“Big scissors!” was the immediate answer.
Which may seem an odd name for a food establishment to some. But in Singapore, the word “scissors” indicates that this is a stall in which you buy a plate of rice, point to a bunch of dishes (usually holding items like tofu, fried eggs or pork chops) and the hawker then piles what you’ve chosen on the plate and snips it all up into bite-size pieces with — you got it — a big pair of scissors.
While this could come across as a rather unorthodox way of serving a meal, let me tell you, places with the word “scissors” in their names often churn out pretty darn satisfying food. In Mark’s case, his meal — which he still regularly recounts with great gusto and yearning — was at Big Scissors Curry Rice at Maxwell Food Centre.
Recently, I had the good fortune of discovering another gem in the “scissors” category: Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice.
When I found out that this hawker stall was located along Jalan Besar, in the heart of a thicket of karaoke KTV lounges (which, in Singapore, are some serious dens of iniquity), I knew the food was going to be good.
At Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice, you have both the scene and the quality of food. (During the day, however, the scene is quite tame.)
Let’s start with curry rice — which is a uniquely Singaporean dish invented by the Hainanese, a Chinese ethnic group.
As the story goes, the Hainanese started incorporating curries into their dishes when they learned how to make it while working as cooks in European settlers’ kitchens in the early 20th Century.
Some of Singapore’s most well-loved dishes are Hainanese — chicken rice, pork chops, curry rice — because the early generations of this ethnic group that emigrated here largely worked as household cooks when they landed. (It’s funny how certain ethnic groups tend to become known for a profession, isn’t it? My father likes to say that people of my ethnic group, the Teochews, are known for being smugglers, pirates and incredibly successful businessmen — which could all be seen as rather the same thing.)
In any case … at Beach Road, the offerings are pretty straightforward: Pork chops, fish cakes, chicken, fried eggs, spicy, fried ikan bilis (a small fish) and tofu braised in sweet, dark soy sauce.
After much pointing, the action begins …
… and when the guy is done cutting everything up, he’ll ask if you want vegetables (the correct answer is always “Yes”) and then he’ll drown your heaping plate of snipped-up food with a slightly sweet and rather mild curried stew of super-soft cabbage.
The price of my dish when I checked out the place was just over Singapore $3 (about U.S. $2.10). And the way it tasted, I would have gladly paid more.
(My one quibble was with the pork chop, which was a little dry, thin and stiff — but everything else was perfectly delicious.)
Now, I recognize that this is not a terribly appetizing-looking dish — Mike, in fact, flashed me a “You’ve GOT to be kidding me” look when I first unwrapped the package of Beach Road curry rice I’d carefully picked out for him that day.
But hey, there are plenty of places where you can eat great-looking food that tastes like swill.
Me? I much prefer my food the other way around.
Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice, 229 Jalan Besar (at the corner of Kitchener Road and Jalan Besar).