Friday, January 11, 2008

Feasting in Singapore (Part II)

Often times fantastic street eats go hand in hand with less than desirable eating conditions. This is especially true in Singapore, where both temperature and humidity consistently go into the 90s. Not one to sweat easily, I have no problem tracking down and chowing down at the various legendary stalls peppered throughout the open air hawker centers (congregation of food stalls specializing in various regional Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western eats). This is not to say that I don't appreciate finding exceptional eats in a pristine and air-conditioned environment. I absolutely do, especially when I am trapped inside the vast shopping mecca that is Orchard road.

Stomach rambling, I found myself wondering the Food Republic inside Wisma Atria around 11 am. While most stalls were just setting up, a line ten deep had already formed in front of Thye Hong. Always a tell-tell sign of good eats, I got in line without knowing what food was being served. Luckily the folks of Thye Hong were not shy about self-advertising. Clippings on the stall window soon made it clear that this is the reincarnation of a famous fried prawn mee stall from the well-known Newton circus hawker center. Seeing that everyone in line was getting the same prawn mee, I felt confident doing the same. Boy, was that the right decision. The simple looking fried noodle smelled superbly and strongly of the prawn shell broth used to bring the noodle to al dente. Just enough bean sprouts gave each chopstickful a delightful crunch. And the real star of the dish, the chili sauce provided way more than just heat, but also awesome umami flavor found in the shrimp paste that is the trademark of Southeast Asia.

The above looks like a simple lunch plate. In a way, Nasi Lemak, which translates to savory rice, is a simple composition of rice, chicken curry, ikan bilis or tiny anchovies, hard boiled egg slices, and cucumber. What is not simple about the dish is the taste of the items on the plate. This particular version at Madam Kwan's inside the KLCC shopping center attached to the famous Petronas towers did Malaysia's national dish right. The plain looking rice smelled and tasted unmistakably of the sweet coconut cream in which it was steamed. It went wonderfully with the also creamy dark meat chicken curry. Unlike many ikan bilis served plainly fried, Madam Kwan's version was cooked with generous amounts of onion and mixed with sambal, the requisite chili sauce that often came separately.

Nyonya Kuih (small glutinous cakes of mixed Malay and Chinese origin) is another obsession of mine. The dominating flavors are those of coconut cream and fragrant pandan leaves (what make the cakes green). The varieties are mind boggling and can be found at most hawker centers. My current favorite version of ondeh ondeh were obtained at a hole-in-the wall shop called Galicier, introduced to me by ieatishootipost. What's so great about this particular ondeh ondeh? Imagine the softest sweet potato/glutinous rice mochi covered in grated coconut with a hidden center of glorious liquid gula melaka (smoky dark palm sugar). Upon piercing the outer cover, the gula melaka squirts dramatically into your mouth, onto your face, and down your shirtfront in a great gust of sweetness. That's gooooooooooood!!!!


GadgetGeek said...

Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.. that street vendor (and other) food items looked marvelous. I wish I would have you along when we , someday take a trip to Singapore. I talked to Lisa last night while you were in her shop...

Gadgetgeek2 (from


dhs said...


Love your posts on Singapore! Headed there myself soon, I'd love it if you can make some more recommendations on eating in and around the city for someone who has never been to Asia.

dean [at] fullfrontalnerdity [dot] com