There is perhaps no sweeter note to the ears of a homesick Singaporean than to hear of a restaurant that specialises in its cuisine, thousand miles away from home. After multiple recommendations from friends, this writer visited the popular Sing-Ma Food Court in Jhamsikhel in hopes of washing some of the blues away.
In true Singaporean fashion, this medium-sized eatery doesn’t concern itself with fancy frills. The interior is clean and simply furnished and seats a dozen tables, most of which were occupied even after lunch hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Our first order, the chicken tom yum gai (Rs 310), was quick to arrive, its aroma setting the perfect mood for a trip back home gastronomically. The piping hot tom yum had just the right blend of coconut milk and lemongrass to give its characteristic tangy spiciness. The portion of mushrooms and chewy chicken chunks just enough to whet up an appetite.
For a dish that’s featured on the best-selling menu, the hokkien mee (Rs 390) was a huge letdown though. Drowned clumsily in thick, brown gravy, the noodles didn’t appeal to the eyes. The chewy prawns and stir-fried vegetables that seemed meagerly thrown in did little to salvage the overpowering taste of dark soya sauce thus failing to impress the taste buds too. Ingredients like shallots, fish cake slices, and bean sprouts, which made generous appearances in the noodles back home was dearly missed. We had a similar luck with the mápó tofu (Rs 230), which lacked the usual zing and spiciness that one comes to expect of this Sichuan favourite.
As I and a fellow Singaporean sat contemplating whether the restaurant really deserved to boast about serving authentic Singaporean-Malay cuisine, in came the nasi lemak set with chicken rendang (Rs 430). With succulent chicken pieces cooked in a delicious curry and accompanied with a bowl of fluffy basmati rice, I finally felt I was home. The sides, which included a fried egg, cucumbers, and ikan bilis (fried anchovies), crisped to perfection made this the dish of the day.
Our mixed luck continued with our order of desserts. Tau huay (Rs115), a soy-based bean curd that is renowned for its silky texture was grainy at Sing-Ma’s and simply refused to melt away. But we ended our lunch on a right note with the goreng pisang (Rs 140). These banana fritters, which came in a plate of four, were deep fried to a rich golden brown and tasted sinfully delicious.
Although this popular eatery failed to live upto its expectations, I know I will be returning to Sing-Ma because one, I have yet to taste its signature cheesecake, which patrons swear by, and two, it did satiate my hunger for a taste of home, albeit in the smallest of way.
How to get there: past the fire engine station on Jhamsikhel’s Restaurant Lane, opposite New Orleans.