I’m back. I’m tired. A lot of crappy things have happened in the past 72 hours but I’ll talk more about that later. It has something to do with my beloved Macbook. Luckily, I created drafts of my trip on WordPress before I decided to abuse my poor computer…
But back to the main point.
Singapura! Singapore! The Lion City!
After all that stressing on where to go, I have no idea why we didn’t think of Singapore before. It wasn’t really at the top of my list of potential vacation spots, but I’m really glad I went. Some people said that Singapore would be small, boring, and just really very clean.
It was small. And very clean.
But certainly not boring. After five days, I’m still not sure exactly how to describe Singapore in words. The Civic Business District seems like a quieter, cleaner, and smaller Hong Kong Central. But you walk to Little India, and I felt like I was actually in India (albeit probably a lot cleaner and less hectic.) Chinatown reminds me of any other Chinatown in the world. LA Chinatown, SF Chinatown, NY Chinatown… And then Arab Street.
Very strange, dynamic, and global indeed.
Our taxi driver from the airport told us that Singapore is a “fines” city. At first, I thought it was Singlish, but he meant “fines” as in the citizens get fined for anything, chewing gum, jaywalking, carrying durian onto the train. Those fines keep the city clean and in top shape though. It’s a great, safe place to travel to for a couple of days, possibly on the way to Thailand or Vietnam if you’re not coming from somewhere in Asia. PEOPLE! STOP DISSING SINGAPORE! It is not boring at all! Although I suppose it depends on whether or not you can appreciate botanical gardens, English as the lingua franca, nature habitats, cleanliness, and good food.
We did everything from look at temples, go to the beach, ride a duck boat (biggest tourist trap ever DON’T DO IT), and of course, EAT EAT EAT.
The awesome thing about Singaporean cuisine is that it’s a wild blend of all the cultures that occupy the city. Indonesia, Malay, Indian, and Chinese.
So, the best cheap local food in Singapore can probably be found at hawker centers which are pretty much like big food courts. They have the essential Singaporean dishes that you have to try: everything from Malay food to Indian food to fusion dishes. There’s one at Holland Village that’s quite nice, and the one at Newton comes out in all the tourist guide books but it’s probably better to venture away from the touristy places.
Kaya toast is sold at some hawker centers along with teh tarik, the local milk tea. We actually had it at a very popular franchise called Ya Kun; it can be found all over Singapore and they even sell kaya jam by the jar. So, kaya toast is a very typical Singaporean breakfast where a super sweet jam called kaya made out of coconut and pandan is spread all over toasted bread, and its served with milk tea and “runny” eggs (half-boiled? salted? some soy sauce? nom). Delicious… I’m craving this toast. It was so delicious!! I wish I bought some kaya to bring back with me… But at the same time not, my friend got her’s taken away in customs. What a waste.
After wandering around at Sentosa Island during the day, we stopped by a hawker center for some Malay food. We got nasi lemak which is coconut rice with an omelette, anchovies, peanuts, cucumber, and a traditional fish cake that was wrapped in a banana leaf. It didn’t look too appealing at first, but we scraped the dish clean! The flavors were all so unique, and it reminded me a lot of having a bowl of rice and a bunch of little side dishes (banchan to Koreans).
Something sold everywhere in Singapore is Laksa noodles. It consists of rice noodles in a coconut soupy curry with shrimp and other seafood. Like noodles in a Thai/Malay curry almost…. Yum.
The lovely thing about Southeast Asian countries is the abundance of fruit and how cheap it is! God, I love fresh fruit… Mangoes and pineapples are the best here.
Okay, so don’t let those two monstrosities scare you… These are Singaporean Chili Crabs! The first one is black pepper crab and the second one is the famous chili crab which is cooked in a thick tomatoey gravy. Oh.My.Goodness. These crabs were so delicious. They were full of meat, and the sauce… I can’t even describe the sauce. The chili sauce was so good that even though we were full, we were scooping it into our rice and dipping everything leftover into it. Despite the name, it wasn’t spicy at all, but it reminded me more of American chili and had a slightly smoky barbeque flavor with chunks of crab and egg floating around. I miss it already…
I don’t recall the name of this, but they were lightly fried pieces of bread that we dipped into the chili sauce. :D
I love satay! It was very similar to Thai satay, but eating it outside and not in a sterilized Thai-fusion restaurant adjusted to American palates obviously meant the flavor was about a billion times better. Satay is just what it looks like. Grilled meat on skewers. In Singapore it’s served with chili peanut sauce and usually eaten with cucumbers.
Another popular hawker food (but not one of my favorites) is Hainan chicken rice. You have rice that’s cooked with something in it. I don’t know. The rice was chicken flavored! And it’s served with steamed chicken on top that you dip into various sauces. It actually kind of reminded me of CU canteen food. That’s not generally a good sign.
Okay, so this might not look very good, but it tasted better than it looked. Hokkien prawn noodles are fried vermincelli and rice noodles with bean sprouts, shrimp, some squid. It was pretty good. Our’s could have used a little more shrimp considering it was in the name of the dish. I think between the three of us, each of us got 1.5 shrimps. The dish was perfect after putting in the chili sauce. Freaking Koreans. :)
A local friend recommended that we try roti prata before leaving Singapore. It’s an Indian pancake-type of dish that can be savory or sweet. We got a prata stuffed with huge chunks of spiced chicken that was served with curry on the side for dipping. Yummmm.
This is only the tip of the iceberg for good Indian food in Singapore. I’ll be updating with a second post on Indian food later when I get the pictures from a friend. My camera ran out of batteries right before dinner that day (ACK.)
And of course, we can’t finish without some kind of dessert. This totally made me nostalgic for Hawaii when I was a kid. I remember running around with my sister and my cousin on the beach and then begging my mom to buy me shaved ice. In the Lion City, it’s called ice kacang, and shaved ice is topped with flavored syrup anda mango jelly. And then when you think you’re done, you hit the bottom and there’s all sorts of “surprises” in there. Jellies, red bean, and I think the weirdest thing was the corn. I don’t dig corn in my dessert unless it’s in bread.
Be back with Little India post later~
For Indian food, click here.