As we came closer to the day when we were going to take that much anticipated flight away from the mundane desk at work and the vapidity of daily chores; to the faraway exotic land of Singapore, my heart jumped as if it was my first flight ever. Hardly able to concentrate, i realized that i was scribbling gibberish all day at work. It looked like i was making a conversation with my colleagues but really i was floating in the air oblivious to the dull gossip and coffee-time whining.
Such is the charm of Singapore. And such is the lure of its food festival. Call us gluttons but Kabil and I almost never miss a chance to grab a good meal. We live to eat and most of our meal time conversations revolve around the possibilities of our next meal. So when Kabil came back from work one day, all excited and palpitating, i knew he had a delicious trip on mind.
We landed in Singapore, almost starving, refusing to waste our appetite on boring airline food. With the searing sun blazing down at 30+ Celsius, Singapore summers aren’t the most welcoming in the world. But we didn’t let the heat and the tiredness of an early flight get to us.
We headed straight to China Town where the first of our many culinary experiences was awaiting us. Oh what a riot of colours this place is! Smiling faces and teasing aromas hit you the minute you enter this area. The obvious and bit tacky Chinese decor notwithstanding, Chinatown is a vibrant pot pourri of Singaporean chutzpah and Chinese warmth.
We took the Chinese Heritage Food trail that took us through beautiful nuances of Chinese food that looks deceivingly simple to make yet so complex to taste! We especially liked the Orh Lua which is a fluffy omelette topped with plump oysters that dance with flavour on your tongue. The Odeon beef noodles also floored us with their layers of taste that revealed themselves in every bite. The hakka rickshaw noodles, lovingly named after the rickshaw pullers who ate it as their staple meal, were surprisingly wholesome and flavourful.
We went back to the hotel to catch a nap that was inevitable because our stomachs were groaning from being so full! The first day of our trip had turned out to exceed our expectations. We were in gastronomic paradise! The food festival is the best way to experience the spirit of Singapore; far from its reputation of being a disciplinarian, Singapore loves to let its hair down and has a heart made of gold. Trying to pin down on one reason why we thought Singapore food festival was one of the most unique experiences we had, we realized only much later and somewhat in a chorus, that it’s really the Singaporeans that add the liveliness to the festival and the city.
We attended the Suvai the next day that had food with an Indian influence. Just when we thought that we had reached Nirvana by tasting the grilled roulade prata, our eyes locked upon the sight of the mutton biryani in a clay pot that wafted hypnotic smells towards us. We also attended a master class that was part of our ticket price and realized that even though we love to cook (and the chef did a brilliant job of demonstrating recipes) we were too engrossed in the smells and sights that enveloped the place to really learn something useful. Little India offers some amazing bargains on almost everything that you touch and the friendly haggling adds to the allure of this area.
Our intense culinary exploration continued the next day when we followed the Nyonya food truck like a dog follows the smell of a bone. The Nyonya cuisine was a revelation to us. There are many people (like us) who dismiss it as a simplistic blend of many South East Asian influences (Chinese, Penang, Malacca, Indonesian and Singaporeans). It came about when Chinese migrants moving down the Malaysian peninsula went about combining Chinese spices and other ingredients with Malaysian techniques of cooking. The result was a cuisine that’s uniquely aromatic, tangy, and spicy! We had to hold ourselves from moaning in pleasure when we tasted the Grilled Chicken Pong Teh.
The highlight of our things to do in Singapore trip had to be the barbeque by the Sentosa beach. We mingled with locals, exchanged culinary stories, danced and revelled in the delicious flavours of the barbeque. The sand sculpted tables and seats looked beautiful but we doubted their strength to hold our new found flab. There was a unique Middle-East meets Hawaii vibe to the event with food being the ultimate show stopper.
Singapore is a bit of everything. It changes colours with every mile and offers myriad possibilities to the intrepid traveller. We ate till we popped and shopped till we dropped and were still left insatiated, wanting more and more of the mesmerizing antics that this gorgeous city played on us.