Putting the Po in Popiah
Updated: Aug 3
Singapore is famed for its lavish style, modern skyline, super cleanliness and green space in one tiny nation. Alive with old world culture and new, forward-thinking technologies, it’s no wonder that every other month a new bar, restaurant or hotel is causing a stir opening in this bustling and exciting city.
Truly Singapore is all about food, non-stop food! From hawkers centers all over town to fine dining dens specializing in every imaginable cuisine. Even Anne-Sophie Pic is now at the transformed Raffles. The breath of culinary choices could actually keep you dining out breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night for 3 years to cover the 4,600 establishments and that does not include the 8 food courts!
A word about food courts or what they call hawkers centers, there is no correlation what-so-ever to our food courts. No matter your stature in Singapore, everyone goes to the hawker centers. Ask any Singaporean, and they’ll have a favorite vendor for the national dish, chicken rice. At Five Star they only use flavorsome free-range chickens, the rice is subtly fragrant and the chilli sauce has just the right amount of kick. A few doors down from and also a contender for Singapore’s best chicken rice, is Boon Teng. Then there is the famous Singaporean chef, Chan Hon Meng who perfected his signature dish in the 30 years he’s been cooking it. He serves it out of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle hawker’s stand for the princely sum of $2. Michelin explains their one star rating as “top quality ingredients” and “distinct flavors,” His humble hawker’s stand now has people lining for up to three hours to chow down on the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world.
For my birthday, I wanted something different so we reserved at Po in boutique-chic The Warehouse Hotel. Originally built in 1895 and used as part of the Straits of Malacca trade route. The restored warehouse situated on the Singapore River with a modern, industrial décor with high ceilings. The in-house restaurant is headed by Mod-Sin Chef Willin Low, where he pays tribute to his Po (Grandmother) by faithfully and nostalgically recreating tradition family recipes. He features family style hawker staples such as a popiah (thin) pancakes that you wrap yourself with pork and vegetables. But my favorite that I continue to dream about is Paper Spring Chicken. Low say that popiah, is a dish that for him symbolizes family and community. Taking things a little slowly, eating and socializing. Food is about sharing happiness.” That we did and I can’t wait for more! I have actually attempted to recreate the dish since I’m not in Singapore often enough.
If you need a little leg stretch between meals, you must visit Gardens by the Bay. I wish there were words to describe the beauty and majesty at every turn. Walking into the Cloud Forest is an experience like no other. The man-made glass arena is like a horticultural Willy Wonka factory filled with hundreds of trees and draping fauna that wrap around a 100 foot high waterfall. But at night the show is spectacular!