Traveling Tastebuds

Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
Trip End May 13, 2010

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Sunday, February 7, 2010

I am starting to think that all my travels and entries revolve around food, but when you think about it, food is essential to life and there are so many types of it in the world that it is a pretty interesting topic. There's even a TV station dedicated to it. So yes, this entry is devoted to food. If you have no interest in SE Asian food, then you may skip this entry without much loss.

Some of the local Singaporean students brought a bunch of us exchangers out on what they called a "Foodie Outing". Yes, that’s right, an entire day dedicated to trying local cultural food. It was a fantastic day. Strangely enough, the night before a different group of Singaporeans took me out for a local dinner. Therefore, I had an entire weekend pretty much dedicated to the discovering, tasting and enjoying of food. Trust me when I say it was an eye (and stomach) opening experience.

I will start with Saturday night dinner. A few local girls took us to the East, which reputably has the best food in the country. We went to a porridge place where the girl ordered in Chinese for all of us. The meal? Stingray, some green vegetable, and frog porridge. As someone who doesn’t fancy fish, I was apprehensive, but the stingray was delightful. Very light. My only complaint would be the excess of small bones you have to wary of. The greens were heavily garlicked, and thus delicious. The frog, surprisingly, didn’t have much of a taste. It was pretty much like eating chicken, which a slightly rubbery consistency. The porridge was oddly comforting and made you feel warm inside. It was a great meal, all in all. For dessert we tried local fruits. I had another go at the durian and I maintain that it gets better the more you eat it. I also learned a neat trick about how to wash your mouth and hands out with water from the durian shell to get rid of the smell that would otherwise stay in your pores like garlic. The jumba fruit has a consistency of starfruit, but a taste closer to apple. Very refreshing. The mangosteen is by far my favorite fruit here. It is fruit that is sweet and tangy almost as a citrus. You have to open in by applying pressure to the soft shell until it cracks so you can extract the fruit, but the juice inside will stain just about anything so it is a precarious undertaking. I highly recommend the mangosteen fruit to just about everyone.

Moving on to Sunday, the Foodie Outing. This was an all day extravaganza that left me feeling very satisfied. We started around noontime with kaya butter toast and soft-boiled eggs with dark soy sauce. I definitely think I will be taking this back to the States with me for breakfast. Kaya is a coconut egg jam that is spread on just about anything, but really it reminds me of caramel it’s so sweet. The soft-boiled eggs were mixed with soy, a little pepper, and drunk from shallow bowls. Delicious.

Next we moved on to Bah Kut teh, a pork ribs soup, with fried dough fritters you can dip in the broth. Really quite yummy, but very salty. We then walked for a while to give our stomachs a rest and ended up at a hawker stall where the food was practically endless. We tried peanut soup (a dessert actually), claypot chicken rice (sounds simple, but the way they make it gives it a very sweet flavor), sugar cane juice (not as sweet as I expected), banana fritters, bobochacha ( and a few others that need more description. First, my favorite dessert, the ice kachang! ( Yes, you see that correctly, there is corn in that ice flavored with syrup and mixed with red beans, condensed milk, and assorted jellies. It may seem strange, but beans are a common dessert food here (as is black sesame) and somehow it kind of works. It may sound odd, but it is totally refreshing- like a giant snow cone with fun surprises in every bite! Now, for those of you with a fainter heart- I suggest skipping to the next paragraph. The only item I tried all day that I would NOT have again, was the lamb bone marrow. It came out on this plate covered in what looked like rinds and a heavy red soupy sauce. In general, the idea of eating bone marrow just seems wrong to me, but it is considered a delicacy in some places and I figured I could give it a try. It turns out that the actually marrow doesn’t have much taste (thus the overabundance of sauce), but the consistency is something like caviar. I’ve never had caviar, but I imagine that is what is like. To eat it you are supposed to suck the marrow out of the bone, which is an incredibly difficult task. I ended up having to use a straw, and that was a poor decision. It got jammed in the straw and when I was finally able to get it out, it shot into my mouth jumping back to my throat and invoking a gag reflex. In general, it was an unpleasant experience and I can’t say I recommend it. However, I was the only one to have such a poor reaction to it. A few Americans actually thoroughly enjoyed the marrow. To each his own I guess.

Okay! So the only other item worth mentioning would be the bah kwa. The best way to describe this is beefy jerky, but good. It is pork that is pounded until very thing, and once again, is sweet. Asians must love sweet food, because their milk and coffee are all sweetened, they put condensed milk on most desserts and even their meat is sweet! You can’t have a lot of bah kwa at once, but a few bites are quite nice. Thus ends my description of my fooding adventures. Hungry?
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