Archive for December, 2008

Fish Head Curry

How sad am I? I’ve been planning this holiday for months now and all I’ve been looking forward to is getting back to Banana Leaf Apolo. It’s a large restuarant in Singapore’s Little India and serves both North and South Indian dishes. None of the flock wallpaper that I’m used to; this is place is fairly austere and canteen-like, but the food is superb.


My first visit to this restuarant was in 2005 and I vowed to return if I visited Singapore again. The drill goes like this: No plates. Your friendly waiter spreads large banana leaves on the table and ladles sauces, condiments etc. directly onto the banana leaf. I very much approve.


So here I am. This time I was determined to try a local specialty: “Fish Head Curry”. Not the most appetising sounding dish, I grant you. We also ordered a chicken masala, a naan and a couple of mango lassis. While we were waiting for our dishes to arrive, our waiter brought poppadoms and spooned various pickles and chutneys onto our banana leaves. By the time the fish head arrived, we were starting to feel a little full! But, brave soldier that I am, I tackled the fish head with gusto.


It’s not the most attractive of dishes admittedly, but it was absolutely delicious. The fish head was “meatier” than you’d expect, the sauce was spicy, fragrant and sour with tamarind. The curry also contained lots of okra; not a vegetable I’m particularly fond of, but it went well with the fish head.

I felt it necessary to apologise to our very friendly waiter about the amount of food we left uneaten. We ordered a lot of dishes, just to sample them, but we were quite simply stuffed.

Banana Leaf Apolo is popular with locals and tourists alike and you’ll find it highly recommended in the various guide books. I told the doorman at our hotel that we were going to Banana Leaf Apolo and he nodded with approval and said “Fish head curry, very good!“. We asked our Chinese taxi driver to take us to Race Course Road and he replied “ahh … Banana Leaf Apolo!“. It’s famous, and for very good reason. Check it out.

Banana Leaf Apolo, 54-58 Race Course Rd., Little India, Singapore.

Lau Pa Sat Festival Market


Well, this is my second visit to Singapore and this time, I finally made it to a Hawker Centre. Hawkers are essentially outdoor food courts serving a wide range of tasty and reasonably-priced “street” food. You can find them in Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Here in Singapore, there are plenty to choose from. The tourists generally flock to the famous Newton Hawker Centre, but I’m told there’s better quality and choice to be had elsewhere.

My hotel concierge directed me to Lau Pa Sat Festival Market (meaning “Old Market”) on Raffles Quay. It did not disappoint.

We decided to explore the market first, rather than ordering off the first we stall we liked the look of. Lau Pa Sat is mostly an “indoor” hawker centre, apart from the satay vendors whose smoky stalls are confined to the street beside the market. All types of Asian cuisine are on offer in Lau Pa Sat and competition between the vendors is fierce. We smiled politely at the workers thrusting menus at us and made our way to what looked like the busiest satay stall. The old reliable: never dine in an empty restaurant.


We ordered a large plate of mixed satays and a pitcher of Tiger beer. The food was fantastic. Sometimes a meal is memorable for reasons other than the food alone. We contemplated our good fortune as we tore into the wickedly hot satays and guzzled the ice-cold beer. The atmosphere was electric and the night air was hot, humid and smoky. This simple street food was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

On our way back into the market building, I complimented the proprietor on the food. He informed me, with great pride, “this is Cape Malay food“. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him if I could take a photo of his cook.


We also tried some Chinese noodles and a masala dosa, a dish of which I’m very fond. It’s a South-Indian specialty; a pancake made from lentil flour and filled with a spicy potato filling. The happy cook served the dosa with a delicious dal and a spicy sambal dip. Excellent.


I love Singapore. A lot of people think it’s too sanitised, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. It’s such an easy city to explore because the public transport system is so good. I can’t wait to return.

Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore.

The kitchen is closed! Singapore here I come!

The toastedspecial kitchen will be closed for the next few weeks as I’m off on holliers. I’ve packed my swimming trunks, an improving book or two and a flask of tea.  I’ve also packed a sizeable quantity of insect repellent. I know from bitter experience that those mozzies love nothing more than the pasty-white flesh of an Irishman! Singapore here I come!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking in a few exotic locations in South-East Asia, including Khao Lak, Saigon, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi and Hong Kong. I’m looking forward to sampling some local delicacies and I hope to post some photos on the blog when I get a chance. I hope you enjoy them.