Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sampling Singapore's Epicurean Delights

by expatbrian

I'm all Bushed out and thought I would lighten up for this Sunday post. So, just in case you were under the impression that this is not a cosmopolitan blog, I'm going to introduce you to a little international cuisine, Singapore style.

Eating is an art form in Singapore and there are those who might go out on a weekend just to move from one eating place to another sampling the fare. There are literally thousands of places to eat here and that doesn't count the restaurants which are generally very expensive and certainly do not serve the best food.

In each of the eating venues, you seat yourself and you often will end up sharing a table with strangers if the place is busy. No prob. Food is cooked fresh when ordered but because of the nature of the food, it is done quickly. (Click the thumbs to enlarge)

Hawker centerThe largest of the restaurant alternatives are the hawker centers. These are open air, covered rows of food stalls with tables in the middle of the rows. A hawker center may be as small as 20 stalls or as large as 100 or more. Each stall serves a specific type of food while some are just for coffee and drinks. Typically the fare consists of Chinese, Muslim and Indian food with variations including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and mainland China. Prices for a meal will range from US$1.50 - $3.50.

coffee shopCoffee shops are smaller than hawker centers but the same principle applies. Usually 5-10 stalls serving a variety of dishes. These are found on nearly every street corner and at the bottom floor of many of the residential blocks. You're never more than a block away from a coffee shop of some kind. Prices in the coffee shops are about the same as in the hawker centers.

foodcourtFood courts are also multiple stall set ups but they are indoors. Most malls and shopping centers will have, in addition to restaurants, a food court. Here you may find some additional types of food such as Thai, Korean, Vietnamese and maybe even Cambodian or Lao. The prices are slightly higher. You might pay as much as US$4.50 for a meal. (LOL)

There is western food available of course but its expensive and not very tasty. And there are Macs and Burger Kings all over. But who needs that when you have stuff like this available everywhere?

Chinese Laksa is one of my favorites. I like to create my own by choosing my own ingredients. I find aYong Tau Foo good Yong Tau Foo stall like this one at Bras Basah Complex. It will have a variety of fish, bean curd, vegetables, spices and meats to select from. That is added to boiled yellow noodles and a special hot, spicy curry sauce with a hint of coconut. The first bite will clear my nose and make my eyes water. And if you happen to have a slight hangover, Laksa is Bloody Mary in a bowl.

LaksaHere's the finished product. A piping hot bowl of Yong Tau Foo Laksa. My favorite place is Bras Basah and at Block 301 at Ubi 2. Cost is about US$2.20. (chop stix & spoon). BTW, ingredients for all dishes are typically sized so as to not require cutting. Good thing because knives are not available except in restaurants. But if the need arises, Singaporeans all know how to cut food with chop stix and a spoon.

Here's some of my other favorites.

Most Hawker Centers and coffee shops will have an Indian stall serving biryani (usually pronounced biryanibriyani). Its a spicy rice served with mutton or chicken and a great gravy. Usually there will be a vegetable with it and maybe a hard, crispy, thin prata. I like the Henderson hawker center for this but there's lots of great biryani around. Cost is about US$2.50. (fork and spoon)

mutton soupMutton soup is green, hot and spicy. Chunks of mutton and vegetables in the soup plus bread squares for dipping. The very best place is at the Block just north of and within veiw of the Kallang MRT station. Unbelievably good. Price is US$2.00.minced meat noodle (fork & spoon)

Yew Mee or minced meat noodle is a special lunch treat for me. Thin noodles, minced pork, chives, a couple of fish balls, in a spicy vinegar and soy sauce mixture. There's a few variations to this and it's found everywhere. Usually comes in three sizes and varies from US$1.50 - 2.50. (chop stix & spoon)

carrot cakeFried Carrot Cake. Not like your mother used to make. This includes white carrots, and, I don't really know what all is in this stuff. But it's great for breakfast! About US$2.00.Char kway teow (chop stix & spoon)

Fried Kway Teow is a Malay noodle/vegetable dish with sprouts, maybe a potato slice or other additions. Every old uncle has his special recipe. About US$2-3.00. (chop stix & spoon)

roti prataLast but not least, for breakfast, a snack or to accompany another meal, you can't beat a roti prata. you can get it plain, with egg, or lots of other ways. It is an indian dough spread very thin then folded over any ingredient and fried. Served with a hot sauce for dipping. Cost ranges from US$0.40-1.00. (fork & spoon)

Watch as this prata uncle makes a plain and then an egg roti prata.

If there's any interest, I will do a future post on what the locals eat and where they eat it.

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Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Well I'm interested. My only complaint is it makes my dinner look pale and uninteresting.

I want some Yong Tau Foo Laksa and Kway Teow right away.

9:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You would think that with all of this great food around (and I forgot to include the wonderful dumplings)you would gain weight in no time. Not so though. Most Singaporeans are very slim. Must be the metabolism.

For me, even after I gave up smoking, I have managed to lose 70 lbs since I got here! Of course the hot weather, a little more exercise, and not drinking 5 or 6 martinis a day has helped too.

10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

LOL Brian. I wish I could say the same. I gained ten pounds when I got to the south.

7:39:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Um, do any of these places deliver?

10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, not even to me, Cap. Besides, then we would miss the open air, noisy atmosphere and all the mixed aromas that make the hawker centers and coffee shops so much fun.

10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

One of my best memories of China is the street food cooked on open braziers, sometimes on dimly lit back streets or up against ancient city walls. I enjoyed the Muslim districts too with the stalls usually serving only one item and you go from stall to stall.

'Scuse me - I'm getting hungry. . .

9:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I neglected to mention and am glad you did...many stalls serve just one specialty, like Hainan Chicken Rice or porridge or turtle soup. Investigating what each old hawker uncle is cooking up is a big part of the fun.

10:57:00 PM  

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