28 September 2009

Singapore - The Ultimate Foodie Mecca

Big bulging greedy crab eatin' eyes.

Singapore. A country that is a city. A big, shiny, glossy fancy-pantsy city filled with luxurious shopping complexes that stretch for kilometres, litter-less streets and happy middle class consumers hussling by with Coach and Gucci shopping bags.

They are hurrying because they are hungry.

Singaporeans are well known for their love of food - more food than we can imagine. My first trip to the Big Uneasy was with work 18 months ago and I will be honest - I did not love it. I was put off by the modernity (compared with Vietnam, where I had just come from) and the oft-twee Disneyland atmosphere. But this time I got it - I understood Singapore. Because all I did was eat.

Hawker stalls, Sushi restaurants, food courts (a popular place to eat in S'pore- not like our atrocities of fast food at all) and dim sum - I ran the gamut and ate my face off. I saw Chinese people eating South Indian idlis, South Indians eating pig intestine soup, Malays eating pizza and everyone - and I mean everyone eating Hainanese chicken rice - the national dish. Unlike most places in Asia, food knows no race and has no cultural divide here.

Singaporeans are true foodies. I can get behind that - man, can I ever! I was so inspired by all of this edible harmony that I decided to document every meal, snack and alcohlic bevvie that I consumed over a 36 hour period. I have never been happier.

Salty, soft, squishy heaven.

Delicious, squishy salmon sashimi at a local sushi place near City Hall. While it wasn't cheap it rivalled Vancouver's freshness and authenticity - I also had a spicy tuna handcone, an ebi tempura roll and a 2 pieces of salmon nigiri. After a year away from my true love Raw Fish-san, (other than our brief tryst in Vancouver) I could little more than breathe a sigh of happiness and order another handcone.

One of their slogans? "If you want a skinny latte, drink half a glass."

Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a famous chain across Singapore - started by a little old man in 1926 (the year my granny and grandpa were both born!) They serve traditional coffees, runny softboiled eggs (like, barely cooked at all - they hold the eggs near the hot water) and kaya toast: thin slices of brown bread slathered with coconut egg jam and a thick cold slice of margerine. Although it sounds apalling, it was kind of nice- like cinnamon toast. It, like every other restaurant in Singapore, was packed.

Salty and crunchy with a bouncy shrimp in the middle. I do love shramp....

Oh sweet jesus - this was delicious. You may remember one of my previous experience with dimsum in Hong Kong - this was almost as good. Pictured above is shrimp wrapped in crispy beancurd skin, deepfried (like all good food is.) We also had some steamed shrimp dumplings and cokes served in ice cold tin cups. I am now convinced that that is the way god intended coca cola to be imbibed, so Atlanta you'd better listen up....

Pineapple, Chambord and vodka - was this created especially for Violet Dear?

A lurvely French martini at the Swissotel's 70th floor bar - we had a beautiful 360 view of all of Singapore with lightning as its decoration. The hotel was designed by I.M. Pei ( you know, the architect that Lisa Simpson references....) and it is a modernist's dream. The drinks, though exorbitantly priced, were wonderful - I recommend heading here for happy hour for a nice splurge.

Skinny jeans? Not for long, cabrones.

Choose. Your. Own. Tempura. Bar. Somebody open this in Vancouver please, so that I can always have 3 mushrooms, 2 asparagus, 1 onion chunk, 1 potato and 3 green beans instead of lame squash and pithy yam. The result was good - nice and crispy with light oil, tasty batter and perfectly cooked veggies.

Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Ohmigod. Cheese.

How much money can a person spend on cheese in Singapore? Well, let's just say too much. One stinky stinky blue, one slithery creamy brie and one peppery gouda with a Scottish red cheddar for good measure. All of that slathered on fresh rosemary focaccia. Am I even still in Asia?

Next time, S'pore. No wait - for this price probably never. I'd rather buy expensive make-up and food.

This one is a bit of a cheat - I didn't actually have a drink here. The Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel is where the Singapore Sling was invented, and at this colonial landmark you can still sip a cherry brandied delight - for 35 Canadian dollars. I'm in Asia - that drink had better come with a sexual favour! We passed, even though it meant missing out on drinking history....

Fish Biscuit.

I posted this photo in my facebook photo album, and tons of people reacted with "ewww!" and "wtf?" I realize that I forgot to mention that these have no fish in them whatsoever. These are Japanese waffles, stuffed with gooey dobs of sweet filling - I played it a bit safe and passed over durian for chocolate. It was a perfect little sugary snack - the waffle soft and spongey and the chocolate warm. I have since been informed that we have these in Vancouver - I am there.

Looka likea styrofoam, tastea likea heaven.

Seemingly every hawker stall in Singapore has a newspaper clipping enlarged and posted on their kiosk exclaiming that they are the best purveyor of blank in the city. This lady is apparently the queen of these little cakes stuffed with toasted coconut. I tried one, and I won't argue - yummy.

We waited in line for these for 15 minutes when no other stall had any business. That's how you know it's that good.

Here is another example of a famous hawker dish, served from the stall that has been deemed number 1 in Singapore by Makansutra, the street food guide. Soupy fried noodles with shrimp and squid, served in the husk of a betel tree (aficionados say that the husk gives them a special bitter flavour.) The broth was light and fishy (in a good way) and the prawns steamed perfectly atop two kinds of Chinese noodle. Bean sprouts rounded it out to add some crunch and freshness - win.

It was like a seafood Texas Chainsaw Massacre up in thar.....

Mastercrab - they didn't eff around when it came to naming their restaurant, now did they? This is in a sort of fancy outdoor foodcourt across the street from where our friend Tanya and her partner Peter live - they see fancy cars pull up here for some crab all the time, and so we decided to forgo a more swanky seafood place (I did that last time anyway, on Singapore Airline's dime.)

You guys know I like crab, right?

I have a bad habit of anthropomorphizing things, and well - doesn't this guy look he's about to take a bow? (He deserves one!)

Every city has its famous food - Chicago deep dish pizza, New York cheesecake, Montreal Poutine - I can go on. But none is so decadent, so exciting and so...well, crabby as Singapore Chili Crab. First created forty years ago, the half-cracked crab is served swimming in a savory mix of tomato, chilies and egg. It was amazing - I was covered in the thick succulent sauce from elbow to ear, sweating from the spice and ignoring my rice as per usual. It turns out they are the masters at crab.

It's the size of mah head!

I love pub quizzes, and it turns out that there is a great one right near Tanya and Peter's place. This was my first Hoegarden in Asia, and even though it was expensive (everything is in S'pore) I was in Heaven. This is like a private bucket of beer - I had to use two hands and even then it was touch and go....

I need-a dose-a this.... (groan)

If you have never eaten a South Indian dosa you are not my kind of person (I kid. Maybe you are anyway - but you should eat a dosa man, fast!) Dosas are a thin bubbly lentil pancake (sort of like crispy Ethiopian injera bread) filled with a masala potato mixture and then dipped (using only your right hand!) into a choice of runny sauces called sambars. Clockwise these were a really onion-y curry, shredded coconut sauce and a tomato-y mix that tasted like butter chicken (without the chicken, of course.) This is traditionally eaten for breakfast, but I love them anytime. This stall is also highly ranked by Makansutra.

Mooncakes. They sure are....special? Different?

Don't these look like they would taste sooo good and perfect - like Hello Kitty herself crafted them with her paws? Well, they don't. Mooncakes are a once-a-year treat served during the Chinese Lantern Festival - the traditional version is stuffed with lotus paste and duck egg yolk. These days you can also get fruit filled versions, and so we tried a Lotus (had to taste the original) a mango, a cranberry and a green tea. They tasted like raw floury dough and extremely sweet congealed jam. But they sure are cute!

At the airport. I won't lie. I won't be ashamed. McDonald's fries are a secret vice. We all have at least one (or twenty, if you are Violet Dear.)

So, should you visit Singapore for the architecture, the pre-fab tourist attractions and the shopping? Hell no. Go and eat. Like, really really EAT.

You won't be disappointed...


Nikki S. said...

HELLO!! I'm from Singapore and am so glad you loved the food here (:

Jason said...

I absolutely LOVE the crab eating pic at the top...hilarious!

Anonymous said...

My flight arrives in Singapore on Dcember 25th: I just can't wait to EAT there!!!

1 thing tho, the tempura places you have in Vancouver must be really gross if you don't like the yam and the squash: they are the best vegetable for tempura!!! Come to Japan so I can take you to a decent place!

By the way, the fish biscuit is called "taiyaki" and is usually filled with azuki bean paste.

Ohm and they have poutine?? Is it the REAL stuff with the squeaky cheese? I've had poutine in other countries, but they never have the right cheese!

aynzan said...

Oh Boy! This post is making me hungry...The first picture says it all!!!!! The food looks so scrumptious.I love Dosa too ,it's available in Indian restaurants here.

Violet Dear said...

@kanmuri - I just hate the squash and yam - too boring for me! :) (In Vancouver we have AMAZING Japanese food)

I did google poutine - there is one place that has it in S'pore but apparently it is not so good. If you are going to Phnom Penh, Saigon or Hanoi I know a good place! In Hanoi and Sigon it is Le Pub (they have locations in each city) and it is really good. In Phnom Penh they have a good one at the Lazy Gecko. Good luck!

Geeta said...

You had me at "dosa" :) Excited to find you - didn't expect your blog to be what it is considering the title.

A fellow worldly individual! Although I must say, I'm actually just biased to India... haha

Dosa are delicious :) I have to say though, the orange/yellow soup substance is sambar, while the other two are coconut and onion chutneys... & dosa aren't always filled with potatoes (thanks God), masala dosai are ... i prefer them without... delicious dosa with a bit of chutney is pretty much a daily breakfast :))

Happy travels! Look forward to more photos!!

thatsorad said...

AHHH! I love it! dang I should eat my way around the world but there would be no plane big enough to carry me home. :) So fun I love your expressions!....and tats!

tanya said...

Looks great! I'll show this to all my future visitors :)

- Tanya

Desmond said...

Hi, just to correct a mistake, mooncakes are eaten during the mid-autumn festival, it is directly translated from Chinese. It really isn't called lantern festival.

Wesley Bacon said...


Grant said...

I'm like it, your new camera.

u would eat crab in a stall
u would eat crab in a mall
u would eat it in hot sauce
u would eat it just becauce

But dude! French fries! Are u freaking kidding me. Some of these things are not like the other, some of these things just don't belong.
Take high glycemic processed white potatoes and saturate in who knows what transfat forming ungodly carcinogen acrylamides!
Not all truths need to be spoken. Dude, major buzz kill.

Anonymous said...

Thats nice. I like that. Thanks for that.

a.d.f. said...

I think I just went into a food coma.

Peckish said...

Jealous jealous jealous! I HAVE to take my old roommate up on her offer to visit. (And good choice passing up on the durian - you'd STILL be tasting it)

Sproglet said...

My GAWD you're making me hungry! I only had breakfast a couple of hours ago.

You DO realise that your blog has so far inspired me to take a cooking lesson in Hanoi and visit Kep for the crab.......you must stop posting pictures of delicious meals before I end up resembling a pumpkin.

....I was only joking....I can't cope without twice weekly food porn