I’ve written a few blog posts about Singapore, including the last one recently (also related to our hometown, Canberra) and the reason that I keep coming back to our memories in Singapore is because it combines a few of my passions – food, art/architecture, multicultural history and gardens.
This post has become lengthier than I intended (again!) so for those with just a few minutes to scan, I’ll use the bold print strategy again…hope that helps and recipe headings will always be in bold😋😉
The feature photo: taken from a road overpass on our walk to Chinatown – the little restaurant to the right now has a Michelin Star…we got there at 5.45 to line up for their famous chicken dish (we were served by 6 pm:)
In this post I’ve also included quite a few topics that may be of interest to children…probably older children although little ones do enjoy a laugh about smelly durian fruit!
Talking of fruit…I’ll begin and end with a recipe:
Our Meat free Monday meal…we also included a Singapore Noodle dish (many recipes on Net including a “cheat’s” (quick) 1 for busy nights.
Deep-fried silken tofu with Sichuan pepper and salt (photo above); accompanied by steamed baby bok-choy Or “Gai lan” (recipe at end) + we had Singapore noodles too😋
From Kylie Kwong’s “Lantern Cookery Classics” P106
1 x 300 g packet silken tofu; vegetable oil for deep frying; 1/3 cup cornflour; 1 teaspoon Sichuan Pepper and Salt (see note at end); 1 lemon, cut into pieces
“When cooked properly, the tofu should have a crunchy, golden outside and a silky, piping hot inside. The salty, aromatic flavour of Sichuan pepper and salt brings the tofu to life, as does the refreshing contrast of the sour lemon.
Eat the fried tofu immediately after cooking, as it becomes moist and loses it’s crunch when it cools.
1. Gently remove tofu from packet and invert on a plate. Carefully slice into 6 cubes, draining off any excess liquid.
2. Heat oil in a hot wok until the surface seems to shimmer slightly. Lightly coat tofu pieces in cornflour and, using a fish slice, carefully lower into the hot oil. (It is important not to coat the tofu before heating the oil, or it will become very moist and sticky.). Deep-fry tofu until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen paper.
3. Arrange tofu on a platter and serve immediately, sprinkled with Sichuan pepper and salt and accompanied by lemon pieces.
I’ve been reading quite a lot from our Lonely Planet resources, and I regularly become drawn back to thoughts of Singapore; now it’s more accessible for us from Canberra (now a direct flight), we (and/or family) plan to return in the future.
“Some travellers knock Singapore for its corporate mindset, draconian laws and high prices, but this Southeast Asian metropolis can no longer be accused of lacking redeeming features.”…and now the positives from Lonely Planet…
“Fans of the city-state rave about its amazing green spaces, great shopping, fabulous food and the intoxicating blend of Indian, Chinese and Malay culture that has shaped the national identity. (Photos below) With an increasing edginess that an now compete with that of Bangkok and Hong Kong, there’s plenty to see, from quirky ethnic neighbourhoods and world-class museums and galleries to historic temples where the air is thick with incense.”…
“To top it off, the city is fabulously well-organised, and perfect for families.”??…if your family can afford it Tony and I say! Even reasonably well off families might be wise to plan carefully as while the positives are definitely many in Singapore, for the average Australian family, any longer than a couple of nights in Singapore could blow the holiday budget more quickly than expected. However, it’s a great stop over for a couple of nights before perhaps moving onto other more affordable Asian destinations for families…some just an hour or two away. For our own family…I’d love to have them visit just once with or without us, even just for a few days…it’s a unique place!
Be on look out for “family deals” and hotel “credits”…
There are ways to help make it a little more affordable as some hotels do offer “family deals” and/or “credits” to spend in their hotel eg. On our return trip we stayed at The Concorde Hotel on Orchard Rd and they offered a credit of S$30 (similar to A$30). We spent most of this at a Yum Cha style lunch (also included a buffet) which was beautiful. Photos of hotel below...if on a budget with children it might be too $$$$ for average Australian family but we’ve found that by booking direct with hotel + in advance, there’s a greater chance of getting special deals, similar to the “credits” noted above.
There’s also A Food Republic near this hotel (10 min walk) for a very casual Asian
meal in what Australians would describe as a shopping complex “food court” …
In Singapore the design of these places ie. not just a huge barn like space, is done
Another good foodie place for families…Tiong Bahru district
I’d definitely take them to visit this cafe (photo below) – they sell the most fabulous Bingsu style milk ice desserts (sometimes known as Patbingsu…a Korean dessert) – I think they’d love…I’m searching for recipes to try at home and will keep anyone interested posted😋😉 Some outlets are $$$$ but this one wasn’t…It’s in Tiong Bahru district; accessible by train although a 15 min walk to cafe. However, there’s a very interesting Hawker food centre nearby so we like to go for dinner and then finish with a Bingsu for dessert. They’re about $8 for a medium sized bowl (we love the mango variety) which we share. I think there might be another Sam Yat Coffee cafe which has now opened in Singapore…not sure of the location?
While in Tiong Bahru, try to do the short “historic walk” through this interesting lower rise area that was established in the 1920/30s so many attractive Art Deco style buildings can be seen. We stayed in this district in 2016 (photos below + in a separate post if interested).
Lonely Planet et al are starting to publish more guides for family/budget friendly holidays so I’ll keep my eye out for those as well as they have some great tips for getting “more bang for your buck” as our American friends say😉
“SINGAPORE – BEST TIME TO VISIT ACCORDING TO LONELY PLANET”:
“Year round – February to October tends to be drier, but skies are hazy from June to October…
“POPULAR THINGS TO SEE” ACCORDING TO LONELY PLANET:
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s most show stopping green space
We loved Gardens by the Bay (photos above and below). It’s a wonderful place to visit both day and night. During the day, we timed our visit around midday as the massive greenhouse (including waterfalls!) make a refreshing escape from the humidity. The sculptures here are also varied and interesting – some beautiful + some giving challenging food for thought as well.
Gardens by the Bay is close to the train station, so very easy to get to on your own (any guided tour around a city will be more costly – especially in Singapore!)….we found visitsingapore.com very helpful – we check here before our own self guided rail trips as things often get upgraded and improved in Singapore from one visit to the next. At time of writing this…
The train stop for Gardens by the Bay is Bayfront station. Worth checking on same site for other things to do/eat? While in the same vicinity.
When you exit, just look for the amazing 3 towers topped with a ship like shape (photo above) and you’ll know you’ve arrived at the right destination! Singapore is one Asian city which is super easy to get around on your own – even many of the 50+s speak English and offer directions etc. if you get momentarily lost! It’s such a friendly city we have found and another reason we like to visit.
Singapore is incredible in so many ways, but if you’re not keen on the creation of engineered/highly planned “natural” attractions (like I’ve heard some describe parts of Singapore) perhaps head for wetlands/jungles etc of Asia instead …a post I could write another day as when younger/fitter we did some of that too.
Other places on Lonely Planet’s list of main attractions:
National Gallery Singapore, the new star in Singapore’s fantastic museum and gallery scene. (See previous post and my photos below if interested).
Colourful temples and elaborate mosques in Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam
Tiong Bahru, a revived 1930s housing estate, packed with cafes and boutiques
(More info above + Photo below of hotel where we stayed in Tiong Bahru – Wangz Hotel)
Singapore Zoo and Night Safari – “A menagerie of exotic beasties” (LP) + we hear that nearby, there’s an excellent hawker centre with authentic/regional food. I’d like to visit this on our next Singapore stop over.
National Museum of Singapore:
I hadn’t previously thought of Singapore as multicultural, but after my visit to the National Museum of Singapore, I became more aware of the historical cultural influences and people from various parts of the world – people who have made Singapore what it is today. A few photos below from my half day at this museum (more in a previous post).
SINGAPORE SIGHTS: I find the blend of old and super modern architecture fascinating in Singapore. I’m just reading from Lonely Planet Kids’ Travel Book and this is what they have to say about one of those modern building complexes, Marina Bay Sands (first photo), which catches the eye of all first time visitors…a must see!
You can stay at THE hotel (photos above…on our last check $$$$+!), or take the lift to the top (for quite a high cost); or walk around the bottom taking it in from various angles (what we did).
We had thought about going up to the viewing platform but as we were about to leave for the airport, time was a bit tight so we decided “maybe next time” depending on how pricey it is + we’ve heard there are other rooftop bars in Singapore with great views…something to explore and report on after our next visit.
Views over Singapore:
As mentioned above, great views to be had from many hotel roof tops (if you find a nice bar that’s a bonus😉) or a river cruise is another way to take in the views like this one below:
FUN FACTS…just for kids?…
Singapore 🇸🇬 , ‘the Lion City’ (photo above), doesn’t have any lions, but it is one of only three city-states in the world. Other 2 city-states are Monaco 🇲🇨 in Europe (France surrounds it) and Vatican🇻🇦 (surrounded by Rome, Italy). I just noticed that the Singapore/Monaco flags are similar – interesting!
“As residents of one of the busiest metropolises on Earth, Singaporeans – with their Uber-long skyscrapers and giant Ferris wheel – are living the high life.” ; Population Size – 5,399,200; landmass 716 km sq; Life expectancy 84.38 (3rd longest in the world.)
Wonder what countries have the longest life expectancy?…will research another day!
THE HARBOUR AND PORT
If you’re Australian don’t expect a stunning harbour like Sydney has although it is possible to ride bikes and picnic (even have a quick swim at little beaches) along the harbour as we saw some young families doing. I found walking in the humidity hard enough!…we usually went for a morning walk and then returned to somewhere cool by about 11 am. Here’s a photo of me feeling tired and sweaty…almost escaped having my photo taken by Tony😉
I always pack my goggles even if we only have a short stop over in Singapore…my
Spinal Specialist has said swimming is so helpful for my bionic back.
Picnic areas near the harbour:
SINGAPORE – AN IMPORTANT PORT…MORE FUN FACTS…for kids??
“Singapore has a massive port (see previous posts or Net for images) and “with around 90% of the world’s shopping transported by sea, those who control the world’s biggest ports can become very wealthy indeed. So it is with Singapore, home to the world’s busiest transhipment port. On any day of the year, there are more than 1,000 cargo ships in the port. One such ship – the world’s largest, the Emma Maesk, often visits Singapore and is able to carry 11,000 cargo containers at once. If these containers were stacked end to end, they would go on for an eye bending 68 km!
BACK TO OUR PERSONAL STORIES/STAYS IN SINGAPORE:
A good short stay near the harbour in 2016…at the time very reasonably priced too:
On one stopover to Europe, we stayed in an older style/small hotel which had recently been renovated + a fresh lobby makeover. Unlike some hotels we’ve stayed at, there wasn’t a huge amount to do in the near vicinity but there was a regular shuttle service to the harbour and other city locations – more photos below.
On our return trip home on this trip to Europe we again stopped in Singapore for a few days…this time at the Wangz Hotel, which we also loved – it was in a lower rise part of Singapore, in the now trendy Tiong Bahru district (many Art Deco buildings), 900 m from a train station.
We sometimes hear today “Multiculturalism has failed” (I recently read that in the book “Amsterdam”…Tony and I found the comment by Russell Shorto puzzling + debateable!)…Singapore is just one example of where multiculturalism has mostly worked well.
We wonder if that is because, in general, diversity is valued – it’s very clear that by drawing on the skills, capabilities and connections of various ethnic groups + decades of peace, Singapore has achieved extraordinary success since “the fall of Singapore in 1945” (see photo below from Museum). Perhaps Singapore’s progressive influence, including that which can be seen in their museums and galleries, is also helping to maintain their peace and prosperity? Long live education, the arts and a peaceful world we say!
Of course, many also say that Singapore’s harsh laws and punishments are part of the reason it usually feels “so safe” (see note below from Lonely Planet); from reading various international (including human rights) reports, I’m sure that has contributed to what can sometimes be seen as a very obedient culture eg. Years ago no one would ever cross the road without a “walk” (we heard the fines were huge). However, that appears to have now changed with some younger Singaporeans occasionally breaking the rules we noticed…just like in Australia😉 Perhaps some are just so wealthy that the fines are no longer a deterrent??
You do see signs of massive (some say crazy!) amounts of wealth in Asia now of course. Also, the young/educated appear to be more vocal in their views like one of the young guides at the National Museum.
Some photos below from this museum, showing the impact of Colonialism and Multiculturalism:
Of course there have been many cultural conflicts as well which have contributed to the cultural mix that is Singapore today. Here’s one interesting example from the Museum:
MULTICULTURALISM REFLECTED IN SINGAPORE’S FOOD SCENE:
One for the kids’ from Lonely Planet:
Q. What’s big, round and spiky, smells of poo and tastes delicious? A. A durian
“That’s right, this ‘King of Fruits’, as it is known in Singapore, may smell like a spoonful of sewage, but to the locals it tastes great!” (I would have to disagree with them at this stage…maybe it’s an acquired taste?)…Lonely Planet goes on…
“The smell has been described as so off-putting that many Singapore hotels, restaurants and public-transport authorities have banned it, with strict fines of up to $500 if you’re caught eating it. No durians allowed!”😉
So No Durian Recipes here today…a couple of others at the end of this post.
Talking of law enforcement...”Singapore’s laws are known for being super strict; for example, there is the death penalty for importing/exporting drugs” (from LP)
One more attraction recommended by Lonely Planet…we’ll visit next time we’re there…
“Built in 1827, the rainbow coloured Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple”… (Hindu is one of main religions of Indian immigrants to Singapore). …”Every year, to celebrate the Hindu event of Diwali (festival of lights), many thousands of Hindus travel to the temple to take part in a fire walking ceremony known as Theemithi. It is thought that by walking across white-hot coals you prove your devotion to your faith.” (Lonely Planet Kids)
A FEW MORE RECIPES FROM KYLIE KWONG’S “KITCHEN CLASSICS”…
We’ve been to Kylie Kwong’s restaurant in Sydney a couple of times. It had the “queuing in the street for a table” arrangement which we weren’t keen on (particularly before my spinal surgeries), so we mainly cook her recipes at home now!
On our last visit to Sydney in November (just last month), we went to David Thomson’s famous Thai restaurant, Long Chim, in Angel Place (next to Martin Place – CBD) which we loved just as much as his restaurant in Bangkok, Nahm.
Back to the Kylie book we love:
Sichuan Pepper and Salt (see recipe below… for recipe above)
Kylie describes it’s uses:
“I love using this to pep up stir-fries, salads and braises – it adds just the right amount of warmth and saltiness with a light citrus note.
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns; 3 tablespoons salt flakes
1. Dry roast the Sichuan peppercorns and salt flakes in a heavy based saucepan or wok. When the peppercorns begin to ‘pop’ and become aromatic, immediately remove them from the heat.
2. Allow to cool, then grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Store in an airtight container.
Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce or “Gai lan”:
These are the Chinese greens you’ll know from yum cha, where they’re wheeled around on big shell trolleys, ready to be plunged into boiling water and drizzled with oyster sauce. This recipe is incredibly easy but the secret, as with most Chinese vegetable dishes, is to cook it at the last minute.
1 bunch Chinese broccoli (Gai lan); 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; 2 tablespoons oyster sauce; dash of sesame oil; 1 tablespoon peanut oil
1. Trim 5 cm from ends of broccoli, cut bunch crossways into 3 lengths and wash thoroughly.
2. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Stir in vegetable oil, then add broccoli and simmer until bright green and tender – this should take about 1 min. Using tongs, immediately remove broccoli from water and place on a platter. Drizzle with oyster sauce and sesame oil.
3. Heat peanut oil in a small frying pan until moderately hot and carefully pour over broccoli. Serve immediately.
A FEW OTHER RECIPES FROM THE SAME BOOK OF KYLIE’S USING Sichuan P&S...we often have seafood on the weekends in Canberra when the fresh food markets are opened at Fyshwick:
KINGFISH SASHIMI with Mathew Lindsay’s dressing
Serves 4-6 as part of a banquet
500 g sashimi-grade yellowtail kingfish fillet (or a suitable replacement fish if kingfish isn’t available – it usually is)
Photo to come from dinner tonight😉
Sichuan Pepper and Salt (recipe above)
1/3 cup brown rice vinegar; 1/4 cup brown sugar; 1/4 cup water; 1/3 cup tamari; 1 tablespoon sesame oil; 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil; 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger; 1 tablespoon finely grated white onion
DRY FRIED SICHUAN BEEF P48
2 x 300 g beef fillets; 1.5 cups veg oil; 1 tablespoon veg oil (extra); 2 large red chillies (finely sliced on diagonal); 1 tablespoon finely diced ginger; 3 garlic cloves, finely diced; 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce; 2 teaspoons Sichuan P & S; 9 spring onions, finely chopped; pinch Sichuan P&S, extra; large handful of finely shredded iceberg lettuce 🥬
Also Sizzling Beef P50;
SICHUAN CHICKEN SALAD P62 – Serves 2-4 as a starter or double as a summer main perhaps with Tofu recipe above?
1 small cucumber, peeled; 100g white cooked chicken (breast meat only); 3 spring onions; 1 stick celery; small handful of roughly chopped coriander; 25 g finely sliced fresh black cloud ear fungus; 1 teaspoon light soy sauce; 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil; 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes; 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan P&S; 1 drop chilli oil.
1. Using a vegetable peeler, finely slice cucumber lengthways into ribbons. Cut cucumber into fine strips.
2. Using your fingers, shred chicken meat. Combine chicken and cucumber in a bowl with remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Arrange on a platter and sprinkle with a little more Sichuan pepper and salt before serving.
STIR FRIED EGGPLANT WITH HOMEMADE CHILLI SAUCE P99
Main ingredients: 6 Japanese eggplants; 1 teaspoon sea salt; 2 tablespoons peanut oil; 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan Pepper and Salt
Chilli Sauce (makes more than needed but lasts for a week+)
1/2 cup peanut oil; 6 large red chilli (roughly chopped); 10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped; 7 cm piece ginger, roughly chopped; 1 tablespoon light soy sauce; 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves and stems.
BRAISED CHICKEN WITH VIBRANT FLAVOURS P72 of Kylie Kwong’s book
More like Asian/Moroccan/French flavours Kylie points out (also, if interested, see my Hanoi, Vietnam posts for more recipes in similar style ie. Asian with French influence). This chicken dish can be cooked in advance.
Main Ingredients: saffron threads; 1.5 kg chicken thighs on bone; 6 cm piece ginger; 20g turmeric; 10 garlic cloves; 3 small carrots; 6 small red shallots; 5 small Roma (plum) tomatoes; 6 bay leaves; 100 g palm sugar; 1/4 cup fish sauce; 1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind; 6 fresh dates; 5 large red chillies; 2 limes; 1/2 cup red wine; 1/2 cup sherry vinegar; crusty sourdough bread to serve