Hello again from Sydney!!
The last few weeks of my stay in Singapore played out with much more haste than I had hoped for. From Chinese New Year onwards, each day was filled to the brim with last minute but nevertheless important rendezvous, running up and down Orchard Road as I made (very) important retail decisions (hehe) and of course ensuring that I had fulfilled my cravings for the local fare. Hence the late post on my family’s Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner!
While Singapore is ever changing, there are traditional elements to it which I hope never change. Coincidently, I had a foodie experience, which I felt to underscore this notion.
MODERN LOCAL: Pidgin Kitchen and Bar
This year we decided to test a ‘left-of-centre’ cuisine at Pidgin Kitchen and Bar located in the food-filled Dempsey Hill. The menu is filled with familiar sounding local cuisines such as ‘Razor Clams Tau Suan’, ‘Kaya Bread + Butter Pudding’ and ‘Chicken Rice Balls Arancini’. The modernisation of the local Singaporean cuisine is something, which I had never come across and was eager to try.
The ambience of the restaurant was worlds apart from the hawker centre with high ceilings and minimalist lights shining down upon a small and intimate space.
Mumma and I were highly anticipating the Chicken Rice Balls Arancini as we were expecting to taste something quite similar to the exquisitely fragrant and sinfully starchy traditional version, however the incorporation of cheese did not really suit our tastebuds and left us craving the fragrant hawker version which we love so much.
The highlight of the meal was definitely the Bak Kwa Mac and Cheese – an unexpected and strange sounding combination! The sweetness of the Bak Kwa, a BBQ sweet pork was somehow a hit when combined with the savoury cheese! So good….
The Beef Short Rib was the dish enjoyed by all, with a balanced seasoning that did not detract from the flavour or tender texture of the meat. Strangely, it was the least local sounding dish.
Maybe the local fare need not be modernised to such a degree??
I will take a leap here and say that perhaps trying to modernise much-loved dishes such as the usually sweet Tau Suan may be difficult for those who have deep impressions of local flavours in their memory. However, in saying this, the presentation of the dishes incorporates old-time cups (see dessert) adds traditional elements to the experience, which is something I really appreciated!
TRADITIONAL LOCAL: Whampoa Makan Place
Whampoa Makan Place is home to some of my family’s favourite stalls and our visits to Singapore ALWAYS include multiple trips to this suburban food heaven. Our favourite stalls which we believe to be the best of the best are the Ah-Hock Fried Oyster Hougang, Hoover Rojak, Joo Chiat Wanton Noodles and Hokkien Mee. Such dishes are what I feel to be part of Singapore’s culinary life-blood – simple, unchanged and SHIOK!
While my Chinese New Year’s Eve meal at Pidgin was a wonderful and fun dining experience with fresh and artistic construction, which I am glad to have had, I do not think that my childhood impressions of the altered dishes are quite ready to completely embrace such change! Furthermore, I hope that the art of simple local hawker fare is not lost…I need my Chicken Rice!