Tuesday, June 19, 2012

singapore food overview

Mindy and i have been home for 2 days and i'm still suffering some serious jet lag.  more like jet-insomnia.  i didn't sleep the entire weekend during our flight home.  then got about 8 hours after being awake for 51.  then last night i only slept 3 1/2.  mindy is in bed.  i'm still up.  so i thought i'd try to put down some thoughts.

everyone keeps asking me to pick a favorite part of our trip, a favorite part of singapore.  the answer is quite simple really, but it comes in 2 parts.  my favorite thing was getting to visit with family.  but my favorite thing that others can relate to is the food.  the food.  the food.  the food.

singapore has many fabulous restaurants.  just like in the states, you can find fare from every corner of the world.  but if you are looking for local cuisine and your restaurant has air con, forget it.  you're going to pay an arm and a leg for something that is only posing as local cuisine.  the hawker center is where it's at.  these former street food stands are now stationary and surround a common eating area.  they are cooled by osscilating fans in the open air.  many are surrounded by local markets selling fresh fruits and veggies, korean-made clothes, essentials, chinese herbs, and teas.

one of many singapore hawker centers. this one is in serangoon.

we were treated to the exclusive equinox restaurant atop the swissotel overlooking marina bay and the city.  the view was incredible, and mindy and i had a great seat, right by the window.  the food, however, was an imitation of what we got at the hawker centers.  i tried the laksa there.  it was good.  then i ate laksa at a hawker center.  now i cannot even remember how the equinox laksa tasted.  it could never measure up.  fish ball noodles.  otak.  mee siam. satay.  itek tim.  hahm.  rainbow kueh.  pandan kaya kueh.  kueh lapis.  kueh pie-ti.  bah kut teh.  babi ponteh.  lontong.  red bean potong.  durian cream puffs.  deep fried mackerel.  roti prata.  kaya roti.  kopi-o-kosong.  steamed fish.  morning glory.  mee rubus.  curry fish head.  yong tau foo.  hokkien mee.  mee suah.  nonya chap chye.  ayam rendang.  nasi padang.  nasi briyani.  char kway teow.  chili crab.  popiah.  grilled stingray.  prawns.  teh-c.  sotong.  beef noodles.  bbq chicken wings.  braised duck rice.  chicken rice.  lime juice.  fresh fruit juice on every street corner.  sugar cane drink.  sambal brinjal.  okra.  assam fish.  chye sim.  bee hoon.  bamboo clams.  everything served with chili sauce and a lime.  some of the little shop fronts had lines for days, even in the middle of the afternoon.  those were the ones to eat at and they were worth the wait.  and when the food ran out, the shop closed.

there's nothing to be afraid of with the food in singapore.  they have wet markets where chicken or duck parts wait, piled in a cooler , for you to buy.  nothing is prepackaged on a styrofoam platter and sealed in cellophane.  they clean fish on the table beside where they pile the already cleaned fish for sale.  but to be honest, i feel like the food i ate there was safer than that pre-packaged, sealed, stamped, ultra processed crap we eat here.  some people don't like their food looking at them when they eat it.  but guess what, fish have eyes.  salmon steaks are just some pink relic of a fish.  prawns have heads too, and shells.  that was one of the most eye opening things to me.  the simplicity of the processing of the food.  i'm certain that their grocery store shelves are packed with the same bullshit we can buy in the US.  but who needs to go to the grocery store in singapore?  there's a local market with everything fresh in every neighborhood.  and when you eat at the hawker center that the local markets surround, you're getting the freshest food.  and it tastes that way too.  sure food borne illness is a possibility.  but it's a possibility in the US also.  i think i read in the paper that while we were gone there was yet another e. coli outbreak here.

fresh fish
vegetable stall
yong tau foo
fruit stall
fresh eggs

being back in the US makes me miss the food in singapore.  we've only been here a couple of days, but we've eaten out several times.  mostly for the sake of laziness and jet lag and not wanting to leave the house.  the only thing i've been craving is a good burger, but i'll remedy that tonight, as mindy and i visited our local meat market today.  everything we've eaten so far seems very bland.  salty.  or sweet.  undeveloped flavor combinations or just simply dead taste.  for anyone looking for great great food, visit singapore.  you will not be disappointed.  and try everything.  find someone local who can take you to the best places.  i am lucky enough to have my in-laws in singapore and they know all the best spots.


Nixon K said...

I am from Singapore and I hear you! I miss my parents and brother and the food. That's about it!

Mindy said...

I share those exact sentiments! Any chance you are a cook? We do a 'recipe of the week' series and it would be nice to have you guest post a tried and true singapore recipe ...

Nixon K said...

I used to have to make everything from scratch but, these days, there are so many pre-packaged spices in Singapore -- for Hainanese Chicken Rice, Mee Siam, Mee Rebus, Curry, etc. -- that I hardly cook from scratch anymore. I make sure I stock up on those when I visit. I do make a mean Yong Tau Foo with store bought fish meat paste that I doctor up with additional ingredients. I also like to make guay chap with my own mix of sauces for stewing the meat, eggs, and tofu.

Mindy said...

Haha! We carried home lots of spices and bottles of sauces too! We considered smuggling some pandan leaves and seeds for curry leaves too but chickened out at the very last minute. Must be nice to live in Chicago and have access to a lot more than we do in W. Lafayette ... The invite stands. We'd love for you to guest post a recipe for us when you have the time. If and when you do, do try to photograph your food with your work so we can mention it at the same time!

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