May 17, 2015

Annual Singapore trip day 2: old and new friends for breakfast

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Picking out where to eat on short trips is a real pain in the ass.  There are simply too many things I wanna eat, with limited time and stomach space.  So it is with planning for my breakfasts.  Thankfully this is usually a solo activity, so I can focus on what *I* wanna do.  That said, logistics can still be tricky.  The choice of where to eat often involve accomodating for different establishments' opening hours.

After trying to decide between bak kut teh (肉骨茶) and roti prata for breakfast this morning, the choice eventually went to bak kut teh since I woke up pretty early, which gave me a chance to hit my favorite establishment before the crowds start arriving.

I first went to Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup Eating House (黃亞細肉骨茶餐室) more than 15 years ago and immediately fell in love with the peppery soup.  It was one of two bak kut teh places I frequented, on occasions when I could drag myself out of bed early enough on weekends.  During my 6-month stay the last time I moved back to Singapore, I actually lived close enough to walk there.

Of course, this place's claim to fame - in the eyes of the Hong Kong people, at least - was for turning away a certain bowtie-wearing big shot when he asked to visit after the establishment's regular opening hours.  It would seem there is no shortage of people who love to ask the question "Do you know who I am?"  And there is equally no shortage of people who would answer "I don't give a flying fuck"...

This has got to be the earliest I've been here... arriving around 8 a.m.  The place was mostly empty, so I had my choice of tables.  As I was eating alone, the number of items I could order was very limited.

Signature pork and spare ribs soup (招牌混合肉骨湯) - mmmm..... Looooove the garlicky, peppery broth of Singapore-style bak kut teh.  The color of the soup here is a darker brown compared to what's on offer at my other favorite Ya Hua.  When it looked like I was running a little low on soup, one of the staff came over and gave me a refill.  Yum.

As I usually do, I ordered a bowl of steamed rice and spooned it into the soup, letting it absorb the peppery goodness.  I also ordered a bowl of fried you tiao (炸油條) - Chinese crullers.  These are left in the soup for a little longer so that they can soak up the soup and infuse the flavors.

On my first visit to Ng Ah Sio all those years ago, I finally realized why the word 'teh (茶)' was included in the name of the dish.  People actually drink tea with this stuff!  I had an epiphany on that visit when I ordered the cheapest tea on the list - a pack of xiao ye gan (小葉甘) for what was then SGD 0.50 - and found it to have an amazingly sweet aftertaste.

So I just had to do it again today... although a smaller pack of the same tea now cost SGD 3.  But I dutifully packed the leaves in the small clay teapot, and slowly sipped small cupfuls of this simple brew.  I do think, though, that the aftertaste is even sweeter when you drink it after a mouthful of that peppery soup.

With my belly full, it was time to go in search for... a second breakfast??  Since I'm staying in the Tiong Bahru area, and this has now become pretty hip in the last few years, I decided I would be remiss if I didn't go exploring a little.

I can't remember the last time I went to Tiong Bahru Market, so I made it my first stop.  Most of the hawker stalls were selling different local Chinese fare, but one in particular caught my eye - HarriAnn's Delights.  I remembered seeing pictures of their nonya kueh from ieatishootipost's Instagram account, and I loooove nonya kueh!  So I quickly went up to the stall and picked up a few things.

I walked around the area a little, and did manage to check out the famous Tiong Bahru Bakery - from the outside.  A number of people have raved about this place, apparently with some of the best croissants in town.  But I can get top-notch croissants pretty easily from Le Salon de The de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong, so I really wasn't gonna waste precious stomach space on that...

Instead I chose to sample the nonya kueh I picked up at the market.  As I was due to have lunch in a couple of hours, I had to limit my intake...

The thing I remembered most was the rainbow-colored lapis sagu.  Lapis sagu is usually made with many colorful layers, but this was the first time I've seen one made in the colors of the rainbow - and in the correct order, too!  Very perrrty...

The other picture I remembered seeing was ondeh-ondeh, so I picked up a box of these.  Biting into one of these released the pool of liquid gula melaka that just squirted out into my mouth.  Totally awesome!  But then again, I can't resist anything made with gula melaka...

Dadar is another delish favorite.  Pandan flavored crêpes rolled up with a filling of gula melaka-flavored shredded coconut.  Hello?!  What's not to love?!

Talam hijau is something I always buy, even though the green (pandan) half can be a little hard in texture.  The brown half is flavored with - you guessed it - gula melaka... so how can I not love it?!

A very happy morning... and looking forward to dinner!

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