Eating your way around Singapore's hawker stalls
GOOD food is worth talking about, great food is worth travelling for.
And as someone obsessed with food, Singapore couldn't have been better suited to my palate. Ask a local and they will tell you where to get the best chilli crab, flat barbecue pork or pork spare rib soup.
However, ask enough locals and you soon realise there is so much more to discover. It didn't seem to matter what time of day or night, someone was always cooking up a taste sensation I couldn't resist.
To find the best dishes in Singapore, I went off the beaten track to find most of my favourites. Known for its extensive array of fancy shopping centres, stunning sites and world-class resorts, Singapore should equally be known for its hawker centres.
With close to 100 across the small country, this is where you'll find some of the best local dishes and usually for under $5. Our walking group stopped in at the Whampoa Market hawker centre, about 5km from the CBD in the Balestier region. Once known as the red light district, the area is now popular for its lighting shops and great food.
I tried a handful of dishes, but none as tasty as the fried carrot cake (an omelette-type dish) and chicken rice. Served with a broth and three dipping sauces, the chicken rice could be tailored to your preferred taste and for something that looked so simple, it tasted anything but.
It was also this region that produced my favourite sweet sensation - tau sar piah (bean paste pastry) from Loong Fatt bakery. This delicate treat is so special to locals it has been given as gifts to wedding guests. Slightly different variations of the sweet pastry can be found in many bakeries, but Loong Fatt vows to have made the original and the best.
You can make the most out of this food district by staying in the heart of it, at Days Hotel or Ramada. Surrounded by numerous drinking and dining options, these friendly hotels are separated only by a beautiful green space - Zhongshan Park - an area created for locals to enjoy the outdoors.
It is here you can step off the street and into Flavours at Ramada to enjoy some fine dining. The kueh pie tee took my fancy, despite how you are supposed to eat it.
The thin crispy pastry shell filled with sweet and spicy vegetables then topped with scallops or prawns is supposed to be eaten in one mouthful (believe me there is an art to it), which by my fourth shell I had mastered. But it's not just the food I couldn't get enough of in Singapore, it was their cocktails too. Let's just say there is more to Singapore than a cocktail ending in sling.
Try a porn star at the Cufflink Club (best cocktail I've tasted) in China Town or a blow-your-head-off James Bond-style drink at The Library (but you need a secret password to get in) if you're game. Then there was the bird's nest mocktail at 21 on Rajah, made out of birds' saliva… it's apparently good for the skin, ladies.
One of the best things about creating your own food trail is the different sights, sounds and tastes you discover along the way. Whether it is exploring Tiong Bahru, an up-and-coming art deco neighbourhood, where among the strange mix of architecture and odd variety of shops we stumbled across some fantastic fries with melted cheese and truffle oil in a funky little eatery, or across town where I devoured kueh tutu - delicious steamed coconut cakes filled with palm sugar and shredded coconut.
Of course there are plenty more dishes to try in Singapore, but half the fun is discovering them - you just have to be willing to look.
The writer was a guest of Wyndham Hotel Group and Scoot Airlines.
IF YOU GO:
Ramada Singapore at Zhongshan Park
Prices start from $145. Book The Great Singapore Getaway deal to receive a $50 food credit on top of free wi-fi and local calls. Valid for travel before July 26, 2015.
Fly from the Gold Coast to Singapore with prices starting from $199. Valid for travel until June 10, 2016.
The Balestier Heritage Trail, you'll find lots of food gems along the walk as well as loads of historical information and interesting places to visit.