HIS TOP PICK: MENG KEE FRIED KWAY TEOW
Operated by a father and daughter team, this heritage stall at Beo Crescent, Havelock Road, is known for its robust take on the fried noodle dish. The rice noodles – cooked to silky smooth, slurp- worthy perfection – are generously seasoned with dark sweet sauce laced with a hint of chilli. The stall-owners do not skimp on the toppings too, and each plate comes served with a generous portion of plump, fresh cockles. Every mouthful is a sinful indulgence well worth the calories.
When asked about the nature of his holidays, Justin Ang confesses: “When I was younger, holidays were more activity-based – such as dive holidays. These days, it usually revolves around food!”
But don’t mistake the 41-year-old director of Gentle Dental Group for one of those Michelin-star “collectors” who hop from one awarded restaurant to another, carefully checking each off his list.
(RELATED: The complete list of Michelin-star restaurants in Singapore – plus all the Bib Gourmands handed out.)
“It’s usually my friends or my wife who does the planning, and I am frankly very happy to try a restaurant on a whim – and the ‘sidetracks’ sometimes turn out very nice!” he says. What the frequent traveller enjoys most is getting a taste of authentic local flavours. Here, he shares some of his favourite gourmet experiences both in Singapore and abroad.
How often do you travel?
I travel two to three times a year for conferences and trade shows, but I also take short breaks every two months and do one or two longer vacations a year – such as the trip I am about to go on. I will be travelling to Romania for my godson’s baptism, and, following that, my wife and I will join the Porsche Travel Club on a drive holiday from Munich to Murano, through the Dolomites. In November 2016, we are joining my friend and his wife in Osaka for a food holiday.
What are some of your favourite destinations overseas?
My wife and I like to explore new places, and will often go away on impromptu trips. We try not to repeat destinations; that said, we do like Japan and France for the food. We visited Noboribetsu in Hokkaido two years ago and stayed in a ryokan with a private onsen. What was also memorable was the contemporary kaiseki ryori served, made from specially selected locally grown seasonal ingredients. It was a very elaborate multi-course meal.
I especially enjoyed the yumepirika rice – it has a rich natural sweetness that makes it so tasty, I could eat it on its own! Another memorable experience was at Mont St Michel in Normandy where we had pan-seared lamb chops. The meat came from sheep raised in salt marshes. Apparently, the salt and iodine render the meat more tender and juicy, and give a distinctive taste.
Do you go out of your way to discover a place’s authentic culinary culture?
We try to seek out local specialities while travelling. In terms of food, I always enjoy Chinese cooking, especially Teochew cuisine for its delicate taste – and Sichuan cuisine at the other end of the spectrum, for its bold fl avours. We also try to bring back local produce for family and friends as souvenirs, such as Iberico ham from Spain, saucisson from France and mentaiko from Japan.
What do you look for when dining out?
Singapore has such a vibrant dining scene. It all depends on our mood and craving on the day. We particularly enjoy Japanese cuisine. One of our favourite is Otawa. It is a discreet hole-in-the-wall izakaya in Orchard Plaza serving excellent yakitori. The food is simple yet flavourful. Chef Yoshino and his wife, Diana, take great pride in preparing each and every skewer.
What are some of your fondest food memories from your childhood?
I grew up in a big Hokkien family with nine uncles and aunts. We used to gather at my grandparents’ home for weekend lunches, and my grandmother would prepare a simple meal comprising noodles, porridge and a few dishes. There was always a lot of laughter and cheerful banter. Now that my grandparents are gone, these gatherings are few and far between, but we still have weekly meals with our immediate family. To me, the company of family and close friends is just as important as the food we share.
What do you think is one of the most underrated food experiences for travellers to Singapore? V
Visiting a hawker centre. This is where visitors get to experience our multicultural diversity in food under one roof. I think Singaporeans are generally a shy bunch, but, if approached by foreigners, we will be more than happy to give recommendations on local food.
Do you entertain much at home, and, if so, what is your home entertaining style?
We usually have a few friends over on Sunday afternoons for drinks. My wife will either grill something, or make a simple pasta dish. If we have a bigger crowd of around 30, we find it more fun and interactive to cater local food. We’ve had the prata man from Casuarina Curry come over to make different types of roti.
Once, we got a Ramly Burger guy to prepare burgers, satay and mee soto for our guests. On another occasion, we had a wonton mee stallowner from Chinatown over to make wonton noodles, beef brisket and roast duck. Everyone always has a great time.
Do you have a signature dish?
I’m a lazy foodie; I leave the cooking to others. My wife comes from a Peranakan family, and her aunts and grandma will whip up a storm for family gatherings. There is usually enough food to feed an army!