Thursday, 29 April 2021

5 foodie spots chef Pamelia Chia is dying to visit when she’s back in Singapore

Before the pandemic, chef Pamelia Chia was only able to visit her hometown of Singapore twice a year – even less so now that borders are closed. Based in Melbourne, she hopes to be an advocate for Singaporean food and culture. This is the concept behind her recently launched podcast and online platform Singapore Noodles. While she manages to celebrate and prepare some of her favourite meals from her kitchen in Melbourne, there are times when she misses quintessential Singaporean ingredients and dishes that she can only get from the city state. Check out the beloved Singapore food spots Chia wants to visit first on her next trip home.

Pamelia Chia prepares her favourite Singaporean dishes from her Melbourne kitchen

The first wet market…

Kovan Market and Food Centre, because of its proximity to Heap Seng Leong kopitiam. I usually go to the kopitiam the morning after I arrive in Singapore for kopi guyou (butter coffee). It is one of Singapore’s last surviving traditional coffee shops. Being there and watching the singlet and pyjama-clad uncle brew your coffee truly transports you to a different era. After kaya toast and coffee, I’d go walk around Kovan Market. It is sleepier and smaller than the bigger, more touristy markets in Singapore. I really enjoy walking around the smaller heartland markets because there seems to be more of a homey, down-to-earth quality about them.

The first hawker stall…

When I’m back in Singapore for a holiday, I don’t want to waste time braving queues at the wildly popular Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice or Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, so I prefer sticking with the more underrated hawker stalls with decent food. I love Xi Xiang Feng at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6. I was never a yong tau foo fan but that stall made me a convert. Apart from your usual kang kong, fish ball, seaweed kind of ingredients, this stall has a huge array of really special items. One of my favourites is half a hard-boiled egg moulded together with fish paste and deep-fried. Amazing. If that isn’t artisanal, I don’t know what is.

The first restaurant…

Por Kee Eating House. The zi char joint is one of my mum’s favourite restaurants and it is now mine. The chilli condiment there is simple but hits all the right spots. It is a coarse blend of green and red chillies and garlic, with just the right balance. I also love the champagne ribs. It’s the kind of no-frills place where you can have a good time with loved ones, over good food and beer. I love it so much I even considered hosting my wedding there!

Assortment of traditional Nonya kueh

The first sweet treat…

I love going to Galicier Pastry at Tiong Bahru for its traditional kuehs. Kueh dadar (pandan crepes filled with grated coconut), Nonya-style pineapple tarts, and rempah udang (a banana leaf-wrapped rice dumpling) are three of my favourites. One thing that living abroad and making kueh from scratch has taught me is just how artisanal and labour-intensive our local snacks are. Just making a rempah udang alone involves making a rempah (spice paste) fried with prawns, steaming blue and white glutinous rice, cutting the banana leaves to just the right size, and wrapping each bite-sized parcel. It makes me so grateful for the relatively cheap and abundant kuehs in Singapore.

A serving of delicious crispy prata with curry

The first supper spot…

Prata House or Ming Fa Fishball Noodles along Upper Thomson Road. I spent the first 20 years of my life living in the Marymount area and it was just the best place for supper. In the same stretch, you get prata, fishball noodles, ice cream, zi char (which literally translates to cook and fry) and tau huay (bean curd). Singapore has a strong supper culture that I definitely miss! In my university days, my friends and I would often message one another after dinner for spontaneous prata or mee pok suppers. After supper, we would either go for Rochor tau huay or have ice cream next door for dessert. Even when I was working in hospitality, some nights when we got hungry after service, we would head to Prata House or Ming Fa that stay open until 2am and 4:30am respectively. It’s always a special feeling to enjoy a Milo dinosaur or mee pok in the wee hours of the morning!

Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.

SEE ALSO: Can Singapore Noodles contribute to the globalisation of local cuisine?

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