Singapore, Just For The Food

There are so many reasons to go to Singapore. In fact, after two days I was seriously trying to figure out how to spend a year there. And not the least of the reasons is the incredible food scene. If you love Hawaii for its mix of cultures and their foods, you will think you’re in heaven in Singapore, except for the weather. But that’s a subject for the next post. This one is all about the glory of the food.

My first day there I did a walking/bus/subway food tour. And even though it was 90° it was worth all the walking, just to find the best foods.

At our first stop my guide, Daryl, taught me how to eat the classic Singapore breakfast, kaya toast with half-boiled egg. The kaya toast didn’t impress me a lot, just super sweet, and not a lot of the coconut and pandan flavors that are its trademark. But the egg was really good. You crack a soft-boiled egg into a saucer, douse it extravagantly with ground white pepper, and splash it with a kind of sweet and salty soy sauce. Then, as Daryl showed me, you turn away from your dining companion and slurp it on one gulp.

Why turn away? Because sometimes you inhale just as the pepper hits your throat and you spew it all out in a fit of coughing. So he said. Not even being a soft-boiled egg person, let alone an egg-spewer, I took it in three discreet gulps. And I have to say that it was delicious.

Then we proceeded to travel to four hawker centers. This was an eating marathon, although it took us about seven hours to make our way through it all, and I mostly didn’t take pictures as I was too busy marveling at the food, a lot of which was brown and non-photogenic.

Each center looked more or less like this: a row of stalls lining narrow alleys, as far as the eye could see, and then, more rows just like this one, say 10-12 in each center. So hundreds of stalls, each with its own unique offering.

Along the way I tried to take surreptitious photos of people eating, but this lady caught me in the act, and didn’t look too happy about it. By the way, in case you’re noticing that the booths have English descriptions, English is one of the official languages of Singapore, so everybody speaks at least a bit and many people speak a lot.

Here’s a little food parade for you, a mix of prepared foods and market sightings, foods I ate and some that I didn’t. Because, although it seems like I ate everything in town, actually I didn’t even get to try the famous chili crab.

I did, however, eat chili frog legs, because they’re iconic, and because Daryl said I should.

I couldn’t decide between prawn noodles and live prawn noodles, so in the end, for noodle of the day,

I had laksa, with barbecued fish.

I didn’t have canned coffee, or these surprisingly Western-looking baked treats, but lots of people around us did.

The laksa came with eating instructions, and we dutifully used our spoons. I think it did taste better that way, because you get some of the spicy soup with each bite of noodles.

This crispy, baked char siu bao was probably the best I’ve ever had.

This “carrot cake” was what I would call steamed daikon cake, but in Singapore what we call daikon is called white carrot. It had a pudding-y texture, and when spread with the spicy sauce it was exactly what I wish I could eat for breakfast more or less every day of my life.

Wandering through the market made me long for a kitchen, the perennial desire of travelling cooks all over the world.

Perhaps you are thinking that Salted Egg Fish Skin doesn’t sound appetizing, but you have no idea. Daryl warned me not to eat them, “unhealthy, and addictive” he said. Right on both counts. I’m just glad I only bought one bag, because they absolutely impossible to stop eating. Trust me on this one.

All in all, I actually can’t think of a more interesting country in which to eat, with its culture of Malay, Chinese, and Indian influences. I just don’t know whether I could stand the heat enough to get into the kitchen. I’m still pondering that, though. It’s very tempting.

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4 Comments on “Singapore, Just For The Food”

  1. Heidi Husnak Says:

    Many thanks! After my divorce 10 years ago I took years of AMEX points and hauled my 14 yeat old son to Singapore for a few days. I don’t do well in heat/humidity but it was worth it. I still think about the rojak from the market near our hotel,

  2. Barbara Says:

    Sounds tempting. Enjoy while it lasts. Will they let you bring food back on the ship?

  3. Abra Bennett Says:

    I love rojak too, and it was the first thing I ate after the half-boiled egg. But as you know, it looks totally like a dog’s breakfast, so no photo.

    And yes, you can bring food on the ship, but not off the ship. We’re long gone from Singapore now, but I’d turn around, just for the food.

  4. Eliza Ayres Says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    For the foodies out there… warning… non-vegan!

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