Chow Baby


Chow Baby

Sorry that it has taken so long to get this installment out. I've been trying to do the Chinese New Year thing. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try much of the seasonal cooking. I've had several people send me email saying that I should try to sell my stories. While I think that it would be really really cool to be published, I just don't have time to write my stories, much less try to sell them too. If anyone wants to play "agent" and help me sell then, that would be very cool.

One of the things that I am finding that I need is an english dictionary. I realize that my spelling is pathetic, but I don't have convenient spell checker software, or a dictionary in the apartment.

It's Chinese New Year, my butt is sore from bike riding, I'm trying to get all of my leftover notes written out as readable text. I have far too much material for just one chapter, so I'm splitting the chapters I'm working on today by theme. This one is about food.

One drink that you can often find at food courts is lime juice, usually fresh. It is quite good. It is also usually not oversweetened like most of the other fruit juices around here. Even the unsweetened orange juice here is pretty gross. I find myself missing Odwalla.

If you buy a drink to go, from a food court, chances are it will be in a plastic bag, with a straw and a couple of handles. It seems to work as well here as it does on the Space Shuttle, but it's still odd to see people drinking coffee from a baggie.

I've mentioned before that in Singapore the head is considered to be the best part of the fish. Fish Head curry is a national delicacy. Stores charge extra for the head. While I don't quite share the local's enthusiasm for fish head, I can't help but realize that I could probably pick them up real cheap from the stores when I go home.

Rather than plates, Indian restaurants serve food on banana leaves. As I understand it, while they are no longer used every day in most of India, banana leaves are still used for serving food to special guests. I guess that for restaurants it's less bother than cleaning plates and for eating at home cleaning plates is less bother than buying fresh leaves. Even so, it'll be weird to go to an Indian restaurant in the states and be served on a plate. By the way, I have not taken up the Indian custom of eating with my hand rather than using silverware.

In food courts, a restaurant will often have pictures of the dishes that it serves, usually with the name of the dish and the price. However, just as often, and in most coffee shops (kopitiams, not american coffee shops) it seems to be assumed that you know what you want, and they know how to make it. This tends to be a bit frustrating for someone who is trying to explore the local cuisine because I have little idea of what is available, except for the things I already know about. I often resort to saying "Fix me something good, I like spicy food".

There seems to be some seasonal symbolism connected with pomelos, I don't know what it is, but I'd guess that it has something to do with prosperity, or luck. Fruit stands seem to have a lot of them for sale with stickers that say Gong Hoy Fat Choy or Qong Xi Fa Cai. There are a few being sold for food though. While they look quite a bit different they taste quite similar to a grapefruit.

Had dinner one night at the Frog Porridge Seafood restaurant, on MacPherson (or Airport). The black pepper crab was quite good. Dinner ended up costing me abut US $10.

Duriens must be coming into season. All of a sudden I've been seeing a lot of places selling Durien and there is a sign at the MRT station reminding people that duriens are not allowed on the MRT. I have not yet experienced fresh durien, or at least not the taste. At times the smell can be mighty hard to avoid. I wish that I had the vocabulary to describe the smell and taste of durien.

It is interesting that it seems as if I am always hungry, yet I don't seem to be losing any weight. There's the old saying about two hours after eating chinese food, you are hungry again. I'd never noticed that until almost all of my meals were asian cooking. I wonder if it is due to a different ratio of carbos to choleseteral, or just different fats in the food, or what. The servings do seem to be a lot smaller over here, which might have something to do with it. I don't often leave the table still hungry, but I seem to get hungry again long before my next meal. At least when I'm that hungry it seems like a very long time.

In fast food-substitute restaurants you get your choice between ketchup and chilli sauce. While it would not taste quite the same, you could get a similar effect to chilli sauce by adding some tobasco to ketchup.

Now that I'm getting settled, random exploration is less fruitful. The first food court that you discover by yourself is cool. After the eighth one just like it, the novelty wears off. I need to start getting local guidance as to good places to go eat. Between co-workers going to the Bay Area, and my not knowing most of the good restaurants here, please send me restaurant suggestions for either the Bay Area or Singapore. Or anyplace nearby that I might travel as well. I'll try to put together a page or two for my website.

People keep telling me that the Geylang neighborhood is a good place to eat out. I've tried a few restaurants down there but haven't been to any that have been extremely memorable. I've mentioned the annoying habit of Singaporean roads to change names every few blocks. In the area where Geylong is called Changi, there are quite a few good Muslim restaurants. It is interesting that there are some Malay restaurants, and some Indian restaurants, but there are mostly Muslim restaurants, which sell halal food, and will often sell both Malay and Indian dishes. I had some pretty good Murtebak (the "k" is silent) at Makmur Catering on Changi, just West of Eunos.

The hand gesture of "writing" on one hand with the index finger of another seems to be international hand language for "I'm done eating, please give me the bill".

People seem to drink a lot less with their meals here than they do in the states. It is only at the indoor, sit down restaurants that you will get water with your meal. Cans of soda are 330ml rather than the 355ml that are standard in the States. Even the large in fast food-substitute restauarant is only about the size of a medium in the states, never mind the large, extra-large or plastic barrel that is open at one end.

Last modified 22 Feb 1999

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