City of cheap, diverse and hygienic street food. Of strict laws and high fines. Of a humid hot climate. Of street vendors and prostitutes and incredible modern high rises. Singapore!
We arrived late in the evening. As we made our way to the hotel we squeezed passed street vendors selling all kinds of pills and other wares, people doing their shopping or having a meal at one of the many little bars along Geylangs streets and prostitutes standing around chatting. It rained warm drops and the incredible humidity made us sweat and struggle with our heavy bakpacks on our backs. It was a relief to put down our packs and take a shower before heading out for a midnight meal. We fell in love straight away. There were innumerable bars and restaurants to choose from and everywhere people were eating and socialising. So we didn’t have to look far and sat down at a little bar/restaurant on a corner. For $6 we filled up on noodles, rice and chicken and got excited about all the street food to come in the next few days.
In the days that followed we walked around different neighbourhoods and tried so many different foods. And every part of town has its own specialities. Lots of good street food is to be found in Hawker Centres, big food courts with little food stalls and plenty of choice. In Chinatown we ate Hainanese Chicken, one of the national dishes of Singapore that came from Chinese immigrants from the Hainan province. Simple and delicious. We also tried Black Fried Carrot Cake which has nothing to do with the sweet carrot cake we are used to. This carrot cake is made with radish and rice flour and is made into cubes and stir-fried. The flavour was delicious, the consistency interesting. In a lot of bars and shops the beer was quite expensive so we were happy to find a terrace in an alley with reasonably priced beers and absolutely delicious chicken satay. One of our favourite dishes. Little India was also a feast for the senses. We sat down for lunch and had amazing spicy curries and Chicken Biryani. The rice was amazing with so many flavours, so many spices. We loved every bit of it, even the runny noses and sweaty foreheads caused by copious amounts of chilli. We went back for dinner another day and had Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken, delicious Naan bread and Mango Lassi. The waiter was a good salesman and got us to order more than we planned for but it was worth it. And being the only Westerners in the restaurant is always a good sign. In Geylang, the neighbourhood where we stayed, we had several meals. We ate at a Chinese restaurant and tried a whole bunch of different dim sum style foods. Fried and steamed. We also tried Kaya Toast. A popular snack and breakfast food. We got toast with Kaya, which is coconut jam and delicious. And then came two plastic bowls that each contained 2 eggs in hot water. We had no idea so started getting an egg out of the water when the, incredibly old, waiter came running, exclaiming “no no no”. Turned out we had to wait for 5 minutes. Then you can crack your eggs onto a little plate, add white pepper and soy sauce and dip the toast into the half boiled egg. Good flavours but the egg white was a bit too slimy and runny for my liking. Our favourite breakfast food had to be Roti Prata, a sort of pancake served with curry. Toby loved the ones with egg and onion and I couldn’t get enough of the banana one. Yummie sweetness combined with spicy curry, perfect. Another dish we tried twice was Laksa, a Malaysian spicy, coconut milky, noodle soup with some prawns and egg. The second time we ate this was at a bar where it was so busy with locals, drinking beers and prostitutes looking for customers, it was cool to be amongst all the hustle and bustle. On our last day we ate at a Hawker Centre in Geylang, the Serai Food Centre. Here we found very different street food than in the Hawker centres around Chinatown. This is because Geylang has a big Malay community. There were many different nasi dishes so we tried one of those and had a delicious Indonesian Gado-Gado. The man we shared our table with was amazing at eating with his hand. I have tried it before but it just ends up in a mess so I stick with cutlery these days.
All in all we had an amazing street food journey through Singapore. And since the hygiene standards are generally quite high, we didn’t have to worry about food poisoning, which makes eating just that bit more pleasant! Now back to European cuisine.