Saturday, April 10, 2010

Singapore: Flowers & Food

It's been more than a month since I returned from Singapore. This is my last set of pictures that I have to show from my trip and the only reason it's taken this long is because life has been hectic both at home and at work lately. The food in Singapore is one of the most amazing parts though, so I couldn't leave it out.

I may have mentioned before that Singapore has a lot of malls. Many of them seem to be your basic mall that you can find in the US, but some at least have some interesting stores or restaurants that you would not find here. There are also some very high-end malls like the ION mall on Orchard which has LED lighting all over it on the outside and is very beautiful both inside and out. This mall is very high-tech (you should see the interactive mall directory!) and has some very high-end stores (Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Diane von Furstenberg). There was a small (sort of) but nice mall walking distance from my hotel called Tanglin Mall. Apparently a lot of ex-pats shop here, such as the Alabama native I met who calls Singapore her home now.

On my flight to Singapore (or right before it), I came down with a terrible cold and so didn't want to go very far when I woke up my first day there. So, I wandered over to the mall and found this adorable little restaurant called Oomphatico's to eat breakfast. I had their espresso breakfast which was basically a croissant and focaccia with juice and "espresso", which didn't seem any stronger than any of the "coffee" I had anywhere in Singapore (which reminds me of cafe con leche that you can get at any Latin or Spanish restaurant, but without the "leche").


espresso breakfast at Oomphatico's

The flowers in restaurants, hotels, and even the malls were beautiful in Singapore. This was a flower arrangement hanging off of a chandelier in Tanglin Mall.

flowers at Tanglin Mall

Later my first day I felt better and, as I mentioned in a previous post, I walked around Chinatown a bit. A co-worker had told me I must try what is simply called chicken rice which is often sold at food stalls. I found some of these stalls across from the temple I visited there, called Maxwell Food Center. I walked around the very long hallways of stalls twice before I decided what I wanted. It said in my guidebook that it was safest to eat at food stalls with an A or B rating. Almost every food stall I saw (during my entire trip) had at least a B rating, with just a few A ratings. I came across a chicken rice stall that had a very long line, which I took as a good sign. I later noticed this was the exact one also mentioned (and pictured) in my guidebook. There was a poster up of Anthony Bordain recommending it, and again here. Actually, I also found a NYT article he wrote (reposted on someone's blog) that describes quite a lot of Singapore's great food.

Maxwell's Food Center in Chinatown

Anyway, the chicken rice stall was worth it, even with the bald chickens with their heads still on hanging upside down.

Hiananese Chicken Rice stall

A plate of this very bland-looking (but not bland-tasting) dish with a side of hot sauce, cucumbers, and broth is only about US $2.25. It tastes amazing. Here in Atlanta, you can find it at Penang, a Malaysian restaurant that I love, but I haven't tried this particular dish there yet.

Hiananese Chicken Rice

Another thing I tried at the food stalls was a couple of fritters. I tried both a peanut and a sweet potato fritter. These were about the size of a golf ball and fried in a vat of oil (hence the reason I only had two of them). Expecting to like the peanut one better, I was surprised to find that the sweet potato fritter was amazing.

I also found a great little bakery in Chinatown that had some of the most beautiful pastries I've even seen. I tried the lotus pastry. It had an interesting taste and was not too bad but I could not eat it all - it was much more beautiful than it tasted.

lotus wedding pastries in Chinatown

vegetarian cookie pastries in Chinatown

The first evening I was in Singapore I went back to Tanglin Mall where I ate at Patara Thai restaurant which I had seen there earlier in the day. I ordered some basic thai dish like red curry or something but for an appetizer, I had an assortment of dumplings. They tasted great and looked even better.

flowers at Patara Thai restaurant

dumplings at Patara Thai restaurant

During my first day of meetings we had lunch at the hotel buffet which was full of extremely fresh seafood. They had about five different kinds of lobster. The only two types I had heard of were the Maine (!) and spiny lobsters.

seafood buffet at Royal Plaza

seafood at Royal Plaza

That evening after our meeting, everyone went together to the Palm Beach Restaurant at One Fullerton. One person ordered a huge meal for all of us (served family-style on a huge lazy susan). We had many different dishes including fried rice, fried squid and various noodle and fish dishes. We also had a couple of traditional Singaporean foods including drunken prawns, which are cooked in cognac, as well as Chili Crab, which was a huge plate of about 15 crabs (with at least 6-8" bodies) covered in a chili sauce.

Palm Beach Singaporean seafood restaurant

For dessert, a large bowl filled with fruit sitting in ice was served. I completely forgot to take a picture until we were half done with the bowl. I had never tasted any of these fruits, other than the mango (standing up in the center), but now I've tasted them all - not that I know what they are called. The one thing that I do know the name of is the fruit with the brown skin, red edges, and the white part in the center (which is the edible part). These are called mangosteens. They taste like a cross between maybe a grape and a melon. I typically say that I don't like tropical fruits very much (I don't hate things like pineapple and bananas but I don't prefer them). Mango grew on me over the years, as well as a few other tropical fruits, but I loved all of these new ones that I tried on this trip.

fruit dessert at Palm Beach

I thought this outdoor McDonald's on the street was so cute. I didn't eat there but I had to take a picture. I especially feel like the Cereal McFlurry ad was interesting.

outdoor McDonald's

Cereal McFlurry ad on street

A couple more random pictures of some interesting wedding cakes and a colorful pastry shop.

wedding cakes in window

pastry shop at People's Park mall

A friend of mine who is originally from Hong Kong asked me to see if I could find Hong Kong french toast while I was there and try to figure out what was in it. It turns out that there are several places in Singapore that have this type of french toast, but I didn't end up getting to any of them. Toast in general did seem to be popular however. I saw toast places of various types all over the place. Ya Kun Kaya Toast was actually recommended to me by one of my colleagues. Kaya toast is basically toast, with a green colored cream on it made of coconut milk and pandan (a tropical plant). It is popular in both Singapore and Malaysia, according to Wikipedia.

Ya Kun Kaya Toast shop

kaya toast, chrysanthemum tea, coffee

At Boat Quay, I ate thai food at a great restaurant on the river, where I had red curry with prawns, lime soda, thai iced team, and veggie chips.

thai food at Boat Quay

lime soda at Boat Quay

Later that same night, I went over the the famed Raffles Hotel, where the Singapore Sling was invented at the Long Bar. As one of my colleagues warned me, it tastes like cough syrup. It also cost about $18 USD!

Long Bar at Raffles Hotel

Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel

waving fans in Long Bar

One morning I was running a bit late for my meeting and I had a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Basilico. I had this great toast with a very light and crumbly, subtle-tasting cheese on the side.

bread with cheese for breakfast at Basilico

One of my favorite dishes in Singapore was often served at buffets as a breakfast or lunch food. I had it several times there and believe it or not, it's called "carrot cake" (or "fried carrot cake"). The "carrots" are actually white radishes. It also has egg, scallions, etc. It is definitely not a sweet dish like what we think of carrot cake as. Wikipedia describes it under it's chinese name, chai tow kway.

carrot cake at work buffet

Another night when I spent a more relaxed evening doing some shopping, I ate some Asian food at the mall. They had a dessert that I kept seeing variations of at a bunch of different places called Ruby Red. It is basically ice with sweet coconut milk over it and mixed in a these little, firm, gelatinous pieces. It was definitely a nice change of pace from our very sweet, rich desserts often served in the US.

Ruby Red dessert at Coca

Ruby Red dessert at Coca

I had lunch at the Tea Room, another restaurant in my hotel, one day. I loved all the little sandwiches and cakes. I ate them while relaxing and reading my book, and drinking my very strong coffee.

tea and cakes at Tea Room, Regent Hotel

cakes at Tea Room, Regent Hotel

desserts at Tea Room, Regent Hotel

jam, lemon curd, & clotted cream at Tea Room

cream & sugar at Tea Room

flowers at Tea Room

All in all, the food in Singapore was diverse and amazing. Finally, I wanted to show a couple of pictures of the city itself. I went up to the New Asia Bar on about the 80th floor of the Swissotel, where I heard there are the best views of Singapore. I'll leave you with a couple of the most beautiful views in Singapore...

New Asia Bar at Swissotel

Singapore from 80 stories above

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Singapore: Kampong Glam & Little India

On my fifth night in Singapore, I didn't do much after work other than go to the shopping mall by my hotel. I am not into basic shopping malls at all at home, much less other places where I can see new and interesting things. But since I had a long day of touring both our Singapore and Malaysian manufacturing plants for work, I decided to take it a little easy. I specifically went to the mall to go to Kinokuniya but I didn't end up getting there in time before it closed. I'll have to go next time I am back in NYC.

I did end up going to Takashimaya which I loved and also recognized from NYC (I just found out by googling that the NYC store is sadly closing). Anyway, I mainly explored to basement level where they have tons of food from Singapore and other countries (both to eat there and as gifts). I picked up some middle eastern sweets, Kaya jam and Laksa for a friend, Chinese tea, also for a friend, and a few other random things. This was one of my favorite shops in Singapore. The store in NYC I remember being much different - a 7-floor super-fancy department store on the upper east side that most can't afford. Nice, but more to look than to buy. The one in Singapore is much more accessible.

My last day in Singapore I am happy to say I didn't have to work. I was able to explore as much as possible before my very early morning flight the next day. I spent it in Kampong Glam and Little India. These areas were pretty close to each other (a long walking distance) and very different. Kampong Glam is the Arab part of town with Arab Street being where all the locals go to get their fabrics and textiles. This area is very clean much like most of Singapore is and is beautiful. There are palm tree-lined streets, beautiful music and chanting, and great food. Also, the shops in this area are amazing. Masjid Sultan Mosque towers over everything.

Masjid Sultan Mosque at Arab Street

a close-up

tons of motorcycles outside mosque while ceremony goes on

The most beautiful part of Kampong Glam ended up also being my favorite part of all of Singapore: Bussorah Street. This little street is parallel to Arab Street (and Haji Street which I somehow never got to) and is for pedestrians only. There are tons of little shops, vendors, and restaurants. I had an amazing samosa on this street. The shops ranged from very high end to very cheap and everything in between. I never knew what I was going to find walking into each shop. One of my favorite shops was Khim's Collections. I not only got lots of gifts for family and friends here, I also found my one "big" souvenir: a gorgeous and intricate hand carved box made of travertine stone.

Bussorah Street

When I left Kampong Glam and began walking over to Little India, it started pouring rain (I ended up taking a cab the rest of the way). You can see the dark skies in some of the pictures below.

buildings near Kampong Glam

another building near Kampong Glam

Little India is very different from Kampong Glam in many ways. Instead of the very mixed race area, I found that Little India was mainly Indian people, which tells me it is probably less touristy. This makes sense since I also found the streets and general look of the area to be more dirty and run down. That didn't make it any less interesting to me, of course. Celebration of Arts was just one shop that I found that I really liked. I don't even think I bought anything, but it was big with lots of different types of wares, like textiles, wood carved furniture, chess sets and figurines, etc.

Celebration of Arts, Little India

unloading a truck

buildings in Little India

more buildings

a very interesting temple in Little India - those are statues all over it

All in all, this was a great place to spent my last day in Singapore. I saw some really interesting things, enjoyed good food, bought some great souvenirs, and loved the atmosphere.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Singapore: Boat Quay and Clarke Quay

My fourth evening in Singapore was spent in Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. I was told that the food was better in the first and the second was better for drinking. Boat Quay is definitely far more run down than Clarke Quay and is basically a strip of restaurants and bars with people every where and huge crabs in coolers on the sidewalks. It also happened to be St. Patrick's Day, so at one end of the street, there were bartenders, waitresses, and even many customers dressed up in green, shamrocks, and big hats. Until I saw how diverse Singapore is, I never would have guessed they would celebrate such a holiday. I had some wonderful Thai food right on the river here with amazing lime soda.

Boat Quay -the river is just on the other side of the tents on the left

the more Irish end of the street

I also walked past the hoopla and over by the water to see some more of the sites.

river boats at Raffles landing site

river boat in front of Fullerton (with hotel construction behind it)

a group of people exercising on the steps after work

cool bird statue

Raffles statue from afar

riverboat under bridge

Clarke Quay is very modern and brightly colored. It also has tons of restaurants, cafes, bar, a few shops, and a very modern mall across the way. I mainly walked around, looked at the few shops they had, and watched drunk people. I also took a cruise down the river once it got dark over to the MerLion I've mentioned before.

Clarke Quay

Hippo boat tour in front of Clarke Quay

Clarke Quay at dusk

bridge on river at night