FOOD TRIPPING IN SINGAPORE

My kind of breakfast - scrambled eggs and mushroom.

My kind of breakfast – scrambled eggs and mushroom.

Danny Chaplin, one of the nicest PR people I worked with when I was still residing in Singapore, had a new toy and the results from playing with it were fantastic. His pictures – uploaded to Facebook – were sharp (among other things). One showed a food stall and I wished, for a moment, I could go through a wormhole, grab a chair and enjoy a plate of boneless Hainanese chicken at Tiong Bahru. Singapore, if you think about it, is really all about food after you’ve done all the shopping and sightseeing around the touristy areas.

Although Singapore is lousy with tourists anytime of the year, a newcomer to the burgeoning city – increasing population is making the news these days – won’t go wrong with a food map as a guide to the Garden City where, to quote my former editor, “You are spoilt for choice.” It was her favourite phrase to describe a tourist destination that I agreed with, which in our working relationship was a rare occasion.

The design is understated at Toast Box but the breakfast sets speak volume of taste.

The design is understated at Toast Box but the breakfast sets speak volume of taste.

Anyone for buttered toast and eggs for brekkie?

Anyone for buttered toast and eggs for brekkie?

Food tripping can begin the traditional way of repasts. Breakfast at the hotel, I’d dare say, is anti-climactic. The choices are somewhat limited and you wouldn’t want to be cooped up in the hotel no matter how avant garde its surroundings are or superb their staffs are. Unlike most Singaporeans whose breakfast is either fried rice or fried noodles, I am a bread-in-the morning person, and the choice was the off shoot of Bread Talk. Toast Box had just opened for the day so finding a place to sit was a breeze and politesse was surprisingly present. Breakfast of the day: two sets of sugar butter toast with boiled eggs and kopi (coffee with condensed milk). Although I favour Ya Kun Kaya Toast for their toast set, Toast Box’s sets were far from insipid. They actually give Ya Kun Kaya a run for their money!

A perfect partner for scrambled eggs and mushroom - spiced cappuccino.

A perfect partner for scrambled eggs and mushroom – spiced cappuccino.

Breakfast the next day was at TCC (The Connoisseur Concerto). Together with a gal-pal who relocated to the city for work, breakfast was an extremely satisfying indulgence for our last day in the city. My choice was Hearty Breakfast with Eggs & Shrooms, which is scrambled eggs, thick slices of wholemeal bread and sautéed mushrooms. I paired it with Spiced Cappuccino, and its hints of cinnamon and nutmeg danced beautifully on my palate.

The breakfast of champions - eggs, ham, and sausage.

The breakfast of champions – eggs, ham, and sausage.

The feel of breakfast in Paris - croissant with scrambled eggs and ham.

The feel of breakfast in Paris – croissant with scrambled eggs and ham.

Gal-pal opted for American Breakfast or classic scrambled eggs with chicken nürnberger sausage and chicken ham, served with sun-dried tomato toast and oven-roasted vine-ripened tomatoes. Meanwhile, my father tucked into flaky croissant and scrambled eggs, cheese slices and chicken ham, also known as Morning in Paris.

Not far from the conversation was the subject of lunch. Two reasons: one, we were on holiday so diets definitely took a hike and, second, a discussion on where to eat is a serious matter when you’re in Singapore because of the myriad choices. You don’t want to regret what arrives at your table. The unanimous decision was a more Asian flavour so we headed to Hong Kong Noodle Place. I love Hong Kong noodles; they’re thin and springy. And what is a Hong Kong meal if it is without the iconic Peking duck and deep-fried wanton? I revelled in the meal and the absence of din that permeates local HK eateries – bowls and Chinese spoons landing with a bang on the table, the rapid-paced chatter in the entire eatery – and the unsmiling service crew. It could be worse – they could have been officious or completely wrapped in total apathy.

Hong Kong noodles with shrimp is always a winning choice for lunch or dinner or even snack.

Hong Kong noodles with shrimp is always a winning choice for lunch or dinner or even snack.

Noodles, wanton and duck - a taste of Hong Kong for lunch.

Noodles, wanton and duck – a taste of Hong Kong for lunch.

Lunch the previous day was hotel-based. I was determined for my father to experience Carousel. Dinner at Carousel on arrival in Singapore was a no-go; tables had been pre-booked days in advance. Fortunately, they had a table for lunch the following day. Like every buffet in town, it has all the food stations you can possibly imagine, but unlike other buffets the taste is consistent, meaning the roast chicken, for instance, is always succulent and flavourful, the seafood (shrimp, mussel, oyster and crayfish) is always fresh and the bread-and-butter pudding  is still creamily delectable. A new feature that had diners queuing is the Brewing station next to the Japanese station. It had a Nespresso Latissima, an ultra-modern coffee machine. The steps are easy: select coffee capsule, drop coffee capsule into a slot, press small cup or large cup (it really depends on the type of coffee capsule), wait for it and presto! Your freshly brewed coffee is ready.

Start with sushi and salad at Carousel.

Start with sushi and salad at Carousel.

Follow up the first round with chicken, seafood and couscous.

Follow up the first round with chicken, seafood and couscous.

Reserved under your name at Carousel.

Reserved under your name at Carousel.

A delectable triumvirate - (clockwise), bread-and-butter-pudding, chocolate tart and creme brulee.

A delectable triumvirate – (clockwise), bread-and-butter-pudding, chocolate tart and creme brulee.

A best-seller: bread-and-butter pudding drizzled with vanilla cream sauce.

A best-seller: bread-and-butter pudding drizzled with vanilla cream sauce.

Dinner was creeping up us faster than our metabolism could burn all the calories. Walking about and taking in the consumerist ambience of the Garden City was a very good pre-dinner activity. The landscape easily renders tourists dumbstruck! That you can almost find anything in Singapore is what I miss about the city I once called home. There is a Kinokuniya, for instance in Jakarta, but pales to the voluminous collection of the Takashimaya outlet. Orchard Road, after all, is a pseudo-Oxford Road, shops lined up on parallel lanes. Food choices are also multifarious in Singapore unlike where I am right now where I struggle to find asparagus (fresh or days old) in Bekasi. However, I am comforted by the fact that Japanese mushrooms are available every now and then, and my fave Japanese tea is now a permanent item at Giant hypermart.

For our first night in the city, it was food court dinner at the basement of Takashimaya. It had been renovated – the stalls had brighter signs and bigger pictures, and the eating area was bigger than usual. The affair was low-key: non-spicy black carrot cake for me and rice, vegetables, and sweet and sour fish for dear old dad. Our second night’s dinner was a little grander. It was at Asian Market Café with my other gal-pal. It was a smorgasbord of international and popular Singapore-Malay delights but what really caught my attention were the stalls opposite the international food stations. They featured kueh pie tee (picture a spring roll in a pastry cup topped with shredded egg), laksa (the soupier and spicier version of the Philippine’s pancit luglog) and egg prata (Indian “pancake”). Admittedly, I’ve missed some local Singapore-Malay dishes. Dessert was a ho-hum affair but there was a moment of palate-pleasing with the Portuguese egg tart that was absent at Carousel.

I prefer my carrot cake with sweet black sauce without the chili.

I prefer my carrot cake with sweet black sauce without the chili.

DIY kueh pie tee - ladle the pastry cup with all the ingredients (including the one inside the pot).

DIY kueh pie tee – ladle the pastry cup with all the ingredients (including the one inside the pot).

Blanch the noodles quickly and mix all the ingredients together for a bowl of piping hot laksa.

Blanch the noodles quickly and mix all the ingredients together for a bowl of piping hot laksa.

Egg, cheese or onion inside your prata - it's your choice.

Egg, cheese or onion inside your prata – it’s your choice.

Flaky crust and soft custard centre - that's a true-blue Portuguese egg tart.

Flaky crust and soft custard centre – that’s a true-blue Portuguese egg tart.

There’s no definitive food map to follow while in Singapore. What every tourist – old and new – does is look at a previous one courtesy of a friend, hotel concierge or Singapore Tourism Board and then tweak it to their heart’s desire. And there lies the beauty of a holiday in Singapore – your tummy is your guide.

ESTABLISHMENT

DETAILS

Asian Market Café Level 2, Fairmont Hotel

80 Bras Basah Road

Tel: (+65) 6431 6156

http://www.fairmont.com/Singapore

Carousel Royal Plaza on Scotts

25 Scotts Road

Tel: (+65) 6589 7700

http://www.carouselbuffet.com.sg

TCC 350 Orchard Road Level 2 Shaw HouseTel: (+65) 6235 5622

http://www.theconnoisseurconcerto.com

Toast Box 313@ Somerset

313 Orchard Road #05-01/02/03

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