Jan 2013: Snacking my way through Singapore

#1 Mar 10th, 2013, 07:19
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People associate Agra with Taj Mahal, London with roadside drunks, Rio with Samba… but when it comes to Singapore ?

Singapore is all about food. People in Singapore live, breathe, think Food. I do too..

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Eating in Singapore starts from two hundred dollar soup to a two dollar soup meal. From the restaurants at Mandrin Oriental to Geylang Claypot Rice. Where else can you check in at 3AM, refresh up, and a short walk to a 24 hour food court. Not many cities in the world can claim serve up fresh noodle soup at 345AM can they ?


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Thirsty ? From Ku De Ta Sand atop Skypark to latee-late night KTV, from a 28 dollar drink to two-for-one Chang beer. - Singapore matches up to Manhattan

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On a sudden trip to Singapore, I promised to eat many small bites each day, many times. Makansutra was my guide !


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I ate by Geyland, I ate at little India. I ate in Chinatown, I ate in Kampong Glam, I ate in Arab Street, I ate in Orchard Street.

Between snacking I did everything else that I had come 10,073 miles to do.

Very few places in the world, do I eat and drink , throwing caution to the wind..Singapore happens to be one of them.


The weeks preceding the Chinese New Year, the neighborhood of Chinatown decked its streets. Alas, unlike other neighborhoods, chinatown calls it a night early... You have to look hard to get a bowl of soup or chicken rice.

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Third week of January saw me heading to Singapore. 22 hours of flying demands that one get prepped for snacking and the airline obliged. But the arrival was a real b*** It reminds one of flying into India on those post midnight flights.

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[to be continued..]
#2 Mar 10th, 2013, 07:50
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I was at Raffles and had a Ngiam Tong Boon special in my paws within an hour of landing at Changi. Priorities ......
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
T. S. Eliot

http://www.derekgrantdigital.com
#3 Mar 10th, 2013, 07:50
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Hey there mate! Wow, hope you enjoyed your trip to our little island! How did you find the country? Was it purely just a foodie trip?
#4 Mar 10th, 2013, 08:11
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Great beginning; now awaiting the rest of the story!
The map is not the territory. --Alfred Korzybski
#5 Mar 10th, 2013, 08:36
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Eating in Singapore is a delight. From hawker stalls, to food courts, from silk table clothed michelin starred restaurants to basement bargain Liu shao bao on the go. From vada sambhar to kung pao, from roti kanai to deer murtabak, all available in the neighborhoods of Singapore.

Little India: Stroll into Little India, and you feel as if you are transported into Tamil Nadu. Full of their vegetarian restaurants and chettinad non-veg. And an odd assortment of north indian fare, with "indian-muslim" food a.k.a biryani and tandoor chicken.


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Sticking to the Dosas and Vadas is safer than trying to negotiate the singaporean interpretation of north indian fare. Why does this remind me of the "indian" restaurants lining the 6th Street of New York in the 70s and 80s. Serving North Indian fare in name only

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The thing that drives the hustle and bustle in Little India are not the restaurants or small stores; it is the giant mammoth T-rex of a store called Mustafa Center - This multi-floored, densly packed Indian super-departmental store sells everything a desi on a shopping trip want, under one roof; and open 24 hours. So, them hordes of indian shoppers with fistful of 5000 rupee notes can arrive any hour of the day or night, exchange their rupees for SGD and shop till they drop.

There is a debate in many a diaspora's culinary circles as to why there is no or little effort to elevate indian cuisine in the way hongkong has raised some of the chinese cuisines. But then, this topic would have to be sequestered



[...to be continued...]
#6 Mar 10th, 2013, 09:57
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"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

For as long as I have been coming to this city, two things keep rankling my brain - LKY and Joe Mantell's line from Roman Polanski film ChinaTown (more about it later....)

Chinatown: Whereever I go, chinatown the ethnic enclave, is in constant tension - surrounded by the combat zones, the financial power houses and commercial interests in the edges of its neighborhood. All trying to do a classic squeeze play Be it Boston, Bangkok, LA, New York, or Toronto... Singapore is no different. Or, is it ? I think Singapore's Chinatown reflects the essence of both LKY and RP, the sacred visible by day, the profane not too far off in the belly-of-the-beast. This has direct bearing on the production and distribution of food and the eco-culture is sustains.

From the upscale restaurants to hawker stalls in the food courts like BTM and Food Court, or the Maxwell Center; you will eat well and you will eat till you burp

During the day, if there is work nearby offices, walkover to 2nd floor (1st to the natives) food court is the real McCoy. Truly singaporean, truly egalitarian. In all times that I have been to Chinatown, my meal have never been more than 5 singaporean; maybe 7-8 if we have a beer with lunch.

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For me, no meal in a chinese restaurant (or take out) is complete without either a fresh chinese spinach, or baby-bok-choy. Simple sauteed is sauce, and oil, it is just sublime....

Talking about bird's nest as an entree or a thing one eat's and relishes, is as sensitive as talking about an authentic shark fin soup. If you have to ask how much, then you cannot afford it, and if you can indeed, one doubts if your palate is ready for either. To a non-chinese, both the bird's nest and hearty shark fin are dishes that border on an ethical dilemma, similar to bush meat or horse meat

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Mee - Hokkien Mee, Hae Mee, Bak Chor Mee, any noodle soup is the staple fast food of the hardy working the back alleys of Chinatown or invisible hands that work the office towers of nearby areas. The influence of Malaysian and Indian spicing makes mee in Singapore different than KL or nearby across the bay Johor Bahru.

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And finally we come to one of the soul food(s) of Singaporeans Hainanese chicken rice with ginger sauce. This is time and again a go to meal (mind you it takes getting used to for an indian or a latina palatte)

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During the day, the streets of chinatown are flooded with tourists and locals alike, however, culinarily what you see in the daytime like the fresh custard cakes and pastries, vanish at night. A unique fusion of chinese technique to essentially a dairy product. It is rare to see cream or dairy ever in most regional chinese cuisines.


[...to be continued...]
#7 Mar 10th, 2013, 16:29
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Truly Asia - Malaysia

The third of the trio, Truly Asia, Malaysia ! The influence of malay spicing and cuisine cannot be minimized.

In fact, malay cuisine, and its indian-muslim influences have positioned itself right in the middle of the other two - Indian & Chinese. From goerangs, amd laskas and quick rotis (canai, telur..) can be found in many a hawker stalls.

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Search as I did, in the metros of India, from Dilli to Mumbai; From trivandrum to bangaluru, roti canai, the ubiquitous snack of the malay peninsula, and very popular anytime snack was not to be found. This fluffy bread with chicken gravy and floating pieces of chicken is indeed worth the 1.5 SGD at the Indian run, malay muslim hawker stall under the shadow of the Sultan Mosque.


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And finally, the Nasi Lamak. No two are alike. This malay dish, is little bit of everything. As it makes its journey across the bay/sea to this island, it adds fried chicken, and loses much of the belkan punjent fish sauce, and the rice is also milder version of the coconut rice one gets on the other side of the bay in Johor Bahru.

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With the rojak, and achaat, a complete meal can be had in Kampong Giam. The heart of malay and part of the muslim quarter. Over the decades, one has seen the sprouting of hookah/sisha bars, which are filled by more locals than the touristy falangs


[..to be continued...]
#8 Mar 11th, 2013, 03:43
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The food courts, hawker stalls and snacking on the go.

Food courts, and hawker stalls are everywhere. The image that one conjures of food courts akin to ones in the Malls across US (or Gurgaon ) saddled with shrunken version of the fast food giants, is not what one sees in Singapore.

Be it the upscale food court - Raspura at Sands, or Food republic in Orchard; or the 24 hour open air food courts Woodlands, Geylang, or Scotts. The quality of the quick bite is every fresh, every sumptuous and ever solicitous of the patron.


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