A taste of Singapore in London
The variety of flavours in Singaporean cuisine never ceases to blow me away.
From Chinese-influenced dishes such as Hokkien mee and bak kut teh to Malay-influenced favourites including nasi goreng and roti john, the diversity in Singaporean meals is certainly its main appeal. Residing alongside countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, a cross-cultural exchange of cooking traditions shape up the multicultural phenomenon that is Singaporean food.
It’s also worth noting that Singapore is a nation of gormandizers, eating is a significant part of their culture. In fact, they substitute ‘how are you?’ with ‘have you eaten yet?’ as a standard form of greeting. With this in mind, I was thrilled to find the gem that is Singapore Garden in Swiss Cottage that executes authentic and exquisite dishes from the Lion City.
Singapore Garden was first established in Kensington by current owner Lin Toh’s grandmother in the eighties. A family business through and through, Lin’s entire family has always been involved in the running of the restaurant. Her husband is one of the chefs and he was trained by none other than his own mother-in-law. Their menu serves an impressive array of Singaporean, Malaysian and Cantonese dishes.
First to arrive on our table were the Kuay Pie Tee Top Hats. Beautifully presented in silverware, these hat-shaped pastry cups were filled with shredded bamboo shoots, chicken and prawns. The light and crisp texture of the golden cups complemented the fresh and crunchy filling. I would liken them to the superior distant cousins of spring rolls. These bitesize delights have also been speculated as the result of British influence on Peranakan cuisine (A combination of Chinese and Malay cooking) as pastry is not a common ingredient found in the region.
Next up was the pork satay, the meat was tender and charcoaled grilled to perfection. There was a lovely hint of sweetness from the honey in the seasoning and the skewers were served with a moreish peanut sauce. The Singaporean Laksa made a grand entrance with its fiery red broth. Bathed in coconut-based curry soup, the laksa consists of rice vermicelli, prawns, Chinese style fishcakes, bean curd puffs and beansprouts.
These ingredients made up an incredibly gratifying bowl of goodness that warmed up your belly instantly. Undoubtedly, the broth was the star of the show. Soothing and flavoursome, the spices hit just the right spot.
The following dish to grace our table was the Fried Kuey Teow, one of Singapore Garden’s specialties. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this dish, it involved flat rice noodles stir-fried with prawns, eggs, pork, soya sauce and a mild chili sauce. You know it’s going to be a good kuey teow when you can smell its enticing aroma from tables away. In Chinese, we refer to that scent as
In Chinese, we refer to that scent as ‘wok hei’, which means ‘breath of the wok’. We’re specifically pointing out the charred aroma that is achieved by stir-frying ingredients over a high-flame in a well-seasoned wok. I can assure you that the kuey teow was every bit as good as it smelt! We also got a taste of the Ho Jien, which is essentially an oyster omelet. The texture was slightly doughy for my liking but the dish is definitely worth trying for seafood lovers.
If there was one definitive national dish for Singapore, it would most certainly be Hainanese Chicken Rice. Originally from the province of Hainan in China, this specialty was adapted by Chinese immigrants that brought it overseas. You will find this dish in every dining spot in Singapore, from hawker centres to fancy hotels. I’ve struggled to find an authentic version of this classic meal in London but I can finally say that I have found a restaurant that does it justice.
Tender, smooth and juicy, the chicken is everything you wish for. The rice was cooked in the stock that was used to poach the chicken, which gave it a fragrant and oily finish. The remainder of the stock was also served as a delicious soup on the side.
It’s no wonder that Singapore Garden attracts locals and custom from every corner of London. The laksa and chicken rice in particular are to swoon over. Their spacious and elegantly decorated dining room is particularly suited for groups of friends and family. Head over now to get a taste of truly authentic Singaporean fare.
Address: Singapore Garden, 83 Fairfax Road, London NW6 4DY