Coffee with condensed milk SG$0.80 and kaya toast SG$0.60
Mmm... why can't all takeaway breakfasts look so good.
Suze and I had promised each other we'd have kaya toast for breakfast and so, despite the bleary eyes and early start, we traipsed our way from the Link Hotel to Hong Kong Jin Tian Roast Meat for kopi and kaya, Singapore-style.
The novelty of buying a hot drink in a plastic bag was not lost on me. I loved carrying this little plastic bag by its fluorescent knotted handles. Forget fancy handbags -- give me one of these babies anytime!
It was a little tricky sipping scorching hot coffee through a plastic straw, but we managed. Much easier to negotiate were the slices of kaya toast - here they used a single slice of bread with a deep incision. The pocket was slathered with kaya--a creamy coconut and egg yolk custard spread--and then stuffed with a thick wedge of butter. Oh yes, it was every bit as a good as it sounds. And a little bit more.
The kaya jam had a luscious coconut caramel flavour, and the ratio of bread to jam was oh so very good indeed.
After the big night at the Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards, we were hosted by the hardworking Singaporean team on a day tour of Singapore with an 8am start.
Tintin Explorer on the Moon
Our first stop was the MINT Toy Museum, an incredible display of one man's personal collection. Chang Ya Fa was given his first Matchbox car as a six-year-old but it wasn't until age 25 that he started buying toys for the sole purpose of collecting. Each toy was kept in its original packaging and stored in a warehouse. Today the 60-year-old has amassed 50,000 pieces.
The MINT, an acronym for Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys, is the first building specifically designed as a toy museum. The amount of natural light entering the building has been controlled so as to minimise the potential damage by UV light to the mint condition exhibits.
Spread over five floors, it's staggering to realise that only 10% of the collection is on display at any time. The exhibits are rotated every three months and only toys that are at least 50 years old are on display.
Popeye, Olive Oyl and Wimpy figurines dating from the 1930s
Fred Flintstone riding Dino
Original vintage metal signs in the cafe upstairs
Horlicks for extra energy
Batman and Robin
Batman and Robin in the Batmobile
Mechanical Popeye air-o-plane valued at US$8,500
Matchbox cars with the original "1-75" series model numbers
Baby in a peanut
Monkees memorabilia -
the lunchbox has an estimated value of US$1,500
Monkees car from Greece
Uran and Astroboy
Bossy Cafe and Restaurant
(Old Swee Kee is set at the rear of the restaurant)
Suze and I ducked out briefly with a hungry EST crew for a second breakfast next door.
Iced coffee SG$1.20
Bread with luncheon meat and cucumber SG$1.50
Howard was disappointed with the pan-fried SPAM and cucumber toasted sandwich. The kaya toast wasn't as good as our first that morning either, with too much butter and a thin spread of kaya that was mild in flavour.
The soft-boiled egg was just what the doctor ordered though. Soft and barely set, it's more akin to a soupy muddle of yolk and white that is mixed with soy sauce, kecap manis and lashings of white pepper. It's comfort food, but only if you like runny egg yolks!
Soft boiled egg
Cracking open the egg to reveal a barely set egg yolk
Adding soy sauce
The soft boiled egg with soy, kecap manis and white pepper
We headed off to the Chinatown Heritage Museum for a look at how Chinese immigrants first settled in Singapore, with several interesting rooms set-up to resemble the cramped living conditions families had to endure.
The kitchen set-up had a realistic soundtrack of cooking clatter,
the hiss of oil and a constant barrage of Cantonese conversation
Chinese yum cha house set-up
Bee Cheng Hiang
And because Suze and I get bored waiting, we did a quick scout of the nearby streets whilst everyone was assembling for our next pit stop. We found ourselves drawn to Bee Cheng Hiang, a franchise store that specialises in bakkwa barbecue meats.
Barbecue room with pre-cut meats
Barbecued pork belly slices
Trimming pork slices into heart shapes
Suze was particularly impressed by the heart-shaped pork pieces. Trimmed by hand!
Barbecued pork tastings
And then, probably my highlight of the entire trip to Singapore: my first and biggest hawker centre!
The Maxwell Food Centre, on the outskirts of Chinatown, is one of the biggest in Singapore. We entered a corridor of stalls covered by an enormous canopy. One, two, three... twenty stalls ran the length of each aisle and I was flabbergasted to discover there were three aisles in total. In total, about 100 hawker stalls, each specialising in a particular dish were vying for the attention of my eyes, my camera, my stomach! The middle of each aisle was set with immoveable chairs and tables that were already crowded with lunching locals.
Maxwell Food Centre
Choose-your-own ingredients for yong tau foo soup
Chicken heads at the Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese boneless chicken rice stall
Making fresh soy bean milk SG$1.30 per cup
The decisions! I admit I was in a bit of a stupefied daze just wandering from stall to stall, impressed by the quality of offerings, the ridiculous prices and the overwhelming array of delights to choose from. We ended up creating our little banquet for the table, everyone buying a dish--or two! or three! -- and then placing it in the middle for communal sharing.
Making fresh popiah
I'm so pleased I finally got to try an authentic popiah. I loved the julienned strips of jicama, crunchy juicy spears that taste like a savoury nashi, mixed with cucumber, carrot, omelette and a thin scrape of hoisin and peanut sauce. The fresh popiah skin was also light and delicate.
Black radish cake
Fried radish cake was a little doughier than I'm used to, with more rice flour than radish shreds, although the coating of hoisin sauce, wok-fried to a caramelised brown, did help things along.
Stuffed fish balls in soup with vegetables
Fruit rojak SG$3.00
I've recently fallen in love with rojak, a Malay word for mixed. The fruit rojak is a jumble of chunky cucumber, pineapple, jicama, deep-fried tofu and you tiao deep-fried bread sticks slathered in a sticky sauce of belacan shrimp paste, sugar and chilli. The sauce renders every component indistinguishable, meaning every mouthful is a surprise until you bite into it. I loved the crunch of nuts, and the sweet salty fruit flavours are an ideal way of getting sustenance on a sweltering hot day.
White radish cake
Roast pork on noodles
Ice kacang with corn and peanuts $1.50
I developed an obsession with ice kacang during my stay in Singapore, substituting meals or drinks, ok, I mean drinks, with a mountain of shaved ice soaked with syrup. Who wants a drink when you can squeeze in dessert at the same time?
Oyster fritter, as recommended by Anthony Bourdain
Suze was inspired to try the oyster fritter after spotting the proud print out of the excerpt recommendation by Anthony Bourdain plastered to the front of the stall.
Inside the oyster fritter
Unfortunately, none of us could understand the appeal. It was mostly mealy and dry with a measly couple of oysters inside.
We much preferred the oyster omelette which was fluffy and golden, and swollen with a generous clump of raw briney oysters.
We had so much food crammed onto our table that passersby would literally do a doubletake as they walked past, presumably looking for a team of sumo wrestlers.
Ice kacang $1.50
I'm not the only one who likes ice kacang. Dave, from Nuffnang Australia, likes ice kacang too.
Grab Your Fork travelled to Singapore as a guest of Nuffnang Australia for the Asia-Pacific Blog Awards.
Dave likes ice kacang
Hong Kong Jin Tian Roast Meat
Blk 58 Eng Hoon Street, Singapore
Open 7 days 7am-8.30pm
Tel: +61 9383 1318 or +61 9733 0673
Mint Museum of Toys
26 Seah Street, Singapore
Museum open 7 days 9.30am - 6.30pm
Tel: +65 6339 0660
Bossy Cafe and Restaurant
25 Seah Street 01-01, 188381, Singapore
Tel: +65 6336 2501
Chinese Heritage Museum
48 Pagoda St, Singapore
Tel: +65 6325 2878
Bee Cheng Hiang
69/71 Pagoda St, S059228 Singapore
Tel: +65 6323 0049
Maxwell Food Centre
Corner of South Bridge Rd and Maxwell Rd, Singapore
Open 7 days 7am-10pm
GRAB YOUR FORK WINNER
Thank you everyone for your entries in the Grab Your Fork Freebie Friday competition to find your favourite Secret Recipe. The entries were all very entertaining and I hope that people found some new recipes to try.
There can only be one winner though, so congratulations to Yen! You have won $200 worth of kitchenware from Matchbox. Please check your email for all the details.
Don't forget you still have time to enter the competition to win a copy of Luke Nguyen's Songs of Sapa. Competition closes on Friday 13/11/09 at 5.30pm AEST. Enter now.
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11/02/2009 01:28:00 am