From Turkey to Vietnam, Lebanon to Indonesia, we uncover their lip-smacking secrets.
Like the explorers of old, we go on a journey throughout Asia, to discover the herbs and spices that make each country’s cuisine so distinct. From Turkey to Vietnam, Lebanon to Indonesia, we uncover their secrets.
Since ancient times, as silk, porcelain, paper and jewels travelled from East to West on the Silk Road, Turkey not only traded in spices in markets like the famed Spice Bazaar, but incorporated them into its cuisine. Cumin is an essential ingredient in hummus, while cinnamon, nutmeg and clove are used in desserts such as milk pudding, and zerde, a yellow rice pudding, gets its colour from saffron.
Where to eat: Alaturka Turkish & Mediterranean Restaurant
Opened in 2005, Alaturka (Turkish for ‘in traditional Turkish style’) is the only restaurant on Bussorah Street that was awarded Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand in 2016, and we couldn’t agree more. Chef Nafiz Bozkurt’s Karisik Kebab ($14), a sharing platter of charcoal-grilled lamb chops and kebabs marinated with spices sourced from his hometown of Izmir, is a favourite with the ekmek ($3), fluffy sourdough flatbread. Indulge in their sinful Kunefe ($13), a beloved Turkish dessert. The thin layers of vermicelli baked in soft cheese and fragrant syrup melts in your mouth. While it takes 15 minutes to prepare, it is well worth the wait.
15 Bussorah St. Tel: 6294 0304
This Levantine cuisine claims its own unique blend of spices, dubbed the Lebanese “Seven Spice Blend”. Consisting of allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, nutmeg and ginger, it gives dishes like pilaf, soups, and couscous that extra Middle-Eastern oomph of flavour. Herbwise, expect a lot of mint, parsley and oregano in your tabbouleh or as a garnish on your grilled and roasted meats.
Where to eat: Byblos Grill
Formerly from the famous seven-star Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai, chef Mohamad Salim wants to show Singapore the allure of a traditional Lebanese meal. While the charcoal-grilled Lamb Chops ($29) steals the show with its tender, succulent flesh, paired expertly with a fiery harissa, his hand-rolled kibbeh, a Leventine version of croquette, is a must-have. End the meal with a glass of organic Lebanese wine from Chateau Musar ($12/glass) and a plate of Baklava ($12.90), flown in from Lebanon. Enjoy a plate of smoky Hummus ($5) on Mondays from 5-8pm, and a Chicken Kebab Wrap ($5) and a Tiger Beer ($5) on Tuesdays from 5-8pm.
14 Bussorah Street. Tel: 6296 8577
You can’t talk about spice without thinking about the many flavours that tease and terrify your tongue in Indian cuisine. From the staple of garam masala that is often used as a base in curries, to cardamom in chai and curry, the various chilli peppers, Indian cuisine is a spice paradise.
Where to eat: Muthu’s Curry
Muthu’s Curry is pretty much an institution at this point. Started by the late Ayakkannu Muthu, it’s been around since 1969 and is patronised by locals and tourists alike. Famous for their mouthwatering Fish Head Curry ($22/$27/$32), they now have three outlets across Singapore. Grab their Assorted Naan Basket ($14) for those classic flavours – plain, garlic, kulcha and butter, and dip it into their fiery Mutton Vindaloo ($12) or the creamy Butter Chicken ($13).
What is life without a comforting bowl of beef pho or a filling banh mi stuffed with coriander and green onions? Other fresh herbs like lemongrass, Vietnamese mint, bird’s eye chilli and basil are also staples in this Southeast Asian cuisine. Ginger, garlic and star anise are also crucial ingredients, featuring in everything from their tangy fish sauce to grilled meats.
Where to eat: Pho Stop
Enjoy Vietnamese street food in the comfort of an air-conditioned setting at Pho Stop’s location in Downtown Gallery, near Tanjong Pagar MRT. Slurp up the Pho Dac Biet ($13.90), a hearty soup filled with rib-eye slices, meatballs, herbs and rice noodles for that classic beef pho. Squeeze some fresh lime for a sour edge, to add some zing to the soup. Get your veggie fix with their Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Dry Noodles ($10.90), that are packed with lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber, pickled radish and cabbage, fried shallots, roasted nuts and Thai basil. Wash it down with the refreshing Vietnamese Black Coffee ($4.50) or the Homemade Lemongrass ($3).
6A Shenton Way #02-28, Downtown Gallery. Tel: 9645 9851.
The world’s largest archipelago sees many different influences in its cuisine. Due to its location and natural resources, it was one of the major spots for the spice trade during the 16th century. The famed Moluccas, also known as the ‘Spice Islands’; saw nutmeg and clove being introduced to Indonesian cuisine. Indonesia’s love of sambal started during the 16th century after the Spanish brought chilli peppers from the New World (the Americas), and has since evolved into the many delicious variations we see today.
Where to eat: The Rice Table
Indonesian Restaurant Go crazy with the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($18.95) at this Indonesian restaurant, conveniently located on Orchard Road. Enjoy 15 delectable dishes such as Daging Rendang, Tahu Telor, Sate Ayam and Kangkong Belachan. If 15 dishes aren’t enough, go for their dinner buffet ($29.55) for 20 dishes, including Sambal udang and Ikan Goreng. Both lunch and dinner buffets include drinks and dessert, with the choice or either durian or plain chendol to cool down your tongue. Warning: food coma.
360 Orchard Rd , #02-09/10, International Building. Tel: 6835 3782