They say you can’t really get under the skin of a country until you surrender to its gastronomy, and we like that idea very much. In the case of Malaysia and Singapore, the foodie scene is downright tantalising, given its spectacular blend of cultures deriving from across Asia, and beyond. Visitors can expect intoxicating street food markets laden with Malay, Chinese, Thai and Indo-Chinese specialties, to name a few, as well as award-winning restaurants serving cutting-edge takes on traditional favourites.
For luxury foodie holidays in Malaysia and Singapore, staying at hotels that are passionate about cuisine is of the utmost importance, and there’s one particular hotel group that springs to mind. Dining well lies at the heart of Samadhi Retreats, whose properties include Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur, Blue Mansion in George Town, JapaMala on Tioman Island and the Villa Samadhi Singapore. Check into these unique hotels for generous doses of both luxury and exceptional dining experiences.
Villa Samadhi, Kuala Lumpur
A short distance from Samadhi’s award-winning restaurant, Tamarind Hill, this luxury property is a delightfully tranquil hideaway in one of South-East Asia’s most energetic cities. Villa Samadhi is hidden away in a leafy neighbourhood of Kuala Lumpur, and on top of rustic-chic accommodation and serene, lagoon-style pool, its culinary offerings really give it the edge. Mandi-Mandi is the guest-only restaurant which whips up exquisite Asian-European dishes, overseen by award-winning Chef Sombat Kokasemkul, while the lively rooftop bar Bumbung is the place for imaginative cocktails and canapes, with sublime city views.
Given the melting pot of cultures in Kuala Lumpur, the Malay capital is a truly exciting destination for foodies. On a gourmet trail of the city consider sampling these delicious delicacies:
Hokkien Mee. This Chinese dish is a rich concoction of braised yellow noodles in thick, dark soy sauce with pork, squid, fish cake and cabbage, topped with crispy pork cubes.
Rojak. An Indian plate which combines dough fritters, beancurd, egg and vegetables in a sweet yet spicy peanut sauce.
Satay. A Malay classic of skewered and grilled seasoned meat, served with a thick peanut sauce.
Portuguese Grilled Fish. The name is deceptive, as this is actually a regional style of grilled fish with spicy sambal sauce and vegetables.
Japamala, Tioman Island
Enveloped by emerald jungle and perched on immaculate white sands, Japamala is a ravishing haven on the exotic Tioman Island. Though it may be delightfully remote, by no means does it compromise on the highest standards of dining – it is home to a branch of Villa Samadhi’s Mandi-Mandi restaurant, featuring global cuisine with an emphasis on Italian food, served in idyllic overhanging pavilions suspended over the sea and open to the starry night skies. In addition to this, Tamarind Tioman is set on the beachfront, its spectacular location is complemented by an exquisite menu of Thai, Indo-Chinese and Malay creations.
Surrounded by tropical seas, Tioman is a seafood hotspot, so be sure to try freshly-caught sambal prawns, squid and fish on the barbecue, tom yum soup and mixed vegetable salads.
The Blue Mansion, Penang
Blending flavours from Malaysia, China, India, Thailand and beyond, George Town on the island of Penang is making a name for itself as a top South-East Asian foodie destination. Checking into the Blue Mansion, a sumptuous hotel encased in a distinctive colonial mansion, is sure to enhance your gastronomic adventure in Penang. Its elegant Cheong Fatt Tze Restaurant offers tantalising Cantonese cuisine, while tucking into breakfast on the al-fresco courtyard makes for a perfect start to the day.
There are some truly unmissable gourmet specialties in Penang, including:
Asam Laksa. Perhaps the most famous dish in Penang, this local interpretation of a traditional laksa is comprised of thick rice noodles in a fish and herbal broth that is both hearty and tart.
Curry Mee. This coconut milk-based curry combines both wheat-egg noodles and rice noodles, mixed with fried tofu, prawns, cockles and cubes of pork blood, topped with spicy chilli paste.
Chee Cheong Fun. Steamed rice noodle rolls, drizzled with shallot oil, local shrimp paste, chilli paste and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
Villa Samadhi, Singapore
Bringing the sophistication and charm of signature Samadhi style, the Villa Samadhi in Singapore is a peaceful respite from the urban pace of Singapore, with tropical waterfront gardens, individually and tastefully designed rooms with plunge pools and of course, remarkable cuisine at Tamarind Hill. The restaurant is spread over three distinct dining areas, covering a total of 12,000 square feet, offering contemporary Thai cuisine and signature cocktails – there’ll even be a wine list curated by the award-winning Group Sommelier.
Singapore’s heritage is wonderfully diverse, and within the slick city you’ll find everything from the frenetic bustle of Chinatown and Little India to the elegant restaurants down by the waterfront, so be sure to taste your way around. We recommend visiting the floating market at Chinatown (one of the most iconic markets where you can find all manner of Asian vegetables, live seafood and exotic meats like frog and eels), sampling Nyonya delicacies like Kueh Chang (dumplings) and feasting on the famous chilli crab in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Singapore skyline.