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Malaysia and Singapore


Biscuit Girl
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Calvin Trillin had a delightful essay about street food in Singapore in The New Yorker Sept 3 last year. You can see an abstract at

Sep 3, 2007 - "Three Chopsticks - Does Street Food Make the Best Cuisine?" by Calvin Trillin on newyorker.com

but I recommend you read the whole thing.

There's also a chapter in Anthony Bourdain's latest potboiler on the same subject. The best part is his specificity regarding ingredients.

"Anthony Bourdain's Travel Tips for Singapore" on travelchannel.com

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goodeats said:
Any updates or links on places to eat or stay in Kuala Lumpur? I'll be traveling there end of November/early December. Thanks!

I know it's a chain in Malyasia, but mama kwan's in the mall at the petronas towers was very good and quite affordable.

I should have more about our brief stay in KL back in March posted on my blog in a few days. Check on it to get more details.

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After spending around 10 days in Malaysia, mainly Kuala Lumpur, I was struck by the hodgepodge of cultures mixed and apparent there. Mostly, I was struck by two things: i) Keeping Halal; and ii) Malaysian cooking contains a lot of Coconut bits, sugar, milk, or cream. Keeping Halal struck me as I accompanied my Mom to Tony Roma's for her Beef Rib fix: there were no baby backs to order. None on the menu. I felt like a country-bumpkin in some ways by writing this. If you want non-Halal restaurants, the place to go is the mini-Chinatown on Pentang Street in KL. Or the suburban areas.

The hotels I stayed at all included a Breakfast buffet. It was strange to me to have curries for breakfast, but it was lovely to try. Usually there are Curries, American-style breakfast (waffles, cereals, pancakes or french toast, and omelet station), Chinese porridge, Miso soup, Yogurts, Cheese & Breads, Nasi Lamak, and Fruit at these buffets.

Things to watch: Chefs making Roti Canai. It is fascinating how they make it. I was entranced. That and monkeys wandering the streets. Sitting at one of the cafes near the Petronas Tower at night.

Chain restaurants available: Tony Roma's; Sakae Sushi; Madam Kwan's (a popular local-cuisine chain); Nando's; Italienne's (a TGIF Friday's version of the Macaroni Grill); Wendy's; McDonalds; and Auntie Anne's. There are others, but these are the ones tried, except for Nando's.

Shopping Malls with a wide-variety of restaurants and food courts: Suria KLCC (near the Petronas Tower in KL); Pavilion (also in KL); Mid-Valley Mall (Mid-Valley); and Sunway (with its own water park!).

Chinese-style bread bakeries worth trying: Lavender (Pavilion Court); BreadTalk (Pavilion and Mid-Valley); and BreadStory. If you are a fan of pork sung, it won't be available. There is Chicken sung, but out there they call sung, "floss." Also noteworthy is if you do buy Chicken Floss buns, they have the Cantonese-style oil, which does not keep past a day due to the humidity and heat there. So, if you buy it, eat it that day.

Coffee: Starbucks & The Coffee Bean have outlets there. There is also a chain called "San Francisco Coffee," but I didn't try it. Instead, I spent many mornings at the Illy Espresserino at the Pavilion getting my Iced Shaken Espresso (Shaker).

Food Court booths were trying at Pavilion Shopping Mall: Beard Papas (A cream puff chain from Japan; also available in NYC. Not as good here, but satisfied the craving); Ah Yip's (Cantonese-style claypot stocks, some with herbal Chinese medicine. Very soothing.); Toast Box (Thick or thin-style Asian toast. Toast here is "toasted" over a wood-chip grill. Makes a difference I feel like in the taste. Spread with Kaya, Butter, PB, or Utah.); UG Donuts (Soft, warm, not-so-over-glazed); Sweet Ice (get Malaysian-style desserts here); Mr. Baozi (a Taiwan Chain with meat & dessert-styled baozi).

Areas to visit aside from KL: Genting (a Shangri-la in the mountains, though less romantic and less adventuresome food-wise); and Port Dickson (fresh seafood).

Two MUST-trys: Congee Hotpot (or Shabu Shabu) and Kaya Jam. The first was amazing! Instead of a soup-base hotpot, Cantonese-style Congee was the base, and you cooked everything in the congee as you would at Shabu Shabu. WOW. By the time everything was cooked in there, the flavor was indescribabley delicious. Kaya Jam is everywhere and spread on toast with butter. Made mainly with Coconut milk, it is thick, hearty, sweet and sticky. A common breakfast/snack item.

I am an official spice wimp because I could not handle the level of heat in some the local Indian and Malay curries. After eating them, my insides would be sweltering and sticky, depending if Coconut Milk was the base of the curry. But it made me realize how subdued the Malay-styles here are, and I wish I was more adventurous to try more of the curries. However, I also couldn't because common to the curries were: onions, garlic, shallots (in the rice), or scallions, which were all things I can't have, unfortunately.

I now know that Kopitam stands for Coffee House, and that there is Kopi or a Kopitam everywhere you walk. Oh, and don't forget to look for a "Klinic" (Urgent Care) if you need services.

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Contact these people: http://eatingasia.typepad.com/

They are food bloggers who are based in Malaysia and write frequently for NY Times, Saveur etc. They have extensive knowledge about Penang and SE Asia in general.

Thanks! This is the second recommendation we had to seek them out. We found a few NYT articles they wrote that will form the foundation for our trip in Penang - we don't have a lot of time, so the 36 hours in Penang itinerary is pretty much perfect. Will report when I get back!

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Penang has the best food in Malaysia, resident mostly in outdoor hawkers markets. Gurney Drive is a big one but there are others too. You must try the local laksa and satays. The food in these markets, complete with plastic chairs and tables, no napkins and wonderful people watching, is one of the world's most interesting cuisines and greatest values.

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I was born and rasied in Penang so I am partial to Penang food. :rolleyes:

As you know, Malaysia is a multi-cultural, multi-racial country. As a result, there are 3 food categories so to speak - Chinese, Malay and Indian. You may find some similarities between Malaysian food and food from its neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Indonesia.

I love the hawkers food in Penang. They are everywhere and inexpensive. Gurney Drive is a popular area but when you are there, ask the locals where you should go. Here are some suggestions:

- Char Koay Teow - this is a favorite! It is like Pad Thai but without the crushed peanuts, and is usually made with shrimp and can be made spicy. It is usually cooked in a wok and the rice noodles taste better if slightly charred.

- Laksa - another local favorite. It's a fish-based noodle soup dish. There are 2 types of laksa - sour and savory. In Penang, you'll get the sour version.

- Char Hor Fun - it literally translates to stir fry rice noodles. This dish resembles the Beef Chow Fun dish we get in Chinese restaurants except that it's not made with beef and the dish come with a little "gravy."

- Mee Goreng - aka stir fried noodles. This is traditionally an Indian dish, and is made with potatoes, crushed peanuts, tofu, shrimp and bean sprouts.

- Nasi Lemak - aka savory rice. The rice is cooked in coconut milk, and topped with anchovies (spicy), cucumbers and curry.

- Curry fish head - this is a local delicacy. Of course, if you don't think fish head is gross :o

- Roti canai - this Indian dish is basically bread dipped in curry

- Rojak - this is another local favorite of basically chopped up fruits blended in a rather thick sauce (sweet)

- Lor bak - fried pork rolls (I can't think of a better description) dipped in sauce, also served with fried shrimp and/or tofu

- Chicken rice - there are 2 types of chicken that go with the rice (cooked in chicken stock) - steamed and roast.

- Satay - it's a must!

- Chendol - this is dessert! It is a cup of coconut milk, sweetened with palm sugar with green jelly-like strings with red beans and shaved ice.

Enjoy!

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My favorite breakfast in the world is roti canai and a tea tarik. We were able to grab this a few times in Little India while in Georgetown, Penang and it was heavenly. We also tried a roti chocolate, which is a ridiculous, crispy stuffed crepe/pancake that makes for a most decadent end to breakfast.

Per Biscuit Girl's suggestions, I followed the advice of food writer Robyn Eckhardt (see aticles linked above) and we went to Aik Hoe (dim sum) and Tek Sen (Chinese/Malay), and both were superb! At Aik Hoe it was a bit confusing, as it is self-service and folks will literally walk into the kitchen to grab their favorites. If you don't, you won't get the good stuff! So you must screw up your courage and march in (carefully, minding the slippery floor), which is a cultural experience in itself. Lots of typical dim sum dishes - buns, animal feet, fried things - as well as noodle dishes. We tried the roast pork, fish curry, greens, and house-made tofu at Tek Sen. All were terrific, especially the roast pork (if only we could have had the chiles version! We toned it down for the child), but the tofu was the best - perfectly fried, smooth custard on the inside, simple but wonderful garnish/sauce.

We hit a few hawker areas and tried lots of things - plates and plates of char koay teow, various satays, some laska (not our favorite flavor profile - don't like sour as much), chicken rice, and finally, the char hor fun. This is one of my favorite dishes and I was searching for it after my last trip. My cousin had ordered it as "Hwa dan ho fun" and, after coming back home, I found several likely-looking recipes for "wat dan hor", but this was pretty much it!! So delicious. The hawker stall areas are really amazing, with all the variety of people and food and smells. I walked around and looked at the various things forever before actually eating anything. It's such an interesting esperience!!! Smoky, though.

Penang is such a great spot for food but it's so damn hot!! At least in April. Besides other inconveniences, the heat depresses the appetite. We simply couldn't eat more than we did, even though we really wanted to (no coconut tart)!! So be warned.

We had originally booked an apartment through the Straits Collection, liking its location on Armenian Street. While the street is neat and very centrally located, we didn't care for the apartment itself (open courtyard/roof to the outside! tons of mosquitoes! AC only in the bedrooms! Still, if you can get past these issues, it was a huge and beautifully furnished apartment in a terrific location, and the proprietors are sooooo nice), so relocated to Trader's Hotel for the other nights of our stay (thanks again Biscuit Girl! Your rec really saved us!). It's an older but nice property with typical hotel amenities (lobby, restaurant, rooms on upper floors w/out bugs, AC throughout, etc.) with a very pretty pool (kind of essential, it turns out, for the hot midday). Trader's is right next to a big mall and a block off the free tourist shuttle bus route, and was also within walking distance (10-15 mins) of both Tek Sen and Aik Hoe. Georgetown is really a very small place and quite accessible - highly recommended if you are in Malaysia.

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Penang is such a great spot for food but it's so damn hot!! At least in April. Besides other inconveniences, the heat depresses the appetite. We simply couldn't eat more than we did, even though we really wanted to (no coconut tart)!! So be warned.

It's an older but nice property with typical hotel amenities (lobby, restaurant, rooms on upper floors w/out bugs, AC throughout, etc.) with a very pretty pool (kind of essential, it turns out, for the hot midday).

It gets cold-ish very rarely; I was in KL for my brother's wedding one year in November to December and it was hot all the time! I can see why there are pools in every hotel that I stayed at, and why many took lots of holidays to the beach. Great write up with lots of useful info!

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Sundae: I'm so glad you enjoyed Penang and that my advice was helpful. It is indeed the place to go for good food. When asked what sites we saw while in Penang, we mumbled something about seeing a few governement buildings as we drove by them and venturing into the fort but that was about it. Otherwise, we were either eating, seeking out more eats or back at the hotel cooling off with a drink at the bar. Too bad you didn't get to try the coconut tarts. I found a recipe that looks like it may be as close to these as you can get outside Penang. If they turn out to be like the originals, I'll let you know and see if I can get some to you. :)

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Sundae: I'm so glad you enjoyed Penang and that my advice was helpful. It is indeed the place to go for good food. When asked what sites we saw while in Penang, we mumbled something about seeing a few governement buildings as we drove by them and venturing into the fort but that was about it. Otherwise, we were either eating, seeking out more eats or back at the hotel cooling off with a drink at the bar. Too bad you didn't get to try the coconut tarts. I found a recipe that looks like it may be as close to these as you can get outside Penang. If they turn out to be like the originals, I'll let you know and see if I can get some to you. :)

Ooooh, yum. Do share the recipe if they work out!! I really, really wanted to try them. Pictures of the tarts are definitely drool worthy.

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I'm just returning from a few days in Singapore, and have really enjoyed the food. A quick recap:

I had lunch at one of the hawker food centers--the Old Airport Road Food Center, which the bellman at my hotel told me was where a lot of the working people and students up in that area go. It was about 10 minutes from my hotel by cab (which are cheap). There were so many options--noodles, hainanese specialities, sushi, tofu, sweets, etc. I ended up with chicken feet on a noodle dish, which was very good, and a broth soup. Then some fried wontons that were excellent. And then, some bbq duck, which was okay. I think I spent about $8 for all of that, which was more than (I should have) eaten.

Dinner at the Seafood Paradise outpost at the Singapore flyer was fine. The appetizers were generally very nice, if perhaps a bit uninteresting, but my black pepper crab was peppery and delightful. The King crab prices were out of this world, so we settled for a (lowly) regular crab but enjoyed it all the same.

Dinner at the Cherry Garden restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel was really magnificent. We did 7 courses--perhaps a bit too much, to be honest--but the preparations were delightful. All of the courses (save the final) had a seafood component--prawns, fish, scallop, sea cucumber, abalone, etc.--but one of our party couldn't do that and they were easily accommodated. It was a great meal, with nice service.

Dinner at the Peranakan restaurant True Blue Cuisine got off to a rocky start, as we were about 25 minutes late and the owner/manager wasn't very happy. We of course apologized, all was forgiven, and we feasted. The green mango salad was a highlight, as was the kueh pie tee dish (essentially, shots of seafood/turnip in crispy cups with chili sauce on top). Everything was memorable to great, they were prompt and helpful in navigating us through the menu, and though there were ten of us the service was prompt and friendly. I'd read some bad reviews of this place--the owner/manager is very forward and confident that he knows what you should have. He's right unless you've done Peranakan cuisine before, and once we put ourselves in his hands he didn't steer us wrong. I'd also read that the prices were high for the amount of food--perhaps that's true; I felt that we stuffed ourselves and didn't overpay at all.

I travel quite a bit, and don't eat American fast food while on the road, but I will note that I saw a Long John Silver's (which seemed fascinating; so much seafood in Singapore and an American fish chain sets up shot) and I saw the McDonald's menu, with a green curry burger and a tom yum cutlet on the menu. Probably not coming anytime soon to the US market...

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Singapore

We absolutely loved Singapore. Great city, quite walkable (particularly compared with our other destinations on this trip), and just absolutely insane about food. We flew in and out of Singapore, and stayed there two nights on both ends of our trip. And I think that was a good and smart way to do it. Singapore is so easy to adjust to, it makes for a nice launching point into SE Asia, and it was also a wonderful finale to our trip, with incredible food in an easy to get around city. 

Lodging – We stayed at the Amoy Hotel for both portions of our stay, and I’d stay there again depending on price. The location of the hotel is fantastic, right at the edge of Chinatown and the Central Business District. It’s about two blocks from the Maxwell Road hawker center and the Chinatown Complex hawker center, and the Telek Ayer MRT stop on the Downtown Line. It’s also a very short walk to the Chinatown MRT station, which has the Downtown Line and the North East Line. They had free breakfast (which we never took advantage of as we were eating hawker food), and provided one trip to or from the airport on each stay. This was a nice feature as well. They were also extremely accommodating to us on our final day. Our flight home was at 9:35 pm, and they let us use a room to shower and clean up for our flight, which was fantastic. 

Transportation – It’s pretty easy. A cab between the airport and Chinatown is about $40. You could instead take the MRT. The MRT is extremely easy to use, and is very clean and safe. Taking cabs around town in general is pretty easy, although we did discover that between 5 and 7 pm they are extremely hard to find. 

Sights – We were very impressed by Gardens by the Bay. It’s free to walk around, and that alone is worth it. It’s a huge garden, and the most striking part of it are the Supertrees, which are 25 to 50 meter tall vertical gardens. You can pay S$8 to take a walk along the Skyway, which we did, and which gives you a very cool look at the gardens from above. There are also two conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, which you can access for S$28. Definitely worth it, they are very cool, and well air conditioned, which came as a welcome surprise on the day that we were there. 

We also enjoyed the Botanical Gardens, which are absolutely massive. Our plan was to walk around the gardens prior to our dinner at Corner House, which was a plan we made while conveniently forgetting that the sun sets quite quickly right around 6 pm every day. Regardless, they’re very cool. 

We also went on the Night Safari based on several recommendations. It was cool, and I’m glad we went. The animals were extremely active, lions were roaring, leopards were stalking around, flying squirrels were leaping from tree to tree right over our heads, and the otters were putting on a tremendous show.

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Singapore Food and Drink

Labyrinth – This was our first meal in Singapore. It was very good, although looking back on it I also find it slightly disappointing. It’s self-described as “Modern Singaporean Cusine”, and it’s quite modernist. They offer two tasting menus, the “Discovery Menu” which is nine courses for S$98 (with an option to add three more for S$30) and the “Experience Menu” which is 14 courses for $158. There’s a lot of overlap between the two menus. The wine pairing was S$50 for the “Discovery Menu” which is what we went with, and I would say it was mediocre, not terrible interesting, and not a great value. We should have just gotten a bottle. 

Some of the dishes were absolutely fantastic, including the Hokkaido Scallop and the Hamachi crudo served with a kind of congee. The best dish was the Soft Shell Crab “Chili Crab”, which featured a tempura-style fried soft shell, with a chili sauce ice cream. It was fun, inventive, and delicious. Other dishes were more clever than good, including the Smoked Bone Marrow “Beef Rendang”, which came with an odd “tree” that had rice crackers and something called “dried beef carpaccio” hanging from it.   

Corner House – Beautiful restaurant located in a 100 year-old bungalow in the middle of the Botanical Gardens. It’s all tasting menu, and there are four to choose from, including one vegetarian menu. We went with the “middle” of the three non-vegetarian menus, the Menu Degustation. It was a fantastic meal, and I can see why they both got and deserved a Michelin star. The service was fantastic, and the plates were absolutely gorgeous. Probably the highlights for us were the Varanger red king crab (the crab was done three ways, and served with cucumber, melon and caviar) and the Japanese A4 Toriyama Beef. 

Burnt Ends – The best meal on our trip, period. It’s self-described as “Modern Australian Barbecue”, and it’s a tiny restaurant. 18 seats at a chef’s counter staring right into the kitchen (and to the giant grills and cookers that they use for basically everything), six seats opposite the chef’s counter staring at the wall, and a six person chef’s table, which I believe requires some sort of set menu and minimum food order. They take reservations for 6 and 6:30, which we booked for the chef’s counter. 

The menu was a bit confusing for us, and we found the wait staff not particularly helpful in explaining to us how we should approach the menu (I find it quite amusing that I’m complaining about a waiter not explaining their concept to me, but so be it). This led to us putting together an order that we were unsure of, and then immediately realizing that you could simply turn everything over to the chef and have him pick a menu. We asked about this option, and our waitress said we picked a price (listed on the menu as between $150-$250 per person), then the chef would talk to us and put together a menu for us. We went with $150 (and in the end they charged us S$115 for our menu), the chef asked us a few questions and we were off and running. 

Highlights were basically everything, but the things we enjoyed the most were the “steak frites” (wagyu tartare served on a fried potato and topped with caviar), “beef marmalade and pickles” (probably our favorite dish, and not something we even considered ordering when looking at the menu), some sort of grilled hybrid crawfish/lobster creature, and the steak. This restaurant would absolutely kill it if it opened in DC. We both loved it. 

Chinatown Hawker Center – The description I heard of this place before we went was “sprawling” and that’s a good adjective to describe it. This hawker center seems to go on forever. When we were looking for a particular stand (Smith Street Taps, which was closed all four times we tried to visit) we kept discovering more and more sections with more food stalls. I’d say that the Chinatown Complex was less “nice” than Maxwell Road, but had some extremely good vendors. For example, the noodle and dumpling place that we visited twice had probably the best noodles and dumplings that I’ve ever had. 

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken and Rice – This is one of the two hawker stands to get a Michelin star, and it’s located in the Chinatown Complex. It may be silly, but we had to give it a try. We got in line at about 10:30, and were served a little over an hour later. We got the chicken and rice, Char Siew with noodles, pork ribs with rice, and some sautéed greens, which were Chinese broccoli. Everything was fantastic. The chicken was incredible, both pork dishes were full of flavor, and the noodles were fantastic. The rice was a bit of a letdown from Tian Tian, but really loved it otherwise. 

Ya Kun Kaya Toast – This is a thing I wasn’t aware of at all before our trip, but Kaya toast is toasted bread topped with a coconut jam, sugar, and some other stuff. At this place, at least, it’s served with soft boiled eggs and dark soy sauce to dip it into. It was located directly next to our hotel, and I’m glad I tried it once. 

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice – Located in Maxwell, this is a famous chicken rice place, as it’s appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s program, as well as Gordon Ramsay’s. Typically I think there’s quite a line, but there wasn’t really at 10:30 am when we stopped by. I am certainly not an expert in chicken rice, but this was really good, and they may have the best rice I’ve ever tasted. Really wonderful. 

Marina South Delicious Food – Also located in Maxwell. Here we had the black carrot cake, which we learned contains no carrot at all. It’s a radish cake stir fried with eggs and other seasonings. The black version contains soy sauce. We were big fans of this dish, and the place where we got it. 

Economical Delights – This place is located in the Maxwell Hawker Center, which is the “nicer” of the two hawker centers we visited. We were here for breakfast, and the only thing we tried was the Economical Bee Hoon, which is essentially stir fried rice vermicelli. The base version was something like S$1.40, and you could then pay slightly more to add additional toppings, like egg, or chicken sausage. Delicious.

Raffles – We had to do it. The Singapore Slings were ridiculously priced at S$31, but I’d still recommend doing it. The hotel is very cool. 

Bali Blue – This restaurant is located in the middle of the Botanical Gardens. We ended up here for a drink when it had gotten too dark to really wander around the gardens any more, but it wasn’t quite time to check in for our dinner at Corner House. It’s a nice space, and it did feel like Bali when inside. Our cocktails were quite well made, and affordable by Singapore standards (around S$16). 

Oxwell & Co. – We met friends here on their roof deck, which was quite nice. It was a very nice spot to hang out and have a conversation. 

Operation Dagger – This is a very cool cocktail bar, they have one of the most difficult to decipher menus I’ve ever seen, and they produce quite inventive cocktails. It’s a bit of a challenge to find, as it’s located through a barely marked door (and by marked I mean it has some symbols on it, not that it has any sort of sign), and you then go downstairs until you arrive at the bar. 

I had the “Corn N Oil” which had creamed corn, smoked agave, chili, lime and hazelnut oil. It was a good and well balanced cocktail, and it involved a lot of steps to make it, including dry ice. My only complaint is that you have basically no idea what you’re going to get from the menu descriptions, and when you go around midnight on a Friday night the bar is way too crowded to actually have a conversation with the bartenders. 

The Gibson Bar – Extremely solid cocktail bar. It’s part of a family of bars and restaurants, and this one is located on Bukit Pasoh road, right on the edge of Chinatown. Nice cocktail list, and the Australian bartender we had was extremely good. 

Jigger & Pony – Another bar from the same family as the Gibson Bar. At Gibson we were there around 5:30 so there was only one other couple there. We were at Jigger & Pony around 11:30 so the bar was packed. But the bartender was fantastic and very good at paying attention, and he made fantastic cocktails.

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On 9/7/2016 at 4:42 PM, Mark Dedrick said:

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice – Located in Maxwell, this is a famous chicken rice place, as it’s appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s program, as well as Gordon Ramsay’s. Typically I think there’s quite a line, but there wasn’t really at 10:30 am when we stopped by. I am certainly not an expert in chicken rice, but this was really good, and they may have the best rice I’ve ever tasted. Really wonderful. 

We went here a few years ago and loved it too.  Our recent trip to Bali included two <24-hour layovers in SIN, so not much time to explore especially with two young kids in tow.  The chicken rice at Pin Xiang in the Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre was maybe a step below Tian Tian but nonetheless still good, plus they offer the option of roasted chicken in addition to the regular version.

The Old Airport Road Hawker Centre was only a few stops on the MRT from our hotel so we ended up going there.  The wonton noddles at Hua Kee Hougang were not as sublime as I recalled from our prior trip.  The giant prawn noodles at the Albert Street stall lived up to the hype though, especially the broth.  So full of umami.  The stall that makes soursop and other fruit juices is still there and great.  Also, many of the more well-regarded stalls that we had targeted are unfortunately closed on Mondays (when we were there).  Something to remember for next time.

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Singapore

We went to Singapore for NYE and were meeting friends visiting Thailand first.  All in all, we were there for about 10 days.  If I was going not during the rainy season, this would totally be a great jumping off point for other trips- Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, etc.  This had been at the top of Matt's bucket list, and he doesn't love to hop around as much as I do, so we really immersed ourselves in Singapore.

Getting around: The great thing about Singapore is that it is so small, nothing is that far away.  The metro is extremely quick and reliable (get a multiple trip card at the station office, the one time cards you keep having to top up are annoying).  The cabs and uber are extremely affordable and nice.  Walking is made much easier by the fact that the first floors of most buildings are built in so that there is an overhang from the rain.

Places to stay: There are a ton of options on hotels, unless you would like to have a hotel room so small, your condo in Arlington seems luxuriously huge, I wouldn't recommend the Mi Hotel.  However, the SO Sofitel in Downtown was great and had a really nice central location right by three metro stops of different colors. We ended up getting food poisoning and the Sofitel called us a doctor who came to our room to treat us, they also had great recommendations on restaurants, they were all around just wonderful.

Things to do:  I highly recommend the National Museum, which isn't extremely strong on historical artifacts, like our National History Museum, but it is a nice collection that is presented just fantastically.  Their digital exhibits, audio and video, sets and other presentation methods make this a really fun visit and since that is what Hubby does as part of his job we just had a field day checking out how they presented the materials.  The National Gallery has a really nicely curated collection of Asia art, specifically heavy on Asian pacific islanders.  I was pleasantly surprised it wasn't Degas and etc.  (The restaurant in the National Gallery, Empress is beautiful and very good, they do a high tea I wish I would have gotten.)  We also went to the Battle Box in Fort Canning and I didn't know much about the history of the pacific front in WW2 and found this to be a really nice tour.  We went to the Gardens by the Bay and I loved the Cloud Forrest and could have spent even more time in there than I did.  The flower hall was mainly decorated for Christmas and wasn't that different from some of the nicer botanical gardens worldwide, I could have skipped this.  We did the Skytop walk, which I would have preferred to do after dark, but this was fun too.  Sentosa was completely skip-able, except for the one day sun peaked out and we felt the need to be at a beach and didn't have time during the sunshine to skip over to Indonesia before it would be cloudy again.  We did the night safari which was silly, but fun, only I was terribly jet lagged and could barely keep my eyelids open on the peaceful tram ride.  We also shopped and there are numerous huge malls all over.  I liked shopping in Little India and picked up some pretty gold earrings, had we not been with friends who weren't big shoppers my wallet likely would be quite a bit lighter with other gold jewelry purchases from here.  The shopping isn't as uniquely Asian as say Tokyo, there are a huge amount of global brands, but we were there during their huge sales time so I had a good time shopping, nonetheless.  And since it was so rainy it bided some time between showers.  We checked out one of the Mustafa center buildings which was just a bit ridiculous, but we thought worth a gander just to see the sheer chaos.  The museum at the Marina Bay Sands, half art and science was fun, and would be great if you have kids- lots of kid friendly exhibits.  

Eating:  The thing with Singapore is that food is everywhere.  Women's clothing shops had cafes in them, every mall had restaurants, multiple food courts, there were Hawker stalls, restaurants.  You could eat anywhere, and a huge amount of that food is really good, to the point that the one or two times only we didn't have a meal we really liked, we felt very let down.  Matt and I ate multiple meals at La Pau Sat the food court/Hawker center right by our hotel.  We never ate the satay outside, as it may have been the downfall of our friend.  But the inside stalls include a great Hong Kong Dim Sum, Indian food, a Bib Gourmand fish ball soup seller, delicious lime and sugar kane drinks, Hainese chicken rice, etc.  This was pretty much our daily breakfast and it was fantastic.  It is near Raffles Place metro and worth a stop.  We had dinner at Me at Que, which had a beautiful patio and views, it was a mix of Japanese steak and chinese dishes, pricey, but our friends liked to dine out at pretty nice places (I wish I had known this in advance, I would have made advance reservations at more places, but I was so busy Hubby really planned this trip).  The food was very good, but you go for the view to be honest, but of all those great view restaurants, it may have been one of the best tasting.  We ate NYE dinner at C'est La Vie in the Marina Bay Sands, the view there is also incredible, the food was good, I just prefer to eat more Asian when in Asia.  We had scallop and oyster ceviche which was really fresh and may have been my favorite dish, black truffle cod cake with leek and potato- which our friend who is very picky ended up loving, which is good, braised wagyu beef with polenta, corn and mushrooms, which was just a little rich when it is so humid outside, and chocolate caramel pana cotta with espresso emulsion, which I really liked.  As a word to the wise, do NYE at Me at Que, do not do it at Lattitude, do not fall for the nicely sounding rooftop bar where you can see the fireworks, you have a high chance of being miserably rained on all evening, go somewhere with a roof!  We also ate at the Lighthouse in the Fullerton, the rooftop bar there is incredible- do go and get your expensive drink there and enjoy the view, the restaurant is very fancy, Italian, Matt and I got food poisoning the night after this meal (but who knows where from really) so I just can't bring myself to describe any of the tasting menu we had, despite this, I would go back to the rooftop bar again.  We also ate at Clifford Pier, which the pictures looked much cooler than it actually was, but I had an especially delicious seafood Laksa and our friend had his favorite meal there too- I forget what it was.  So the food made up for the kind of odd table service.    We had a few meals at various places around Telok Ayer and Amoy Street, which had a host of small interesting restaurants and cocktail bars, that weren't quite the tourist hub as some other places.  I can't tell you the names of any of the places we ate or drank, but we found a great cocktail bar with punches, we had good korean bbq, Indian, etc.  We ate at the Banana Leaf Restaurant in Little India, I had a shrimp curry that was very good, but the okra dish I had ended up being the star of the two.  I wanted to order the fish head curry, but they were out of a lot of dishes that day for some reason, and it was one.  Once our friends departed, Matt and I ate more low brow.  We had lunch at the Food Republic at Ben Coolen metro at the stall where the guy cut off noodles as he made the dish, it was good, but not as good as anything we ate at La Pau Sat.  We had a really good Dim Sum in one of the malls from a chain Tim Ho Wan- the baked BBQ buns, shrimp and spinach dumplings were outstanding- thinnest dumpling wrappers I had burst with flavor, and nothing we had was bad.  We had a Hong Kong Style dim dum by the Starbucks in Ben Coolen the day after we had food poisoning for some wontons in broth.  We also ate some more Hainese Chicken Rice, Mee Goreng at various hawker and food courts.  We had sushi at Genki Sushi in the Takashimaya where you order on ipad and they zip it out to you on a train conveyer (my nephew would love this) and then had dessert in the food court.  As a note, there was quite a lot of contstruction while we were there, Raffles was closed, as were several museums for refurbishment.  We also found an absolutely fantastic gin bar in the JW Marriott.  

We took a daytrip to Malacca and I didn't particularly care for our guide, and Matt felt the city was a tour bus stop city and didn't love the experience, I think with more free time to see it the way we would have liked we would have had a better time.  We did eat some interesting food there- we had a Chinese Muslim cuisine that was quite good.  Our driver was so nice though and it was a super comfortable trip, I really liked Malaysia and would see more of it.  It was a bit sad to see the deforestation and planting of palms all over the southern part of the penninsula for palm oil, but what are you going to do, there is a demand.

We took a daytrip to Bintan on one of our few sunny days, an hour ferry ride across the strait, we went to the Narwana Beach Club, which was fun, but note the pictures make this place seem a lot nicer than it really is, it is fun, but not super fancy like the pictures.  The beach had some trash on each end, but was mostly clean and being right off the busiest straight in the world, what do you expect (Well I would expect them to hire someone to clean it a bit better seeing how cheap labor is, but the other people at the resort didn't seem at all concerned, so they likely don't have reason to do that.), the sun was warm, the water was warm and turquoise and you could see through it and the beach was very picturesque.  It wasn't like there was floating trash or anything- and not any different than the public beaches in Bali, it just is what it is.  Had they had more trash cans near the beach I would have picked up a few things myself.  The noodle restaurant at the Narwana hotel had a delicious Laksa and Hubby had a curry dish that was really delicious too.  We also had spring rolls with chicken and a few other ingredients that were delicious, not quite your standard spring roll.  

I am sure I will think of a few more things to add later.

Oh and for such a digitally advanced country it is really annoying not to have electronic ticket counters and to have to que for tickets all the time.  I know this is part of how they keep full employment in the country, but still.

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Nice!

Hainanese Chicken Rice is ubiquitous in Asia, yet super difficult to find here. Any one know of any in DMV? Nong's in Portland, OR is one of the few places I've heard about, but that's too far. With a bad URI/sinusitis at the moment, poached chicken sounds pretty perfect...

 

 

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On 1/12/2018 at 2:18 PM, Simul Parikh said:

Nice!

Hainanese Chicken Rice is ubiquitous in Asia, yet super difficult to find here. Any one know of any in DMV? Nong's in Portland, OR is one of the few places I've heard about, but that's too far. With a bad URI/sinusitis at the moment, poached chicken sounds pretty perfect...

It is so good, I am very surprised you don't see it more often!  It is something anyone would like.  The chicken is good, the rice with it, so well done and the sauce.  I found a good recipe for it on Pinterest so may have to make it for friends.

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1 hour ago, ktmoomau said:

It is so good, I am very surprised you don't see it more often!  It is something anyone would like.  The chicken is good, the rice with it, so well done and the sauce.  I found a good recipe for it on Pinterest so may have to make it for friends.

Can you share your recipe? I would love to make this!

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1 hour ago, ALB said:

Can you share your recipe? I would love to make this!

Not my recipe, but this recipe on Pinterest looks like it has all the elements of the dish, except for the bok choy side it normally comes with.  The sauce really varied depending on the place and most stands had multiple sauces you could mix to your liking- chili oil, etc, they seem to be missing kecap manis on this recipe.  There is also a recipe on serious eats, but it neglects the chicken a little more than I think you should. 

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14 hours ago, ktmoomau said:

Not my recipe, but this recipe on Pinterest looks like it has all the elements of the dish, except for the bok choy side it normally comes with.  The sauce really varied depending on the place and most stands had multiple sauces you could mix to your liking- chili oil, etc, they seem to be missing kecap manis on this recipe.  There is also a recipe on serious eats, but it neglects the chicken a little more than I think you should. 

Thanks!! I was lucky enough to travel through Singapore this summer and I have wanted to make that dish since.

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Spent a few days in Kuala Lumpur recently. I had been there for a couple short visits before, but not for about five years. Despite some brief stomach distress likely brought on by hotel breakfast (at the Hilton KL), I managed some decent eating:

Restoran Sai Woo--This is on the very busy and somewhat touristy Jalan Alor strip of restaurants with mostly outdoor seating, in Bukit Bintang in the center of the city. The "famous" dish here is the chicken wings at Wong Ah Wah restaurant, all the way at the far end of the strip. I had those last time I was in KL and they were good but not life-changing. Wong Ah Wah was mobbed this time, so I went a couple doors down to Sai Woo, which was also doing good business. The grilled chicken wings were excellent (and one Malaysian wing = two US wings), while the spicy sambal squid was not as spicy as I had hoped/feared. Five wings, the squid, and a large Tiger beer (stick with the brown-bottled beer here) came to about US $16. Would definitely recommend heading to Jalan Alor.

Roast Duckling--A stall in the "Hutong" food court in the Lot 10 Mall. The idea here is that all the stalls are outposts of "famous" street food stalls, which is better in theory and than in execution. Got the roast duck with rice, the rice was fragrant and flavorful while the roast duck was just okay. For less than $4 US I can't complain. Once had a good char kway teow in this food court but that stall is gone. The top floor of the Lot 10 mall has something like 25 Japanese restaurants, might be interesting.

Madam Kwan's--Popular mall chain, Nasi Bojari (similar to Nasi Lemak but with spiced tri-colored rice and beef rendang on the side), and Otak-Otak (spiced fish paste) both very good.

Bunn Choon Bakery--In Chinatown just south of the tacky Petaling Street market, egg tart wasn't quite as good as in Macau and Hong Kong IMO--not enough egginess in the custard.

Sergeant Chicken Rice--Thanks to the aformentioned stomach distress, I cancelled plans to check out the street food around Kampung Baru and hang around the Suria KLCC. This food court chicken rice did a great job settling the stomach. Kaya toast and iced coffee from Toast Box in the same food court wasn't as good for the stomach, but irresistible nonetheless.

Creme Brulee Milk Tea at Royaltea--Picture a standard chain milk tea place, I think there are even branches in the US. Six young people working there, plus a middle-aged man in the corner overseeing things. A man prominently sporting a DUTERTE wristband takes your order. You order the creme brulee milk tea, expecting a vaguely caramelly flavored drink. The six people appear to be working hard, and there was only one other person waiting for a drink, yet five minutes pass and no drinks are forthcoming. The overseer in the corner is getting a little agitated. You spot what looks like it may be your drink, but the cup is barely more than half full. Then Mr. DUTERTE pulls out a whipped cream cannister and your half-cup of milk tea becomes a nearly-full cup of half-whipped cream/half-tea. Your mood brightens, but that now nearly-full cup remains out of your reach. Another minute or two passes--the person who ordered ahead of you hasn't gotten their drink either--and then one of those other six workers reaches into a refrigerator and pulls out a tray of actual creme brulee, places a generous slice on top of the pillow of whipped cream, and finally presents you with your tea. In a sense, the most memorable food experience of the trip, and I really don't want to know how many calories this was.

Durian-flavored stuff was everywhere, including a bunch of novelty-ish products. Durian cream puffs at Beard Papas I can understand, but do the locals really eat durian-filled chocolate or drink durian coffee?

Lots of Japanese food and shops at the big malls, I think most of them have Japanese investors/developers.

Ruling party campaign signs were everywhere, and opposition signs nowhere, even though the opposition was a lock to win about 80% of the vote and almost all the seats in KL and suburbs.

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Singapore has a dizzying amount of dining options. Thankfully there is Burpple. It is like Instagram meets yelp (though thankfully no ratings are given). If you are planning a trip I highly recommend downloading the App. 

On the topic of Apps, if you are planning on using Uber while there you are out of luck. Uber sold all of its Southeast Asian operations to Grab.

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