A melting pot of Asian cultures with tastes to delight, entice and surprise – Anthony Bourdain says while New York is the city that never sleeps, Singapore is the city that never stops eating and my stomach was ready for all the Big Apple of the Orient could serve up.
Food stalls lined the waterfront and chili lingered in the air tickling my nostrils, the humidity was heavy with the scent of grilled meats and garlic. Flavours I wasn’t familiar with we’re flying around me and I was ready to rumble!
It was the first day of a 10 day Asian holiday for my husband Luke and I. After around 7 hours on the plane we arrived in Singapore and headed straight to Makansutra Glutton’s Bay on the esplanade of Raffles Ave across from Marina Bay Sands. It’s a Singapore food institution with a feast of South East Asian creations on offer from Hong Kong dim sum to Thai stir-fries.
I spotted the cart with the longest line and joined in. As good of a philosophy as any I was going with the ‘majority rules’ way of thinking so BBQ chicken wings and white style ‘carrot cake’ it was. So cheap too, my huge wings were $1.40SNG each and the strange dish called carrot cake (but no cream cheese frosting in sight) just $4 SNG.
On later Google inspection the South East Asian ‘carrot cake’ actually doesn’t contain carrot at all but white radish, known locally as ‘white carrot’. It’s combined with rice flour steamed into cakes and then stir fried with eggs, garlic and spring onion. It’s combination with the grilled wings and a chili sauce, that could knock your socks off and blow your hair back at the same time, was simply divine. I now know why the line was so big.
With the grand sum of $8.20SNG spent and only one cart down my husband and I decided it would be remiss of us not to sample more in the name of research. For round two we headed to the Rong Guang BBQ Seafood cart nearest to the water. Luke’s turn to choose and I appreciated his method, again going for the big sellers. Though we did forgo the ever popular chili crab because the portion was huge. In our search I’d spotted a desert cart and I didn’t want to fall short of the third round of my self motivated culinary challenge. Instead we opted for seafood fried rice and an Asian greens dish that seemed to be in every second order. Not the most adventurous looking plate of greenery, more like something your mum might make you order in lieu of you digestive health but one bite from the sautéed green salad and I was hooked.
Hands down better than the juicy, marinated for 10 hours then cooked over an open flame, chicken wings, no word of a lie.
The homeward stretch was at The Sweet Spot for an icy sweet rainbow concoction of I don’t know what. I was scared when I saw the word ‘durian’ applied in almost all desert options. From experience and watching far too many Foxtel travel programs I knew this fruit packs a foul smelling punch some compare to rotten stinky cheese. It was a toxic odor I wasn’t keen on so I communicated with avid gesticulations of pointing, crossing my arms, shaking my finger and covering the word that I wanted, “No Durian”. The drama was really not necessary as everyone I encountered in Singapore spoke amazing English but I am partial to a touch of theatrics.
Moving on to my desert- Kachang, I think, was the name of this sweet shaved iced based treat and while I’m not entirely sure of the ingredients at a guess I’d say coconut milk, maybe condensed milk, some kind of sweet sauce, some beans of some kind and some starchy Nickelodian slime green coloured lollies and it was good! Sickly sweet, blessedly cool (Singapore is only 1.5 degrees from the equator and around 25-32 degrees year round so cool is good) and refreshing. Three from three is a success in my eyes.
Time for a bonus round, clichéd as it might be, I don’t care I had to visit Raffles for the obligatory Singapore Sling. If like my husband you aren’t aware of the history the Singapore Sling was invented in this iconic British colonial hotel back in the early 1900s now famous worldwide it’s a cocktail pilgrimage to pull up at stool and sip a sling where it all began, not to mention a great Kodak moment for hoards of tourists.
Arriving at Raffles front steps I felt grand, such an amazing piece of architecture Raffles clean white columns were a beaming homage to a bygone era. The famous Long Bar possibly a little less luxurious than I expected. More of a casual throw your peanut shells on the floor kinda place. But the charm and the character of the place was engrained the custom timber bar tops and I imagined the people that had passed through over the years.
The seven piece band was impressive in style but as they belted out Tina Turner Simply the Best and the deep voiced male lead, who seemed to channel a bit of Kamahl (both in his deep serenading baritone and his appearance) channeled the Bealtes and Blue Berry Hill I couldn’t help giggling and feeling like I was on an eighties TV show. It couldn’t have been a scene from ‘the Love Boat’ as they dedicated a love song to the ‘two honeymooners at the bar’ I think that was us, though it was not our honeymoon I felt chuffed at the complement until the next three love songs were dedicated to other ‘honeymooners’ and I realised it was a staple line in their repertoire.
I can say my Singapore Sling was delicious. It cost almost more than my food stall feast but delicious all the same. And there’s a whole menu of Singapore Sling varietals… I needed to go into extra time and order round two or are we up to round five now? I’ve lost count, it must be the result of the Singapore Sling…