13-year-old Makansutra Gluttons Bay foodcourt, the brainchild of Singapore’s indefatigable Makanguru, KF Seetoh, has just reopened recently after a major refurbishment. The place looked more swish, but retains the authenticity of local hawker food options offered.
An interesting addition to the clutch of stalls offering some excellent dining choices there: Aussie chef, David Pynt, of 1-Michelin-starrred Burnt Ends, has set up shop offering some interesting concoctions, marrying Aussie-style barbecued meats with Asian flavours. Case in point is his BBQ chicken smothered with salted duck’s eggyolk sauce, and served with garlic rice and pickled cucumbers.
The salted duck’s eggyolk sauce is pretty addictive, and even went well with potato chips.
Another snack I enjoyed from David Pynt’s stall, called Meatsmith Western BBQ, are the Chinese deep-fried wantans filled with pulled pork. Those crisp, golden-fried little parcels exploded with big flavours.
Other hawker dishes we tried there included the Hainanese chicken rice from the Matahari stall. Like almost every other Hainanese spot in Singapore, this was excellent - one is always hard-pressed to find good Hainanese chicken rice spots in Malaysia, but never in Singapore. It came with the requisite chili and minced ginger dips.
Okay, Singapore does chicken rice better than Malaysia, but Malaysians always, always, do Mamak-style mee goreng better than Singapore. So, this mee goreng from the Old Satay Club stall, although it’s very tasty, still has that red food colouring added, which I could never understand. In Malaysia, the reddish hue comes from the chilis and the tomatoes, never any food dyes. But in Singapore, some mee goreng stalls virtually coloured their fried noodles a fluorescent red with the fake colouring used.
The same stall also offers the mamak oddity - “Roti John”, a pan-fried sandwich utilising a fluted bread roll or “roti” which is like a local version of the French baguette. Local Malays call all white people “John” since the British-colonial days, and “Roti John” was so-called because a baguette-like roll (i.e. white man’s roti) was used to make this very Malay/Indian-Muslim dish. It involved slicing the fluted bread roll lengthwise in half, then frying it face down on a minced mutton or chicken, egg and onion mixture, spiced with chilis & other condiments. Not my cup of tea, but it has its legions of fans in Singapore and Malaysia.
The steamed dumplings from Xing Fu Yum Cha were pretty respectable - crunchy shrimp-filled “har gows”, minced-pork/shrimp “siew mais” and fluffy buns with with molten custard filling.
My favourite dish at Gluttons Bay is from Syifa’ Satay stall - tender skewers of chicken, beef or mutton satays, garnished with slivers of raw cucumber and onions, and served with a very rich, spicy peanut sauce. Worth a trip here just for this.
I have a weakness for chye tow kway, or pan-fried carrot cake. The often-used English name itself is a misnomer. Everyone in Singapore and Malaysia know these steamed radish-tapioca flour pudding as “carrot cake” eventhough it’s radish being used (I guess the reason is because radish is known in local Chinese-Hokkien as “white carrot”. I know it’s weird, but in Mandarin where radish is called “luobo”/萝卜, a carrot is known as “hong luobo”/ 红萝卜 or “red radish”. )
Anyhoo, steamed cakes of radish pudding are pretty similar to polenta cakes which one slices and pan-fry. Here, “carrot cake” is cut into cubes and pan-fried in lard with chopped salted radish and eggs. It’s a Teochew dish which is handled with slight variations in other South-east Asian countries settled by the Chinese-Teochew diaspora. In Penang & Kuala Lumpur, it’s seasoned with dark soysauce for a darker tinge, and beansprouts are added for an additional textural crunch.
In Bangkok, it’s known as “khanom pak kard”.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese called it “bột chiên”.
The stall at Gluttons Bay is known as Huat Huat, and it offers the two types of fried “chye tow kway” which is common in Singapore: the usual “white” type, and the “black” type which has sweet-dark soysauce added. One can also order a half-and-half, where both types will be piled onto one plate, which was what we did. One complaint I have regarding Singapore-style fried radish cake is that the cakes are chopped too finely during the frying process, whereas I prefer to chew on larger pieces of the pudding. It’s topped with chopped scallions and served with a dollop of spicy chili paste.
Too many things to try on one trip to Makansutra Gluttons’ Bay. We need to go back next time to try more, like these amazing-looking tandoori-baked meats here.
Char kway teow - it’s not Singapore-style, but a Singaporean take on Penang-style char koay teow - somehow, one look at you just know it cannot be Penangite: the Singaporean kway teow noodles used are too thick compared to Penang’s softer-textured koay teow. I didn’t manage to try this - the folks at the next table had it.
Makansutra Gluttons Bay
8 Raffles Avenue
The Esplanade Singapore
Tel: +65 6438 4038
Opening hours: 5pm-2am Mon-Sat, 4pm-1am on Sunday.