DAY 1: EATING IN THE HEARTLANDS

1. Little India

A taste of aromatic briyani (an Indian spiced rice dish with meat or vegetables) at Tekka Centre is a fitting (and filling) way to start the day, and you’ll get to experience an environment where Singaporeans of different ethnicities come together.

The meat [in the briyani] is tender and so flavourful,” Mark enthuses. “It’s one big pot of chicken, mutton and spices. It’s very, very good.” Yakedar may be Malcolm’s favourite pick when it comes to biryani, but the food centre is also home to vendors that serve up piping hot tandoor bread (bread cooked in a clay oven), rava dosa (an Indian pancake made from fermented butter) and appam (pancake made with rice batter and coconut milk).

While here, stock up on local spices and produce at Tekka Market, housed in the same complex. This is Malcolm’s old stomping ground, and where he shops for fresh ingredients. “Because of how [big] the restaurant has grown, I don’t get to buy groceries at the market as often as before,” Malcolm tells us, “[but] I still try to go at least once a week.”

2. Mustafa Centre

For bargain deals and a suburban shopping experience, pay a visit to nearby 24-hour Mustafa Centre. This sprawling eight-storey complex in Little India stocks everything from mobile phones to perfume and kitchen appliances. The area is abuzz with activity and foot traffic, no matter the time of the day. “The Little India area is a really nice place to explore. It gives you a sense of what history we had before,” Malcolm shares.

3. Bukit Merah

Round off this day of culinary delights with more food—dinner at Keng Eng Kee. Known for their hearty plates of Chinese zi char (Hokkien Chinese dialect for ‘cook and fry’, generally affordable, home-cooked Chinese fare), their speciality coffee pork ribs and chilli crab are some of Malcolm’s favourite dishes. “Singaporean food may look like a mess,” Malcolm opines, “but it’s damn tasty!”

DAY 2: EXPLORING CULTURAL NEIGHBOURHOODS

4. Katong Laksa

Start the day with a taste of Peranakan cuisine. A steaming bowl of Katong Laksa is a “perfect introduction to laksa (spicy, coconut milk-based noodle soup)”, says Malcolm. Eat it like the locals, and don’t bother with chopsticks: the scissor-cut noodles can be easily slurped up with a Chinese soup spoon.

5. Joo Chiat/Katong

Stay to explore the Katong/Joo Chiat neighbourhood, home to some of Singapore’s most iconic Peranakan (Straits-born people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage) architecture. “I really love the Peranakan shophouses [in Katong and Joo Chiat],” Malcolm says.

6. Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant

For a hearty, traditional Peranakan lunch, Guan Hoe Soon is in the immediate neighbourhood. Since 1953, this nonya establishment has been serving up Straits Chinese favourites like babi pongteh (stewed pork with fermented soya bean), otak otak (grilled fish cake) and sambal udang (chilli shrimp). “I quite like their traditional dishes—reminds me of grandma’s cooking, which brings back a lot of memories for me,” Malcolm shares.

7. Geylang Serai

Save some time and space for Geylang Serai Market. This is where you can explore the Malay culinary influences on traditional Peranakan food. “Peranakan dishes are very similar to Malay cuisine,” Malcolm informs. “Geylang Serai market has everything you need to cook Malay food, from fresh seafood and spices to coconut milk: whatever you want, you want you can probably get there.”

As seafood will be tricky to transport, eat at the hawker centre instead. Order a variety of comfort food from Malcolm’s childhood days: “The hawker centre has many Malay stores selling a variety of dishes. Rice, curry and sambal (spicy chilli paste) is the way to go.”

DAY 3: UNWIND IN NATURE

8. Singapore Zoo

You’ll want to spend most of your morning (and probably a good portion of the afternoon) exploring the Singapore Zoo, home to more than 2,800 animals from over 300 different species, and one of the first zoos in the world to pioneer open exhibits for the wildlife on display. The ‘Rainforest Zoo’ is one of Malcolm’s favourite places to unwind from his labour of love in the kitchen: “I really love nature and animals, and the zoo has been done up in a really nice way.”
 

9. Ang Mo Kio

From one park to another: when Malcolm needs a quiet space to unwind, he visits Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, one of over 300 parks that dot Singapore, and where both natural and urban landscapes coexist in harmony. “I have good memories of cycling here. It’s also nice to be able to come here to relax and reflect,” he says of the 62-hectare green space. There are many serene spots to watch families (otters included) take their evening strolls.

End the day indulging in Singaporeans’ second nature—eating: pay a visit to the hawker centre at Ang Mo Kio Street 61, Block 628A where you can partake in a smorgasbord of local dinner options. “The hawker centre at Ang Mo Kio Street 61 is a real hidden find” Malcolm shares. “The braised duck rice and the chicken rice are really good.”