Singapore, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
November 21 – 25, 2011 / March 1, 2013
Singaporean cuisine was certainly not bad; it just was not distinctive. The city was a melting pot, so was its kitchen. Local dishes called to mind other Asian cuisines. Rather “reductive,” to borrow Madonna’s vocabulary. Still, I relished all its familiarity, more so its sweets. As the most universal taste, sweetness did not demand uniqueness.
Ice Cream Sandwich
I had EJ, my SG-based friend, to thank for introducing me to this sweet street food. The concept was so simple, it was ingenious: a precision-cut block of ice cream wedged between two thin wafers. What better way to cool a warm evening stroll along Orchard Road? If only the vendors were as cool and sweet. They were mostly barking gibberish while waving away their customers’ cameras. Such unsettling antisocial behavior in a tourist belt. Well, welcome to SG!
Like its sellers, the Orchard Road variety was cruder, with sliced bread slapped on an ice cream block, than the ones in the Singapore River promenade, which used wafer. Both times, I chose durian flavor, its distinct taste not easily overpowered by creamy sweetness. We had durian ice cream in my city but not as common as in SG and Malaysia. In Kuala Lumpur, I found a piece of heaven in a mall stall, Kios Durian Durian, which sold everything durian-flavored – from cream puff to ice cream.
I had my fellow blogger, LostBoy Lloyd, to thank for introducing me to this popular SG brekky fare in his blog. Coconut custard, pandan, and butter on toast – what was not to love? Reductive as usual, the taste reminded me of pan de coco, one of my favorite bread back home, exactly why it was love at first bite.
Mom and I got our kaya and kopi fix at Toast Box in Suntec Food Republic while waiting to board the Duck Tour. The chain sounded familiar; I had seen, though not visited, a branch in a mall in Manila. My next kaya would be in Kuala Lumpur, also in a mall – Nyonya Colors in Suria KLCC. They served it with raw egg. I cracked a hole on the egg and sucked the albumin and yolk out. Perfect companion piece to kaya toast; they fit to a T.
High Tea and Scones
When in SG, we did as the Singaporeans did…when they were British subjects. I had my sister to thank for insisting on having high tea, or afternoon tea, a leftover colonial custom. It was a whiff of fresh air to experience this ultra-mod city’s heritage. In a rather anachronistic twist, we had our tea and tete-a-tete in a mall, the swanky ION Orchard.
Tea time at Marmalade Pantry was at a specific time window from 3 to 6 in the afternoon. Not much of a tea person, I fixated on the three-tiered tea stand of red velvet cupcakes, buttermilk scones, strawberry preserve, finger sandwiches, and clotted cream. But tea time was all about keeping a stiff upper lip, so I took time savoring each delicate morsel, never mind I couldn’t tell a cupcake from a scone to save my face.
While I would remember SG mostly for its sweets, I did consider it a city for foodies. I had our hostess with the mostest, Olive, to thank for making eating out an event each time. Funny thing though, I had survived all kinds of local food in many developing countries, but only in the cleanest and most progressive country in Southeast Asia was I downed by the nastiest intestinal flu that put me out of circulation for a week. Epicurean fail.