Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hawker War


I just love the rain trees in Singapore. They are well-trimmed, healthy and everywhere, especially along pedestrian walkways and roadsides. It makes sense to grow large shade trees in wet, humid, tropical weather instead of palm trees which are more suitable for dry weather, such as in California or the Middle East. 

There's always about five feet of grass that separates the roads from the footpaths, and the paths are always shaded by big beautiful trees. In Malaysia, the footpath, if you are lucky there's one, is usually  right next to the road and illegally parked with cars.

Although Singapore imports all its foodstuff, the fruits and veggies are very fresh and of good quality. I was just talking with a friend who owns several grocery outlets in KK and he was surprised that blueberries in Singapore can be as cheap as S$2.99/RM7.50/USD2.50. Not just that, I told him, the punnet is bigger and the berries are also much bigger than the ones we get here, which according to my friend, are re-imported from KL. I love tropical fruits for their intense and exotic flavors but I love berries for their colors, beauty and flavors too. At RM16.90/USD5.50 per small punnet of blueberries, RM21.90/USD7 per small punnet of raspberries and blackberries (which have recently appeared in our supermarkets), I can't afford to make summer pudding, one of my fave desserts, unless there's a special occasion. Frozen berries are cheaper but just don't taste as good as fresh ones.



Tropical fruits.

It was our last day in Singapore and I made sure that Wey got to eat the crispy pork knuckle he had dreamed of for years. Western Food 85 used to be where Chai Chee Pork Porridge is but they are now at Blk 416 Bedok North Avenue 2 until next year when they will move back to where Chai Chee is, at 85 Bedok North 4th St.


Chicken chop. I didn't try this but it looked good and it was cheap, S$5.50/RM14/USD4.50 I think it was.

Crispy German pork knuckle.

We had two orders of the crispy pork knuckle, which I think was only S$12.50/RM32/USD10.20 each. All agreed that this was good, the skin crispy and wonderfully lard-scented but the meat was rather dry, which I suppose is not surprisingly since the knuckle was boiled and then deep fried.

Wonton noodles, only S$2.50/RM6.40/USD2!


Noodles with fish slices, a couple of Singapore dollars. A little too fishy for me.

Herbal bak kut teh.

White pepper bak kut teh.

We had bak kut teh twice this trip and found them insipid. The portion and meat quality are much better than what we get in KK though.

The Chief Minister of Penang was reportedly upset two weeks ago when Penang was ranked behind Singapore for hawker food. A wise woman would not get into this hawker feud but me being the opinionated me, let me give a fair--I am East Malaysian, unbiased enough?--comment on this issue. There's no way Singapore hawker food is better than Penang hawker food (shoot me). BUT at the risk of being stoned to death by the Penangnites (and I love Penang assam laksa and can live on it everyday, and char kuey teow too if I can eat it and not become a whale, and cendol and popiah), I've heard so many people comment after a trip to Penang that after three days, they start all over again eating the same thing they ate the previous days. I didn't find the variety lacking because I ate assam laksa everyday, but if you don't like assam laksa, what else do you eat after char kueh teow, nasi kandar and cheong fun? Otak otak, oyster scrambled eggs, peranankan food, roti canai and such can also be found in Singapore. Singapore's restaurant scene has expanded and improved so much you need to plan five meals a day to scratch the surface of their list of restaurants and stalls. My conclusion is that Singapore is many rungs higher than Malaysia for variety and quality of restaurant and fine dining places but for tasty hawker food, Penang reigns. Period. At least for now. Decades ago, Singapore's hawker food was better than Malaysia's. Remember People's Park? The difference between good and excellent hawker food, I think, depends on the condition of the kitchen. Slightly unhygenic chaotic kitchens and passionate local-grown cooks = excellent hawker food. There, I've made myself persona non grata in both Penang and Singapore.


jinkar said...

I have to agree with you. Penang hawker food rules hands down for me. The good stalls in Singapore can be really good but quite often I find Singaporean Hawker Food too sweet! I find I always overeat when I go to Penang but can restrain myself in Singapore. :)

Michelle Chin said...

I like Ipoh hawker food. Hehehehe.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoying reading your travel and food blogs. Very interesting and full of beautiful pictures. Really inspire me to save to travel to all those places that you blogged. Your New York trip is very interesting and I may make a trip up soon though it is very far away from Phoenix, AZ. Seeing those food and places in Singapore make me homesick. Thank you. Theresa

Anonymous said...

I'm a Singaporean & I so totally agreed with you that Penang hawker food is so much better than Singapore now. The great hawker food in Penang now was what Singapore's hawker food used to be back in the 1970-1980's & early 90's...


Simply June said...

I'm from Penang.. so I will always be biased that we have awesome hawker food! =)

terri@adailyobsession said...

jinkar: oh yes, i also detected sugar in most of sg's hawker food. don't like tt too.

michelle: the last time i went to ipoh was longggg longgg time ago so i must make a visit soon.

theresa: oh you are homesick:( never mind, cook some sg dishes soon:)

kat: an honest sgporean:D. oh the food back then was so yum...what happened to roasting chestnuts by the roadside? tt's also smthing i miss about KL. smelt it b4 i saw the chestnut stall. and the kacang man. n sotong man.:(((

june: not biased, just honest lol

Anonymous said...

Aunt Terri...just enjoy reading all your food adventure.

I miss M'sia food lots esp the Chee Cheong Fun because of the sauce. The sauce used in Singapore is those Yong Tau Foo sauce which just does not rhyme with CCF.

Truly and surprisingly...sugar and MSG are still in use.

Roasting Chestnuts have moved into aircon area. Being Ramadan period, there are many pondoks set up in atrium of Mid-Valley and i especially like the Roasted Sweet Potatoes stall run by Jaya Jusco and there is the roasted chestnut. Both the fragrance really fill the air.

I enjoyed a big bowl (which i had ordered a second)penang assam laksa. Finish every drop of soup at Little Penang.

Guess the best time to visit KL is Ramadan period as they have many of those "buka puasa" food stalls along stretches of road.

Thanks again for sharing. You the best...


Chocolate, Cookies & Candies said...

My Penang friend would pelt me too with rotten eggs and grenades but I love the accessibility and clean eating places. Eating out is so affordable in Singapore. Besides, SIA is fab so I tend to stopover in Singapore on my way back to NZ.

The Real Mother Hen said...

I am a Penangnite - but I think the hawker food in Singapore is much beter. Due to inflation, and the fact that people still expect a bowl of noodles to be cheap, hawkers in Penang have no choice but to compromise on quality and relying heavily on MSG and the man-made chemicals like 3-MCPD found in various "sauces". On the other hand, though you pay a lot more in Singapore, you get a bowl of noodles with a substantial amount of meat/fish. I spent some time in Penang this past Oct/Nov; I was so thirsty after eating all the "great" hawker food in Penang that I had to drink 3L of water everyday. Then I flew to Singapore - I ate happily there without having to drown myself in drinking water.

terri@adailyobsession said...

Thank. Chrish:)

Ccc: sg's restaurants scene is improving leaps n bounds bc the economy is so strong. Good for them!

Realmother hen: tt sounds just like what's happening in kk now, no quality n quantity, just a lot of rip offs. But while they hv quality in sg, their hawker food is mostly not tasty altho i cant make a sweeping statemt too sine i was ony there a week each time.

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