Top 5 food picks from Singapore's most notorious red light district
Isn't it strange that in places of sin and flesh palaces, there's usually really well-known food joints nearby? We speculate that it might be the need to satisfy more than one craving after burning all those calories. The less salacious truth is probably that these business savvy restaurateurs seek out areas where the spending crowds gather. Take for example the Geylang district in Singapore, easily the island's most infamous (and popular) red light district. When evening descends, it's not just the ladies of the night who appear, but families, couples and groups of friends out hunting for a good meal.
CNNGo picks 5 of our favorite spots -- just don't wander off into the inner lanes of Geylang if you're not out for pleasures of an entirely different kind.
Sin Huat Eating House
He's notoriously dubbed as the "food nazi of Geylang" -- you sit quietly at your table until chef Danny Lee comes over to take your order (which he usually dictates), typically wait at least an hour for the food to arrive and you're not allowed to order from any other stores in the coffee house. So why do people, including Anthony Bourdain who named it as one of "13 Places to Eat Before You Die," come back time and again? Three words -- crab bee hoon.
Even though the place looks like it hasn't been renovated since the 1970s, with poor fluorescent lights and limited seating, there isn't a fridge in sight because all the seafood is fresh and kept in water tanks. This means the prices are higher than most other eating houses and are in fact on par with many restaurants, so be prepared to fork out for the good stuff. The signature dish is the crab bee hoon, which is thick rice noodles nicely moist from soaking in the crustacean juices and chef Danny's own mysterious soup stock. The frog's legs are particularly memorable, as they're served with a secret mix of stock and Brand's Chicken Essence. Most of the other seafood dishes are excellent as well, save a minor complaint that they're usually smothered with a mountain of chopped garlic. If you fancy a tipple with your dinner, ask to see the wine selection as well -- yes, despite the looks and location, they stock a very decent range.
659/661 Geylang Road (Junction of Geylang Lor 35). tel +65 6744 9755. Open daily for dinner 6pm to 12 midnight.
Yong He Eating House (永和豆浆油条大王)
For after-dinner snacks and midnight munchies, Yong He Eating House serves up a stable of Taiwanese favorites including tau huay (soya beancurd) and you tiao (deep friend dough fritters). It's not altogether great food, but it's familiar comfort food for many, and like all 7-11s, it's never closed, making it a hotspot for after-party suppers on weekends. Yong He moved from their old location in 2007 to a new, more spacious place down the road to accommodate the crowds.
The sweet bean curd is served optional with boiled peanuts, which makes for a nice crunch, while the you tiao sticks are hot and crispy -- perfect for dipping into bowls and glasses of soya bean milk (豆浆). There are some new additions after the move, including the you tiao with pork floss wrapped in glutinous rice (which tastes exactly like it sounds). Our favorite however is still the traditional toasted biscuit with pork floss and omelette, which is very satisfying when washed down with a hot drink.
239-241 Geylang Road, Singapore. tel +65 67455682. Open 24 hours daily.
Old Mother Hen traditional herbal soup restaurant (十全老母鸡小吃店)
Don't be put off by the dingy, dilapidated interior of this old eating house -- it's a throwback to the Kuala Lumpur of the 1980s, complete with a menu that reads like it's from another era. This is the spot for KL-style dark Hokkien mee that's topped with crispy pork lard bits and one of the most exotic (or gross) dishes we've come across -- stir-fried fallopian tubes.
The dark Hokkien noodles (S$12 for a medium portion) are a close facsimile of the sort found in neighboring Malaysia, while the signature stir-fried fallopian tubes (or 生肠, S$12 for the medium portion) are drenched in a sweet-spicy sauce with dried shrimp, chilies, onions and spring onions. If you're not so adventurous, ask Jimmy the ultra-friendly owner to recommend something more suitable to your palate. The must-try dish is obviously the item for which the restaurant is named. The 十全 or "Complete Ten" (herbal ingredients) Old Mother Hen Herbal Soup (S$6 for a small portion) is almost black in color but is actually very savory with a sweet, double-brewed taste while the chicken is tender to the point of falling off the bone.
136 Sims Ave (between Lorong 17 and 19). tel +65 9128 2793. Open daily 11am to 2.30pm and 5pm to 1.30am.
Sinma G7 fresh seafood restaurant (新马活海鲜餐馆)
Every night, up to 2,000 live frogs give up their lives to maintain the reputation of this seafood place and serve the signature dish -- claypot frog porridge -- to throngs of waiting customers. The frog porridge is a piping hot affair, served with bubbling white porridge and a spicy thick kungpo sauce that smothers the succulent frogs. Restaurant manager Chai Chin Hai told The New Paper that the frogs are kept live and freshly slaughtered every day to keep the meat tender.
Other dishes of note include the hor fun (thick flat rice noodles) that's stir fried with your choice of beef or venison slices, deep fried cereal prawns/crayfish (which is exactly what it sounds like -- whole unshelled prawns/crayfish covered with a mountain of deep fried oat and cereal bits) and the oyster omelette. Sinma also serves up sharks fin soup, fresh scallops, pork ribs, fried bean curd, and all sorts of seafood dishes.
163 Geylang Road Lorong 3, Singapore. tel +65 6743 2201. Open daily from 4pm to 4am. www.g7sinma.com.
Mini Star (HK) fermented bean curd shop
It's hard to miss this place -- just let your nose guide you. It's a love-hate relationship here, as chow taufu (fried fermented bean curd) can be overpowering on the nostrils, so like durians, you'll either love it or avoid it like the plague. For fans of the deep fried cubes, its soya heaven as the ingredients are rumored to be left to ferment with fish, fowl or poultry innards under sealed lids, for days or even weeks to account for the stench.
At S$2 a piece, it's actually very tasty once you get past the smell, and is accompanied by an ultra-spicy chilli sauce and a little pack of sour pickled vegetables. According to local Makansutra guru KF Seetoh, Mini Star had to relocate from their previous place at the Chinatown Food Centre as the neighboring stalls could not stand the smell and there were some reports of vandalism by disgruntled (and disgusted) hawkers. Our best advice -- open your mouth (and mind), hold your breath and just pop it in. You might be surprised, just as we were.
789 Geylang Rd (near Lorong 41), Singapore. Opens Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm to 2am.
There's obviously a whole slew of other delectable eats that we've left out. Drop us a line on your own favorites in Geylang.