Sinaran Cahaya Bedok Corner (Singapore): So-So Mee Soto

Mee sotoIn Singapore, I have the great fortune of living right by a popular mosque.

What this means is, the closest hawker center to me — a rather small one named Bedok Corner Food Centre — is a veritable smorgasmord of incredible Malay food. From dawn to past dinner time, there are stalls there selling hearty Malay noodle soup breakfasts, turmeric fried chicken lunches, satay and more. While lunch and dinner are always delicious, my favorite meal there is breakfast.

I love walking in when the place is still a little sleepy — you can smell the chicken that’s just been fried; some hawkers have commandeered whole tables and are hunched over benches peeling potatoes and chopping onions.

My favorite Malay breakfast, mee soto, is offered at not one but five stalls. After hopping around and sampling versions from two or three over the years, I finally decided to analytically work my way through the lot and decide once and for all which one I liked best.

And so it began bright and early this morning. First stop: Sinaran Cahaya Bedok Corner …

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Selera Rasa (Singapore): A Classic Malay Breakfast

Selera Rasa

Breakfast in Singapore truly is something to behold.

For starters, it’s incredibly varied, with Indian, Chinese and Malay offerings ranging from rice and noodle dishes to piping hot roti prata and fried meaty treats. A classic must, however, is nasi lemak — a Malay dish comprising fragrant coconut rice with hearty ingredients such as fried chicken and crispy anchovies. It’s so popular and commonly eaten that some hawkers have it packed ahead of time into tightly folded banana leaves for a quick and tasty breakfast to go.

While I’m fortunate enough to live not too far from one of the great nasi lemak joints on the island — International Food Stall in Changi Village — I’d been hearing about another place for years, one that’s supposed to be the absolute best. Selera Rasa, in fact, is so well-regarded that the Sultan of Brunei supposedly pays a visit when he’s in Singapore, ordering up dozens of packets for takeout.

“Look for the long queue,” Singaporean food personality KF Seetoh counseled, when I asked him about Selera Rasa a few years ago.

A long queue? Singaporeans, an impatient lot, don’t queue for anything unless it’s worth it. I knew right away that I had to get myself to Selera Rasa, to find said queue …

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Sayur Lodeh (Malay Vegetable Stew): Firing Things Up

IMG_6337It’s been a harrowing weather week here in New York City — especially for those of us who were spawned in the tropics.

With temperatures in the teens and 20s (and windchill dipping well below zero occasionally), this Singaporean transplant has never been more miserable. But with each gash of wind battering my cheeks, the thing that’s kept me going is one thought: Something hot and soupy — preferably with a little spicy kick to it.

Soup noodles are always terrific, but stews — now that’s a meal that has some heft for these climes. What to make? A surprising choice, actually, for anyone who’s read “A Tiger in the Kitchen” or this blog and knows what a carnivore I am.

But if you’ve ever tasted sayur lodeh (pronounced sy-yer loh-day), a heady Malay vegetable curry that’s fiery with a tinge of sweetness, you’ll know why it came to mind when my intrepid Let’s Lunch crew decided to whip up some stews for our January virtual lunch date …

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Malay Ayam Masak Merah: Sugar and (Lots of) Spice

Ayam masak merahIn many ways, the holiday season in Singapore is not unlike that of many other cities.

Forests of tinseled trees and explosions of twinkling lights take over malls and shopping streets; there is an unceasing assault of cheeseball tunes wishing you a Holly jolly Christmas. And tables everywhere are packed with glistening hams, turkeys or perhaps, a big plump goose.

This being Singapore though, my family often likes to include a local favorite or two at a Christmas meal — which is how we sometimes find ourselves chasing a plate of hearty roast beef with something curried. So when my sweet Let’s Lunch friend Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club suggested sharing a non-traditional holiday dish for our monthly virtual lunch date, I started craving something spicy.

One of my favorites? Malay ayam masak merah, a dish of fried chicken doused in a complex tomato-based gravy that’s both fiery and sweet …

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Cafe Angsana (Singapore): Malay Comfort Food

Mee SotoGoing to the hospital is never a pleasant thing — but if you do have to do this in Singapore, there is a big silver lining: The food there? Just brilliant.

I’ve had to make a fair number of visits to Singapore General Hospital in recent years — trips I’ve dreaded for various reasons. In the midst of the usual muddle of long waits and shuffling from ward to ward, however, I’ve found something to look forward to — jaunts to the various cafeterias sprinkled among the buildings.

On a recent visit to the National Cancer Centre, I found a new gem: Cafe Angsana, a delicious little outdoor eatery …

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