Eating in Singapore, December 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this entry.

Most travellers who have visited Singapore will cringe when I say this, but one of Dad’s favourite places to eat during our stay was the Food Opera food centre in the ION Orchard mall. I know, it’s not a legitimate hawker centre and you won’t walk out smelling like satay or prawn mee. But importantly, you do walk out feeling cool and refreshed after enjoying a meal in air-conditioned comfort, and that feeling is worth a million dollars in the overwhelming heat and humidity of Singapore.

We visited Food Opera a number of times during our visit, and never ate the same thing once. From chicken rice to bak kuh teh, yong tau foo to beef noodles, there’s enough variety at Food Opera to ensure that you can try something new with every meal. And while prices are slightly higher than what you would find in most outdoor hawker centres, you get your money’s worth in hygiene and comfort. The food isn’t bad either, and consistently reminded Dad of the kind of food he used to eat in the sixties in Hong Kong – truly traditional Cantonese cooking, without fancy modern embellishments. 

We did eat in outdoor hawker centres of course. We had Satay by the Bay after a stroll through the Gardens by the Bay, and cooled off with 2-for-1 weekday cendol from the same hawker centre. We made our way to Little India where we had murtabak and biryani. Kaya toast and roti breakfasts at random kopitiams along the road were not uncommon. 

The Chinatown markets were a hit as well, where we tried popiah, kueh pie tee, and what was literally THE freshest and most delicious wife cake I’ve ever had in my whole life- and I’ve eaten my fair share of wife cake! Shout out to Mini Toast House in Chinatown Markets (Shop #02-105) for their awesome wife cake. The other highlight of Chinatown was of course, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. The meals themselves may be simple, but the execution is brilliant – well worth a visit.

We’re lucky enough to also have the opportunity to catch up with family and friends in Singapore…expats / locals who can take us to fantastic places for dinner like No Signboard Seafood for amazing Singaporean chilli crab, salted egg yolk prawns, and chilli and garlic pippies, before finishing off the meal with some durian from a roadside stall. Or who can take us for delicious steamed buns (bao in Chinese, or strangely, pao in Singaporean) at Tiong Bahru markets before finishing off with matcha and almond croissants from the fancy pants hipster Tiong Bahru bakery.

In the few days we had in Singapore, I can honestly say that we never once had a bad meal. We didn’t plan ahead and book for fancy places, we really just stumbled across places and ate where we saw locals congregating. Our main goal was to always try something new at each meal, so that we could introduce my dad and brother to new dishes and flavours – and I think we succeeded in that as my dad absolutely loved Singapore’s food (though not the humidity!).

Singapore really is a foodie’s paradise, and I just know that the next time we go back, we’ll have just as good a time as we did this time. 

Eating Our Way Around Krakow with Free Walking Tour Foundation’s Food Tour

I’ve spoken about free walking tours on this blog a few times now. I love them. I think they’re a great way of being introduced to a city by a local who really knows what they’re talking about and can share the love of their city with you. Surprisingly however, the only place that we visited on our holiday that offered a free food tour has been Krakow. Needless to say, we signed up for that one pretty quickly!


Our guide Tom was full of jokes. Though he’s Krakow born-and-bred, he admitted an affinity with Canadians as he was almost one himself (his parents considered moving there after Communism fell) and has a pretty cut-glass proper English accent as well.

We started our tour in the Main Market Square with a few introductions around the group before a quick stop at one of the many obwarzanki stands around the city. Obwarzanki can be thought of as the granddaddy of both bagels and pretzels and are a protected heritage food item that is only allowed to be sold in Krakow.

Boiled before baking and topped with sesame, poppy seeds or cheese, obwarzanki is a local tradition and a cheap snack to have on the go, with one setting you back only about 50 cents in Aussie dollars. My preference is for the cheese-topped ones!


Our next stop was at Ambasada Sledzia, the herring bar of Krakow. While they offer some food items mainly featuring herring, the main reason we were here was to have a Polish traditional drink – vodka! Most people think that vodka is Russian, but the first historical mentions of vodka actually come from a town that’s located in present-day Poland.


I broke my two years of no-alcohol by having a half shot of Polish vodka. In this particular instance, I didn’t want to miss out! This is high-strength stuff and definitely burned going down, warming me up from the inside quite nicely. The taste of the vodka is irrelevant though because…


…in Krakow, you finish off a shot of vodka with a chaser of a bite of raw herring! It doesn’t sound that appetising but it works surprisingly well – the raw fishiness of the herring helps to mute the burn of the vodka, and the strength of the vodka dulls the fishiness of the herring. The two definitely go hand in hand.


Another option that you could have with your vodka if herring doesn’t suit your tastes is smalec on bread, or what is otherwise known as pork lard. It’s quite fatty and oily so most people add in a few small chunks of pork crackling into the mix for textural interest. It’s definitely an acquired taste, and I think I preferred the herring to this.


Our next stop was Przystanek Pierogarnia, a local institution run by a woman who still gets up at the crack of dawn every morning to make her pierogi from scratch. It’s literally a tiny hole in the wall, with barely enough room for two people to stand inside to order their pierogi from a window into the kitchen. If you want pierogi, this is the place to go!


We got to try two different types of pierogi here, ruskie pierogi like we’d had the day before at Polakowski, and a cabbage pierogi. The ruskie pierogi was much better here than at Polakowski, with a thinner pastry and a much stronger cheesey flavour. The cabbage pierogi was the winner though, with an interesting mix of spices in the filling that had everyone on the food tour licking their lips.


A brief stop at a bakery around the corner from the pierogi shop so that we could try a piece of kremowka. It’s a Polish cake made famous internationally when the late Pope John Paul II (a Krakow native) mentioned in public that it was his favourite cake as a child. Apparently he and his friends used to make bets about how much they could eat!

Now I don’t know how many pieces John Paul II was able to eat, but I could have definitely eaten a whole slab of this cake! It’s essentially just a vanilla-scented custard cream sandwiched between two layers of puff pastry – simple, but so very effective. It’s available at bakeries all over Krakow and indeed all over Poland, as the Polish are still very proud of the legacy of John Paul II. In fact millenials in Poland are even called the John Paul Generation, in honour of the impact he had on their childhoods!


Our next stop was at the local markets, which were already starting to close up around 3pm as most locals shop in the mornings. Luckily this one cabbage stand was still open, with the stallholder packing away all her unsold cabbages. Homemade pickled cabbage and pickles were the order of the day here, a Polish tradition dating back centuries as the only way to preserve food for the long hard winter months.

Many people in our group found the sauerkraut quite challenging as it was true to its name and quite sour. Our guide Tom told us that this was actually a weaker version though, as it had only been fermenting for about a week. Sometimes they let it ferment for months on end, creating an extremely sour end product! For my part, I really enjoyed both the sauerkraut and pickle and thought they were just right.


Stopping in at the butcher’s at the markets, we tried some kielbasa otherwise known as Polish smoked sausage. Flavoured with a good amount of pepper and garlic, this porky sausage really hit the spot. Trust me when I say that this wasn’t like the kielbasa you can find in Polish enclaves in Australia or the US – this is far superior with a greater depth of flavour. You haven’t really had kielbasa until you’ve been to Poland!


Our next stop was actually at a branch of Polakowski, which we had already visited the day before. What we were trying here was Polish sour rye soup, known as zurek. Like the sauerkraut, this soup is an acquired taste. If you like sourdough bread, you should like this soup – it’s made from fermenting rye flour so has the same sourness of sourdough, but intensified. I quite liked this soup, especially with the little bits of herbs and mushrooms through it.


Our next stop in the New Jewish Square was more for information. Here, Tom talked to us about the history of zapiekanka, a Polish street food that actually finds its origins in the lean Communist years. Bread was a constant, but other ingredients were hard to find unless they were local. And so zapiekanka was born, made of half a toasted baguette topped with mushrooms foraged from nearby forests, and the cheese of Polish mountain sheep.

Now it’s clearly popular as a cheap snack for local school kids! We tried our own later in our trip as well, and you can see my photo on Instagram.


Our final stop was at Wrega Pub, a local pub in the Jewish Quarter serving up traditional foods and a wide range of beers. We were here to try the Hunter’s Stew, commonly served with slices of local rye bread.


Hunter’s Stew, or bigos, stems from medieval times when hunting was a more widespread pastime for noble families. It’s a big old mess of stew, incorporating as many different meats as possible, as well as fresh and pickled cabbage which gives it its distinctive sour flavour (in fact, the Polish love their sour foods!). It’s very hearty and filling, and I can just imagine the hunting parties of years past tucking into big portions of this soup (served in bread bowls of course) after a hard day’s hunting.

The Free Walking Tour Foundation’s Foods of Krakow Tour is a great way of becoming introduced to Polish cuisine because not only are you eating the different foods but you’re learning about their significance in Polish history and culture. Tom was a fantastic high-energy guide who kept our whole group enthused and excited for the whole tour.

I highly recommend joining the tour if you visit Krakow. When we did it, we were asked to pay a 15 Polish Zloty nominal fee per person to cover the the cost of food samples (we tipped Tom a good amount on top of that). According to their website, they now ask you to contribute a 50 Zloty fee as they’ve turned it into a paid tour. It’s definitely still worth it!

Newtown Dessert Crawl: Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato, Black Star Pastry, Brewtown Newtown, Cookies+Milk Bar, Pastizzi Cafe and Izba Russian Treats

Ah, crazy food jaunts. It takes a very special type of person to keep up with my insatiable appetite for NEW EXCITING EATING EXPERIENCES. Luckily, I have a few friends who are more than game enough…and of course, K doesn’t get a choice in the matter and gets dragged along to everything anyway!

This time, my plan was to explore the inner-city hipster suburb of Newtown and become acquainted with all its sweet offerings. Some I had had before, others would be brand new experiences.


Our first stop was Cow & Moon Artisan Gelato on Enmore Road – a new crowd favourite ever since it won the World’s Best Gelato award with its affogato creation. I like to say that I used to go to Cow & Moon before everyone else did, even preferring it to Gelato Messina. Now of course, it’s always jam-packed with long queues of people wanting to sample the world’s best gelato. Luckily, the crowd hadn’t yet started to form when we got there at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon.


We only had a five minute wait, and before long I was standing in front of the beautiful display of gelato, trying to decide what to have. Classic vanilla or chocolate? Something more unusual and exciting? Or should I be sticking to my dairy-free vow and trying one of their many sorbets instead?


In the end, I opted for a small serve of two flavours combined in a cone – Strawberry, Pannacotta and Balsamic Vinegar, and Lime in the Coconut. K opted for the Cherry Mania and the award-winning Mandorla Affogato in a cup. As someone who doesn’t normally appreciate the flavour of coffee, the award-winning flavour was a bit lost on me. I can definitely appreciate the two I picked out though – the Lime in the Coconut was just like having a pina colada, and the generous globs of pureed strawberries and streaks of balsamic vinegar packed a powerful flavour punch.

I love Cow & Moon Artisan Gelato and it is most definitely in my top two of best gelato shops in Sydney. It’s hard to justify battling the long queues at peak gelato hour after dinner these days though, so I think I’ll keep my visits to mid-morning and mid-afternoon visits.

Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato on Urbanspoon


Our next stop was Black Star Pastry for a slice of their famous strawberry watermelon cake. I wanted their cake as one of our (many) wedding cakes, but K was dubious as he had never tried the cake before. What better way to settle the score than to force K to have the cake and eat it too?


The line wasn’t too long, and we made it inside within ten minutes. My mouth was drooling by that point though, as I saw everyone walk out of the shop with their little takeaway boxes of Black Star cakes. Someone walked out with a slice of this orange and fig cake, which looked an absolute treat.



But we weren’t to be deterred from our original goal, and we did get a slice of the strawberry watermelon cake to share, as well as a raspberry brulee with a hard caramelised top and creamy custard that gave a satisfying crack as we bit into it.

Taking our purchases to nearby Newtown Park, we sat with our friend (who got a carrot cake) eating our desserts and enjoying the sunshine. Needless to say, as soon as Kieran took a bite of the strawberry watermelon cake, I won the argument. It will most definitely feature on our list of cakes available at our wedding, and I can’t wait!

I’ll always be back to Black Star for their cakes…and come to think of it, K didn’t get me a birthday cake this year! Maybe I could drop a few hints to K about getting the orange and fig cake for a belated birthday cake?

Black Star Pastry on Urbanspoon


Our next stop was everyone’s favourite Inner West café – Brewtown Newtown. Is it incredibly embarrassing to admit that this was my first time to Brewtown? I’d seen a million and one photos of their menu items on Instagram, but I simply hadn’t gotten around to visiting as I hardly ever visit the Inner West from my North-side home!

It was late in the afternoon by the time we got to Newtown, and the kitchen had just closed. “Sorry, we only have desserts left,” the waitress said as she welcomed us and took us to our table. “That’s what we’re here for!” I replied chirpily. The Brewtown Newtown cronuts (Brewnuts?) were our reason for visiting!


K ordered a simple cappuccino and found it somewhat lacklustre for a café that brands itself as being “Brewtown”. He found the brew slightly thin and weak, and it definitely didn’t hit that need for a 3pm caffeine pick-me-up.


My palate-cleansing green tea arrived served in a traditional Japanese cast iron tea pot, with a slightly uneven porcelain tea cup in a wabi-sabi style. I’m amused by the little saucer of honey provided with the tea – I’m accustomed to having strong, bitter tea, and the idea of sweetening my tea is completely foreign to me!


What of the Brewnuts? K and I ordered two – the chocolate crumble, and a glazed pineapple, and our friend ordered the plain glazed cronut. I was a big fan of the pineapple Brewnut which was filled with custard and topped with a glazed caramelised pineapple ring. The slight tartness and acidity of the pineapple helped to temper the sweetness of the cronut making it a much more interesting dessert choice.

This is blasphemy, but I don’t think I’ll be back to Brewtown Newtown anytime soon – at least, not for the cronuts. I’d prefer to go back to the Grumpy Barista in Petersham for their cronuts which were far superior. Maybe their savoury brunches will be more impressive?

Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon


Our next stop was Cookies + Milk, and we had to rush there after our visit to Brewtown in order to get there before they closed. As it was, the guys were already starting to stack the stools on tables and package up all the leftover cookies by the time we arrived. We got there in just enough time to buy an end-of-day takeaway treat.


We walked away with a brownie, and a cookie called a “Calamity Jane” that looked like a childhood classic, the Wagon Wheel. The brownie was particularly rich, and K who was reaching a sugar coma by this point took one bite and declared he couldn’t have any more. That didn’t stop me and our friend A from enjoying it though!

I was a big fan of the Calamity Jane – somewhat unwieldy to eat as the buttery choc-coated cookies slided and separated from the marshmallow filling, but it was just the perfect blend of chocolate, buttery cookie, berries, and sweet gooey marshmallow. Definitely better than a standard Wagon Wheel!

I’m keen to return to Cookies + Milk and try more of their offerings. Next time, I’ll even go before they close, and check out a larger variety of their baked goods!

Cookies+Milk Bar on Urbanspoon


After our rush to Cookies + Milk, we needed to sit down and rest. Pastizzi Café, just a few doors up was the natural choice. I first visited Pastizzi Café years ago when I was still living in Melbourne. On a visit to Sydney, my friend M (who will be K’s best man for our wedding!) took me to Pastizzi Café, swearing it to be one of his favourite places in Sydney. I was convinced then, and it’s remained one of my favourite places to visit for a quick snack when in the Inner West.


We got two pastizzi – one savoury chicken and chorizo, and one sweet apple cinnamon. K devoured the savoury chicken and chorizo, allowing me just a single bite to enjoy its slightly spicy tomato-based mix. “I’m in a sugar coma, I need something savoury instead!” he insisted.

I enjoyed the apple cinnamon pastizzi with its super crispy flaky pastry but I have to be honest – Pastizzi Café are best with savoury fillings, and the sweet pastizzi lack a certain oomph that you get with their savoury offerings. While I’ll be back, it’ll be for another chicken and chorizo or maybe a beef pot pie – not a sweet apple and cinnamon.

Pastizzi Cafe on Urbanspoon


Our very last stop on the dessert crawl was Izba Russian Treats, located more towards the St Peters end of King Street. With pairs of older people sitting down enjoying a slice of Izba’s famous honey cake and a hot drink, you immediately get the feeling that the pace is a lot more relaxed down this end of town. Customers here are allowed the luxury of sitting and lingering over their cup of coffee, rather than being hustled out of the café to make room for the next paying customer.


I deliberated at the cake counter for nearly ten minutes before finally settling on a slice of their apple pie – a super soft sponge cake with chunks of spiced apple throughout. It was particularly appealing lighter choice as I was feeling more than a little dizzy from the amount of sugar I had already ingested that day! While it was a tad on the dry side, I think that may be a result of us arriving late that evening, as opposed to having it earlier in the day when it was fresh out of the oven.

I was very tempted to order their signature honey cake, but I think I will have to save that for my next visit…and trust me, there will be a next visit! I think I’d also like to try some of their blinis next time as well.

IZBA Russian Treats on Urbanspoon

And there you have it – a particularly elaborate long afternoon/early evening of decadent sweet indulgence. If I learned anything that day, it’s that even I apparently have my limitations when it comes to eating desserts – apparently six desserts in six hours will leave me in an exhausted heap when I come down from the sugar high!

I guess it’s lucky that my next planned food crawl is a hot dog crawl…at least it’s savoury right?