This past Saturday, Kin Hoe Chong, a coworker of mine and the 2 other PiAers in LSCT, invited Ana, Trevor, and I (the three LSCT fellows) to his place for lunch, movies/swimming, and dinner at what he promised was a fantastic seafood place that only locals go to. We started off the day by meeting him at the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit = subway) stop by his place, and then proceeded to tour around the Yishun wet market. I haven't been to a wet market up until now, and even though Kin Hoe assured us that this was a "clean" wet market (especially compared to Cambodia/Vietnam), I still managed to get sprayed by dirty fish water as I meandered through the aisles. I was overpowered by the smell of freshly cut fish and severed chickens, as well as the less-than-appealing odors of throngs of humans pressed together in the balmy atmosphere. There were multitudes of different shop keepers hawking their wares to the customers, and if I wasn't promised a fantastic Thai lunch by Kin Hoe, I probably would've been enticed to purchase some fresh Tilapia.
After the wet market, we proceeded to "A Taste of Thailand," an outdoor hawker-center style restaurant which Kin Hoe claimed to be the best Thai food in all of Singapore. 5 of us (including two of Kin Hoe's friends) waited while Kin Hoe ordered all of the food for us, which turned out to be a feast of a lunch. We were soon presented with 2 fried whole Tilapia (see the picture), Tom Yum soup, fried cuttlefish, sweet and sour pork, pineapple rice, sauteed leeks, and another mushroom/prawn soup which I can't remember the name to. This food was so unlike the "Thai" food I'd eaten in America (which consisted mostly of pad thai and crispy duck), and it was incredibly delicious. My favorite part of this meal was the fried cuttlefish, which came out looking like french fries, but were actually large slivers of squid, which you dipped in this mayonnaise-like sauce. Amazing.
Then after lunch, we went back to his place to rest and digest, while we watched "Role Models" (which was a hilarious movie). After a slight hiatus from eating, we moved on to sampling a variety of local fruits that Kin Hoe had prepared for us. He had purchased rambutan (a fruit who's name means "hair" because of the hairy projections all over it - it looks like a red sea urchin with green hair), jackfruit (an orange-ish fruit that tastes kind of savory), pomegranate, mangos, and the Queen of Fruits, mangosteen (it looks like a plum, but is harder, and you pop it open to reveal what looks like garlic cloves but tastes like heaven). We spent half an hour sampling and rotating between each of the different fruits, after which we finished thoroughly sticky, wet, and satisfied. See below for the mangosteen, which may just be my new favorite fruit:
After this mid-day fruit bonanza, we rested again by watching a French movie called "Priceless", which was also a very good movie, and perfect to digest hordes of fruit to. Around 8 o'clock at night we picked up our things and moved on to Mellben Seafood, which served us the best seafood meal of my entire life, hands down. Singapore is famous for its Chili Crab, a dish that we had not tried until this night. Kin Hoe had promised to bring us to the best chili crab place in Singapore, and he delivered. We arrived at the restaurant, which had a 20 person line out the "front door", in quotations because it was an open-air setting with just a roof over about 40 tables and chairs. The atmosphere was very local and gave me the impression that we were sneaking into one of Singapore's better kept secrets. We ordered our food while waiting in line (SO EFFICIENT!) and the waiter gave us a card with an estimation of when our food would arrive (I wish more US restaurants were like this). After sitting at our table, we had the chance to look around at the one wall in the place, which was covered with crab shells of all different shapes, sizes, and shades of orange.
When our food arrived, I think I started salivating onto my shirt. Kin Hoe had taken the liberty to order for us again because he knew the best entrees to taste, and again he astounded us with the selection of food. The waiters set down in front of us: garlic bamboo clams (I thought these were just served on bamboo rod, but no these are actual 8-inch long clams in what looks to be a bamboo shoot, and each one was covered with the equivalent of about 10 cloves of chopped garlic), fried yam with vegetables and prawns, scallops and shrimp in a sweet curry sauce, and two types of crab. The first was the house specialty, which was a large crab boiled in a salty broth and noodles, allowing the crab flavoring to infuse into the noodles. You eat the crab while drinking the broth and noodles, and I was overcome with the freshness of the meat. But the second crab - oh my god the second crab - was chili crab. This was another large crab served in a bowl, and it was smothered in this chili/egg/tomato broth, which was the perfect combination of spiciness and flavor. Hands down the single best crab I've ever eaten. We all left the restaurant agreeing that we had discovered one of Singapore's local secrets, and we were asleep a short few hours later due to the effects of disastrous food coma. But I know I will return there as soon as I can so I can relive the experience of that chili crab. See below for the garlic bamboo clams and chili crab:
That's all for now. See all the food pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/sdzoller. I have my first day of real teaching tomorrow, so I'm sure I'll have a ton of new stories after this week, depending on just how unruly my students are! I've been told they can be a handful, so I'm a little nervous but very excited, so look for the next update.