SINGAPORE FOOD FESTIVAL AND MORE!
After a really long journey to the other side of the world – from Oklahoma City, OK, USA to Singapore in Southeast Asia via LAX and Hong Kong (I flew with Cathay Airlines), nearly 28 hours “on the road”, and a 12 hour difference, I can say this was the trip of the year for me! With all the time zones crossed I concluded I had the longest day of my life coming back to the U.S, but before we lose sight of this amazing trip by focusing on jet lag, let me tell you a little about this amazing experience. If you are from Singapore, LUCKY YOU! It’s an amazing place to live. If you plan to visit Singapore, here is a little bit of what I did while I was there for roughly a week. I hope it gives you some insight on what amazing things this beautiful colorful country has to offer!
Where to stay: the arrival to The Magnificent Fullerton Hotel of Singapore was with more than in inviting welcome. The whole stay here was simply fantastic, and by the time I left, the staff knew me on first name basis and knew exactly how to please, from room service, amenities to the fantastic breakfast/brunch service each morning. Such a personalized approach to hospitality unlike most I’ve encountered, even those of 5-star ratings (which the Fullerton towers over). The level of personability here is second to none.
The Fullerton sure went above and beyond to make my stay special, and now I can understand how it represents the soul of Singapore hospitality. It truly felt like home for the week I spend there. Rooms were comfortable and the staff was more than accommodating. The highlight for me was the breakfast buffet with 5 or 6 different HUGE stations offering various cuisines, typical Singaporean, Eastern and Western in flavors, seasonal tropical fruits of all walks of life (may I add the most delicious types), and fantastic customer service. I am enchanted by it all.
I’m so excited to share my time in Singapore last month with you all! I’ve been a few places, but have never had such a beautiful cultural experience like this one in diverse Singapore. What an amazing country, unforgettable city! Singapore left such a good taste in my mouth, perhaps from all the food I enjoyed there, but also from the interactions I had and the feeling of “I could live here” that I got. I love diversity, so upon arrival, I already knew I would have a good time at this place. For starters, everyone speaks English, so fear not! Secondly, Singaporeans are super friendly, and getting around the city is quite easy as it is not very big, so everything is nearby or easily accessible. Uber is very popular as well as taxis, and the local “Uber service” which they call “Grab”, and is apparently a lot cheaper and more convenient among locals.
Apparently the first thing that comes to mind to most people when Singapore comes up is the fact that chewing gum is illegal! I thought that was funny, because although it is true (mostly because it’s something people often litter, which is a big No No there!), it is not a big deal among locals at all. You just don’t do it, period. Plus there are so many other delicious things to put in your mouth (like hawker foods and exotic fruit juices) that you quickly forget about the fact you “can’t chew gum”, but more like, you can’t throw gum in the streets or littler. I highly doubt anyone would arrest you for chewing gum, just don’t litter right? So yes, the streets of Singapore are super clean, and so are all the restaurants. The country definitely holds their establishment to rigorous standards, and it feels good to eat at locations you just know food safety is of highest priority, literally everywhere!
I was invited to attend the Singapore Food Festival which happens every year for about 2 weeks, with Visit Singapore, and man did they show me a good time. We (myself and 3 others) had a jam packed schedule upon arrival, and this was truly a culinary trip of my dreams, complete with cultural immersion which started my relationship with Asia [insert HUGE smile on my face here]. I smile because that is exactly what I was doing there, and did I acquire inspiration for the next 10 years of cooking from the Singaporean cuisine varietals! We are talking Chinese, Thai, Indian, Indonesia, and more, all fused into the most spectacular varieties you’ll ever see. Singapore really truly is the gateway to Asia, and to Asian fusion, so this is a great place to start if you’d like to explore Asia without too much of a culture shock.
First Stop: A view of Singapore from the River
Upon arrival we went to experience the Singapore River Cruise! This is a great place to start, because you get to see the Singapore bay by water, to get a sense of where you are and what the surrounding buildings represent. Everything has a story and has build history in this place. Singapore turned 51 years old (of independence) earlier this month, so August, we celebrate you!
Red House Seafood
First stop for dinner was at Red House Seafood! I even went into kitchen to watch the chefs make chili crab, a specialty in Singaporean cuisine. It was my first restaurant experience there and it was absolutely amazing. Singaporean people are very hospitable and do everything to make you feel welcome! The owner went over where they get all their seafood in Southeast Asia, and how everything is fresh (I mean, the crabs are all very much alive and kicking), so it is both shocking and amazing to see. the food is FRESH! And cooked amazingly! Check out the feast we had! LI had the most amazing and most beautiful scallops ever!
Visit Tiong Bahru Market: MANDATORY STOP!
The most famous Hawker Center, aka or “food center”, and this is my first time in such a place. Can you say amazing!? I had never been but the feel was familiar. It really was a lot like Brazilian mercado (Like the Sao Paulo Municipal Market) but different; It has it’s own essence, but it is where you find anything from local farmers, to large grocers, to “street vendors” that are now inside. Tiong Bahru is a lot like that, with a wet market in the lower level where the flowers and grocers are, and the upper level where the “street vendors” have shared stalls selling their food. These centers are amazing because they are well monitored by their public health system and everything is clean and has great quality, not to mention quite inexpensive! Hawker centers are all over Singapore (and southeast Asia for that matter), but Tiong Bahru Market is definitely the most complete and most interesting one of them all. Ask a Singaporean! And a must visit when in town.
I got to try so many different foods I don’t even remember their names, but their tastes, their smells, the memories. Those will stay with me forever. I tried the sugar cane juice the Singapore way (which is just like in Brazil), freshly squeezed right in front of me except they add lemon to theirs, which is a perfectly refreshing drink in a very HOT summer day, which is basically everyday in Singapore, especially in July! All jokes aside, I was 18 weeks pregnant while there and didn’t always feel the best because the humidity was so high, and I can deal with humidity these days – I mean, I live in Oklahoma! But refreshing dishes like this shaved ice, aka Ice Kacang or “Ais Kacang” are a must on a hot summer day at the hawker center!
Typical Peranakan Food
Culture time! That afternoon we learned a little bit about the Peranakan people, their customs and foods. Peranakans are descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Singapore (and other SouthAsian countries) who inter-married with local Malays, had babies and mixed their beautiful cultures together!
Peranakan cuisine, or Nonya cooking is the result of this blending Chinese ingredients with various distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay/Indonesian community. I don’t know much, but I do know the food is amazing, fragrant and just the right level of spice (for my taste!). I must confess I was a little “scared” of food in Asia, since I’m so allergic to sesame, which is basically used in many Asian cuisines, especially Chinese, but I had no issues here. Makes my heart smile!
We experienced typical food tastings (the most delicious cookies, I must mention called Nonya Pineapple Tarts), and then were taken on a Kim Choo Tour followed by a demonstration with Edmond and his mother, who prepared a feast for us! one dish that particularly stuck with me was the ondeh-ondeh, a delicious sweet potato, stuffed with coconut sugar “bliss ball” rolled in shredded coconut. AMAZING! Recipe shared on my Youtube channel! Make sure you subscribe because I have more to come this fall!
In case anyone was still hungry, we had yet a second lunch 328 Katong Latska to have a bowl of it, which was nominated for a Michelin star for STREAT food.
This is a delicious coconut curry seafood noodle bowl that is second to none in the city! I enjoyed it so much with a fresh Thai coconut because that seems to be available everywhere in Singapore. I LOVED IT!
Dinner at STREAT – The Singapore Food Festival Signature Event
Singapore food festival 2016 which was “an invitation for food lovers to ‘Savour the Past, Taste the Future’ of Singapore’s ever-colourful dining scene. At STREAT, the Festival’s signature event, a stellar cast of hawkers and chefs served modern creations inspired by Singaporean flavours alongside sumptuous local favourites at great prices”, as described by Visit Singapore! We enjoyed the pop up restaurant featuring Chefs LG Han, Susur Lee and Ken Ling, who prepared these delicious featured dishes for us!
Drinks at Ann Siang Hill at a rooftop bar
Night cap at what felt like Bourbon street to me! This little area quite reminded me of the bohemian city of New Orleans, with narrow streets, and beautiful architecture. Singapore is filled with these amazing locations, perfect to end the evening.
BOTANIC GARDENS AND NATIONAL ORCHID GARDEN
What a beautiful place! I’m so happy I had a chance to visit and see all that nature has to offer in Singapore. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and it has so much to offer. The Orchid Garden is within the Botanic Garden, and offer so many varieties of orchids it will have your head spinning! It’s simply amazing, so beautiful and smells fantastic. I had to get myself a gold orchid pendant to remind me of this beautiful location. If you’re into flowers and nature, you HAVE to come here and appreciate this place. I could have easily spent a week there.
You haven’t lived until you ate here. Authentic Indian food with a Singaporean flare, this place has truly challenged an satisfied my taste buds all at the same time. I was happiest during this trip when I was eating this food. For starters, it is the most colorful, well seasoned, delicious combination of flavors. And this fish head stew (yes, I said FISH HEAD) was AMAZING!! and very meaty!!
GARDENS BY THE BAY and SUPER TREES
Probably one of the most impressive man made places I’ve ever been. These trees, WOW! Gardens by the Bay truly captures the essence of Singapore from the beauty of the tropical gardens around the city, to the perfect “rain forest” environment that makes Singapore the amazing city it is. The gardens are enclosed in domes of stunning structure, maintaining the perfect temperature for the vegetation to flourish, and inside you’ll find desert conditions to misty rainforest depending on which level you’re at. There is even a life size waterfall! It is simply fantastic!
The Super Trees though. Oh my GOD! Is this even real? how is it possible? I stood there in awe of these gigantic pieces of natural art that are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions to harvest solar energy and light themselves up! It’s beautiful by day, but by night, that’s something else. What a treat to have been in this place. Almost better than eating, but not quite! ha.
Dinner at Chinese restaurant Keng Eng Kee Seafood
Typical Chinese food with Singaporean tastes, and I remember everyone boasting about the coffee pork ribs (even though I couldn’t have them because they were made with sesame) but the cereal calamari and Salted egg yolk crab, plus many more.
Drinks at One Altitude Bar
Such an amazing location! The highest rooftop bar in the world: yep! the tallest al fresco bar in the planet! Unless the aliens built something higher somewhere else in Mars or the rest of the universe that we don’t know about yet, this is it!! I almost got in trouble for holding my drink up over the “edge” of the glass protector, but I had to get this shot above the city! Unbelievable views from up here, great place to get a drink and catch up with friends! It’s very colorful, great vibe with a DJ and dancing if desired! Sweet!
OK, So, I’ve never been to India, but got excited at the possibility after visiting here! India, I found out, is my JAM! Just from visiting Little India Singapore, I found it is quite authentic to the real deal from the locals of Indian origin. Plus it is is vibrant, colorful, has amazing food, tropical fruits, and awesome people (and jewelry)! So why would I not love it! I decided I love it!
We had Indian food, I bought bangles and earrings, I got some fruit, and we enjoyed this little heaven that is the Indian portion of Singapore. How fantastic! I even got my eyebrows threaded for the first time (thank you Hamsa), after going there for a second time with a local follower/now friend who reached out to me and took me on our own little tour of Singapore! Great memories made!
Southeast Asian art Museum that was just fantastic! It is such a beautiful buildings, actually two. One used to be the Supreme Court and the other Town Hall. It is magnificent and has a beautiful ceiling, and the museum itself contains 8,000 pieces of art. All this in the core of Singapore. A must see for culture immersion!
Lunch at National Kitchen Violet Oon
Delicious simple Peranakan food meets the finer side of dining. A very exciting experience, in a beautiful location inside the National gallery, a must for those visiting! We had some delicious food here, but pictures do better justice than words. Feast your eyes!
Dinner at Halia at Raffles hotel
Quiet Western dinner at the grandiose Raffles hotel, perhaps the most prestigious and iconic hotel in Singapore. Definitely the oldest, built in 1887. You need to at least visit the premises while there, it is fantastic! And Halia restaurant has a great feel, and perhaps if you are looking for familiar “Typical Western” food if for some silly reason you’ve had enough exotic Singaporean goodness, definitely stop by here. Halia means ginger in Malay, which is the number 1 official language in Singapore, so definitely get their ginger tea. I did, and I LOVED it!
Typical Singaporean Breakfast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast
When in rome, or when in Singapore….Have what the locals have: And that’s kaya toast, like every morning. Also with a Kopi-C which is typical Singaporean coffee, that is strong black coffee served with evaporated milk and condensed milk. That’s right world, we are all doing it wrong! This was the right way for sure, the Singaporeans know what’s up!
The kaya toast was so good here I bought myself a jar of kaya jam, which is a coconut egg jam that is spread on toast with a thick “slice” of butter, and served just like that. The butter should not be spread, it should be cut as if it looked like cheese! Yep, you “heard” me, that’s how they do it, and it’s delicious! This is often served with a side of SUPER soft boiled eggs, maybe 2-3 minutes? It is quite soft, even watery in consistency. I had to opt out due to the pregnancy, but you can dip the kaya toast in the egg and be merry! Or just eat the kaya toast with that delicious Kopi-C, which is what I did. Coffee at least once a day, it was allowed, and thoroughly enjoyed by these pregnant taste buds. I need to be making something brunchy at home with my kaya jam, stay tuned!!
Like Little India, Chinatown also felt very authentic, definitely more so than in New York City, which is what I’m used to. Lots of shops, cafes and vendors, in a very organized fashion along the narrow streets. We went shopping, sight seeing and took lots of pictures! There is an array of tea houses, restaurants and kiosks with Chinese nationals selling their goodies. Fantastic!
The Heritage Center was amazing, and captured the history of the arrival of the Chinese in Singapore perfectly. To visit is to experience the essence of the true history behind the colonization of Singapore and to learn of all the struggles along the journey and to establish the community in a new land is just baffling. If you ever thing you have it bad, or are having a bad day, read up on the early Chinese settlers in Singapore during their journey by boat…just WOW! What these people went through, and prospered is truly remarkable.
The Heritage center truly depicts life exactly as it was in the 1950’s, which really wasn’t even that long ago! I mean, when they say close quarters, they mean SUPER tight quarters, where a family of 5 or 6 can live in a tiny little room the size of maybe my walk in closet. It’s amazing. It reflects many pieces of information about the lifestyle back then, what they did for a living, what they ate, trade and so much more. Make time to come here, it is truly a special experience and helps to understand how this amazing culture was born.
The visual highlight for me in Chinatown was the The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Buddhist temple; shame on me for not creating the opportunity until now. It is so gradiose and beautiful I was truly taken back by its magnificence. The red and gold colors are strong, demand attention, but also respect, reflecting a beauty I was not expecting. I was wearing a dress, on the short side, so to enter they offer wraps to tie around your waist as additional respect. This had happened to me before while visiting a basilica in Milan, many moons ago, which means this is sacred ground.
Tong men egg tarts Experience
Lunch at Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant
Another delicious feast! Indian Muslim food at it’s best, a curry party in my mouth, haha! I’m so happy I went to Singapore and got to taste all these amazing and unfamiliar flavors to me. Now they are familiar and I just can’t get enough! This is a landmark restaurant opposite Sultan Mosque (also really beautiful), and has been serving nasi biryani, murtabak, roti prata and other dishes for over 100 years in Singapore; even prior to the country’s independence. If that’s not a staple for this place’s cultural benefit, I don’t know what is! Also, ridiculous amounts of food for a very reasonable price. Must check out Zam Zam!
Shopping at Haji Lane
Hello Colorful Haji Lane! Let’s shop! Drop me off here for the day and let me walk up and down the tiniest street in Singapore! Tiny in size but full of flare and cute little boutiques and shops. Definitely had a blast and shopped till I dropped here. Wish I had more time, but thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and fun mural paintings. They even had a Dutch cafe there, which reminded me of my winecoach. We need to go to Singapore together, I know he would love it there!
Ahh…what can I say about this! This is where I learned to appreciate tea, but not just having tea, but an elevated experience, enjoying tea at its finest. We enjoyed the most beautiful Hi-Tea of my life at the TWG tea garden, learned that they offer over 800 specialty teas and the most delicious (and colorful) macarons, along with some of the most exquisite tea pairings to please all the curious palates out there, sophisticated or not! I have a new passion for tea because of this beautiful place, and I just can’t wait for them to come to this side of the world, otherwise we’ll have to go to Asia quite often for a fix of luxury!
Dinner at Wild Rocket at Mt. Emily
Cocktails at 28 Hong Kong Street
A hole in the wall, trendy and fabulous atmosphere bar with a highly decorated bartender. Apparently this is on the top 50 bars in the world, and I totally get why. American inspired cocktails and a smoothness typical of a hidden gem in Chicago or NYC. Truly relaxing and enjoyable with a heightened sense of style of an American bar in Southeast Asia. You have no idea the door to this place will lead to what it is; it’s like they want to be “hidden”, but that can’t be the case right? Although alcoholic beverages were a no-go for me on this trip, I enjoyed plenty of fancy and delicious cocktails! Cheers to never having a dull moment my friends!
Lunch at Labyrinth
Talk about a high-end lunch to seal the deal and send us home happy! Chef LG Hang showcases Singaporean flavors in the most terrific ways. His food is truly art, and he tells a story with every dish. It nearly doesn’t look edible, because it is so incredibly delicate and beautiful. I must say, it is absolutely delicious, and a perfect capture of what this country represents.
Tour of Marina Bay Sands SkyPark and the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool
Gorgeous and luxurious hotel that has incredible views of the city with its 360º SkyPark and beautiful pool overlooking the ever-growing Singaporean horizon. A must see/visit and perhaps experience when in town! The hotel also has beautiful accommodations and incredible shopping center. Truly fabulous!
Afternoon with a local
My sweet follower Hamsa reached out and took time out of her busy schedule to spend an afternoon showing me what’s good in local Singapore. That is so sweet! Although our visit was short, it was very productive, and I made a new friend! So lovely. She made me love Singapore even more! I enjoyed an amazing end of my journey with my new friend.
As you can see, I had a packed afternoon doing “local” stuff with Hamsa. She even took me to get my eyebrows threaded for the first time in Little India! I got to eat some more delicious stuff and left Singapore with a good taste in my mouth! That night, I ended up having dinner with the most amazing guide, Naseem who was instrumental in making this trip all it was, truly memorable and absolutely fantastic! Everyone in Singapore is just so nice, and I had the BEST experience during the week I spent there.
Special thank you to Visit Singapore for making this trip possible, because I probably wouldn’t have thought to fly to the other side of the world while 18 weeks pregnant. Thank you for inviting me to the amazing food festival and more. I hope to return with winecoach because I want him to experience this as well!
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