The one place in Singapore I absolutely loved was Chinatown. Truth be told I’d be comfortable in a Chinatown in any city. I’m already involved in a mad passionate love affair with their food, but I’m starting to fall in love with all things Chinese. I spent half a day walking through china town trying to take in everything and feverishly clicking away on my new camera.
I managed to visit a Chinese temple which is beautifully colourful and even as I try to compare it with a Hindu temple or a parsi fire temple, it’s just very different. The common denominator is that its peaceful, welcoming and serene. Thankfully they allow you to take pictures inside.
The streets are filled with little shops and stalls selling knick knacks and souvenirs and even though I didn’t really want to buy any, I ended up picking up odd things which were either adorable or extremely useful ( case in point, fixed chopsticks with lil minions on them so it becomes really easy to eat with).
The people are extremely friendly and I had strict instructions to pick up ‘ wife biscuits’ which I later realised are locally made and of course my father’s Chinese five spice powder and curry powder. The biscuits were easy and available at a local bakery and for some reason reminded me of our typical parsi treat ‘ daar ni pori’ which I’m not a fan off so I didn’t really eat the biscuits.
I spotted the curry powder in a local meat and masala shop and ended up chatting with the owner who explained how sesame oil is vital to their cooking and conveniently palmed one bottle onto me. He made me try something called Pork Floss, which is dry shredded pork but looks,feels and tastes likea pork flavoured ‘ buddhi ka baal or suterfeni’ mithai. It was delicious and I wish I had taken some back home!
The Chinese five spice powder seemed to elude me at every shop and after asking every shop I ended up in the basement of some building at their ‘ wet ‘ market. As the name suggests, it was stinky, smelly, had various animals skinned and hanging around, fruit sellers, cold cuts , what not and I felt like I came to Singapore’s Crawford Market – I loved it !!
I could spent all day eating, tasting powders, taking pictures and chatting up vendors but sadly on this trip I really was pressed for time. Got my five spice powder easily but would have definitely explored more and brought back enough to experiment with.
It isn’t possible that I come to Chinatown or Singapore for that matter and not eat at one of their Hawker Centers. I could have eaten at any Hawker Centre but thanks to Anthony Bourdain and the Lonely Planet I insisted on eating at the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and specifically at the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice Stall no 10.
It would be a shame to come to Singapore and not try the local favourite Chicken rice. It’s literally a boiled chicken ( the entire bird ) cooked in a deliciously flavourful broth served with rice and a little spicy sauce on the side. It doesn’t look very impressive and I kept wondering what the hype is all about but it really is filling and a simple tasty dish. It’s very similar to what we call at home ” murghi na ras chawal ” comfort food at its best.
I think Singapore can’t go wrong with their food. Apart from the Chicken Rice we got a roast duck from another stall and for the first time I actually enjoyed duck, I find it an overrated type of meat. The raw mango salad and some sort of Chinese chicken in what I think was black bean sauce with rice were all delicious. I wish I had more place to indulge in something more local like fish ball soup but the portions here are way too big for this tiny taster.