Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 3 in Singapore - Tuesday April 5, 2011

Woke up at 7am to go to work. How come I can never get to work by 9am when I'm at home??

Labmates seem to be warming up to me a little more, which I'm happy about. All of us went to lunch together today, but not at the hawker center. Today we went to the campus cafeteria, which looks just like a hawker center, but according to labmates is not quite as tasty. I went for noodles. Tom Yam Homemade Noodle Soup, to be exact. Big mistake. This noodle soup was literally the spiciest I have ever experienced in my life. No joke.

I've had spicy fish head hotpot in Sichuan, and I could handle that - the numbing effect of the peppercorns had something to do with it. 麻辣 is something I can do. But this - oh, this was pure BURNING. Now I really know the term "eating fire" (or really, drinking liquid fire in my case). The spiciness is distinctly different from that of a jalapeno pepper. I guess it's because of all the other spices they use, like lemongrass and all that good stuff. The noodles were indeed handmade, and had very good texture. But I just couldn't enjoy it because my mouth and stomach were both burning in the flames of hell about quarter of the way through. No way I could drink the soup.

Singaporean noodle, 1. Angela, 0. Epic KO.

And here's the culprit vendor of liquid fire - my labmate later told me it is also the spiciest place he knows of, and he cannot finish the soup either. Coming from a local, now I don't feel so wimpy.
(Ban Mian = Singapore speak for flat noodles. They also sell other kinds of noodles at that stall, though.)

Side-note: The cafeteria serves excellent iced coffee - tastes kind of Hello Boss, but even better. =D

Fast forward to late afternoon. Went and used the lab bathroom for the first time (no, the liquid fire isn't THAT fast acting...) and saw this interesting sign.

Note the "If you are unable to perform while remaining seated" part....

Today my jetlag was already much better, and I stayed in lab until 8pm, working hard! I guess this is what it's like to be single - you stay in lab much later because there's nothing to go home to. Dinner holds almost no appeal because it sucks to eat alone. Even if the food is good, people would look at you like a weirdo if you sat there eating with a goofy euphoric/orgasmic look on your face and exclaim "UMAMI!"

Finally get so hungry I head home. Originally, I had imagined that I would travel all over the island, visiting the food meccas of Singapore: Chili crab from Muthu's, Char Kway Teo from Smith Street, Pepper crab and Sambal Stingray from Jumbo, Satay from Lau Pa Sat, Bak kut teh that was so good they snubbed the Chief Executive of HK... experiencing the best of everything! But now I realize, that for the reasons I mentioned above, I have absolutely no motivation to make the pilgramage to these meccas. All I wanted to do was take my food, go home, and eat in front of the computer. Sad, I know.

Tried to make the best of the situation by at least trying new things that were on the way home from lab. Today I ended up getting Nasi Lemak, a very popular food eaten quite regularly by locals, even for breakfast. The name literally means "fatty rice", because the rice is cooked in coconut milk, Malay style. It is further 'fatty' by serving the rice with sides of fried chicken or pork cutlet, otak (singaporean fish cake), and a fried egg. All this fattiness made for a rich tasting, but not greasy feeling meal. I'm sure that the place I got it from, which was a small chain store beneath my hotel, is not the best, so I can only imagine how much better it COULD taste.
The photo doesn't really do it justice. The green stuff you see hiding under the fried pork cutlet is the coconut rice. Not sure why it's green, but it certainly tasted coconut-ey.

Aside from eating all this yummy and unique food, I've also been learning about Singaporean culture. And I realized, that Singaporean culture IS food. People here LOVE to eat. Maybe even more so than HKers! It is said that if you start a conversation with a Singaporean about food, you can continue it all afternoon. This is a testament to how diverse the food here is. Most of the best stuff is not very haute couture, and more often than not, it doesn't even look that delicious - hawker food usually just looks like a haphazardly thrown together melange of ingredients. But regardless of whether you like the exotic, spicy flavors, it is a unique blend of south-east asian, indian, and chinese cuisine that be found in few other places. Even your western fish and chips takes on a local twist here, often served with chili sauce on the side. I love the diversity, and now if only they would install some air-cons in the hawker centers......

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