I have a soft spot for Singapore, the island nation and Asian metropolis. It’s bustling, sleek and modern but also clean, safe and unnervingly organised. There’s fantastic shopping made even better by a very favourably exchange rate. But above all I love Singapore because Singaporeans love food. Plenty of cultures around the world love a good feed but this is the only place where I have ever heard eating described as a national past time.
While it seems that every other Asia cuisine is well represented on Australian restaurant strips the combination that is Singaporean food is rarely seen. It was fusion before trendy chefs thought of blending cultural influences. From Malay to Chinese to Indonesian with a bit of old English Empire thrown in for good measure, Singaporean cooks take the best of it all.
So I often find myself drooling over my photos from Lau Pa Sat, the hawker centre that Singapore granted national monument status to in 1973 (yet further proof of the significance that food holds there). But I think I’ve finally found somewhere closer to home to get my hit; The Old Raffles Place.
Never has the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ been so true. The Old Raffles Place does not look like a good restaurant, it doesn’t even look like an ok restaurant. The dinning room has mismatched chairs and is painted an off putting shade of salmon. The walls are adorned with badly framed black and white photos of old time Singapore. It was only a recommendation from a friend that got me through the door.
One of the more unusual dishes that I’ve had a hankering for since my last visit to Singapore was fried carrot cake (chai tow kway). I was almost busting with excitement to see it on the Old Raffles’ menu.
|Fried carrot cake at Lau Pa Sat – half eaten before I managed to take the photo.|
While the English name for this dish suggests a dessert nothing could be further from the truth. In fact there is no carrot in fried carrot cake. The confusing translation is because the Chinese word for carrot is the same as the word for radish. The ‘carrot cake’ foundation of the dish is a steamed cake of rice flour and daikon radish which has a texture that resembles set polenta. The cake is then cubed and fried with eggs and spring onions. The Old Raffles version also included bean shoots, a good wack of chilli and was black with thick soy sauce. It was different to the Lau Pa Sat incarnation of this classic but it was enough to satisfy my almost year long craving.
We also ordered racecourse noodles, thick rice noodles stir fried with plenty of seafood, beef rendang which was not as hot as we expected it to be and crispy calamari with a crunchy coating that definitely lived up to its name.
Meals at The Old Raffles Place were not quite at hawker centre prices but it was certainly cheaper than a flight to Singapore to satisfy a craving.