What to eat in Penang and Singapore

Great guidance to the LW.

Indeed! I’ve been reading klyeoh’s posts for many years and have always wanted to go to Penang because of what I’ve read. One good thing is that we haven’t booked any flight between Penang and Singapore yet, so there’s some flexibility regarding number of nights in each city.

I already started reading the South China Morning Post article that was linked a few months ago…there’s so much good stuff.

Thanks in advance!
vamped (which for those who used Chowhound, is an anagram of my previous username)

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@klyeoh is certainly the authority!

For Penang, at the very least you must seek out char kway teow, assam laksa and nasi kandar. When you’ve done that, try char koay kak, kway teow thng and any nyonya kuih you can get your hands on. Things don’t end there, but one could go on forever (rojak, curry mee, murtabak, roti canai, mee sotong…)

My Penang specifics are out of date and only from one visit, but a quick search on the board for the above foods will probably yield recent results. Char kway teow is hotly contested and has a couple of round-ups here, but Siam road is very popular.

You should also eat at a Peranakan restaurant, but I don’t know where the best options are between the two cities you’re visiting.

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Best Peranakan/Nyonya option in Penang today is Winn’s on 2 Irrawadi Road ([Penang] Nyonya lunch at Winn's Cafe, Irrawadi Road).
There are some newbies - especially along Sri Bahari Road in the old downtown, where there are 3 Nyonya restaurants along a 100-foot-stretch: Bibik’s Kitchen, Baba Phang’s and Ceki. Their prices are pretty competitive and nothing much to separates the 3 although, IMO, 3-week-old newbie, Ceki, has that edge by offering fresher, lighter cooking.
[Penang] Ceki Nyonya Restaurant, Sri Bahari Road

Peranakan/Nyonya restaurants in Singapore can be relatively pricey nowadays, as demand for their food increases in tandem with the recent surge of interest in Peranakan/Baba-Nyonya culture. The Peranakan at Claymore Connect in downtown Orchard Road, Singapore, provides some good renditions on the various Southern Nyonya dishes. It’s a beautiful space within a smallish mall connected to the Orchard Hotel.

These pictures were taken at The Peranakan just yesterday when Sandra Galistan of the Singapore Food Whisperers brought me there:

Previously, I’d have recommended Guan Hoe Soon, a long-time favourite of my family & friends in Singapore, but it’s stagnated somewhat and appeared tired even during the last Chowdown we had a year ago when CH’s Alpha Hound, Jim Leff, was in town (https://www.chowhound.com/post/singapore-chowdown-guan-hoe-1065187).

I’ll post more on The Peranakan when I get back to Penang tonight (am currently in Singapore and running some last-minute errands). Other top Nyonya places in Singapore at the moment are PeraMakan at the Keppel Club; the rather pricey (but good) True Blue on Armenian Street next to the Peranakan Museum (which is worth a visit in itself); and, if you want to splurge, the one-Michelin-starred Candlenut on Dempsey Hill, with its inventive take on Nyonya cooking.

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If there is just one restaurant you have time to eat at in Singapore, make it Folklore at the Destination Hotel on Beach Road. Singaporean-Eurasian chef Damian D’Silva at his prime. Local food never tasted so good as here at the moment.

Damian D’Silva was in Penang during the recent George Town Festival - his offerings there, though a small subset of his full repertoire in Singapore, was enough to send Penangites into raptures. :joy::joy:

Damian D’Silva’s kueh bengkah, the local tapioca dessert, akin to pone in the Caribbean and bibinca in Goa, India, was the richest, most delicious rendition of the dessert I’d ever had. Never, ever miss ordering this if you are at Folklore.

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Singapore

  1. Indigo Hotel in Katong has a Peranakan-Nyonya theme which extends into its rooms. It’s located smack in the middle of Katong, the old Peranakan heartland of Singapore, with interesting shops (e.g. Rumah Bebe and Rumah Kim Choo) to explore the unique 500-year-old Peranakan culture, which is indigenous to Singapore, Penang and Malacca.

  2. Opt for one of the small hotels at Keong Saik Road precinct, which is near enough to Chinatown, besides a plethora of bars on Keong Saik Road and Bukit Pasoh Road next to it.

  3. Stay at the hip Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, with many small bars, galleries, cafes, bookshops, and the iconic Tiong Bahru Food Centre, and its many famous hawker stalls.

  4. Explore the murals around Singapore, starting with those in the colourful Little India district. Explore the shops and numerous eateries in the neighbourhood. Some of my favourites are Komala Vilas and Madras New Woodlands .

Penang

  1. Some interesting hotels, if you care to pay a bit more, in the old downtown includes the beautiful Seven Terraces , located on the atmospheric Stewart Lane, and near the much-revered Goddess of Mercy Temple (Kuan Imm Teng) built in 1728. The hotel is walking distance to Penang’s historic colonial British district and also Little India.
    The hotel’s restaurant, Kebaya , is the most sought-after dining spot in town at the moment.

  2. Muntri Mews and The Edison are two other interesting options in the same area - both allows you to walk around George Town’s labryrinth of old shophouses and explore the shops and cafes.

  3. One pleasant excursion you can make is up Penang Hill (take the furnicular rail) and visit The Habitat .

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Thanks so much for the rec! We try to stay at IHG hotels where available. We stayed at the Intercontinental near Raffles last year, and it was fine. The Hotel Indigo Katong (member of IHG) sounds like a slam dunk for our next trip.

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Must-try stuff in Singapore includes:

  1. Curry chicken noodles from Heng Kee
    [Singapore] Best Curry Noodles in Singapore from Heng Kee, Hong Lim Hawker Centre

  2. Hainanese chicken rice. Get them from Tiong Bahru Food Centre, Maxwell Road Food Centre, or Sergeant Chicken Rice at the foodcourts in Wisma Atria or ION Orchard. Some brandnames are worth going to if you happen to be in the neighbourhood - my faves are Boon Tong Kee on Balestier Road (https://www.thebestsingapore.com/best-place/boon-tong-kee/) and Wee Nam Kee at United Square (http://www.vkeong.com/eat/wee-nam-kee-chicken-rice-united-square-singapore/).

  3. Katong laksa from Janggut in Roxy Square (http://www.camemberu.com/2016/07/the-original-katong-laksa-janggut-laksa.html). You can forget about 328 Katong Laksa - their standards have deteriorated horrendously in the past couple of years.

  4. Peking duck (yes, it’s really good) from Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck at the Paragon Orchard. Its dim sum is also among the best in Singapore.(http://www.imperialtreasure.com/restaurant/Imperial%20Treasure%20Super%20Peking%20Duck%20Restaurant-2%20).

  5. Fish-head curry from Ocean, Teluk Ayer Street.
    (http://www.oceancurryfishhead.com.sg/contactus.html)

  6. For Malay-style nasi Padang (rice with a selection of curried dishes), try Warong Nasi Pariaman. Indonesian in origin, but has evolved to tastes which pretty much reflect Singapore-Malay flavours.
    (http://ieatishootipost.sg/warong-nasi-pariaman-sedap-since-1948/)

  7. Singapore-style char koay teow (fried flat rice noodles) from Hill Street Char Koay Teow in Bedok South Market and Food Centre. This is the stall which the late Anthony Bourdain had wanted to bring to New York for his Bourdain Market Place project.
    https://www.hungrygowhere.com/singapore/hill_street_char_kway_teow/

The founder of Hill Street Char Koay Teow, Ng Chang Siang, had also just passed away this Mar at the age of 71. However, his son, Ng Yeow Kiat, has taken over the business nd cooks as well as his father.

  1. Hill Street Tai Hwa Bak Chor Mee - one of the Michelin-starred hawker stalls in Singapore. It serves springy egg noodles dressed in pork lard, a variety of condiments and sauce, and topped with minced pork, mushrooms, etc. If you can stand a long wait, start queuing at the stall when it opens. Its locatiom is walking distance from Lavender MRT.
    (http://www.asiaone.com/news/soshiok/6-things-know-about-one-michelin-starred-tai-hwa-pork-noodle)

  2. Visit Makansutra Glutton Bay for a taste of Singapore’s hawker food from a row of eateries which are carefully-curated by KF Seetoh, Singapore’s best-known street food expert. Don’t miss the satay from Syifa’ and the coffee-flavoured pork-ribs from Chun Kee.
    http://www.makansutra.com/eateries-home.aspx?mid=1

  3. Nasi lemak (Malay coconut-flavoured rice with condiments) from Selera Rasa stall in Adam Road Food Centre.
    https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/the-story-behind-the-famous-adam-road-nasi-lemak

I shall compile a list of must-tries for Penang shortly and concatenate that here.

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Klyeoh (Peter)

Thank you so much for this post, which is perfectly timed for us. I have been following this thread for a while. We just arrived in Singapore from the East Coast of the US (nearly 24 hours of travel all in, totally bushed out and zombie-like; got to hotel at 2AM) and have had showers and are ready to get to the best food we can find. This post will be a great guideline for us. I will try to post what we find over the next three days, before we head out to Bali. Fish head curry and laksa are high on my list. My honey must be gluten free so we will be looking for rice noodles for her.

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Yes, please do report back on how your dining experiences in Singapore. Do check out Glutton Bay by Makansutra, amidst the dining options at the Esplanade. Syifa’ Satay is especially good.
http://www.makansutra.com/eateries-stalls.aspx?mid=1

If you yearn for something a bit more familiar, check out Dempsey Cookhouse.

Many bakeries in Singapore now offer gluten-free items, and supermarkets are also full of them.

Must-try stuff in Penang includes:

  1. Penang-style char koay teow is a must-try, with various good ones around town, e.g. the one at Kheng Pin Cafe on Penang Road which offers other good hawker food options as well, especially its “lor bak” (deep-fried meat rolls) and prawn fritters:
    [Penang] Breakfast Options at Kheng Pin, Sri Bahari Road

  2. KTG Cafe on Lorong Selamat is another such spot, good for its fried koay teow (char koay teow), besides one of the best “ice kachang” in town.
    [Penang] Hawker eats at KTG Cafe, Lorong Selamat

  3. Mandarin Cafe in Island Glades is another food haven, with lots of hawker food options to choose from. It’s best-known for the claypot chicken rice, nasi kandar and chee cheong fun stalls.
    [Penang] Hawker food options at Mandarin Cafe, Island Glades

  4. One Corner Cafe in Jalan Bawasah is another very popular breakfast and lunch spot. Good for its Hokkien mee (prawn noodles soup) and koay teow th’ng (flat rice noodles in soup). But its asam laksa is also very popular, plus a plethora of other hawker food options.
    [Penang] Breakfast & lunch options at One Corner Cafe

  5. For Penang’s iconic nasi kandar, go to either Line Clear ([Penang] Lunch at Line Clear Nasi Kandar) or Deen Maju (https://www.hungryonion.org/t/penang-malaysia-deen-maju-nasi-kandar-at-jln-gurdwara-brick-kiln-road/3918_

  6. For the best pastas in town (if you ever tire of Penang hawker fare), go to Jaloux on King Street:
    [Penang] Lunch at Jaloux, 24 King Street

  7. Penang’s best-known eatery for local Penang-Hokkien Chinese eats has to be Tek Sen. Book ahead for lunch, or else join the queue for dinner (no reservations taken at dinner-time). Its roast pork stir-fried with soysauce, sugar and a bit of chopped chilis is craziliy-popular:
    [Penang] Local Penang-Chinese favourites at Tek Sen, Carnarvon Street

  8. For Penang-Nyonya (Straits Chinese) cuisine, go to Winn’s on Irrawadi Road.
    [Penang] Nyonya lunch at Winn’s Cafe, Irrawadi Road

  9. Another good spot to try Penang-Nyonya food is Nyonya Breeze at Straits Quay:
    [Penang] Lunch at Nyonya Breeze, Straits Quay

  10. If you want dim sum, go to Fu Er Dai for breakfast:
    [Penang, Malaysia] Best Cantonese dim sum in town at Fu Er Dai

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Gosh!

Does Michelin operate to different standards for Singapore than it might in Europe? I really can’t see them awarding a star to anywhere so casual in the UK, regardless of how good the food might be. Or is it that the food here is so good, it can’t be ignored for “stardom”?

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We tried the Mankasutra Glutton Bay; got both the satay and the coffee ribs. Both good, especially the ribs, although both somewhat on the sweet side for me.

Tomorrow we will do a tour of places around Chinatown. I have been trying to put together an independent program, but we’ll only be here until Monday and several places are either closed (Heng Kee for remodeling until Feb 2019) or have weekend hours that don’t work for us. Couldn’t get a reservation at Folklore but may try again. But I’ll keep at it. We’ll see.

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I’m not surprised - that was the first observation that even Malaysians have when they taste Singapore hawker food - despite the common origins and even names given to the respective dishes, Malaysians will always say that the Singaporean version of the dish is sweet!

Ah, I totally forgot that Hong Lim Food Centre (where Heng Kee is located) is closed for renovations till Jan next year, eventhough I’d updated my thread with that info last Oct:

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Whaddaya think? :rofl::rofl::rofl:

I still remembered how incredulous I felt when Michelin, in its first Japan Guide in 2008, awarded 3-Michelin-stars to Sukiyabashi Jiro. I’d been there way before then: with its wooden counter and 10 counter seats, it was a far, far cry from the luxurious temples of gastronomy that were the 3-Michelin-starred places in France. We all knew that, up till then, ambitious French chefs had been known to run into huge debts borrowing money so they could renovate their restaurants into Versailles clones, in order to impress the Michelin inspectors and ensnare that elusive 3rd star. Sukiyabashi Jiro looked like the closet room of its French counterparts.

Then, when Michelin first went to HK in 2009, it ran into controversy from the start when Hongkongers accused them of ignoring the smaller eateries like the dim sum shops, the “cha chaan teng” casual cafes, and the “dai pai dongs” (street-side/hawker eateries) which formed an indelible part of HK dining culture. In response, Michelin awarded Tim Ho Wan , a cramped 20-seater eatery (its 2 feet-by-2-feet toilet even have a wet mop propped up against a wall) one-Michelin-star in the following year. There is NO way any restaurant in France could stand the ghost of a chance to get away with that.

So, when the Michelin folks came to Singapore in 2017, they already knew what they had to do to gain some “street cred” among Singaporeans: just remember to NOT ignore the street food culture in Singapore. That’s how we ended up with one-Michelin-star dumpsters like Hawker Chan:

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Nor the UK, Italy, Belgium or Spain - the only European countries where I’ve eaten Michelin food. And thanks for the succinct analysis.

On the same line, I look forward to Michelin awarding a star to Grandma Pollard’s Chippy - a fish & chips restaurant about an hour from us - and one of the finest in the northwest.As you know, chippies are an indelible part of our food culture. I’ll not hold my breath, though

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The irony is, Michelin imposes its French culinary hegemony over even French or Continental restaurants in Singapore. So Robuchon or Boulud’s restaurants here are actually held to the same exacting standards as they would back in Europe or America.

Frankly, I think the best Singapore hawker stalls should be listed under Bib Gourmand, at best. To award them a Michelin star is laughable.

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:rofl::rofl::rofl:

Good suggestion.

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Spent a few hours yesterday on an organized Chinatown food tour. Did two hawker centers – the big on behind the Chinatown Visitor Center, and Maxwell Street. Basically the guide got stuff while we all waited at our table so I’m fuzzy which stall it all came from, but the best things were the chicken rice at Chinatown, and the carrot cake and the roasted duck/pork belly combo from Hock Soon at Maxwell, which had long lines by the way. The carrot cake is the white part of the stuff on the green plate in the photo, and the meat is next to the green plate in the other photo. Sorry the pix aren’t great – I’ll try to do better later.

Hope to get to Ocean for fish head later today.

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Making noodles. Phongdien Town, Cantho City, Southern Vietnam.
Credit: CiaoHo