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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Mei Wei Economic Bee Hoon (Singapore): Fried Chicken Surprise

IMG_6545Just after dawn on a weekday, my mother and I make a short trek to Joo Chiat, one of the sweet pockets of Singapore‘s laidback East Coast where you’ll still find pre-war townhouse-packed narrow lanes that feel like 1970s Singapore.

A dusty little corner kopitiam (coffeeshop) beckons — Poh Ho Restaurant, which we’d visited once for excellent plates of wanton noodles. When we left then, I had vowed to return — from what we could see, the handful of other stores there held much promise. One Indian hawker, for example, is constantly mentioned as one of the best makers of roti prata in the country.

Unfortunately, we had chosen to make the journey on one of the few mornings each month that the prata guys are off. Our disappointment was brief, however. A queue snaked around the front of the kopitiam, framing it like a necklace.

Singaporeans like queues — in a country filled with thousands of superb eating options, there’s no need to line up for good food. So if there is a line, something terribly good must exist at the front of it. Well, we immediately got in line …

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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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4 Morningside Place (Edinburgh): Tasty Beginnings

4 Morningside Place

I’m not generally a big breakfast person in New Yorkon the road, however, that’s an entirely different matter.

If I am to face a new, strange city, a good start to the day is a must. In Edinburgh, a city that’s become less unfamiliar to me in the past year, I recently found a delightful place that offers delicious, healthy breakfasts and much much more.

Now, you know I don’t usually write about places where I’ve stayed on this blog — rather, I tend to do that for places like the Travel section of the New York Times. I’ll make an exception here though for a charming bed and breakfast I just discovered in Edinburgh’s leafy yet fashionable Morningside neighborhood — 4 Morningside Place …

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Snax Cafe (Edinburgh): A Scottish “Caff” Breakfast

Snax CafeDainty brioche buns and buttered toast with tea are fine and good for a few mornings. But as gray, drizzly Scotland morning Number Four revs up today, I feel a grumpiness setting in.

I tell D.B.: “I need something hot and meaty.”

What I’m craving is a greasy diner breakfast — eggs, meat, toast, burnt coffee. Fluorescent lighting and gruff service would be a plus. Where to find this in Edinburgh? I’m not entirely sure.

D.B. just packs me into a car and starts driving, however. Somewhere near the city center, barricaded by construction machinery and hard-hatted men, there it is, a beacon: A small neon “coffee” sign. Next to it, “SNAX CAFE. Famous for its breakfasts!”

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