Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Tag: orchard road

Singapore Food Staples: Ban Mian

After purchasing a rather long strip light bulb in Home DIY, I was hungry. LCD light bulb I’ll have you know. And I would need to replace the ancient starter that my old strip bulb had. The salesperson had faith in me to do so. Alone. I didn’t.  Anyway, I needed some sustenance before proceeding with the massive light bulb operation that was awaiting me in the shadows of the kitchen back home.

I took the swift moving people dodging trail underground from ION Orchard to under Tangs to the small and relatively quiet quasi-hawker centre there. Tang’s Food Market. As I perused the pictures telling the individual dish stories I rested upon Chili Ban Mian. I like the word chili. I had to Google Ban Mian.

Ban Mian originates from the Han Chinese and manifests itself as a bowl of flat egg noodles, vegetables, mushrooms, dried anchovy, fish/meat (in this case minced pork), soup/dried (in this case soup), and a very softly softly boiled egg. And it’s delicious. And the chili approach makes it extra delicious.

At $5 this is a good deal for prime real estate food eating in the underbelly of Orchard Road. You get a small bowl of broth which was quite underwhelming and tasted mainly of the chives/onion that was floating around lifelessly inside.

To the main dish. Now I don’t know if mixing everything together is something that should not be done ever but I did. I didn’t regret it one bit. It was amazing. The crunch of an occasional anchovy was magnificent. The chili burned merrily away with each mouthful. The minced pork were of a decent portion and mixing them up into the entire bowl allowed for the soft and delicious morsels to be in nearly every mouthful. The egg disappeared into the noodle and soup concoction to become one be-a-utiful soft component to counterbalance the dried anchovy. The sporadic greens were fine and the mushrooms which are not really friends with my digestive system were just OK but were relatively flat in the taste symphony.

I will be eating this again. I left with a pleasant burning mouth and happy taste buds. I then proceeded home to change my starter and light bulb successfully. Thanks Ban Mian.

 

Singapore Food Staples: Laksa

Forgive me for being biased but I believe Asian food has the most willingness to surprise, scare, delight, and excite the weary eater. One of the most low key foods you can have in Singapore is laksa. I mean low key in a way that it’s a nice gate-way to the world of Singaporean/Asian dishes. There’s a lot more scarier dishes out there.

But, of course, there are different versions of laksa. But, of course.
I’ve had many. I like them all. I won’t stand in the corner and fight for one in particular but I will tell you why I like katong laksa. Because I had that today and that’s what I remember.

After walking back from the Istana where I had my improptu photoshoot with Donald Trump I wandered in a post-presidential daze to Janggut Laksa on the 4th floor of Wisma Atria. The Food Republic there is quite reasonable (for Orchard Road) and has an excellent range of local fare.

Ignoring and laughing at all signage directing me towards a meagre small bowl I opted for the $7.50 large bowl. Again, not cheap by hawker centre standards but cheap enough for Orchard Road.

On first slurps of a Katong Laksa you get a gritty texture to the soup base. Which is nice. It adds a bit more depth to the taste and feels more wholesome. The grit is ground up dried prawns for your curiousity. Maybe you didn’t want to know that. Another difference between other laksas I have had is that everything is spoonable in a Katong Laksa; the noodles are cut up into more scoop-upable sizes. Which is why they only gave me a spoon until I asked for some chopsticks. Which probably insulted them on many levels. Then I realised I didn’t really need it. Laksa lesson learned.

This laksa was delicious. Both sweet and spicy. Both gritty and smooth. The Laksa noodles, coconut milk, curry soup base, chili, dried shrimps, cockles, prawns and fishcake marry each other perfectly. The fish cake slices with a hint of faint fishiness contrast the punchy cockle taste which hits you with an ocean wave flavour. Getting a mixture of everything with each spoonful is the beautiful part of eating a laksa; and one that I will miss when I leave Singapore.

You should leave a laksa behind with slight spicy after burn on the back roof of your mouth from the spice and sambal, with the remnants of sweetness on your tongue from the soup and shrimp, and with a salty aftertaste from the cockles. And all of those tasty memories are very much welcome.

R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain

Bite Size Review: Thai Tantric

There is a building in Singapore called Orchard Towers. It goes by another rhyming moniker… It has four floors. And certain females “work” there. Do the math.
It’s a dodgy building which you can’t really walk around as a lone male without getting cajoled or cat-called into a darker realm.

Nestled between the business emporiums on the third floor is Thai Tantric. Out of the way, tucked into a corner, it stands alone and looks very very average. At best. Behind the banality though lies a very authentic and very very tasty Thai food experience.

Having been there twice now I have seen two sides to the Thai Tantric experience. The first time it was around 500pm or so and the place was empty and we had the pick of seats (so we chose to sit outside in the dank corridor).
The second time visiting there was about 7pm or so and the queue snaked outside as every table was bursting at the seams. We waited thirty minutes to get a table. And it was worth it. But give me no wait any day.

The service is fine but it’s the food that will linger long in your memory. On both occasions I had the Thai Spicy Chicken Wings and they are. Truly spicy. The kind that stings but gives you that pleasure soon afterwards. The burn lingers. And it’s welcomed.On the first visit there one of the surprisinghorizoners got the Tom Yum Soup I believe and it nearly blew his brains out. But in a good way. On the second occasion we shared some other dishes; the green curry was tasty and flavourful, the phad thai juicy and succulent, and we got some sort of shredded beef which was also delicious. Beer wise you can wash everything down with a Singha beer.

Go there. With friends.

Christmas in Singapore: Orchard Road & Gardens By The Bay

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I have got used to seeing Christmas decorations and experiencing 99%  humidity at the same time. It’s been 10 years living in Asia, I better have.

Orchard Road starts setting up Christmas decorations in October due to the huge amount of work that is involved. In all fairness, they do a good job.
Gardens by the Bay, on the other hand, charges people $8 to get into their Winter Wonderland which has a bunch of food stalls, games, and the ubiquitous Santa in a grotto.

I wandered along Orchard Road and paid the $8 to stroll around alongside eager children dragging their parents around the Winter Wonderland.

Orchard Road

Take a walk from Wheelock Place down towards Somerset 313 and you will see the main Christmas sights (lights/trees/performances) you will need to see (including the small Christmas market outside Ngee Ann City). I think the backdrop of high-end shops make perfect backgrounds for Christmas trees…because that’s what Christmas is all about right?

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Winter Wonderland

It’s worth popping along to the Winter Wonderland for 19:45 or 20:45 for the Christmas themed light/audio show then get out of there with children’s wailing and parent’s resigned sighs ringing echoes in your ears.
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Bite Size Review: Din Tai Fung

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Din Tai Fung in Paragon on Orchard Road

If you ever visit us in Singapore we will take you to Din Tai Fung. Oh yes, we will.

It is now a must have once a month dining experience for us having being first introduced to us in Hong Kong. We have visited the original in Taipei with 60 Grade 5 students, and now here in Singapore we have over 19 branches to choose from. But we always just go to one in Paragon on Orchard Road. We would go to the one in Wisma Atria but they, for some reason, don’t make the vegetarian steamed dumplings. Odd.

I never change what I get at Din Tai Fung. Six steamed pork dumplings if you please. A side dish of egg and rice. And a plate of greens (either spinach or Dou Miao). There is also a request for six vegetarian steamed dumplings (hence our extended trek to Paragon).

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Pork dumplings!

The pork dumplings are uniquely delicious. Piping hot you have to sate your appetite before delicately carrying one from its wooden steam..thing. Dip it into some soy/vinegar and eat. It pops open in your mouth with a pork broth spilling out with each initial bite. Perfection.

The egg and rice is amazing and a perfect foil to the strong pork tasting dumplings. Whatever vegetable side dish you get it is always a nice accompaniment.

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Vegetable dumplings

So if you find yourself in any of the following countries; Australia, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, Taiwan, Thailand or Dubai. Check and see if there is a Din Tai Fung near you and treat yo’self.

10 out of 10 steaming pork dumplings.

Pedestrian Evening on Orchard Road

Every so often some people somewhere decide Orchard Road doesn’t have enough pedestrian traffic and not enough people are buying stuff so they decide to give up the actual road of Orchard Road to pedestrians too. This past Saturday the theme was “Movie Night” and we went along to see how rushed and crammed together we could get.

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Umm, not crowded at all. Whatsoever. The above picture shows Orchard Road that usually has a lot more cars and buses on it. I would be run over if I took that photo any other day. And/Or be the cause of a major traffic jam.

There was no schedule of events (because there wasn’t one) on the event website apart from a list of shops along Orchard Road that would be having some sales. Other than that, the only thing that went along with the theme of “Movie Night” was the small trailer at the end of the pedestrian zone showing some…movies.

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OK, so we might have been a bit early. Time for an intermission. We headed into Paragon to see if we could squeeze in to Din Tai Fung. Not a chance. So we shuffled off weeping to Kaffir & Lime for some Thai food instead.

Now I’m a simple guy with a simple purpose in a restaurant. To eat. And maybe have a drink. No sooner had we sat down when I was accosted to join their club wherein I could eat at their establishment all the time for cheap! The nice old lady wouldn’t leave me alone so I told her I had a terminal disease and wouldn’t be around for much longer. Bye bye. Won’t be back. They never really had a chance when Din Tai Fung was out of the equation.

Back outside and it had rained a lot but that didn’t dampen the spirits of three of four street entertainers that were pretty much all that was happening all along Orchard Road. We headed home before the excitement of it all got to us.

Who knows if it got a lot more exciting as the sun went down? For the thrill of walking down usually the busiest street in Singapore it was, I guess, a nice experience. They really need to get some good attractions going though. Food tents? Drink tents? Bearded lady? Something!

A pretty dull evening makes for a pretty dull blog post. Apologies but they made me do it.

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