On a recent trip to Singapore, I visited Curry Wok, one of my favourite restaurants since my high school days. Having been based in Seoul, South Korea for the past couple of years, I was intensely craving for some traditional, home-cooked Singaporean fare.
Tucked in the quiet and cosy neighbourhood of Bukit Timah, Curry Wok is arguably Singapore’s best-kept culinary secret.
A meal at Curry Wok felt like coming home.
As soon as I pushed open the door, I was heartily welcomed by Catherine and Frederick, the family-run eatery’s owners. I was instantly transported back to a decade ago, when I was a ravenous student who constantly looked forward to Curry Wok’s fragrant rice and curry chicken after classes.
After Catherine made her customised recommendations for my palate, I settled back to take in the surroundings. The décor at Curry Wok is tasteful, evoking a nostalgic mood with elegant wooden furniture, warm colours and sepia photographs of olden Singapore and the owners’ own family portraits from generations past. Homey and unpretentious: perfect for a peaceful, serene afternoon.
The staff and service have improved immensely since the last time I visited, and I was pleased with the kind attention. Despite the lunchtime crowd, I was made to feel as if I was the only diner in the place.
Curry Wok offers a Peranakan menu interspersed with Chinese cooking. Good Peranakan fare, the blending of Chinese ingredients with spices and cooking techniques used by the Malays, is rare in Singapore these days, but Curry Wok has perfected its offerings.
The owners personally source all the ingredients from local markets at the crack of dawn, and the food is handmade from scratch.
The freshness and dedication is evident in the taste.
The curry chicken is my personal favourite, with a rich gravy that is tangy, aromatic and deliciously spicy at the same time. The chicken pieces are succulent and tender, and taste great with the complimentary bowls of fragrant warm rice.
Kang kong, a leafy green vegetable also known as the Chinese spinach, is fried in temperature-controlled oil with freshly chopped garlic pieces, ensuring maximum crunch and fragrance.
I was feeling particularly hedonistic, and opted for the pork knuckle. Catherine told me that this particular dish was rich in protein and collagen, which further whetted my appetite. The pork knuckle was served in a generous portion in a wok of my own. Marinated for hours in the owners’ secret recipe to ensure maximum flavour, this dish is a signature item on the menu.
I also ordered a couple of side dishes to complement my meal. I selected the otah, which is a Malay-style grilled fish cake made of ground fish meat mixed with Asian spices and served fresh on a banana leaf. I paired this with the cold tofu, a dish perfect in Singapore’s perennial heat. The tofu is creamy and silky, topped with century eggs and garnished with sliced green onions and shallots. I found that the light taste of tofu refreshed my tastebuds in between mouthfuls of the other flavourful dishes.
I rounded off my selection with the homemade ngoh hiang. It is a sausage-like roll consisting of various meats, seafood and vegetables, seasoned with five-spice powder, rolled inside a beancurd skin and then fried. At Catherine’s advice, I dipped the ngoh hiang in the house-special sweet sauce.
To cool down in the tropical heat, I went for the freshly squeezed lime juice, which is iced and naturally sweetened with a hint of tartness. The variety of traditional Asian drinks on offer at Curry Wok is bound to intrigue every palate. I made a mental note to try out the “Grass Jelly Drink” and “Snowy Aloe Vera with White Fungus” in future.
After a chat with Catherine and Frederick (they remember all their customers!), I was feeling peckish again. I decided to end off my meal with a traditional hot Chinese dessert, the yam paste with gingko nuts. Catherine told me that Curry Wok grinds fresh yams by hand patiently to achieve the thick creamy texture, and the dish is totally starch-free. The yam paste tastes milky and delicately flavoured. It is neither overly sweet, nor does it contain excess lard, much unlike other commercially-produced products.
It was a relaxing and nostalgic afternoon at Curry Wok.
I was glad that I had not been tempted by the celebrity chefs and flashy restaurants in the city area.
I had thoroughly enjoyed the glimpses of the traces of Singapore’s past, and authentic home-cooked fare. Catherine told me that Curry Wok now accepts reservations and a takeaway service, and I am sure I will be taking advantage of these offers the next time I am in Singapore.
Address: Coronation Arcade, 5 Coronation Road, #01-04 S269406
Tel: +65 6464 8878
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11:00 – 21:00 (Closed on Tuesdays)
Website: Curry Wok
Photo Credits: Curry Wok
Rachel Lee first came to South Korea in 2011, intending only to visit a Korean fighter she had met at a Muay Thai gym in Thailand earlier that year. With her month-long visit sprawling into a four-year sojourn, she has since gotten engaged to the Korean fighter, and is currently running a Muay Thai gym with him in Seoul. A traveler and explorer at heart, she frequently finds herself treading precariously between ambition and reality.