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Discover homemade Laksa and other little gems of a Singapore Kitchen

By: Bronwyn Sloan Posted: January-01-2006 in
Bronwyn Sloan

Tucked away on the southern section of Monivong Boulevard, this small and unassuming shop front restaurant represents real value for money and indeed offers "a taste of Singapore", yet with an atmosphere reminiscent of Sunday dinner with the family, Asian style.

Singapore Kitchen's menu is a typical meld of cuisine cultures that city-state has become famous for. Alongside Indian-inspired mutton dishes such as Nasi Biryani are adaptations of Malay favorites like Satay and that rarest of finds on a Phnom Penh menu, Laksa. World renowned Singaporean fusion dishes such as the Indian-Chinese spice blend which creates the legendary Fish Head Curry are also prominent on this menu.

A short but strong barbeque and seafood menu rounds out the selections, featuring tried and true favorites like Singapore Chili Crabs, Barbequed Stingray, Oyster Omelets and Crab in Black Bean Sauce. Nothing on this menu is much over $6, and most dishes are far less. For instance the breakfast staple of Roti (fried flat pancake-style bread) accompanied by curry gravy is just $1.50. Cantonese-style Char Siew Noodle or Char Siew Rice (Chinese barbequed pork served dry with soup on the side) is priced at just $2 for generous servings.

The Singapore Kitchen family are ethnic Chinese, and Chinese influences tend to dominate the menu, although in typical Singapore style these influences come from various provinces, with Hainan chicken sitting comfortably alongside the Teochew dish Kway Chap (flat, square rice sheet noodles served with a range of meats, bean curd and vegetables in a dark soy flavored soup). Chee Cheong Fun (a rice dough roll filled with meat and served with chili and sweet sauce) appears to be a specialty of the restaurant.

But simple is the order of the day for most Singapore Kitchen diners. On the night we visited, Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and accompanied by fried egg, fried fish, meats, Sambal and cucumber slices) was by far the most popular dish amongst regulars. We chose the Singapore standards of Laksa, Hainan Chicken and Chicken Curry with rice.

English is spoken only in smatterings here, but the surprisingly extensive menu is fully illustrated and the friendly Khmer waitresses had little trouble taking orders as they kept the free flow of iced tea coming. The Laksa soon arrived with a satisfying brilliant red top layer of chili oil which parted easily to reveal a broth fragrant with coconut milk and shrimp paste enveloping spaghetti-style round rice noodles, fish cake, clams, shrimps and tofu.

The steamed Hainan Chicken was plump and moist, the $3 Chicken Curry rich and the sauce again thick with coconut cream and very fragrant with spices. The chicken and potato pieces filled their sauce in generous amounts and had been lovingly simmered to melt-in-the-mouth tenderness.

The Laksa ($2.50) was not as hot as it looked, although it had a sneaky kick to it, but it was hearty, and despite not being fancy, its charm was its home-cooked style that seems intrinsic to most dishes here, helping Singapore Kitchen radiate that comfortable "just like Mum used to make" feeling. That was the atmosphere the exclusively Chinese clientele on this particular night were obviously lapping up as they watched Indonesian and Chinese game shows on the television in fan-cooled comfort. The volume was not at ear-drum splitting levels, as some restaurants of this genre are prone to enjoy, but this is, nevertheless, not the place for those looking for cosmopolitan background music to spice up their dining experience. It may also not be the place for ardent non-smokers.

Singapore Kitchen offers coffee and tea as well as a range of soft drinks, including an unusual item for the capital's menus but a welcome one for health conscious diners; Thai-made wheat grass juice. The usual suspects of Angkor, Tiger, Heineken and Budweiser make up the alcohol list, but the restaurant is happy for diners to BYO wines. A Chinese herbal wine is advertised on the wall, but it was not in evidence on the shelves and anyway looked very much like it may not be a tipple for the faint hearted.

Vegetarian items are available, although the range is not extensive and consists mainly of sautéed vegetable or noodle dishes. As a family-run establishment, this place is not a late opener, catching the breakfast crowd with its 9am start and wrapping up at 10pm. Catering for birthdays, baby showers, house warmings and barbeque dinners is also available, although this may need to be negotiated through a Khmer or Mandarin speaker.

Singapore Kitchen is located at 406DEo Monivong Boulevard, next to the Big Highway karaoke restaurant and quite a few blocks south of Sihanouk Boulevard. Phone 012 170 3685 or 011 391 668 for further information. Parking is available at the front of the glass fronted premises.

Obviously this is not a restaurant to take your boss or a first date to impress them with your sophistication. Nor does it pretend to be. Rather, this is good, home style Singapore-style cooking in a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for an informal meal with a few good, close friends and a nice bottle of wine.

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