Saturday, August 09, 2008

You Are What You Eat

I guess that makes me a dumpling. I'm in Singapore and I've started a new diet. It's called the all-carb diet. Seriously, I did not eat a vegetable all day today. I'm not proud of myself. Well, maybe just a little.

To start off my day, a packet of rice. Two, actually, since I had to try both the savory and sweet versions from the famous glutinous rice stand in the Chinatown Complex. I feel like I earned my breakfast. This hawker center is on the second floor and features no air conditioning. It's about 90 degrees out and super humid. How people wear jeans and aren't melting totally mystifies me.

When I got to the rice station at 9AM, I spotted a line of 20 people. They close when they sell out. Yesterday, they were already closed when I got there. It was 10AM. I was nervous. And hungry. The rice was divine. Supposedly sticky rice, but not sticky at all, the savory version featured peanuts and a generous sprinkling of fried shallots on top. I pretty much inhaled my breakfast. And then to the sweet version, which really was sticky rice, but also with the shallots. I don't usually care for sweet rice dishes, but this was was great. I don't even know what's in it. I just ate, and ate some more.

Then I went to the porridge stand. But first, a short rest interval during which I wandered the food court and consulted my trusty Mankansutra guide that I'd picked up upon my arrival. It's like a Zagat guide, but for street food. The top rating, three chopsticks, means "Die, die must try!" They take their food seriously here.

The porridge was great. Savory, hot, and totally delicious. I chatted up some little old ladies sitting nearby and they put me onto a good place to get myself a Chinese donut - a fritter that I watched the guy make in a wok full of bubbling oil. Fried item of the day - check.

Then I had a long break from eating. I got trapped in a very posh shopping center during a rainstorm, but managed to kill time by browsing cookbooks. Hours later, it was dumpling time.

As I was planning my trip, someone alerted me to the fact that Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese dumpling outlet, has shops in town. I arrived to find a very efficient dumpling circus. Grateful that they spoke English and that the menu was in English too, I checked off my selections and waited for them to call my number. Ten minutes later, I handed my order to the hostess, who read my order into her little microphone to the kitchen. By the time I got to my table, my Coke was on ice and soon enough, a guy with a tower of steamer trays appeared. Oh dumplings! How I love them. Soup dumplings are so hard to come by at home and I was so enthused for their appearance here that I ordered two orders. The plain pork, and the pork and crab. Yum yum. The wrappers were thin so you could see the soup, but they didn't break until you bit into them. I ate them all, an even had a little room left for the steamed sesame buns. By then I was laughing at myself, all alone at my table, surrounded by lunchtime wreckage. The waitress didn't even smirk when she saw all that I'd ordered.


Blogger Unknown said...

Yum! Am I jealous... I really want to make a SE Asia swing at some point, and the fusion of the flavors of Singapore is high on my list. I'm hoping there might be pictures at some point of some of these savory delights, too???

3:02 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

I hope when you were at the Raffles Hotel that you made a stop at the Writers Bar, very simple, but steeped in tradition and history. More interesting than the long bar, which has automated fans and the Singapore Sling.

7:03 AM  
Blogger erica said...

Okay, pictures are up, finally. There's more to come, but will have to wait a few weeks...

Missed the Raffles bars...tea was too exhausting!

5:49 PM  

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