Category Archives: Singapore

Singapore! Now with Photos!

Singapore was exactly as I’d remembered it from 3 years ago. The pace was still frenetic, the food amazing and the rules OBEYED. The main thing that surprised me about Singapore was how omnipresent Christmas is. For a country that’s only 18% Christian, Christmas was in full effect — Singapore style.

Orchard Road, Singapore’s main shopping street (very much like Oxford Street in London) was fully decked out in lights. There were quite a few displays like this one:

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Still, though, it was difficult to get into the Christmas spirit mostly due to the fact that it seemed incongruous to think of Santa and the North Pole while the 90 degree weather made rivers of sweat pour down my back into my nether regions.

Of course, the real reason we were in Singapore was to eat — and eat we did. We don’t have pictures of everything we ate. Unfortunately, we shoved most of it into our faces before we remembered that we were supposed to be documenting it. Oh well. Your loss. It was all delicious.

ZOMG LAKSA!

ZOMG LAKSA!

Above is the laksa that Kat raved about in her last post.  Looking at this makes me hungry all over again. I could eat this every day.

The wonton soup that has ruined wonton soup forever

The wonton soup that has ruined wonton soup forever

Above are two dishes we ate at the Chinatown hawker center (sort of like a large open air food court but full of AWESOME food).  As Kat mentioned in her previous post, we ordered these dishes on the recommendation of the guy in front of us in line. I said to him “Excuse me, what is your favorite dish here?” He broke into a wide smile, “You really want to know?” He talked non-stop for 10 minutes and he even ordered for us in Mandarin. The dish on the left is a beef brisket dish, which was quite good but being the nice Jewish boy I am, I must say that it doesn’t hold a candle to my late great aunt’s. HOWEVER, see that bowl on the right there? Doesn’t look like much, right? Bowl of murky liquid with some yellow-ish things floating in it? That, my friend, is the wonton soup that is the end all be all of wonton soups. The broth was so complex and deep. The wonton skins so fresh and perfectly chewy. The filling so meaty and delicious.  I’ll never order wonton soup again because anything else would just be a poor man’s version of this and will inevitably lead to disappointment.

Chicken Rice -- so simple, but so good

Chicken Rice — so simple, but so good

This is chicken rice, Singapore’s national dish. That’s all it is. Chicken and rice cooked in broth. Yet, there are countless ways to prepare this dish and everyone has their own. I can’t say I’ve experimented enough with it to know EXACTLY how I prefer it, but I definitely intend to find out.

 

Mystery dish

Mystery dish

I have no idea what this is. The guy who we spoke to on line actually bought this for us himself and brought it to us, insisting it was a must have. I can’t even begin to describe this. Like, pillowy gelatinous rice  spheres with some weird chili and kasha grain on top. Mysterious and delicious. Also, the best food is that bought for you by a total stranger just because he wanted to make the world a nicer place for one second. Wherever this guy is right now, I wish him a happy life.

Kacang? More like Ka-ching! Because it's money. Meaning good. See what I did there?

Kacang? More like Ka-ching! Because it’s money. Meaning good. See what I did there?

You can’t see it so well in this photo but that food there is ais kacang. Also, I know it looks like I’m angry at it, but honestly I’m not. I’m still not 100% down with SE Asian desserts. They’re generally weird to me and I just don’t understand why they don’t take to western desserts the same way they’ve taken to things like hamburgers and 7-11’s. At any rate, this is basically just shaved ice with sweetened condensed milk on top and then you dump random toppings all over it. Of course, while in America this would be chocolate sprinkles, in Asia it’s things like red beans, corn kernals, all kinds of gelatinous weird things. I’m not convinced about the corn yet, but it was still pretty tasty.

We didn’t DO much in Singapore. Mainly just walked (and walked and walked and walked because Mrs. Banh Mi has a THING about walking) and looked at stuff. The one thing we did see is the Merlion, sort of Singapore’s mascot. I don’t know why but there’s something about him that’s always spoken to me. So now I submit to you Kat’s merlion photo:

"Look at me! I do things the way you should because RULES EXIST TO KEEP US SAFE."

“Look at me! I do things the way you should because RULES EXIST TO KEEP US SAFE.”

 

And here’s mine:

"Singapore, I love you so much I let your mascot spit in my mouth!"

“Singapore, I love you so much I let your mascot spit in my mouth!”

 

We left Singapore after only a few days and even though we love it there, it wasn’t so hard because our next stop was BALI. Tough life, right?

 

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Singapore: Eat ALL the things!

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

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.

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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.

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Iced coffee thick with grounds and sweetened, condensed milk drank out of a bag with a straw is winning.

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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.

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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”.