Singapore Eats: Happy Stomach
Warning: if you are hungry, you should probably stop reading here. Now, I’m willing to eat anything once. Although I don’t know if I would actually be able to go through eating dog, which is a specialty here in Indonesia. To be fair, in Indonesia, dogs are not thought of as man’s best friend, like most furry creatures they are considered to be food. It’s one of those difficult developing world issues that many in the West have a hard time with: animal rights v. being hungry. I had a teacher in Jogja who raved about dog and that it would cure her whenever she started to feel like she was getting a cold. But, don’t worry, I didn’t have any moral food dilemmas in Singapore.
So, needless to say, my foodie side (which dictates a lot of my life choices) has been very happy lately. One of the best parts about Singapore was eating and eating with Sam and Shirin whose love of food is on par with my own. One of the first things I ate was ice kachange (see Ms. Shirin below):
Indonesians and Singaporeans (I’m betting I’ll add more countries to this list) love desserts with ice. Ice kachang was flavored shaved ice with peanuts, pieces of jelly (also very popular), and sweet corn. Shirin said corn is usually used for desserts in Singapore. In Indonesia grilled corn is sold on the street. I think corn has a dual identity here: fruit and vegetable.
The next day Shirin and I met up with Sam and we headed to Chinatown. Sam knew a dessert place there. I wish I could give you the name, but it was only in characters. If you go looking for it, it should be easy to find because it was jam-packed (for a reason) and we had to do some table swooping. We stuck with a mango theme. The first dessert Sam ordered was mango in a tasty and cold sauce. But that was only the beginning…
OH.MY.GOD! If you know me, then you know I don’t use capitalization and exclamation points unless I am serious (in fact I find myself deleting a lot of exclamation points on the copy desk at work). But holy moley, me oh my, this was one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a long time and I have no idea what it was called because the menu was in Chinese! I hereby christen thee “mango dessert ice from the gods.” Sam explained that the restaurant gets huge blocks of ice that they shave down. The dessert had a frozen yogurt consistency but was very light because no milk was involved. It was heaven and the best part: it really cooled me down.
That night Sam and Shirin took me to Newton Food Center, an outdoor area with tables and plenty of food stalls. The street food in Singapore is definitely some of the safest in Asia. I sat and guarded the table while Sam and Shirin went to the good stalls and ordered all of the food I had to try. Chicken rice is the national dish of Singapore. The rice is delicious because it is cooked in chicken broth and then it also comes with soup. This was tasty, but not the most creative national dish.
Yes, I was that tourist drinking out of a coconut. I really love eating the actual coconut when all the juice is gone. There are tons of vendors around Jakarta who have coconuts lying around. If you ask for juice, they get their machetes out (okay, not really, but they are big knives) and boom, boom, bang, you have juice for about $2, or less, depends on where you are, and if you are a pale red-head.
I have a new favorite vegetable. I first tried it in Jogja and was super happy when Sam brought a plate to our table. Meet my new close friend, kangkung. Kangkung has multiple English names. Sam and Shirin said water convolvulus. According to Wikipedia, it is also known as water spinach, water morning glory, Chinese spinach, and swamp cabbage. Call it whatever you want. If it’s sauted with some garlic, in a broth, or has some chili sauce, it’s the best.
This next one was really exciting for me: stingray, known as pari. I never thought of stringray as a fish you grill and eat (Is it even a fish? Help, Christian, need your fish knowledge). Shirin told me stringray is a good “training” fish for kids because all the bones are in one place so it is very easy to eat. It’s a tasty white fish. But what really made this was the smoky, rich, somewhat spicy chili sauce. I must say, my spice tolerance is improving.
Up next (yes, I ate a lot!), raddish cakes. I really don’t know too much about this, although here is a recipe I found. Sam and Shirin described it simply as raddish (clearly not what Americans think of as raddish) with egg and then fried. They were very tasty.
One of my favorite things in life is tasting something new, especially if I never knew it existed. Meet the calamansi lime. This is a variety of lime I have never seen in the States. In is not as bitter or sharp tasting as the limes you find in grocery stores in the US. This fellow has a pleasant flavor that is very distinct from American limes. I had a juice with calamansi limes and it was really refreshing.
And of course, if you go somewhere, you should always try the local beer. Hey, even American celebrities sell out and advertise for it. To be honest, Tiger is nothing special. Just a pale beer. Wouldn’t go out of my way to find it. But sitting by the river drinking a beer is always a good time.
I’m back in Jakarta tonight. I’ll post about Day 2 in Singapore soon and all of my Jakarta adventures soon. Like day-tripping with fellow Wes ’11 friend Erwin and my PiA fellow fellow in Jakarta, Chloe. Cheers, and I hope you eat something tasty today.
Where to Get Mango Ice: Mei Yeong Yuan Desserts Chinatown Outlet, 63 – 67 Temple Street, Singapore.