SINGAPORE - "Forget Newton Circus, forget Lau Pa Sat, forget Boat Quay," said Erlangga Mangunkusumo, mentioning famous culinary tourist spots in Singapore because his favourite dishes and eateries are mostly off the tourist track.
The great thing about asking recommendations from locals or residents is that you may come across such interesting places and feel more adventurous too.
To find what's great to eat in Singapore, apart from Erlangga, an Indonesian doctor who now works at the National University Hospital (NUH), The Jakarta Post Travel also sought recommendations from Singapore's makan guru KF Seetoh who founded Makan Sutra, a Singapore-based company that celebrates food culture, Elrica Diona who is an award-winning beauty blogger of Pink Buble; and last but not least chef Jonathan Kinsella, executive chef of dB bistro Moderne, a casual French Bistro in Marina Bay Sands.
With the various exciting backgrounds of our sources, we'd like you to find out the interesting choices for each of the following categories: halal food, local favorites and fancy treats.
"The Prata House at Thomson Road," gets Elrica's vote. "Order the mutton fried rice, fried chicken biryani, and milk prata for the ultimate party of the taste buds."
She cited the affordability of the eatery as well.
Erlangga, who has been residing in Singapore since 2003, gives us a long list of his favourite halal eateries. Among the list he shared - rather reluctantly - is Thaksin Beef Noodle at See Lam Hern Stalls on Block 449 Clementi Ave 3.
"I'm torn. I'd like to keep this place unknown, since I very much like it and hate it so much when it gets crowded," the foodie doctor admitted as the reason behind his reluctance, but he shared it anyway.
The New York Times' Food Guide maven KF Seetoh said that if you wanted to have local style halal food with no frills and to 'hang out with the locals', head to Geylang Serai Hawker Centre at Changi Road.
"They have many nationally famous nasi padang stalls, just look for the queues, and nasi biryani as well as Muslim Indian fare like sup tulang and even chapati bread with mutton keema stews."
"Best to go about 11 a.m. when the food is fresh and the crowds are only streaming in," Seetoh suggested.
For chef Kinsella, who has been residing in Singapore since 2013, his recommendation for this category goes to Geylang Briyani Stall a.k.a Hamid's Briyani on Geylang Serai Temp Market #01-327.
"Order their mutton biryani," he says, adding that the stall became his favourite because he thought it spicier than the average biryani.
"The rice is perfectly cooked and the stall owners are always smiling and are super friendly. There is always a queue, and the food can sell out fast," he added.
"I like local cze cha [a Chinese cook and fry street restaurants mostly found in coffee shops]", said Seetoh. He continued by explaining that the eateries he recommended were usually not chain stalls and the chef normally was the boss.
"Hoy Yong Seafood at Blk 352, Clementi Ave 2 #01-153 , is one of my current favorites. Boss chef Hoy Yong has signatures not found in other menus like the duck roll tempura, bean skin seafood fritter, and one of the best egg fried hor fun [wat tan hor fun] and even an 8 Treasure Soup," said Seetoh, adding the fact that the prices here were very reasonable as it was situated in a local area and customers would complain if it overcharged.
Elrica's vote for this category was Char Kwe Tiau at the basement of Tang's Shopping Centre on the famous Orchard Rd.
"It's a must go for local lovers! The soft chewy kwe tiau and the tender juicy extra large shrimp is the main reason I love indulging myself on this menu at least once a week!" shared Elrica who is also a professional make up artist.
Chef Kinsella recommended Wan He Lou Lobster Porridge Restaurant on 65 Maude Rd.
"They serve the best lobster porridge in town, Wan He Lou is upscale but affordable. Get the tasting menu and try the chef's signature smoked duck, the seafood gyoza, tangy honey pork choplets, stir-fried vegetables with dried shrimp, and of course lobster porridge and dessert for about S$30," said the chef.
"Wan He Lou also serves a simple steamed garoupa fish with ginger, chili and garlic that is outstanding," he added.
Doc Erlangga recommends the already famous Mellben Seafood at 211 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 for their creamy butter crab dish and salted egg yolk crab dish, and the same dishes at Irvin's Seafood on Sembawang Hills Estate, 4A Jalan Leban, which he jokingly described as, "Mellben's evil twin sister".
Erlangga also recommends Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice at the Mei Chin Food Centre, 159 Mei Chin Road #02-22, saying that, in his opinion, it's the best chicken rice dish in Singapore.
"Not only that, but they serve fish carpaccio too," he said.
If you must splurge on a dish, chef Kinsella recommends Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck at #05-42/45 Paragon shopping mall on Orchard Rd.
"This is the fanciest Cantonese restaurant in the city with amazing service and food. It has to be the best table-side carved Peking duck I've ever had, along with other dishes such as black pepper prawns, dry chili chicken, crab and corn soup and Szechuan-style boiled sliced beef," the chef explained.
One of many places Erlangga recommends is the Napoleon Food and Wine Bar on 206 Telok Ayer Street.
"They have an extensive wine collection and tasting, at affordable prices too! You can see me drafting my research proposal here if you are lucky," he laughed.
Elrica recommends Hide Yamamoto at Marina Bay Sands, saying that this place is a must try for Japanese food lovers.
"Although the prices are pretty steep, but the melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef and the truffle chawan mushi definitely make me want to come back after the next paycheck!" she said.
Last but not least, for fancy treats, Seetoh recommends Immigrants Gastrobar at 467 Joo Chiat Road, where celebrity chef Damian Da Silva rules the roost. The New York Times calls the place one of the top rare gems in Asia.
Chef Da Silva, who is a Eurasian Singaporean, in Seetoh's opinion, ditched his western food experiences and set up this gastrobar offering all the local fare he has grown up loving in Singapore, tapas-style.
Visitors can expect to savour Da Silva's little platter, which includes Malay rendang, Chinese century egg tofu with pickled ginger and Indian Chicken 65.
"Try the Nonya prawn rolls, plus a salted fish sambal pasta even. [The dishes are] truly local and unapologetically so but he gives a New York-style bar twist to the place and Damian loves his whiskeys, so some of the best Japanese single malts are offered there, naturally," said Seetoh.