Last season’s Parts Unknown wrapped up with Anthony Bourdain exploring the beauty of Portugal’s food and drink scene. It was free-wheeling, port-soaked food adventure through one of the best gourmand hot spots on earth. There was plenty of melted cheese and red wine food porn to sate our senses — a great way to wrap season nine.
Season ten picks up with Bourdain on the other side of the world in Singapore — a city that’s quite possibly the food porn capital of the planet. Or, as Bourdain puts it, “It’s almost too easy. Colorful, delicious food is everywhere.” A trip to Singapore is a wonder for the senses and your appetite. You’ll find the best of pan-Chinese, Malay-Indonesian, pan-Indian, and western foods right on the street — almost all of it executed perfectly and deliciously.
“But… why? How did this happen? And who are these people?” Bourdain ponders in the episode. “I couldn’t help asking these questions, along with a semi-playful exploration of what it costs — in terms of personal freedoms, freedom of speech, independence from government scrutiny and oversight — to be ensured a life of relative security, prosperity, and easy access to unlimited choices of truly extraordinary and diverse food.” It’s a question for the ages.
With Bourdain as our guide, we see Singapore as a place where multiculturalism is a celebrated and a pacifying factor, not a fractious one. The city’s food shines brightly as the byproduct of that multi-cultural life.
SuperTree by IndoChine
Singapore has been leading the urban greening movement by building forests into skyscrapers. The SuperTree by Indochine is the most striking example. High atop the ‘tree’ you can dine on an expansive “Indochinese, Western, and Fusion” menu or hit the rooftop for masterfully crafted drinks.
Bourdain dropped in to sample the drinks and talk with Michael Ma, the head of Indochine, about the future of Singapore. There are few places on the planet where you’ll find a bar on top of massive urban tree over-looking an entire city.
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Our SuperTree Platter is packed with all the good things you could ever ask for. From Crispy Rice Cake Rolls to Kurobuta Lychee Beignets. What more can you ask for? #supertree #supertreebyindochine #supertreeplatter #platter #singaporefood #foodie #foodporn #foodstagram #ricecakerolls #beignets
545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles
On Buffalo Road in Little India, you’ll find the Tekka Food Centre. There’s a full wet market with butchers and produce stalls surrounded by plenty of food stalls slinging everything from buttery Pav to delectable noodles.
It was the latter that drew Bourdain’s attention as he dipped into the Whampoa Prawn Noodles stall to sample the namesake spot’s signature dish. The noodles come in soup and fried forms and tend to lean towards the hot — with plenty of fresh chilis and sambal in the mix. You can’t beat a great bowl of noodles with large prawns piled on top.
Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant
The Singaporean love of food runs deep. Food culture, the preservation of that culture, and the advancement of it is taken very seriously in the island nation. Guan Hoe Soon is where a lot of that preservation and advancement takes place. Master chefs serve food that defines where Sing’s cuisine has been and where it’s going. It’s a transformative experience with flavors matrixes that’ll allow you to see through time.
Food historian Damian D’Silva met up with Bourdain for a meal of sour fish curry, brazed duck with tamarind and coriander, and okra sauteed with sambal all washed down with plenty of beer. It was a slow dance through a rich food culture.
Sabar Menanti II
Not far from Little India, near the Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque) is the Malay Heritage Centre and a little hole in the wall slinging seriously good food. Sabar Menanti II is a walk up counter with Padang style curry, fish, meat, and rice dishes. That’s where you order morsels from pre-cooked dishes and create a spectrum of flavors and textures around a healthy dollop of rice.
Bourdain, a fan of both Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine, ordered Lontong. That’s rice with a coconut curry gravy, veg, and an egg. He also sampled the Mee Siam, which is an Indo-Malay take on Pad Thai with plenty of chili paste, prawns, bean sprouts — all topped with a spicy curry gravy and, of course, an egg. If anywhere is flavortown, this is definitely it.
Hong Lim Hawker Centre
Back up in Chinatown, you’ll find the Hong Lim Hawker Centre. It’s not the biggest or even that most distinct when compared to all of the other food hawker destinations in Singapore. That doesn’t mean it’s not chalked full of fast, cheap, and seriously delicious food, though.
Bourdain dropped in to try one of Singapore’s many favorite dishes, the Indo-Malay stone-cold classic char kway teow. That basically translates to ‘stir-fried ricecake strips.’ If you’re thinking of those sad little disks we call ricecakes in America, you’re on the wrong path. These are flat and wide rice noodles, pretty much the size of linguine but made with rice flour instead of wheat and egg. The noodles are then fried up in a wok with sambal olek, soy sauce, belachan (a type of shrimp paste), prawns, cockles, bean sprouts, chives, and an egg. Sometimes there’s some fishcake or Chinese sausage thrown in for good measure. It’s a crispy and delicious mix of sour, heat, funk, and umami.
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This was a pretty good plate of char kway teow. Also love that you can customize it as you wish (extra eggs !!). Not a fan of the queue though. The coffee from the store just down the row is pretty awesome too. #charkwayteow #honglim#calories#sobadbutsogood#yummy#friednoodles#local#hawker#delish#singapore#localfood
Geylang Lor 29 Fried Hokkien Mee
Out on the East Coast Road, you’ll find one of the many, many Fried Hokkien Mee spots that pepper Singapore’s streets. Geylang Lor 29 is kinda like a mini hawker centre with a handful of great eateries to choose from that are still curbside instead of in the usual indoor food court setting.
Bourdain and his friends chowed down on crispily fried oyster omelets, fried prawns with chili paste, beef satay, and bak chor mee. That’s a fishball noodle soup that’s sour, funky, and deeply satisfying.
No trip anywhere is complete without Bourdain hitting a bar or three. Singapore does not disappoint on the bar front. There’s a cocktail scene that’s second to none on the city’s streets. And nestled not far from a Buddhist Temple that claims to have one of Siddhārtha Gautama’s teeth, is B28. Unfortunately, this classic bar has since closed its doors since Bourdain’s visit. It’ll surely reopen in a new location and with its excellent staff, jazz, and expertly executed cocktail menu. Until then, the craft cocktails will be sorely missed.