The food writer and culinary instructor reveals two lesser-known spots that provide a true taste of culture through traditional bites.
You are mistaken if you think that Malay putu piring and Chinese kueh tutu are one and the same. The best way to discover the difference: sink your teeth into one of these steamed, snowy white confections sold at heritage stall Haig Road Putu Piring. “These are very traditional Malay steamed putu piring: fluffy rice-flour cakes stuffed with gula melaka, and subtly scented by the cut-up pandan leaves which the polite staff pack with them. Eaten with grated and salted white coconut, they are
surprisingly light and totally addictive.”
#01-08, Block 14 Haig Road.
Being a full-service restaurant and catering company, Ashoka Tandoor might be where most people go for a main meal. This, however, is also where a delightful savoury snack can be had.
“The homemade samosas from this small eatery are textbook-perfect: flaky, crisp pastry crusts holding a well-spiced, soft and moist potato filling. Sometimes, there are raisins and cashew nuts in them – maybe a sign that the chef is having a good day!”
9 Lembu Road.
The food editor of The Straits Times and The Sunday Times shares her go-to places for old-school Singaporean snacks.
AS NICE AS PIE
“This is an old-school bakery that serves consistently good snacks. The star here is the banana pie. The smell of the warm pies cooling on the counter is unforgettable. Then you dig in. The filling is chunky with ripe banana and not too sweet. That softness is a good contrast to the crisp pastry.
Another fantastic must-buy here is the butter sugar bun. It looks ordinary until you take a bite. Soft butter oozes out and that little bit of sugar just reminds me of childhood days, when I would sprinkle my bread and butter with a bit of sugar. Nostalgia tastes good.”
Dona Manis Cake Shop, #B1-93 Katong Shopping Centre.
PIECES OF NOSTALGIA
“Every time I have prata at Casuarina Curry, I pop by this shop, which stocks every biscuit andcookie I remember from childhood days. Iced gems, golden brown biscuits sandwiched with pineapple jam, and even the crisp white wafers that look like large paint chips off a peeling wall – this shop has got them all.
“If you remember those impossibly thin pink, green and yellow wafers from childhood, the round ones that were so fun to eat even though they did not really taste of anything, well, you can find them here as well. I never leave without bags of snacks. This place is so dangerous, but also totally irresistible.”
Biscuit King, 130 Casuarina Road.
“Bakeries don’t get any more old-fashioned than this one, which has been around since the 1960s. The mini muffins are delicious and come in a range of flavours. They are just the right size for a two-bite snack.
“While I appreciate the artistry behind the mousse cakes that chi-chi patisseries come upwith, most times, I just want an old-fashioned cake. Here, you can get striking slices of Zebra cake and I love the pandan chiffon too. Don’t pass up on the flaky curry puffs.”
Ng Kim Lee Confectionery, 4 Chun Tin Road.
The lifestyle editor and restaurant reviewer with The Business Times highlights two Singapore restaurants with a “healthy sense of individuality, while still being mindful of global trends”, what the local F&B industry needs to move forward.
A WONDERFUL MAZE
“Labyrinth is the opposite of Naked Finn in the way that chef Han Li Guang takes apart local favourites and re-constructs them in wacky ways. But he does it in a way that is both respectful and original, and you can tell he does it from the heart.” This is exemplified in one of Ee’s favourite items served here: a chilli crab ice cream served with crab bisque mousse, finely ground toasted mantou sand and a crispy soft-shell crab.
5 Neil Road.
“(At Naked Finn), they are really passionate about the source of their seafood. It’s all in line with the current trend of knowing where your food comes from but I like that they do it not because it’s fashionable, but because they truly believe in it,” says Ee.
“My favourite dishes include the prawn noodle soup – it is an example of how hawker food can be elevated, without resorting to clumsy fusion tactics.”
39 Malan Road.