Friday, August 31, 2007

Better late than never (snacks from Singapore)

I've seriously neglected this blog since my trip to Singapore/Vietnam. I could use work as excuse, but it wouldn't be the truth. At least not the truth I know in my heart. The fact is that I have fallen into a funk. The kind of funk that momentarily allows food to fall from the very top of my priority list. This is not to say that I haven't been eating. I have, probably more so than usual. What went missing was the excitement, the twinkle that a beautifully moist cupcake used to put in my eyes. How could I have let this happen? I don't know, but I am slowly trying to get my sanity back... Consider this post my first step in rehabilitation.

There aren't too many things in life quite as exciting as walking into an expansive hawker center for the first time. Whether in the smoldering heat off a busy street or behind monotonous shops in an urban mall, the sight of rows and rows of stalls frying, stewing, steaming, and boiling imaginable and unimaginable, recognizable and unidentifiable food items of every sort sets my pulse racing. No longer a novice, I can now attempt to discern what I truly desire among the stalls without suffering too much sensory overload. But unless I am careful to avoid passing the mee rebus stall upon first survey of the premise, my resolve to move on tend to dissolve quickly before the steaming bowl of spicy noodley goodness.

Ladled on a foundation of chewy yellow egg noodles, the spicy curry-like gravy composed of potatoes, curry power, salted soy beans, dried shrimps, and peanuts bursts with layers of flavor. The garnish of hard boiled egg, calamansi limes, spring onions, Chinese celery, green chillies, fried tofu, fried shallots, and been sprouts add crunchy as well as other textual interest. From the first bite, this dish keeps my taste buds dancing until my stomach begs for mercy.

Teow Chew dumpling must be one of the most perfect breakfast foods ever created. The outer layer is beautifully transparent and perfectly toothsome. I want to say that it contains rice flour and/or tapioca flour, but can't be sure. The innards consist of a stir-fried vegetable medley that is so well-seasoned, it's hard to argue a place for meat in that mixture.

Some think fries are the perfect hang-over cure. I can only say that it must be because they've never tried a bowl of bak kut Teh - meat bone tea the morning after. At its simplest, the soup showcases a long marriage of meaty pork ribs with a complex broth of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, etc. The steamy concoction cleanses and nourishes with its warmth as well as medical properties. If fried carbohydrate must be ingested, the youtiao - fried dough, provided for dipping should do the job nicely.