Here are some noms and other miscellaneous photos of Singapore from yesterday (and lunch from today). Melissa and her friend Donald Low (a dean and professor of public policy at the National University of Singapore), took me on a tour of the city, concentrating on the old Chinese regions, with low storefronts and houses built early in the 20th century. They form a stark contrast—and a refuge—from the tall buildings that dominate the Singapore skyline.
I’ll concentrate on what we ate, but there are other pictures, too, and tomorrow I’ll post flower photos from the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which we visited today. A huge and spectacular site, it’s the only tropical garden to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
First, we began with a light morning snack: mine was green tea ice cream served with a hot glass of chamomile and ginger tea. You pour the hot tea over the ice cream bit by bit to get combinations of cold and hot, and flower and tea.
We visited a nearby Buddhist temple, its quiet courtyard overtopped by the famous skyscrapers of Singapore:
The temple contained a tile museum and shop, with beautiful handmade tiles taken from old Singapore buildings, like this set, which I believe were made in China:
In the courtyard were various demons, with offerings to them. This long-tongued fellow was given offerings of cigarettes and Guinness!
After walking a while, it was time for lunch (I’m told that at all hours, 24 each day, there will be Singaporeans eating). This is a famous restaurant serving Hainan cuisine which, though of Chinese origin, has been given a distinctive Singaporean flavor. This small country is the world’s center for cultural appropriation and alteration of food, and that is a good thing!
Here is the staff inside the small open-air restaurant, which always has a line. The tables are outside on the sidewalk.
Happy customers downing noodles.
Part of our lunch: curried chicken.
Donald and Melissa with the rest of our lunch—all the above plus squid, curried fish, and rice.
Melissa was sporting a Professor Ceiling Cat tattoo in my honor; she found two of them in the airport in Los Angeles. They’re tenacious for temporary tattoos; this one has remained on through several days and half a dozen showers:
I found a cat! How could I not go into a shop with a sign like this?
The cat was a lovely tabby, which I believe resembles the famous Singapura breed, which has beautiful ticked fur. Its tail was a stub, probably due to an accident. Next to Bengals, Singapuras are my favorite cat breed (they’re also the smallest domestic cat breed).
Do not disturb the moggie. Its bed is in the store window.
Orchids at a nearby “wet market”:
Dragonfruit at a fruit stall:
I was told that these were plums:
These were small fruits, the size of a pingpong ball, all connected to a stalk. Does anybody know what these are?
Mangos. I’ve never seen the white ones before:
It’s hot and muggy here year round, usually in the 90s (F) and with very high humidity. That mandates frequent stops for cold beverages in air-conditioned shops. This one I absolutely loved: it was carbonated water and lots of lime juice, into which were placed ice cubes, each containing a frozen sour plum. The combination of sweet lime and sour plum was fantastic. This is called sng muay pop, a traditional Singaporean drink served in the traditional metal mug.
With it we had gula malaka jelly, made with palm sugar and coconut milk, served with a condensed milk sauce.
Walking down the street, we passed an open doorway and I heard Melissa cry, “Oh my God: a cat with a bowtie!” Sure enough, sitting on the stairs looking calmly at the passersby was a lovely tabby sporting formal wear:
A close-up of the Bill Nye cat. This is adorable, though I’m not sure the cat is comfortable in a tie.
A row of traditional Chinese houses, probably built around the turn of the last century. They remind me of the famous “painted ladies” of San Francisco.
I’m told that these houses go for nearly $3 million each (Singapore dollars, worth about 72 US cents per dollar). Real estate is at a premium because the country is small and living space restricted.
We had dinner at the Singapore Zoo, where we went for the Night Safari, a special section of the zoo open only between 7:15 and midnight. Because it’s dark and no flashes are allowed, I didn’t take any photos, but there were great animals. We got to see fishing cats actually fishing in a stream! It’s amazing to see a small cat dive into the water to catch a fish.
This is ayam panggang, a version of an Indonesian dish with barbecued chicken, a mound of rice, and vegetables, served on a banana leaf.
Laksa, a Malay dish with noodles, shrimp, chicken, and spices served in a coconut gravy with chili sauce, peanuts, and other condiments on the side:
Melissa had a Singapore Sling, the archetypal British-Singaporean drink invented in 1915 in the Raffles Hotel, where I hope to consume one soon. It’s made of gin, grenadine, maraschino, and sometimes Cointreau.
My favorite local dessert, which I featured yesterday: ais kacang.
Noms today. Mr. and Mrs. Chin took us to a very famous restaurant, Samy’s Curry, which has won many awards. It’s famous for a classic Singapore dish, fish head curry, an Indonesian-Malay dish with Indian notes: coconut milk and hot spices.
Before the curry, we had a very Indian meal served on a banana leaf: rice, curried vegetables, and spicy chicken. I ate with my hands, Indian style. Along with it I had a lime juice and a fresh green coconut cut open for its water:
The famous fish head curry. It was scrumptious, with the fish head loaded with delicate white meat, setting off the fiery red gravy.
Some coconut water to cool things down. After you drink the liquid inside, you can spoon off the nascent coconut meat for dessert.
Finally, a cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) at the zoo—the only animal I photographed: