late at night. They serve Bak Chor Mee, a local dish that more foreigners should know about. It's egg noodles tossed in a tangy blend of sambal, vinegar, and shiitake braising liquid. The noodles are often served with offal, meatballs, or fishballs, and a side of soup. Because each bowl is tossed to order, it’s endlessly customizable - more vinegar, less sambal, mee pork or mee kia… the list goes on."
"This is my favorite spot to get prata, a flatbread of Indian origin. A thin sheet of dough is rubbed with ghee, folded or coiled, then fried. In Singapore where customizability is king, variations abound. You can order your prata plain, sprinkled with sugar, or with a cracked egg within, but my favorite thing to order is coin prata, which earns its name from being small and round. Often served in multiples of five, with a side of curry, coin prata are moreish. Impossible to stop at one! "
"I wrote a book on wet markets so I have to recommend one. One of Singapore’s largest, Tekka Market is home to Indian, Thai, or Vietnamese ingredients such as green peppercorn and moringa. It's located right next to the hawker center, so you can have breakfast before your shopping. A highlight is getting freshly grated coconut, fantastic if you're looking to make your own curry and kueh! I believe that going to the markets is the best way to experience an unmanicured side of Singapore."
"Singaporeans are so particular about chicken rice and everyone has their own preference - this is mine. I've been a patron since I was a kid. They use kampong chicken, which is quite a scrawny type of free-range chicken. Leaner chickens are a good thing in chicken rice, because they have more skin - the best part of the dish! Here, the chicken is plunged in ice-water once it is poached. This causes the gelatin-rich juices under the skin to set to jelly, and produces a silkier mouthfeel."
"A small restaurant offering an intimate counter dining experience, this is the place to go to experience modern Singapore cuisine. It's opened by a Candlenut alumni who used to train with a Japanese chef. While the combination of Peranakan and Japanese cuisines is unusual - one spicy and punchy, and the other restrained and elegant - what results is a novel and contemporary perspective on Singaporean cuisine that is as thoughtful as it is delicious. "