EAST COAST, Singapore – Singapore has long been hailed the food capital of South East Asia, and for good reason. Every stretch of the city gives you an abundance of dining options from all corners of the globe. But there’s nothing quite like the food that is uniquely Singaporean, and our jaunt along East Coast Road took us through some of our favourite dishes.
An easy enough landmark, it began with Hokkien Mee (SGD5, USD3.50) at Alibabar: The Hawker Bar. While it isn’t the best hokkien mee in Singapore, it’s definitely a favourite of ours for the generous portion of everything. You won’t be left wanting for crispy crackling, prawns, or squid. The sambal (chilli paste) that it comes with was perfectly balanced, albeit not spicy enough for our liking.
Across the road, and not strictly a Singaporean dish, you will find Awfully Chocolate. This Singaporean chain rolls with the best of them with their fantastic chocolate cake. Don’t even think of skipping their Super Stacked Chocolate Cake (SGD7.90, USD5.50), an indulgent piece of heaven that’s all you’ll ever need as a chocolate lover. Or better yet, just get the full cake.
For a slightly lighter option, the Cold Poached Chocolate (SGD7.90, USD5.50) is our other go-to.
However, we’d advise you to steer clear of their Slushies (SGD8, USD5.60). With a localised twist, we thought the Rambutan Slushie and Lychee Slushie might be good options to cool off with in the unbearable Singaporean humidity, but we were wrong. Tasting of nothing but sugar, ice, and stale tinned fruit, we were sorely disappointed.
A few blocks down, you’ll come across the home stretch of chicken rice. It doesn’t get as good as chicken rice for late night eats, and Five Star Hainanese Kampong Chicken Rice is open until 2am, which is one the main reasons we recommend it. It helps that Sin Hoi Sai next door serves up excellent late night fare, as well, so it’s a definite haunt for your nightly cravings.
While the consensus is that the standard at Five Star has dropped tremendously, you still get excellent chicken rice here. A plate of chicken for two conservative eaters will run you $10.50 (USD7.30), but remember that you’re paying for kampong chicken in a country that doesn’t really have kampongs. The rice is fluffy and fragrant, as it should be, and will run you $0.75 (USD0.50) per plate.
One of the most important elements of chicken rice is the chilli sauce that goes with it. Here, you would be remiss to ignore it. The mild heat and tanginess cuts through the sweet, sesame sauce-drenched chicken beautifully, balancing out your meal. However, the BBQ Stingray (SGD15, USD10.50) left a lot to be desired. While it had all the right elements that ikan bakar should – sweet, salty, spicy – it just wasn’t the best or freshest.
A couple of doors away, Boon Tong Kee should catch your fancy. As rival to Five Star, the only thing wrong with it is that it isn’t open through the wee hours. Nevertheless, the food there is excellent. A portion of chicken for two people will run you $10 (USD7), and it’s a decent portion when compared to Five Star. Rice will run you $0.60 (USD0.40), and is just as fluffy and fragrant. The chilli sauce here is no slouch, either, and we just couldn’t get enough of it.
One of the primary complaints heard about Boon Tong Kee, however, is that their chicken rice doesn’t come with soup. This wasn’t an issue for us, but it seems to be a source of distress for most Singaporeans.
The walk over to 328 Katong Laksa will do you some good in terms of digesting everything that has come before. There are a number of branches along East Coast Road, and it doesn’t really matter which one you go to. It’s a bowl of goodness that even Gordon Ramsay himself couldn’t pass up, and you need to try it to find out why. (RELATED: Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice Remains a Singaporean Institution)
The Laksa (SGD5, USD3.50) here is truly a force to be reckoned with. The noodles are cut up into tiny pieces so they can be slurped up with a spoon, and the broth packs a punch of flavour. Brimming with fresh prawns and fishballs, it’s an absolutely delicious bowl of goodness. For lovers of spice, you can even pop more sambal into the mix.
Around the corner, you’ll stumble across Brunners Coffee Shop where you’ll find yourself some pretty good Hokkien Mee (SGD4, USD2.80). While we still prefer the offering at Alibabar, the portion here is smaller but filled with wok hei (breath of the wok).
Our final stop was quite a walk away, but definitely worth it. A somewhat discreet little cafe, Penny University is worth the search.
Their coffees come by size – 3oz, 5oz, 7oz. We had a 7oz Latte (SGD5.50, USD3.85) and a 5oz Flat White (SGD4.50, USD3.10), and were pleasantly surprised by just how good they were. The beans are excellent, as is the milk. It’s definitely one of the best coffees we’ve had in the area, and we could easily make it an everyday thing. (RELATED: The Quarters Modernises Singapore’s Food Trail)
While they do have a full menu, we were especially drawn to the Honey Almond Cake (SGD6.50, USD4.50). You will do yourself a disservice if you don’t have a slice of this, and one to go. Truly an excellent slice of goodness. Made of almond meal, it’s gluten-free as well.
East Coast Road truly does house some fantastic gems, and you’ll find plenty more as you stroll along the strip. From kuih to otak-otak, we’ve only introduced you to the tip of the iceberg. The rest is for you to discover.