Here's the truth: there aren't many Singaporean restaurants in Los Angeles and it's a darn shame. Food is the national emblem of the island country. Eating is a national pastime and hawker stands are at the center of the nation's heart, and the biggest tourist draw.
Singaporean cuisine is composed of a hodgepodge of cultures: Chinese, Malaysian, Indian influences abound. It's quintessential Southeast Asian cuisine -- there's a generous use of spices, seafood is a defining characteristic, and tropical fruits are in abundance.
Here are four restaurants in Los Angeles where you can get Singaporean-style food, and what you should order at each location.
Hainan Chicken at Savoy
Hainan chicken is the national dish of Singapore, and Savoy is the king of Hainanese poultry in Los Angeles. Their much-revered chicken is served bone-on and poached with three dipping sauces (ginger-scallion, garlic-chili, and dark soy) paired with a generous serving of chicken-infused oily rice. The dish starts at $6.95 and it's two dollars extra for dark meat chicken. 138 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801.
Laksa at Bugis Street Brassiere
Bugis Street Brassiere, named after a prime tourist junction in Singapore, came to Los Angeles by way of London in 2013. It's smack inside the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, so expect to be in the hushed company of businesspeople. We're a fan of the laksa here -- a spiced coconut noodle soup with rice vermicelli noodles, spiked with Thai basil and decorated with fish balls, spongy tofu, and half an egg. Laksa is to Singapore as ramen is to Japan. It's comfort in a bowl: hot, earthy, and complex. 506 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071.
Bak Kut Teh and Pomfret at Singapore Leaf
Singapore Leaf, a chain from southern China, is a newcomer to the States and opened its doors in Alhambra last month. The menu is picture book of Chinese, Thai, Singaporean, and Malaysian dishes. Start with the bak kut teh, an intensely fragrant meat soup brewed with a potpourri of Asian spices and herbs, sprinkled with goji berries. It's served in a ceramic pumpkin-shaped bowl and is great start to dinner. The fried pomfret is another favorite here. It's a whole fish, fried, and drizzled with a generous amount of citrus. Finish off with durian -- if you dare. 301 East Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, CA 91801.
Singaporean Chili Crab at Starry Kitchen
The crab, served whole, at Starry Kitchen is cooked in a mixture of chili-based gravy infused with a spicy kick. It comes pre-cracked, which is a relief considering how messy the art of cracking crab can be. It's served with a side of buttermilk beer beignets -- amazing pieces of fried dough perfect for scooping up the addictive chili sauce. 943 N Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90012.