Aloha Singapore! Geylang Serai and durian at Bugis

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We did so much on our second day in Singapore that I had to cut some things out of my blog and split it in two. If you think you’re overwhelmed by my blog posts, just think of how our days were!

Other than kopi (coffee) shops and hotels, most eateries are not open until about 10 a.m., so keep that in mind if you are an early riser. You could just be like a Hobbit and do kaya toast when you wake up, which will tide you over until “second breakfast.” Or you can sleep in and pig out, as we did on this day.

My foodie friend Sean Morris, with his wife Lena and Nadine Kam, suggested we meet at the Geylang Serai market for breakfast as he was looking for Malaysian cuisine, specifically. Perfect! And, actually, the food stalls supposedly start opening at 8 a.m., so you could get there a little earlier to start eating.

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Geylang Serai is one of Singapore’s biggest and busiest wet markets, and you can find a wide range of produce, noodles, spices, tofu, meat, poultry and fish in hundreds of stalls on the first floor. I would highly recommend you not wear rubber slippers, as the floor is very wet near the fishmongers and you don’t want to be slipping on that. In fact, I would also recommend that you not wear skimpy clothes, even though it’s hot in Singapore, because this area is home to many Muslims and although our attire is common, we felt like we were offending people with so much skin showing.


Go upstairs to eat at any of the dozens of food stalls serving Malay and Indian-Muslim cuisine. It’s hard to decide which one to stop at, since they all look good, but ultimately go with your gut and you should do okay.

DSC07100Hajjah Mona holds some kind of people’s choice award for the most popular nasi padang in Singapore. Nasi padang — which I am now going to loosely translate into “plate lunch,” is Indonesian steamed rice served with various choices of pre-cooked dishes of meats, fish, vegetables, and spicy sambals. When you order, tell them you’re “eating here,” and they’ll put rice in the middle of a large plate. You then choose as many dishes as you want from the window, like at an okazuya. See the sign hanging over the window on the left? Those are pre-conceived combo plates so you don’t have to think too hard, and they are about $4 to $4.50 each. At the end, they’ll suggest that you have some kind of gravy over the rice, too. My kind of plate lunch!


Here’s what I got. Clockwise from top, quail eggs, squid, chicken, and tofu. I don’t know what they are called and couldn’t stop to ask since there was a line behind me. The quail eggs and tofu were good, but I was surprised to find the squid curry was my favorite. Since these places are halal, meats must be cooked until they are dead, dead, dead — there’s no medium-well here. But that made the squid tender, and the curries all seemed to be more sweet-spicy, which is my preferred flavor profile. Unfortunately, this meant that the chicken, although it had great flavor from the coconut, was dry and tough. This plate was about $8 Singaporean dollars.

DSC07103Sean and Lena with their breakfast finds.


Sean wanted this dish for its bee hoon noodles, the thin vermicelli found in many Southeast Asian dishes. It looks super hot, but it was not too bad—it had rich flavor, sweetness, and a nice, lingering heat.

DSC00817Not sure, but I think this is mee siam, another common noodle dish in Singapore. The sauce was kind of a cross between curry and dan dan; it wasn’t spicy at all but very rich.

DSC07102Doug, Edwina and Cat stopped to get pineapple and dragon fruit drinks. The beverage stands at Geylang sell drinks that are super sweet — too sweet, really — and taste like candy. I guess sugar is a big thing here.

DSC07105Nasi ayam is fried chicken with rice and dipping sauce. Note the citrus chili sauce on the side for extra oomph.

DSC07107Sean ordered a similar dish from another vendor, who had a nice sambal sauce on the side. I didn’t take photos of their beef redang because it was too unphotogenic, but trust me when I say the redang sauce was redang-ulously good! Just shove the meat on the side (it will be dry and tough) and pour the gravy over your rice. Overall recommendation: get curries and soups, as the meat will always be dry!

DSC07108Speaking of unphotogenic … sorry my photo came out so blurry! This is gandos, also known as kueh in Malay (or at least a version of it). You can get it from the House of Gandos, and it’s the perfect dessert for a spicy lunch as it tastes a lot like butter mochi. These six pieces cost about $2.

DSC00836 DSC00839 DSC00840Off to Bugis Junction! We used our EZ Link Cards (like a Pasmo card for you Japan fans) to use public transportation, and although it’s not the best system in the world, it’s good for getting around. Check it out, have you ever seen a subway so clean? Even the floors are immaculate. You’ll never see this in the United States. Also, be sure to eat your durian before getting on.

The red dot that Doug is showing us is part of a campaign by their transit authority to celebrate Singapore’s 50th anniversary and benefit four charities. Of course we bought our red dot!

DSC07147Bugis is something to see, even if you aren’t buying anything. There are rows and rows of stalls selling everything from souvenirs and chotchkey items to apparel, electronics, accessories, and shoes. And yes, I didn’t realize until just this moment that I got a shot of that sex shop.

DSC07149Outside, you’ll find fruit stalls, some of them selling durian. And this is where I decided my friends should try what Singaporeans call “The King of Fruit.”

Not bad, right? I’ll be honest: All the durian I’ve had up until this point has been just okay, and I think it’s because I’ve been buying a cheaper, lower grade. The fruit stand was trying to push me to buy an expensive durian — about $35 to $50 for that same sized container — but I couldn’t do it. I settled for a mid-range container at $8, which was expensive but markedly better quality. You can see on Doug and Edwina’s faces that it didn’t live up to the gross hype, and I actually finished the rest. The taste was mild and the flesh was not mushy, so I’d have to say this was the best durian I’ve ever had. When I go back, I’ll probably splurge and try a slightly higher grade to see how much better that is.

That was just brunch and a snack. I am leaving out lunch at Din Tai Fung since you’ve already seen that, and our other snacks so you won’t think we are total hogs.

For more photos from this trip, click here.

Up next: Hawker stand dinner with blogger Singaporean Eats!