Sunday, September 14, 2008

Singapore Slings And Other Treats

My sincere apologies for the blogging hiatus. After slaving through the bar examination, I packed my bags and made my way to Southeast Asia, in an attempt to clear my head of legalese and celebrate with plenty of sunshine, tourist traps, local food, and of course, beer. Copious amounts of beer.

I stopped by Singapore to visit my friend Amy who had recently moved to the island for work, thus ending our notable streak of merrymaking in the Sunshine State. But at least it gave me one more excuse to add Singapore to my itinerary. The country is really a melting pot of many cultures, which makes it a fascinating place for tourists because they can experience the colors, flavors, and traditions of different ethnic groups within a fairly small area. You can start off your day in the busy Chinatown district, have lunch on Arab Street, and then top off your night by wandering around Little India. It's multi-cultural heaven.

So it was no surprise that the local food reflected the influence of many different ethnicities. Among other specialties, Singapore is known for its chili crabs, roti prata (Indian flatbread), laksa (rice noodles in a broth of coconut milk and spices), and kaya (a jam made from eggs, sugar, and cocount milk).

Another local favorite - Hainan chicken rice

This was my favorite dish from all my meals in Singapore. Originating from the Hainan Island of China, it simply features chicken poached in a broth of ginger, garlic, and chicken fat. Sounds simple enough, yet most of the ones I've tried in the States were too dry and chewy to leave much of a good impression. But the little dish of chicken pictured above had meat that was wonderfully smooth, tender, and juicy. Hurrah!

I had several of my meals at "hawker centers" - food centers with stall after stall of cheap local fare. Hawker centers are found in all of Singapore's residential districts, and there are over 120 total on the island. Pictured above - egg noodles (the same kind used in wonton noodle soup) with Chinese barbecued pork.

Like a good tourist, I made sure to check out the famous Raffles Hotel. Sir Stamford Raffles was a British administrator who founded the modern Singapore in the 1800s. The Hotel was named after Raffles and opened in 1887, making it the oldest hotel in the country. The Hotel became a national monument in 1987 and reopened after restoration in 1991, and is now both a gorgeous hotel and dine-and-shop spot. The Singapore Sling cocktail originated from the hotel's Long Bar.

A golden afternoon with tea and tiramisu at Ah Teng's Bakery in the hotel

And while we're on the subject of desserts...

Mango pudding with sago (a starch similar to tapioca), mango slices, pomelo,
and mango ice cream. Absolutely perfect.

Aside from the food and ethnic districts, there are lots of other touristy attractions in Singapore, including the numerous museums, the award-winning Singapore Zoo (Inuka the polar bear is awesome), and the beautiful Singapore River.

The National Museum of Singapore
Gorgeous architecture and a redefinition of the museum experience

Overall, a great country to explore for a week, and I definitely wouldn't mind coming back! Stay tuned for photos from Bali!


Erica said...

Oooh so lovely, *sigh. You need pix from the zoo! I will get them to you.

foodhoe said...

wow, I see Hainanese chicken on menus frequently and know it is a dearly loved dish by many, but wish we could find a source for one like that around here! Your trip sounds delicious, sometimes a chance of scenery does wonders to clear your head....

Passionate Eater said...

Wow, what a trip! I can't wait to see the others in this series!

Chubbypanda said...

No worries! I was a pretty quiet this summer too. Public education in the States conditions us to relax in the summer, even when we've been out of school for years.