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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Travel to Eat - Singapore

After declining so many opportunities before to enjoy Singapore, I finally packed my bags  last weekend to see what everybody else who has been there is raving about, including Anthony Bourdain in his show ("No Reservations").
Being 30 minutes late on Cebu Pacific was an improvement compared to other horrifying experiences I had with them.  But upon getting off the plane in Chianggi Airport, my family and I breezed through immigration, the bag carousel and into a taxi for our hotel in less than 10 minutes.  Just a sampling of the efficiency the Singaporeans are known for.
Other things Singapore is known for?  How about the fact that there isn't much traffic even though we arrived on a workday, and how it is clean, sleek, and refined everywhere else?  Even your humble taxi driver is dressed properly up to his shoes (no slippers in sight) and knows his city well that he doesn't need to ask you to assist him in giving directions to where you want to be.
As soon as we got ourselves settled in, we trooped over to Great World Center for our first Hainanese Chicken Rice served by one of the outlets in the mall's food center.  We didn't know if its because we were just hungry, or that the Chicken Rice tasted really great.  It was perfect in that the chicken meat was cooked for long hours under slow heat.  You could tell by the way the skin retained its jellied countenance, the broth both fragrant and refreshing, and the rice had that clean but rich taste.  The meal was so good, we had seconds!
We walked off our delicious lunch with trips to the bookstore and CD store to stock up our personal literary and music libraries at home.  But come dinner time, we searched for Boat Quay and settled in one of the many riverside restaurants there and enjoyed the view of the Singapore River with our free Heineken and Tiger beers as we waited for our food.  This is one of several quays (also Clark Quay and Robertson Quay) in the city where people go to enjoy a variety of what Singapore has to offer diners, or if you just want to enjoy the happy hour.  It gets crowded as early as 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and the party is relentless as the evening wears on.
The Tom Yum Soup had fresh prawns and a well-sustained spicy kick.  I think I finished up a whole bowl that can ideally serve two diners.  The soup certainly did not come out of a pre-mix packet.  The Barramudi was next, and it was cooked two-ways:  one side was steamed with ginger and soy dressing, and the other side was crispy fried and smothered in sweet and sour sauce.  You could tell that the fish was fresh out of the water and alive right before it was prepared for cooking.  The same went with the Singapore Crab with Black Bean Sauce - the crabmeat was succulent, and retained its sweet-salty taste.  We balanced it off with Kailan with garlic and perfectly steamed rice bowls.   Plus, there were more of those bottles of beer and cola. The whole meal was expensive though at SG$284.00 (Php9,372.00), but a visit to Boat Quay is a must, and one visit is all it takes for a tourist.
The following evening, we went to Maxwell Food Center to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain and eat at Tian Tian's, the place he made famous by ordaining it as the hawker serving the best Chicken Rice.  The entire center is usually a favorite of corporate bodies since it is located in the midst of the city's skycrapers, and where you will get good food at cheap prices.  On a Sunday, we saw some stalls were closed for the weekend, but quite a number were still open.  Tian Tian's had a long line, but service was fast enough.
Our verdict?  The one we had at the Great World Center was better.  Our chicken pieces weren't cooked well since it still had blood oozing out of the middle.  Generally, it was still a good dish, its just that we had better. 
From there, we exited our way towards the Chinatown district and went through the night
market that was just opening.  Vendors were selling different kinds of souvenirs from T-shirts that say "I Heart Singapore", to key chains, chopsticks, mahjong and chess sets.  But the stalls were part of the festive look that the whole district gave, and it helped that they are surrounded by architectural heritage buildings.  Thus, it was here that we had our dessert of almond milk with tapioca and mango pudding with tapioca from Dudu Dessert Bar.  It was a light and fresh ending to our dinner, perfect for warm nights such as what we had.
In addition, I couldn't resist to try out the sticky cakes which were being sold by one street vendor.  It looked like colored pitchi-pitchi (Filipino jelly-like cassava cakes) but for SG$2, I got a taste of the pandan cake, indon cake, and by far my favorite, the sago cake for its caramel flavor.  Neither one tasted like pitchi-pitchi though.  Each piece as individual as an Asian country.
Of course, aside from binging, there are so many things to do here too.  As matter-of-fact as the city is, there are attractions like the Universal Studios, the zoos and safaris (a winner if you have small children), or just plain sight-seeing from either the Marina Bay Sands roof top, or the Singapore Flyer - take your pick.  Singapore is definitely a repeat destination in my list.

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