A man of slight proportions deftly throws a wok back and forth. Prawns and noodles go flying. The pan sizzles over a high flame and the spatula clangs against the wok as ingredients are tossed together, forming a meal in a matter of minutes.
Much like the Italians, Singaporeans are famous for their ability to turn a handful of simple ingredients into something delectable.
Singapore’s culinary landscape is arguably a reflection of its ethnic diversity, and with a land area of just 660 square kilometres, the pocket-sized country punches well above its weight.
The Cozy Noodle House is one of many Singaporean eateries in Phnom Penh that caters to the city-state’s expat population as well as fans of their country’s world-renowned cuisine.
This Friday, Singaporeans the world over will be celebrating the country’s national day, in commemoration of the Lion City’s independence from Malaysia in 1965. Thankfully you don’t have to look far to find your fix of Singaporean staples.
At The Cozy Noodle House most surfaces have been plastered with pictures of noodles drowning in sauce, and though several of the dishes we tried were bland, the Singaporean chicken rice ($4.20) is divine.
The chicken is served with skin intact, helping the meat to retain its pillow-soft, juicy texture throughout cooking. It arrives on a bed of cucumbers alongside rice cooked in chicken stock. The condiments deserve equal praise, with a holy trinity following the chicken to the table like a culinary bridal party. Among them was a chicken rice dark soy sauce, which is thick like treacle and sweet; a garlic puree and a spicy ginger puree. When eaten together the chicken, rice and condiments are the perfect comfort food.
If you’ve ventured to The Cozy Noodle House but your appetite has not been whetted by what’s on offer, there are plenty of other Cozy eateries in the vicinity to try, including The Cozy BBQ, The Cozy Place and The Cozy Bakery.
In the BKK vicinity, Asian chain Geylang Lor 9, is perhaps most famous for serving up earthenware bowls of frog porridge ($8). Much like The Cozy Noodle House, Geylang Lor 9 offers little in the way of ambience or décor, but it’s BKK1 setting means it’s a lot more accessible for city dwellers craving Singaporean treats. Lion City classics, such as black pepper crab ($28 for two) jostle for attention with Western style Cantonese dishes such as sweet and sour chicken ($6.90).
The frog porridge was surprisingly tasty, despite a Western trained palate and a typically British abhorrence for consuming anything so slippery. Inside the fragrant bowl plump frog torsos mingled with soy, whole red chillies and chives. The labyrinth of small bones in frogs is not particularly conducive to taking great mouthfuls, but the firm, white, meaty morsels were worth labouring with chopsticks for. The accompanying thick, hearty rice porridge, which comes in a separate bowl, was tasteless and best consumed with a mouthful of our amphibian friend.
In the tiny republic of Singapore, eating is considered a national pastime. Consider this Friday the perfect opportunity to pay homage to a country that counts food as part of its national identity.
The Cozy Noodle House, #1-3 Northbridge St, 10am-10pm
Geylang Lor 9, #183c, corner of St 288 and St 63, 10-2pm, 5pm-3am