With a New Year's resolution to tidy up the house and the blog, I'm finally concluding the posts on my Singapore trip. Oh yes, Singapore, remember that?
Our fifth and final day in Singapore greeted Suze and I with the usual sticky heat and humidity. The taxi ride to breakfast took a circuitous 15 rather than five minutes, but eventually we made it to the Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha Restaurant, a trek made specifically for their bak kut teh.
Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha restaurant
Much like our lunch at the otherwise hidden Siang Hee, the Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha restaurant would likely be missed by the fleeting tourist. It's a simple albeit large stall in a foodcourt that serves the PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex, an industrial estate near the Port of Singapore.
Bak ku teh menu
Bak ku teh translates as "meat bone soup" and is a broth made by boiling pork rib bones with herbs and spices. Here, a DIY menu allows patrons to choose their side dishes. Our group shares a collection of dishes - the pig's tail is surprisingly meaty, reminding me of a chicken neck but with extra skin and fat.
Pork ribs soup
In Sydney, I'm more used to the herbal style of bak ku teh, a dark-coloured soup that is rich and fragrant with medicinal herbs. In Singapore, the usual version served here is in the Teochew style, a lighter coloured soup with a distinct use of white pepper.
There's an element of fun chewing on the pork bone, crunching on rings of deep-fried bread, nibbling on boiled peanuts, and sampling bits of bean curd or pig's tail in-between sips of the clear sweet soup. It's also very cheap. Breakfast should cost you about SG$5 depending on how much you order.
Pig's tail soup
Choy sum with oyster sauce
Despite its innocuous appearance, the pork soup is actually quite high in cholesterol. Tea is served as an essential accompaniment, an intricate ceremony that involves rinsing the teapot and cups several times.
Pouring the tea
The tea, which has a slight aniseed flavour, provides a welcome palate cleanser, helping to alleviate any oily residue on the tongue from the soup.
Another pig's tail soup pic
- because you know you want some!
Next door, I can't resist a teh tahrik for the road, the strong sweet tea that is "pulled" by pouring from jug to jug to create a frothy hot drink.
Straining the tea (yes, that's a lot of tea leaves)
Pouring the tea into the takeaway bags
Teh tarik for two SG$1.20 each
For our final day, Suze and I pounded the pavements of Orchard Road for a mammoth shopping effort. So many department stores! So many levels!
By the time lunchtime rolled around, we found ourselves outside Shimbashi Soba. We'd walked past a few days before, mesmerised by the man in the window making soba by hand by slowly rolling out a gigantic square of dough. The set-up looked strangely familiar, and it wasn't until we sat down that I realised that yes, this was the Singapore offshoot of the Shimbashi restaurant in Sydney's Neutral Bay.
Shimbashi Soba - Soba So Good
Soba eating intructions
We found the same soba eating instruction replicated here. I still love the first frame which tells patrons "once your soba is served, take some time to enjoy its colour, shape and presentation. See how each strand of handmade noodle is unique, because of the craft put into creating it" - a mantra reminicent of that great Japanese ramen movie "Tampopo".
Hana shokado $28.80
Soba or udon (chilled or warm), sashimi, sushi,
tempura, chicken cutlet, deep-fried tofu and soft shell crab
Suze has the hana shokado, a special lunchtime set that includes a bounty of sushi, sashimi, deep-fried tempura, tofu, chicken cutlet and soft shell crab alongside a bowl of chilled soba.
Age soba $4.80
Fried soba chips
I decide to go for a hatrick of unusual soba options. We're not sure what fried soba chips will look like, but when they arrive they make perfect sense. Strands of noodles deep-fried until crunchy - an addictive snack that would be perfect for beer, but in reality is actually a huge portion and best eaten by at least four to six people.
Cha soba $14.80
Green tea buckwheat noodles
The green tea soba are a limited menu item, made fresh each day. The strands of noodle have a lovely chewy texture, although it's hard to discern the green tea flavour. Nevertheless the noodles are a refreshing treat, dipped briefly in the sweet soba sauce and eaten with the light and fluffy grated daikon.
Cha soba dipped in the sauce with daikon
Soba cha (hot) $4.50
Home-made roasted buckwheat tea
I round out my meal with the soba cha, a home-made roasted buckwheat tea which has quite a starchy flavour, as though one were drinking the leftovers from boiling soba noodles. Perhaps one could call it earthy in flavour, but whilst it's intriguing, I wouldn't be in a hurry to order it again.
This was probably our most expensive meal in Singapore, especially considering that no crab was involved, and yes, the irony of eating at a Sydney-based restaurant in Singapore is not lost on me either!
We shopped until we dropped, finally heading back to our hotel to repack, but not before making a detour to the cake shop across the road from our hotel.
Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry
This was not our first visit of course. My sugar radar had spotted this local patisserie on our first day, and Suze and found ourselves heading inside "just for a look" and somehow departing with a dessert or two.
Onde onde SG$0.60 and kueh dar dar SG$0.60
I was quite surprised that the desserts, or kueh, weren't as sweet as I expected. The gula melaka palm sugar syrup inside the onde onde had quite a bitter flavour. What was apparent was that fresh coconut was used in abundance, adding a rich softness to each dessert.
Pulut inti - glutinous rice topped with palm sugar and coconut
We left with buckets of pineapple tarts and coconut juice biscuits as Singapore souvenirs, but not before asking nicely if we could take photos of all the beautiful kueh in all its glory.
Ondeh ondeh SG$0.60
Kueh dar dar SG$0.60
Kelapat pulut SG$1.00
Lemper udang SG$1.00
Pineapple tarts SG$1.00
Homemade kaya $3.00
Final snack in Singapore? We had to head around the corner to Jin Tian for one last kaya hurrah.
Iced lemon tea
Kaya toast SG$1.20
Oh kaya, I miss you so.
Customer relaxing at Hong Kong Jin Tian Roast Meat Eating House
Workers heading home by ute
Overall, I loved Singapore. Its compact nature and cheap taxis makes sightseeing a breeze. Orchard Road is as insanely consumerist as you expect, but I was more enamoured by the little pockets that offer an alternative side to Singapore, like Haji Lane and Little India.
Food, of course, was the highlight, and it was extraordinarily cheap. I loved the hawker food courts, a paradise for the hungry and budget-conscious, with most meals costing only a few Singaporean dollars. The tradition of specialisation, where each stall sells one dish and one dish only, was also something to be admired.
Late night trading hours were another huge bonus. Strolling the streets at 11pm, you could find plenty of eating houses open and running a brisk business. I'm still astounded by the hubbub of activity we found at 1.00am at the Mustafah Centre, which trades non-stop 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There was only one thing left to complete the Singapore experience, and luckily I found it on the plane back. A Singapore sling. So the decor wasn't up there with Raffles, but it seemed a fitting end to a fabulous trip.
Grab Your Fork travelled to Singapore as a guest of Nuffnang Australia for the Asia-Pacific Blog Awards.
Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha Restaurant, Outram
PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex
7 Keppel Road #01-08 to #01-09
Tel: +65 6222 9610
Open Tuesday to Sunday: 7am–3pm and 6pm–4am
(Closed on Mondays)
290 Orchard Rd #B1-4
Tel: +65 6222 9610
Open 7 days 11.30am-9.30pm
Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry
Block 55, Tiong Bahru Rd, 01-39
Tel: +65 6324 1686
Open 7 days 9.30am – 8.30pm
Hong Kong Jin Tian Roast Meat
Blk 58 Eng Hoon Street, Singapore
Tel: +65 9383 1318 or +65 9733 0673
Open 7 days 7.00am-8.30pm
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1/02/2010 01:57:00 am