travel

eating singapore

Are you hungry? You should probably stop right now then. See, one thing I learned from traveling to Southeast Asia with two fun- and food-enablers is that delicious eating is everywhere. Cheap food is pouring out onto the sidewalks because the giant megaplex shopping fortresses can’t contain it all. Even in the unstoppable heat, the enticing aroma of sizzling garlic, or just-baked sweets, or the ripest, sweetest fruit possible stoke the fire of hunger and melt away any willpower.

First off, visiting my brother  in Singapore (or as I call it, Asia Lite). This affluent island city-state is a beautiful stir-fry of many cultures and cuisines. If you’re not shopping in Singi, you’re probably eating.

_2108738-001What better way to start off then Sumaiya’s baked eggs with beans (and imported sriracha from California)?

_2118757-001We were spoiled by Sum’s home cooking: for lunch an incredible seafood paella and sweet and spicy curried pumpkin.

_2118758-001Now that’s a beautiful lobster.

_2118770-001My brother took us to celebrate Chinese New Year the way that hundreds of other families do: on the waterfront, with sticky chili-sauced fingers picking apart crab.

_2118844-001This is all that was left over: empty shells.

P2118815-001To start: black pepper crab. The fiery, dry, smoky flavor is in perfect contrast to the juicy sweet crabmeat.

P2118805-001Adam demonstrates the size of that meaty Sri Lankan crab claw.

P2118784-001The revelation that is cereal shrimp: the antidote to greasy deep-fried shrimp. These shrimp were plump, sweet and juicy and the breading stayed crispy and crunchy and dry with a just a hint of corn sweetness.

P2118800-002Behold, the chili crab! The enormous crab is swimming in bright, red, sweet and (just a little spicy) chili sauce. Don’t wear a white shirt to tackle this (unless like Adam, you are a pro).

P2118795-001Otah: steamed curried fish paste. Definitely a texture to get used to.

P2118789-001Don’t forget the chicken and beef satay.

_2128958-001Food at the hawker centers (indoor street-food stands) are so cheap that it’s hardly worth it to cook at home. Each stall specializes in just a few dishes.

_2128969-001My favorite Singaporean breakfast/ snack/ all day eats is kaya toast: thick fluffy sweet white bread perfectly toasted or grilled  and then slathered with pandan-flavored coconut curd. I got busted for taking this picture of making toast, lest I be stealing company secrets?

_2128973-001Sorry this is the best picture I got of our kaya toast because we devoured it in seconds. And then got a few more boxes to take home. Pandan is a grass that gives the coconut an aromatic vanilla-ish flavor. The key is to top this caramelly sweet coconut jam with a sliver of salted butter to melt all over it – think melted butter over maple syrup. Traditionally eaten with hot coffee and a bowl of runny eggs.

_2128983

Another favorite: roti-curry.  (I can eat this all day long). Hot, flaky roti paratha griddled in ghee is the perfect vehicle for delivering to your mouth the richest curry sauce. The secret combination of what tastes like 38 herbs and spices impart a deep complexity to the curry. Forget nachos, I’m bringing this to the next superbowl party.

_2128963-001Din Tai Fung: Michelin-starred Taiwanese mall food.

_2128965-001We had already planned on hitting DTF in Hong Kong, but couldn’t resist when we saw one in Singi too.

_2128966-001Makin’ dumplins.

_2128986-001Prepare for yum.

_2128989First, a refreshing cold cucumber plate drenched in a soy-garlic sauce.

_2128991The most incredible hot and sour soup to grace our palates. The softest of  noodles and earthiest of broths rich with black mushrooms. And just look at all that black pepper on top! This will kill your cold for sure.

_2128995DTF’s famous xiao long bao. These are truffle/pork soup dumplings, so the delicate dumpling wrappers yield only in your mouth (not on your chopsticks) with an explosion of savory hot broth.

_2129014Lau Pa Sat hawker center in central Singapore is detailed with architectural flourishes. Just remember to bring a packet of napkins because there are no napkins there and also you can reserve your table by placing them on top while you go food foraging.

_2129013This gentleman has a a big ol’ flat top in his stand for making the Middle Eastern inspired murtabak. He stretches out roti dough into a giant rectangle and then fills it with eggs, tomato, mushrooms (and whatever else you want) and then the incredible envelope of goodness is cooked on the flat top for the perfect char.

_2129026The murtabak takes up a whole tray. Like roti, you dip this all-inclusive meal into the savory hearty curry sauce. Breakfast sandwich of champions.

_2129016This gentleman is cooking up some noodles for a bowl of some spicy laksa.

_2129015Really spicy.

_2129019A beautiful bowl of Malaysian laksa, spicy coconut curry soup with noodles and bean curd.

_2129021Hong Kong style dumplings: shrimp and chive dumplings,  scallop dumplings, and shu mai (shrimp and pork). The sweet marshmallowy red bean buns on the right were some of the best we ever had.

_2129030Another favorite of mine, but I am a sucker for smoky rice noodles that are filled with crispy charred bits. Char kway teow is served up with shrimp and egg and bean sprouts and slathered in a sticky black soy sauce.

_2129029Our hawker stand finds. This is for 5 people. Please note that the empty lower left quadrant is reserved for pitchers of beer and chili prawns (not pictured, too busy stuffing face).

2013-02-13 10.54.08As my brother escorted us to the airport, we continued to gorge until the plane carried us away. B tried the famous Hainan chicken rice. Quite simply, chicken that is delicately poached in a gingery stock forming a crispy gel “skin”, with rice that’s cooked in the remaining stock. Seek this out if you are not a fan of the otherwise deliriously spicy and chili-filled treats in Singapore.

2013-02-13 10.53.50Throughout our stay in SE Asia I indulged in my favorite one-bowl meal: seafood noodle soup. This version is packed with prawns, chewy buckwheat noodles, and green onions in an umami-powered broth. Always get the condiments (fish sauce, soy sauce, chilis, and a fresh wedge of lime) for doctoring it up to your standards.

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