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Dining Tips from Asia's Top Food Bloggers

26/08/2011


Already celebrities online, star food bloggers are on the rise in the more conventional world of book publishing. Here, four blog-to-book Asian food insiders give the lowdown on how to eat well in their home cities. By LIANG XINYI

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SINGAPORE | Dr. Leslie Tay


“Never waste your calories on yucky food,” advises Singaporean family physician Dr. Leslie Tay, who despite his health-conscious outlook admits he sometimes succumbs to “a plate of glistening Hokkien mee, just like any other mortal.” The affable Tay started his blog, ieatishootipost.sg, in 2006 to chronicle his dining escapades in his hometown. Since then, his passion for delicious street fare and photography skills have led to a loyal following of readers, friendships with like-minded foodies, and—unexpectedly—a book deal. “I was initially reluctant when the publisher approached me to write a book,” Tay says, “but I wanted to celebrate Singapore’s hawker heritage.”

From the hundreds of stalls visited over half a decade of food blogging, Tay whittles down 36 of his favorites in The End of Char Kway Teow and Other Hawker Mysteries (Epigram Books; S$28). Each dish, from bak chor mee (minced-pork noodles) to chwee kueh  (steamed rice cakes) to roti prata  (South Indian–style pancakes), is illustrated with Tay’s tantalizing shots and comes with a list of his must-try stalls. The book’s 416 pages also pack in personal food anecdotes, while uncovering hawker food mysteries: for example, does “tarik-ing” tea make it better? Tay’s answer, after meticulous personal experiments, is no. In addition to being a philanthropist—book proceeds go toward a Sabah children’s charity—the multi-talented Tay is adding another digital feather to his cap this month: a free iPhone app featuring Singapore’s best hawker stalls.

TAY’S SINGAPORE FOOD TIPS
ESSENTIAL SINGLISH Shiok means ‘to really hit the spot’—like oishi in Japanese or aroi in Thai. Although Singaporeans use this word to describe many things, when it comes to describing great food, shiok is the word.” 

WORTH THE CALORIES Wah Kee Prawn Noodles [Block 41A Cambridge Road Hawker Center #01-15; noodles for two S$10] is a cut above the usual prawn noodles found in Singapore. The soup has a unique taste, just like a lobster bisque. The Hokkien mee at Geylang Lor 29 Fried Hokkien Mee [369 East Coast Rd.; Hokkien mee for two S$10] is very shiok. It’s one place that I can confidently bring friends to without worrying about them being disappointed. Eng Seng Restaurant black-pepper crabs [247 Joo Chiat Place; dinner for two S$60] are unlike the ones served elsewhere. The sauce is slightly sweet, not overly spicy and strangely addictive—I couldn’t stop eating!”

SEASIDE DINING “Located right by the sea with constant breezes blowing, East Coast Park Lagoon Food Village [1220 East Coast Parkway; dinner for two S$20] is convenient and is open until late at night—great for makan [eating] sessions with friends after I knock off from my clinic. I love the Hokkien mee and satay.” 

BRING IT BACK
Kwong Woh Hing soy sauce [5 Defu Lane 9; 65/6288-9497; kwh.com.sg; bottles from S$4.80] comes in beautiful packaging. It’s made without additives and preservatives and fermented for one whole year under the hot Singapore sun, unlike four to six months for other soy sauces—probably the best discovery I’ve made in my five years of blogging.”

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