There’s no doubting the fact that chefs are foodies. So if you are hoping for the best recommendations on where to eat in Singapore with the family, who better to ask? Here, chef-parents share where they take their children to eat in Singapore, and why they pick these places. Read on and drool…
No Picky Eating
“Home cooking is great family bonding time for us but we also love going out to eat. It could either be local or western, depending on our whereabouts. Breakfast is, for the most part, at home. Lunch is at school and dinner, we may go out or stay home and cook. I try to expose Chloe to all types of food. I don’t want her to be a picky eater.
I want her to eat and appreciate all types of food, just like Daddy. I also want to make sure she understands what is good and what is not so good. When not to overeat a specific item, etc. Fortunately, my wife eats lots of vegetables so Chloe is exposed to healthy eating as well. I like taking her to Katong Shopping Centre for chicken rice or Bar Cicheti for Spaghetti al Pomodoro.
Whenever I have time, I enjoy cooking for her. However, it is important that whatever it is that I’m cooking is made up of fresh sustainable produce. Caring not only for your health, but also the environment we live in is key.”
~ Ronald Kamiyama, sommelier and partner at The Cicheti Group. He has a six-year-old daughter, Chloe
Variety is the spice of life
“We make it a point to eat out as a family at least once a week. On special occasions, our family enjoys visiting Jade Palace, for a variety of dim sum, roast pork, claypot rice and stir-fried vegetables. They also give complimentary sliced fruit at the end of the meal. My son En’s favourite foods here include Prawn Cheong Fan, Roast Pork, Fried Carrot Cake, Kai Lan. We also visit Coca Steamboat, as we can split the pot, and one pot can be for food that is safe for En. He enjoys eating fresh prawns, fishballs, kang kong and enoki mushroom.
We make him feel like he has some control on what he is eating, by offering him a simple choice of what’s available, for eg: rice or noodle, and then because we eat family-style, he gets to try other dishes. En is encouraged to eat a variety of carbs, meat, vegetables and fruits. We try to follow what he feels like having for the day, for example, there are days he craves a lot of carbs, and that could be his body’s way of saying it needs that for energy and development. Right now we are at the stage where we are just letting him enjoy and explore food so he will have a curious and open mind towards food, rather than force him towards a particular food group, or eat a certain amount.
When we dine at New Ubin, En’s favourite food is Satay – he loves it! If you let him, he can wipe out ten to 15 sticks on his own! And then, to balance that out, he enjoys a hearty bowl of Seafood Kway Teow soup with Hong Kong Kai Lan (specially made to order.) He also loves to pick from the grilled vegetable platter which consists of corn, broccoli and asparagus.
Some of the other places we visit include: Tiong Bahru Market’s Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roast Meats (En loves roast pork), Sushi Tei or any Japanese restaurant – En loves Ikura with rice, Edamame and Miso Soup.”
~ Alexander Pang, CEO of New Ubin Seafood Group, and son, En, aged four
Encouraging healthier choices
“We cook a lot at home. When we go to out to eat in Singapore it is usually an occasion, either part of the outing or even an outing in itself. We mix it up a bit going to both restaurants and hawker centres. Shane loves sushi so a majority of visits are to sushi restaurants like Genki Sushi, SG Sushi Bar, Standing Sushi Bar, or proper sushi-yas like Yuzu.
I let him make choices within limits. I try to guide him by explaining why certain foods are better than others and encourage him to make the healthier choices by saying why these are tastier. Fortunately or unfortunately for us, he’s pretty ‘uncle’ so his favourite dishes to eat are congee and braised beef and tendon noodles at Mui Kee, and Tze Char places with great hor fun.
We also like exploring hawker centres, it’s usually a bit of an adventure to walk around a new place and guess which dishes could be really yummy. Again, I’ll usually let him choose what he thinks will be nice for himself and I’ll just order a bunch of things for all of us to try.
I don’t think it’s necessarily good to explicitly say, ‘Oh this is bad for you, or this is good.’ To me, food is food. What is bad for a sedentary worker could be beneficial for an active athlete, or even a growing child. The most important is for the child to realise that they CAN and should enjoy a variety of foods. Fried chicken is yummy but it will be less yummy if you eat it everyday.
Adults will say, everything in moderation. But I will say to children – trying something new is fun! You don’t have to like it, but good job that you tried it. Maybe we should start saying this to adults too.”
~ Jeremy Nguee, chef-owner of Preparazzi, who has a seven-year-old son, Shane
Hawker food fans
“Like all Singaporeans, we love hawker food. On my days off, I bring my family to explore different hawker centres on the island. Though I encourage my son to try the many different cuisines available, his favourite is always chicken rice!
For special occasions, we love treating ourselves to a good buffet and Millennium Hotels and Resorts properties in Singapore always have a massive spread at their various dining establishments. Food Capital at Grand Copthorne Waterfront, for example, has an extensive interactive buffet which combines a large array of Western and Asian dishes with the visual drama of show kitchens. The experience is very entertaining for families with kids.
Our favourite hawker centres and the stalls that we enjoy most when we go out to eat in Singapore:
- Bendemeer Hawker (Mee Pok Dry)
- Tekka Hawker (Prawn Mee Noodle, Stall name 545 Whampoa)
- Mei ling Street Hawker (Chicken Rice, SinKee Stall)
- China Town Hawker ( Braised Duck & Kway Chap, KinJi Stall)
- Golden Mile Hawker (Zi Char, Chef Lam 01-65)”
~ Executive Chef Jackie Zhang of Grand Copthorne Waterfront Singapore, who has a 10-year-old son
(See also: Eden’s Garden of Eden-Themed 1st Birthday Party)
Vegetarian diets for all in the family
“We rarely eat out and most of the time, we share a home-cooked meal at home. There are times when we bring home-cooked meals when we go to the park. For me, it’s important to share a nice succulent meal with your loved ones. Eating together as a family promotes healthy eating habits and encourages a conversation between the kids and the parents. It is great for family communication and it teaches kids to value family time.
My kids are both vegetarian and they’re very open to different meals. I think the vegetarian diet opened their taste buds to a variety of flavours and textures. So it’s a mix of Chinese food, Western food, Indian food, and pretty much anything the family makes. They also love making their own food.
We don’t eat out with the family much but, when we do, we go to Loving Hut or some of the vegan places at Fortune Centre. Usually, we pick one that offers vegan options and promotes sustainable practices like not using straws and plastics – that gets them in our good books.”
~ Alex Tan, CEO and owner of VeganBurg, who has two daughters, Kyra, eight, and Aglaia, 13
Loving beachside restaurants
“A lover of anything sandy, my wife and I usually bring our two-year-old daughter, Nyah, to Sentosa. Amongst the few family-friendly beach restaurants and bars flanking the island, we usually frequent Ola Beach Club, as it has a pool and a bouncy castle on a sandy beach – everything Nyah likes! It also helps that they have a nursing room, toddler-sized tables and a dedicated kids’ menu.
Another favourite spot is Open Farm Community at Dempsey. The farm-to-table restaurant with an organic garden serves healthy and fresh kids’ meals with ingredients straight out of the garden. The garden allows Nyah to be connected with nature by touching and seeing – kids at this age tend to be keener in their sense of sight and touch.
I also take this opportunity to share with her the importance of seasonality of ingredients which is something I learnt to value as I was growing up. As we know, food education starts at a young age and I, too, hope Nyah will also understand the importance of eating well and taking care of our planet Earth.”
~ Thibault Chiumenti Executive Chef of The St. Regis Singapore. His daughter, Nyah, is two years old.
Making it fun to eat in Singapore
“Nyonya food is often my first choice – we go to House of Peranakan and Blue Ginger often. I love to bring my daughter to places with rich Singapore heritage as I feel it’s important that the young realise that good things are not created within a week or a month. Nyonya cuisine tends to be a little more intricate to put together due to their complex flavours and techniques formed when two different cuisines – Chinese and Malay – merge. Despite the strenuous processes, the time and effort that goes into creating a dish, the end product is more often the most delicious.
My daughter Chloe is just three years old so I usually start with dishes that are milder in flavour. I also like picking food that she can eat with her hands or put together with her hands such as ngoh hiang or kuih pie tee. In that way, it makes eating a fun activity for her. In time, I would like to introduce her to heavier flavours like buah keluak.
Another place we frequent is PUTIEN Restaurant as I’m always fascinated with the fresh seasonal produce from Fujian, China. It is where my great grandparents come from so the cuisine really reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking back home. On top of that, the quality of the food as well as the hospitality at PUTIEN delights me every time. The success story of the founder, Fong Chi Chung, is also very inspiring. It resonates with the virtues that my wife and I live by, that patience and diligence will get you to where you want to be.”
~ Lee Boon Seng, Executive chef at The Spot Singapore
“My wife and I hope that our children will not be selective about food when they grow up so we let them try different types of food from young. From six months of age, they try different types of vegetable and fruit purees such as avocado puree. This helps to increase their curiosity and keep them open to new dishes.
My six-year-old son Caleb’s favourite place to dine at is DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe because both his dad and him are huge fans. This is a comic-themed café. It is well-decorated with superheroes and life-sized models. Even the dishware follows this theme. Besides the themed café, Caleb is also a fan of Carousel, Royal Plaza on Scotts’ award-winning buffet restaurant, as he shows support for his Daddy. He also likes to try the variety of dishes available on the buffet.
When we are traveling, we look for interesting places to have our meals. It can be a fancy winery restaurant in Australia, an authentic Thai eatery in Bangkok, or satay steamboat in Malacca. We hope that our children will learn about the various cultures through interactions with the locals and their food.
When we dine out, we usually consider the method of preparation and the type of seasoning used. As our children are developing, the quality of food and type of seasoning used will affect our decision making. Both of our children did not consume any sodium before they turned two. As they are older now, they get to indulge in fries and fried chicken (once in a blue moon).
We also consider if the place is child-friendly. Points that we take note of include cleanliness, balanced nutrients selection on the menu and if there’s a fun factor about the place – having fun creates nice memories for us as the children are growing up fast. Usually we will try different places with different types of cuisine as I would like to train the sensitivity of their palates. I would like them to learn how to appreciate food by its taste instead of the monetary value.”
~ Chef Darren Ong, Executive Chef of Royal Plaza on Scotts
Where will your family be eating in Singapore this weekend?
The range of food options to eat in Singapore means every foodie can dine out according to their preferences. Are any of these chefs’ recommendations in your family’s little black book of best places to eat in Singapore? Tell us where else you’d recommend!
(See also: A Mum’s Guide to Successful Baby-led Weaning)