After a 14-hour flight to Tokyo followed by an 8-hour flight to Singapore, we collapsed in a crappy hotel for literally 10 hours with one thing on our jet-lagged, confused brains:
Laksa COULD be my death row meal, if my awesome Aunt Adelyn didn’t make these amazing meatballs stuffed in an olive which are then breaded and fried. Twice. It’s a soup with a creamy coconut milk base, dotted with spicy chillies, noodles and brimming with salty cockles (tiny clams) that feel like you’re taking a bite of the ocean for breakfast.
We walked a mile in the 100 degree heat still emerging from an ambien haze to find it along East Coast Road. We ate it in silence but the inappropriate rolling of our eyes said it all. You might find laksa somewhere else, but it’s never as good as what we had just enjoyed.
Singapore is hilariously orderly but where things get REAL are the hawker centres. Yeah, you find a table and put your tiny packet of tissues down to reserve your seat and everyone respects that and yeah, you wait in an orderly line to order your food but hawker centres can be a trip. Old ladies screaming in Cantonese, the humming of ceiling fans, the loud chops of machetes ripping off the top of coconuts and lest we not forget — the smell of a wet fish market or wet fish market finds.
We visited Glutton’s Bay, Maxwell, Newton, and a few no name centers (i.e. we had no idea where they were or what they had but oh look! noodles!).
We have pictures but our wi-fi connection isn’t as fast as we’d like right now (in Bali) so they will come soon but some favorites and memories:
Oddly, Dave is much more chatty abroad than at home. I can’t get the man to call for pizza or ask for directions in the US but take him out of the country and you have a real live chatty Cathy over here. He’d ask anyone and everyone things. Often, I roll my eyes but he asked a gentleman in front of us at at a hawker center in Chinatown and the floodgates of advice, kindness, and suggestions poured open. He ordered for us, checked on us after we sat down, and then brought over a favorite dish of his that he insisted we try as a treat on him. He handed us a packet of glutenous rice, topped with finely minced meat, shallots, and god knows what else. It was like pickled kasha with meat sprinkled with heaven served on a cloud. I wish we asked his name– his kindness hasn’t been forgotten. Also we ordered (at our new friend’s suggestion) the won ton soup which has ruined won ton soup for us for life. The dumplings were light, juicy and savory and the broth fatty and beautiful. We fought over finishing the bowl.
American palate doesn’t dictate Asia as a dessert destination (with notable exceptions: moochi, mango sticky rice, etc). However we fell in love with ice kachang. Bear with me on the explanation since our photos are missing. Picture a Styrofoam cup with a bunch of sweet red beans, tiny cubes of almost Coke flavored jello. Then add a few tablespoons of corn. Then about a foot high of shaved ice cut so finely it ends up having the consistency of snow for real, not crappy sno-cone snow. Then it’s sprinkled liberally with flavored syrup, drizzled in sweetened, condensed milk and in our favorite instance – covered in peanuts. Are you still hung up on the corn? Let it go. trust me — it was good.
Iced coffee thick with grounds and sweetened, condensed milk drank out of a bag with a straw is winning.
Glutton’s Bay was the “touristy” hawker centre we visited. Run by the guy who put out Mankansutra, we like all blind followers of all things Tony Bourdain figured it would be a pretty great evening of food. And it was — it was GOOD– but it wasn’t as mind blowing as some of the other things we ate. I still think of the chicken wings in the perfect chili sauce from there. Everything else I could give or take.
Carrot cake is a thing. It is not a cake nor does it involve carrots. Discuss.
Instead, it’s everything you want to eat the day after a bender of day drinking (which, Mom, we did not do). It’s more of an omelet with radish in it and has the consistency of breakfast potatoes mixed with scrambled eggs. Yum.
So, now we’re in Bali where the mangoes are perfect, our new favorite thing is watermelon juice, and where vegetables exist. Magical place. Up next! What else did we do in Singapore? Dave will reveal all. Otherwise titled, “Why Kat made me walk 5 miles a day in 100 degree heat: a love story”. If I were writing it, I’d title it “the malls I peed in and other landmarks”.