Take our tour through the most tantalising, tongue-torturing tastes: the best spicy food in Singapore.
There are few things that unite Asian cuisine like the humble chilli pepper. The whole continent is beloved of this fiery little ingredient and spicy food in Singapore is no different. The peppers themselves vary: the Kashmiri chilli is deep red, mild and smoky. In Thailand the birds’ eye is short, bright and piquant. In Hainan, their yellow lanterns are round and fearsome. Whereas in Bangladesh, the naga is a green, bulbous bombs of heat.
Know your Sco(ville)
The rating scale for chillies is called the Scoville scale, developed by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912. Ranging from the likes of bell peppers and paprika to ratings in the hundreds of thousands. The Bhut Jolokia (ghost pepper) measures in at a million Scovilles. With the diversity of Asian restaurants in the city, Singaporeans are spoiled by the range of restaurants specialising in spice. Come join us on a tour of the tastebud-torturing march around SIngapore. Put on your chilli boots, pack your mouth with wax and get ready to see a talking coyote!
Sichuan for the adventurous
The first stop on our trek drops us off in Chinatown, at the heart of the Sichuan dining scene. The unique thing that sets the cuisine apart is its iconic Sichuan pepper. These mouth-numbing nuggets are not actually chillies but small fruits that are collected and dried out. They release a small amount of the chemical hydroxy alpha sanshool, which allows the mouth to experience more flavour. This is used to accentuate the prolific use of peppers in Sichuanese hotpots, Kung Pao chicken and dandan noodles. You can find Sichuan cuisine all over Singapore, but our tip would be Tong Fu Ju in the Downtown Core.
Curry favour with the chilli cognoscenti
We’d be remiss in our tabasco tour of Singapore without taking a trip to Little India. Indian food is famously fiery, and the spiciest dishes are in curry houses and tandoori joints on Racecourse Road. The role of the chilli in Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani cooking is as varied and diverse as the nations themselves. Up in the Kashmir region, they use it to add colour and depth to hearty meat dishes. Whereas in the fish-heavy cuisine of Dhaka and Chittagong, it adds a top-note to delicate fish curries. All over India they make chutneys and pickles to complement thalis and dosas. In Goa, they add it to vindaloos that are popular with the tongue-numb the world over. We can’t promise all of the above in one place, but at The Song of India, you stand the best chance of getting a taste of it.
The subcontinent isn’t the only part of Asia where they use chilli to make the most of their other ingredients. The humble chilli is only as good as its partners, after all, else we’d be eating them on their own. They activate pain receptors in the brain, inducing salivation and increasing the surface area of the tastebuds. Thus, when you eat chillies, they make the things around them taste better.
Thai something properly painful
Nowhere is this more evident than in Thai cuisine, where a balance of flavours is fundamental. They take their plentiful birds’ eye chillies, which feature in almost every meal, and combine them with other ingredients. Sour elements such as citrus fruits and tamarind, intense bursts of salt in fish and soy sauce are paired with the sweetness of coconut milk or palm sugar. These flavours mixed with fresh fish, meat and crunchy vegetables creates a dreamy taste and texture mix. Try it out in Bedok at Sukhothai Kitchen, an upmarket restaurant named for the historic Thai city.
Singapore spicy food
Singapore itself doesn’t miss out on the spice train. The native cuisine of the city is packed with peppers, nowhere more than in the national dish, Singaporean chilli crab. While the national dish may not be as fiery as the name suggests, it still packs a punch. Singaporean chilli crab can be found at any self-respecting seafood joint. The ancient Peranakan culture is also filled with heat-seeking missives. Laksa is a soup of fish, cockles, shrimp, bean curd and a healthy dollop of sambal chilli paste. Find the best of it that you can at Old Bibik’s Peranakan Kitchen on Changi Road.
And so concludes our tour: the final furlong of the fire foray. Your humble guide bids you adieu, and wishes you only the best in your newly-found finesse for fire in the city-state. All the best, chilli fans – now, show Singapore what your tastebuds are made of.