Aloha Singapore! From hawker stalls to high cuisine

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I’ve finally arrived in Singapore! It’s a great time to be visiting the island nation, as 2015 marks its 50th year of independence from Malaysia.

If you are planning to visit, keep in mind that there is no direct flight from Hawaii to Singapore. You have to lay over in a hub like Manila or Tokyo, so it takes about 17 hours to get there. That being said, we had a slightly bumpy start to our trip using Philippine Airlines and laying over in Manila. I would probably not recommend this unless you have a reason to go to Manila.

Once we got here, it became nonstop awesomeness! We’ve been eating so many good things, but have been doing more than our share of walking, as well.

DSC06958Start your days with a proper Singaporean breakfast, which consists of soft-boiled eggs, dark coffee with condensed milk, and kaya toast. I bought three of such breakfast sets, which cost me a total of $11 Singapore dollars (about $8 U.S.). Here, the eggs came in their own vessel of hot water, and we had to wait before taking them out to eat. Cat couldn’t wait to see what was in it, so lifted the lid and got yelled at: “No lookie open! You wait fai mee-nuts!”

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For lunch, we headed to Chinatown to meet up with Sean and Lena Morris, and Nadine Kam, all of whom are traveling through Asia.

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We weren’t going to eat a whole meal; we were just going to the People’s Park Hawker Centre to get this spicy grouper, called chong qing grilled fish ($32). Remember our post about Fortune Noodle? THIS tasted like China … now I understand the fascination with Szechuan peppercorns. This dish was spicy, but had deeper flavors. It was so addicting, I wished we had rice to get all of the soup, but it was good that we didn’t fill up. Get this with some longan juice for contrast.

DSC07004 DSC07009While in Singapore, you need to get some Hainanese chicken rice. Many say that Tian Tian in Maxwell Centre is the best, and you’ll always find a line there. This is a dish of chicken poached in a master chicken and pork broth, so although it looks plain, it’s actually full of flavor. The rice underneath is also flavored with chicken stock. You can opt to dip the chicken in chili sauce to give it more kick, but I prefer it plain so I can taste the stock. One thing is for sure, no matter what stall sells your favorite chicken rice, the price is always right: This is a medium plate, all for just $5.

DSC07015 DSC07017What we didn’t eat in Chinatown: Dried sea horses and geckos, displayed on tables in the street. Chinese believe that you should “eat what must be improved,” but I’m not sure what these are supposed to improve.

DSC07020After shopping around Chinatown, we headed up to the Marina Bay Sands, a grand hotel and casino on the bay built to look like a cruise ship sits on the top. This is part of the view, which has been pretty hazy for the past few weeks due to the fires in Indonesia.

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Our group met up with my cousins Celia and Viv lines (top row, second from left and far right). Their friend Sara does the PR for the Ce la Vi bar at the top, and hosted us for dinner at their Sky Bar.

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They suggested we share the tasting menu, since we were so full from eating all day. Good idea! We had a scallop sushi roll and calamari, then the first course included grilled shishito peppers, Irish oysters, smoked salmon sushi, and salmon sashimi.

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The second course was comprised of three dishes: beef skewers, prawn spinach salad, and seared foie gras with baby squid. The first two sound regular, but the foie gras with squid? I had my doubts but that was actually quite nice with the spicy yuzu miso, shimeiji mushrooms, and pea shoots.

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The fourth course was a nice mix of scallops with wasabi pepper sauce, New Zealand rack of lamb, spicy fried mushrooms and baby bok choy.  The tempura enoki mushroom bundle with the rack of lamb was a nice touch!

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For dessert, most people would have to choose between the two, but Sara made sure we had both! The top was goma cake with matcha, raspberry and apricot ganache; the bottom plate is a strawberry-shiso meringue with prosecco infused strawberries, pistachio pastry cream, and shiso sorbet.

DSC07074 DSC07090 DSC07093Believe it or not, after dinner we rushed off to the Night Safari at the zoo. This is one of Singapore’s biggest attractions, as you get to see the creatures of the night doing their thing — many are up close. The zoo is open until midnight, so getting there at 8 or 9 p.m. isn’t a bad idea. By doing so you may miss a cheesy show, but you also miss the crowd of other tourists who go earlier. When the zoo is crowded with tourists, the animals get agitated, and many don’t come out. When you visit in the later hours, the animals are much calmer. Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and cool clothing, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking in extra humid conditions.

Another cool thing about this attraction is the ability to view some animals that are only found in Southeast Asia. It’s not like seeing distinctive animals like the kangaroo or koala in Australia, but it’s still pretty neat.

We’re on the go constantly from morning until midnight! Up next: dinner with a Singaporean food blogger, and eating durian. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Melissa808, or find our hashtags #Singapore, #AlohaSingapore and #SG50!

For more photos from this trip, click here.