I visited Chinatown during my last visit to Singapore. I had gone there before noon that time. But things actually liven up as the day progresses here.
Chinatown, Singapore, is a strange mix of spirituality, commerce, food, medicine and sleaze. It has got a very famous Buddhist Pagoda. This is surrounded by little shops and stalls selling goods ranging from cheap Chinese handicrafts to tee shirts which respond to music (!). There is a big Hindu Temple close by too which is dedicated to the South Indian goddess called Mariamma I think. Then there are food stalls and Chinese dumpling stores dotting the streets. A Hawker’s Centre (food court) on the first floor of the shopping complex and the more famous Maxwell Food Centre too. And then you have shops selling Chinese medicines and girls exhorting massage parlours crying out at those passing by.
I hopped across to Chinatown for lunch at 5 PM local time. 2.30 PM at India.
I first went to The Hawker’s Centre. I started with a Fried Hokkein Prawn mee. I remembered this as a nice stir fried noodles which I had in my very visit to a Hawker’s centre on 2003. What I got instead was noodles which had the consistency of Maggi noodles. With egg beaten into it, shreds of chicken and a couple of boiled shrimps and squid slices.
Perhaps I would have got excited if I was Bourdain. But it was just about adequate. I am not too found of the soupy, soft and slithery genre of Chinese food.
I went off in search of deliverance and came across a Chinese roast meat stall. The style of preparation is called ‘char siew’. I had roast pork with rice. This was nicer. The pork was slightly sweet. Lean with the odd sinful bite of lard. It was served with a chilly paste which helped liven up the sticky rice. This I enjoyed.
This is where I made friends with Mr Saw. He is a local Chinese who was waiting for his order of roast pork and rice too. He pointed me to Little India for Indian food. He broked into a big grin when I told him that I actually liked the local food of Singapore. So why have Indian food which I can get back home? He was excited to hear that I was from Mumbai and said that he hoped to make it to India some day. This was my Tony Bourdain and Simon Majumdar moment of the day.
Unfortunately I was too full by then and settled on a sugar cane juice for dessert. It tasted similar to the ‘ganne ke juice’ (Hindi)/ or ‘aaker rosh’ (Bengali) of India.
I wanted to walk off the afternoon’s cholesterol dump. I got lost and ended up at my hotel, which was just a few streets away, after walking for one and a half hours! In the process I asked for directions to a Bangladeshi directing traffic, local Chinese shop keepers and what turned out to be a lady of the night.
My two meals cost me 3 Sing dollars or 2 USD each and the juice was 1.5 Sing dollars. Both food courts had at least a couple of local vegetarian joints each.
Note: The heading was Kainaz’s text in response to mine on what happened.