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We’ll soon be able to visit our next-door neighbour via the VTL arrangement. Who better to ask for dining suggestions than these Singapore-based chefs who grew up there

In two weeks' time, we will be able to travel to Malaysia once the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) begins on November 29. No one could be more excited than these Singapore-based Malaysian chefs who have not been able to visit their hometowns for almost two years. While they plan their holidays back home, we check with them on the best restaurants and eateries they'll be adding to their must-visit list. 

Read more: Malaysia VTL: The Tatler Guide to The Best Dining Spots, Hotels, Attractions and More

Mano Thevar

Chef-owner, Thevar

“I’ve been working in Singapore for 10 years, but I am originally from Penang. It’s one of the most famous food cities thanks to its abundance of flavours, but I miss its hawker culture the most.

One of the places I always visit is Restoran Deen-Nasi Kandar (598-D & 598-E Jalan Jelutong, George Town) because the dishes there remind me of my childhood. Other must-try hawker stalls are Hameediyah Nasi Kandar (164 Lebuh Campbell, George Town) for its murtabak and Tiger Char Kuey Teow (179 Lebuh Carnarvon, George Town), which makes one of the best char kuey teows in town.

My family took me to these places when I was younger; they are the older generation hawkers who have been in business for over 40 years.”

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Thiru Gunasakaran

Head chef, Firangi Superstar

“I am originally from Kuala Lumpur. I haven’t been back home in two years, and I miss my grandmother and mother’s cooking the most. I also can’t help but look forward to the restaurants and eateries I have been visiting since I was a kid—Nasi Lemak Bumbung (46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor) for its nasi lemak with fried chicken; Restoran Seng Huat (41000 Klang, Selangor) for its bak kut teh; Sri Ganapathi Mess (46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor) for its crab rasam, mutton intestine peratal, and salted fish curry; and any ramly burger stall for its burger ayam special with cheese.

I also can’t wait to dine at Nadodi (50450 Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur) on my next trip back home. I learned about the restaurant through the World’s 50 Best Restaurants when it was included in the 50 Best Discovery list.”

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Edward Chong

Executive Chinese chef, Peach Blossoms

“I grew up in Negri Sembilan, Malaysia. Pre-Covid 19, I used to go back to Malaysia at least once a year. My last visit was in 2019 just before the pandemic started. Naturally, I miss my mother’s cooking the most and the traditional dishes which she used to make for me whenever I visit, like ginger pork trotter in black vinegar and her handmade yong tau foo.

I also miss Malaysian street food which cannot be found or hasn’t been replicated in Singapore. I make it a point to drop by the original outlet of Ipoh Tuck Kee (61 Jalan Yau Tet Shin, Taman Jubilee 30300, Ipoh, Perak). They have been around since 1963 and they are famous for their ‘Yu Kong Hor’, loosely translated as ‘moonlight hor fun’–a fried hor-fun dish with a raw egg cracked over the dish.

Another place I go to is Kiang Kee Bak Kut Teh (Batu 8, Jalan Mawai, Kota Tinggi, Johor), which serves Chinese pork rib soup. This place is famous and I will drive up with my relatives for the authentic Malaysian-style herbal soup, which is something that is hard to find in Singapore.”

Low Boon Han

Chef de cuisine, Conrad Centennial Singapore

“While I have been working in Singapore for 22 years, I am from Kluang, a district located in the centre of Johor. There are many foodie places to try in my hometown, one of which is Kluang Railway Coffee (Jalan Station, 86000 Kluang, Johor) which has been operating since the 1930s.

This kopitiam offers real charcoal fire-roasted “roti bakar” or “roti kahwin” and three types of buns which are paired with creamy butter and homemade kaya. It’s best paired with kopi, made with coffee beans grown and roasted locally. Another must-try is the nasi lemak bungkus, or pyramid-shaped rice infused with pandan and coconut milk and served with sambal chili, crispy anchovies and peanuts.

My other favourites include Star Coffee House & Restaurant, Restaurant Teoh Heng Bak Kut Teh, Cin Cin Restaurant, Restaurant Ikan Asam Pedas, Gerai Makan Botak as well as Tong Huat Confectionery.”

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