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Street food. Am I right? Is there anything better? Ubiquitous across all cultures, street food is a beloved part of any society, whether it’s a burrito at lunch time, or a more questionable meat at 4 a.m.
Arguably the best place in the world for street food is Singapore, where sellers (known as hawkers) are taking the art to the next level. (Think ikan bilis (Singapore style fried anchovice) Pizza and Duck Confit; French food in a street food setting; or a sous vide bath next to a kopi stall. Yeah…this is for real.)
Here’s a roundup of some of these “new age” hawkers.
Bringing haute French cuisine down to humbler levels, Saveur’s young upstarts, Joshua Khoo See Sen (27) and Dylan Ong Shun Ping (24) are serving up salmon and duck confit and beef bourguignon, all for under $12. You can find them at Ali Baba Eating House, Stall 3, 125 East Coast Road.
Here in New York, a typical lunch salad can cost you anywhere from $10 to $18, depending on the toppings. Yeah, for a salad. But at Greens, owner Celeste Tan is serving up robust salads at street food prices. ($4. Much better.) Customers can choose a range of ingredients like lotus root, banguang, duo miao and enoki mushrooms. Greens sits at #01-98 Golden Mile Food Centre.
Happy Family Pasta & Pizza
As a rule of thumb, pizzas and pastas are typically overpriced in Singapore. But at Happy Family, customers can satisfy their Italian cravings for just around $5. Popular menu items include funghi pizza, linguini bolognese, linguini seafood marinara, and some kind of fusion known as ikan bilis sambal pizza. Find Happy Family at #02-39, Block 127 To a Payoh Lorong 1.
Well, if yesterday wasn’t enough to thrill you (thank you all for the record number of hits, by the way), let us continue with what you really want to see: the down-and-dirty details of yesterday’s visit. That’s right. I have it on video (courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board). Enjoy.
Yesterday, friends, was a very special day for yours truly. You always remember milestones in your life. My first job (this one), my first press trip (Dusseldorf), and the first time you meet your hero. Yesterday I was lucky enough to meet Anthony Bourdain, and while I won’t pretend that we had a deep, meaningful moment together, I did shake the man’s hand and babble incoherently about being some kind of big fan. Happy Valentine’s Day to me, indeed!
So the good stuff. Why was I meeting Anthony Bourdain? The Singapore Tourism Board hosted a luncheon yesterday for select members of the media at New York’s Michelin-starred Laut restaurant for a private meet and greet with the man himself.
Bourdain tantalized us with tales about his travels throughout Singapore, along with some personal anecdotes about his daughter, and of course, a cutting comment or two about the Kardashians. (Would you expect anything less?)
The chefs at Laut served up a specially-created menu with favorite dishes hand-picked by the Singapore Tourism Board and Tony, including Singapore laksa and Hainanese chicken rice. Bourdain described the food of Singapore as only you could imagine he would – going off into some of the most evocative prose about boiled chicken and rice. Tears to my eyes! (No, but seriously, it was impressive.)
I did manage to learn some intimate details about Tony, including why he does not weight 350 pounds. “I eat and drink for a living,” he tells an audience that is stuffing its faces with beef rendang (a tender coconut-based beef stew) and kuih dada (a crepe flavored with pandan juice and stuffed with grated coconut). “Everything you see on camera I eat. I often go back for seconds. But when I’m off camera, I’m not really eating.”
When it came time to break and I had not yet told Tony that I had made reservations for the two of us at this quaint little Italian restaurant on Valentine’s Day, I realized that I needed to make a break for it.
“Mr. Bourdain?,” I heard myself say.
The man, all 6’4 of him, turned around and smiled at me and shook my hand. I tried to play it cool, remembering that on each of his episodes of No Reservations or The Layover he likes to tell his audience about the indigenous beverage of each destination.
So I asked him, “What is the indigenous beverage of Singapore?” (Ignore the fact that I was so nervous that I mucked up the word indigenous.)
“Beer,” he said, without elaboration.
Well, there you have it folks. Beer is the indigenous beverage of Singapore.
I can die happy now. Happy Valentine’s Day, all! May yours be as good as mine is today! (Oh and we decided to just stay friends.)
I’m a huge Bourdain buff. I love his snark, his attitude, his disdain for the mainstream and his passion for all that is local. I think anyone would kill for this man’s job.
Tonight’s episode will feature a 24-hour layover in Singapore, where Tony will tour the city sampling coffee, breakfast, claypot rice and more. Should be exciting and I’m salivating thinking of it already.
A typical morning for me usually involves hauling my ass out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m., rushing through a less-than-satisfying breakfast of scrambled eggs (I throw a little hot sauce on there for excitement) and making my way to the office where I will hunker down in my cube for eight hours.
But yesterday was no typical morning. Instead I found myself sitting at Daniel Boulud‘s DB Bistro Moderne, dining on congee soup with egg emulsion, french toast with bacon and coconut sauce and a yam cake with mushrooms and gorgonzola and listening to his Frenchness talk about his upcoming projects in Singapore.
Now yes, I am a morning person. I get more done before noon than most and I am officially useless after 3 p.m. But this was an experience to wake up any morning narcoleptic. The breakfast was hosted by the Singapore Tourism Board, who was informing the media about Singapore’s brand new culinary campaign called A Taste of Singapore.
This breakfast was the final New York event in a series of tastings that kicked off April 29 at New York‘s Double Crown. Over the next two years, Singapore will be rolling out a series of initiatives globally that will help position it as a culinary capital in Asia.
Where does Boulud fit in? For the past few years Singapore has been in the process of building a monstrous integrated resort, Marina Bay Sands (officially opening in June), which will forever change the skyline of Singapore. Boulud will be opening a Singapore location of DB Bistro Moderne in the resort complex. He will be joined by five other celebrity chefs who are also opening restaurants at the complex, including Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Santi Santamaria, Guy Savoy and Tetsuya Wakuda.
For all you New Yorkers out there who can’t take the trek to Singapore, I suggest you check out the LUCKYRICE Festival, which is an 11-day celebration of Asian food and culture that kicks off this spring. You will definitely be seeing me there.