In Singapore: When in Doubt, eat!
It’s fun to be crazy in a new place, even in a place that is orderly and disciplined that is Singapore. And having been advised that cleanliness is a big deal in the Lion City, I bravely adopted the motto, “When in doubt, eat.”
I started out tame, although I’d been wanting to rush to the nearest hawker center to start my culinary adventure. I took my first lunch at Subway which is maybe 50 steps away from the Grand Hyatt (where I was so happy with my room and the buffets). I was a little bit disappointed with the Subway branch’s green pepper, because they were not as hot as I wanted and expected. But that’s forgivable, the sandwich was good, like always. The dinner that night was at a Japanese restaurant along Orchard. Uhmm, it was terribly unremarkable, so let me stop at that. Lunch the next day was at Santa Fe, a Tex Mex outdoor restobar a few steps beyond Subway. I had spicy chicken wings and fried mozzarella, and I found them good and filling.
Fun started at the Night Safari where we had buffet dinner. I enjoyed all the dishes, but I should give the spicy vermicelli with squid special mention. Muy delicioso! And kudos to Terrapinn which went to great lengths to get the zoo to serve our delegation wine. Then just before we hopped on the tram for the tour, I got two stuff toys — a gentle giraffe and a tiger-ette snatched from one of the nearby tables by one of the organizers of the event (thanks so much, P!).
I salute the people who conceptualized the Night Safari. It was exciting to be with the lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinoceros, and all the zoo animals sans the walls and viewing windows, which have always made me sad even as a child. I would have wanted to get nearer the animals, to have taken the walking tour instead, but I was with a group and a little daring on my part wouldn’t be appreciated. Nonetheless, it was thrilling to close my eyes in the dark, listen to the sounds of the ‘wild,’ and feel the cool air of the rainforest. For a moment I felt like Jane, minus my Tarzan but nonetheless happy.
After work the following day, a Wednesday, the Singapore Sling just could not wait. Already. Right where it was created. So, upon wise advice from locals that taxis would be scarce at rush hour, we headed to the MRT station at the corner of Scotts and Orchard. It was funny how we did trial and error with the ticket dispensers, queued at the platform, and counted stations until we reached our stop.
We found the Long Bar after asking directions from two ladies having dinner at the Raffles Shopping Center. Two Singapore Slings, one martini, and off we go thoroughly enjoying dropping peanut shells on the floor. We were obvious first-timers (who cares, we’re tourists! Hahaha!) that the head waiter approached us with a card that introduced us to Tiger Lily, a drink that is part of the bar’s history, a concoction that tasted “mysterious” to me. Totally Oriental.
From there, we headed to popular Jumbo Restaurant along the Marina for crabs and prawns. To go with that, we ordered fried rice with salted fish and chicken, which was a winner in itself because it was so tasty I could eat it without anything else. It was a very satisfying meal. Our table was outside the main section of the restaurant a few meters from the water. The air was cool, the company was fun, I am really happy that I was sent on a business trip to Singapore.
In the cab on our way back to the hotel, we passed by the Newton Hawker Center and we had an impromptu stop. We saw more crabs, prawns, and other interesting dishes. Pity we were so full already we wouldn’t do justice to any dish if we ordered one. We thought we could have lunch there the next day, but it wasn’t meant to be.
By mid-afternoon Thursday, I was left to prowl Singapore on my own.
I headed to Borders to investigate the books. I went straight to the music section hoping I’d find the music sheet for Hymne de L’Amour/If You Love Me (interpreted by Josh Groban in one of his albums). To my disappointment, I realized that the “music” in the sign outside of Wheelock Place refers to recorded music (there was a big section allotted for CDs etc.), and there is a just a limited selection of music pieces in the store’s books collection.
After scanning the first few pages of a Ken Wilbur book, I walked to Wisma Atria where I found the Food Republic. I immediately asked someone where I could find Hainanese Chicken Rice.
I wasn’t exactly hungry but I ordered the set meal and cleaned my plate! The chicken was sooooo tender, the flavoring so subtle. I loved the ginger sauce, and the chili completed the experience. I didn’t bother to get water until I finished my plate because I didn’t want to wash away the taste. Excellent! And for just SG$6!
I was finding my way to the beverages kiosk when a crisp-fried prawn cake caught my eye. The lady behind the counter couldn’t speak English so she couldn’t answer when I asked how the prawn cake was supposed to be eaten. Before hesitation caught me full on, I ordered a piece, which the guy in the neighboring stall had re-fried in his effort to assist the lady and myself. I found a flavor in the prawncake I couldn’t identify, but I enjoyed eating it and having tried something new.
Still on my way to buy a bottle of water, I bought a bag of Jack n Jill potato chips (a Filipino brand) because the flavor is one that isn’t available in the Philippines: Chili Salsa. It was good! I further checked the writings on the packaging and saw that the chips was manufactured by URC Malaysia. I wonder if the flavor would ever be sold in the Philippine market.
I walked around and along Orchard for a few hours. By 9 p.m. I was hungry again, so I thought I should try the restaurant recommended by friends whom I consulted on how-to-have-fun in Singapore.
I found the House of Peranakan Cuisine of Meridien Negara Hotel without any problem. The head waiter gamely helped me choose from the the menu, in which I read that Peranakan cuisine must be the very first fusion cuisine ever, of Malay, Chinese and European influences. Service was prompt and friendly, soon I had before me a deep fried roll of minced pork and prawns. I recognized the taste of watercress in it and a bit of carrots and onions. It was served with a thick soy-based sauce, and chili, of course. Then there was pomfret in chili garam (garam is Bahasa for salt) which is crispy-fried pomfret topped with salt-and-spicy pepper sauce, flavored with lemongrass and lotus flower. Well, you know me, my plates were clean when I left my table.
Early the following day, my last day in Singapore, I took a short trip to the temples on Waterloo Street. Even though I did not know the gods and goddesses the East Indian and the Chinese people paid respects to, I, too, said thanks for all the blessing I receive. I loved the joyous sound of percussion instruments coming from the Indian temple, it was lovely to see the people saluting the Sun at the Chinese temple, and it was so fascinating to watch the people stopping by to light incense. I was about to look for a cab that will take me to a hotel already but I thought it would be nice to go to the nearest Catholic church. I found St. Joseph’s, and I said a short prayer in the quiet, almost empty church.
Hungry for breakfast, I took a peek at the goodies in the nearby hawker center. It was a bit crowded so I walked some more and found a quieter set of food stalls. I saw one that sold curry puffs (their version of empanadas) and I chose one with sardine filling. From another stall, I bought a cold glass of Milo. Yum, yum! A beautiful breakfast to top a beautiful morning.
If you think that I’m done tasting the foodies of Singapore, I’d be glad to tell you that I had California maki and salmon sashimi at the Sushi Genki at Changi. They were good, and reasonably priced, too! At the Premier Lounge, I couldn’t resist another serving of honeydew and melon.
Whew! What a nice food trip it has been! I got enough yummy memories with which to drink champagne on the flight back to Manila.