Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: July 2018

Singapore Food Staples: Popiah (and some more Carrot Cake)

Balestier Road is an odd one. You can go there with a very wild and varied shopping list (freshly ground coffee, light fittings, a fancy new toilet, and you could stay in a cheap but dingy hotel if all the shopping wore you out). I will miss walking down Balestier.

It is also known for it’s wide variety of food offerings. Balestier Food Centre is a small but well stocked hawker centre. When I arrived in Singapore back in 2011 it was being refurbished (it does have some decent toilets there it has to be said).

I went there one evening during the World Cup to grab some eats and found the Miao Sin Popiah stall run by two very friendly ladies. Popiah wasn’t on my mind but it certainly was one of the foods I hadn’t tried yet so when I saw it I had to get it. I saw it and I got it. Along with a reacquaintance with carrot cake (white) and an introduction of black carrot cake. Popiah was $2 and the medium sized carrot cake was $4.50.

First up popiah. It has it’s origins in the Fujian province in China and it takes the form of a crepe type of spring roll with a filling of thinly sliced tofu, chopped peanuts or peanut powder, fried shallots, and shredded omelette. The fillings change per establishment. It’s nice, light, and has nice combination of soft and crunchy. The crepe wrapping is thin but has some substance to it which adds a little sandwichy feel to the eating process. Mechanism.

I’ve talked about carrot cake before; the white variety. So when I saw the black variety I had to get to sample the dark side too. The blackness adds a sweet dark sauce to proceedings so along with the white carrot cake flavours of eggy and white radish goodness (with a little spicy kick). I actually would get the black one over the white one. Once you go black…

I was very happy to get the small little dish of popiah scraped of my list before I left Singapore and I would definitely pick it up again as a nice little light snack or starter to a main meal.

Singapore Food Staples: Rojak

“You must try rojak before you leave Singapore” some crazy person said to me at some point. So with my days dwindling down on the red dot I wandered many a hawker centre and decreed that if I saw it I would eat it. I saw it. I tried to eat it.

The venue was the Golden Mile Food Centre on Beach Road which is quite a large eatery you can browse through to find your poison. I found rojak.

Rojak is a fruit and vegetable dish. Rojak means “mixture” in Malay. It’s a mixture of fruits and vegetables but it’s totally ensconced in a gritty paste mixture of water, shrimp paste, sugar, chili, and lime juice. Singapore rojak tends to have cucumber, pineapple, puffy, deep-fried tofu and youtiao (cut-up Chinese-style fritters) and raw mangos and green apples. All topped atop with crushed peanuts. They were all apparent in my dish in abundance.

At first, I was surprised by the taste and I thought I actually liked it. That passed. I just didn’t like the combination of contrasts between sweet and sour and fruity and savoury. I chose the $4 dish which was the equivalent of a Starbucks Grande. I guess. I valiantly tried to battle my way through it and attempted to find a combination of tastes that I liked. I kind of liked the apple bits and the tofu bits but that’s if you forced me.

Anyway, sadly, this was one of the last dishes I tried and it was my least favourite. But I’m glad I tried it. Like I tried to ride a skateboard once. I won’t be trying it again. It’s just not nice. But try it if you like the culinary clash of sweet and savoury from time to time.

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