A series of First Bites in Singapore

How our honeymoon trip began was pretty unusual... as early as the night before, rain continues to pour endlessly and the night wind was so strong we can actually here the roof banging. We were uncertain whether or not our flight will push thru.

We were scheduled to fly out of Manila at exactly 645AM. Following the standard airport rule, we had to be at the airport at least 3 hours before our flight. At 3AM, Paul and I woke up and found out that there was no electricity. The wind was still very strong and the rain somehow made me feel a bit anxious about flying. After a series of calls made to Cebu Pacific, we were told that there was still no advice if our flight will push thru or not, nonetheless, we have to be at the airport in 45 minutes. We prayed and quickly did some last minute packing with just our cellphone's flashlight shining our way around the room and within 15 minutes we were finally on our way to the airport. I continued to pray that the weather will improve allowing us to fly off.

Our flight was delayed for an hour but I really didn't mind for as long as Cebu Pacific can make sure we're flying out safely. Finally, we made it to Singapore at exactly 1130AM and after breezing through immigrations and the luggage conveyor belt, we saw our friend HK of Nasi Lemak happily waving at us as we exit the arrival hall.

This marked the beginning of our Singapore gastronomic adventure.

Our first stop was at the Tekka Market in Little India. We were so excited to try this hawker market and the smell of curry and fried desserts just made our mouths water. HK just told us to wait for him as he went around the market to prepare our feast.

We stopped at this stall selling Prata. Here, we watched a man whom I fondly called the Prata Master prepare one of our favorite Indian breads.

It all began with these tiny balls of dough

The Masterpiece

We loved the crunchy soft Prata with Onions (or as HK would call Bawang). The sauce was good though we still love the thick curry sauce that we were accustomed to. Nonetheless, this is definitely one thing we will try on our second, third and succeeding visits.

While waiting for our food to be ready, HK gave us a glass of Ice Cendol which was a very refreshing drink. It has a very familiar coconut-y taste that we could not really identify and the green jelly reminds us of our very own Sago't Gulaman. It was so good we were trying our best to drink it slowly to enjoy it all through-out lunch.

Eating in Singapore, you have to be ready to introduce your taste buds to all the various taste possible..from sweet to salty to sour and definitely for the spicy dishes that are oh-so-good you'd find yourself regularly eating them over and over again. An example was the Prawn Mee that HK got for us.  The noodles were al dente, the prawns were huge and it was very spicy! In between gulps of our Ice Cendol, we took small bites of the Prawn Mee. Paul actually liked it so much that we regularly got Prawn Mee in our succeeding meals.

Next came my personal favorite -- Lamb Briyani. I love lamb and the long grain rice found in most Indian rice dishes, a brief survey around Tekka Market will show you that majority of its lunch diners would have a plate of Biryani all to themselves. One bite and I immediately can see why, I love the thick dhal curry mixed with the tender lamb meat, which by the way, was cooked for hours. All these on top of a generous serving of long grain rice. Yum! I was ready to finish off the Lamb Briyani had HK not inform us that this was just the first leg of our food trip.

Before leaving, we went around Tekka Market and said hi to a few locals. We also visited a couple of stalls selling sweet deep-fried bread, more roti and noodles! It's always fun to visit Singapore's hawker center as you get front row seats to the gastronomic action happening every day.

Peranakan Cuisine 101

From the Tekka Market, we took a short drive to Bukit Timah to visit a well-known Peranakan restaurant called Ivins. I wasn't really sure what Peranakan was until HK told us the history of the Peranakan clan and how well all Peranakan ladies can cook. Wow! Knowing that, I was excited for the second leg of our food tour.

It was almost 2PM and yet the restaurant was packed. HK instructed us to go in and get ourselves a table while he look for a parking space. We were immediately entertained by one of its server whom we later found out was a Filipina.

We went through the menu but waited for HK to order as he would know best what's good to try here. Taking a peek at our neighboring tables, I noticed that Peranakan dishes were mostly served in a hot ceramic pot.

It only took HK a short while to go through the menu and within minutes he knew exactly what to order. His first pick was the Ayam Buah Keluak ($6.20 / est. Php. 207.70). This is the signature dish of the Peranakan cuisine as we were told. Inside the hot pot are strips of chicken braised in thick tamarind sauce and the special addition was the buah keluak nut which you have to crack open and enjoy the black soft meat inside. The black "meat" has an acquired taste but surprisingly blends well with the chicken. This is one dish you should not miss!

Next came the Babi Pongteh ($5.40 / est. Php. 180.90) which is very similar to our pork adobo. Paul enjoyed this dish very much. The pork meat was very lean that we would have enjoyed it more if it had a little fat to make the meat more tender. Nonetheless, the sauce was very fragrant which was perfect when mixed into your rice.

As we enjoyed each dish, we were also learning new Malaysian/Peranakan words such as Nanas which means Pineapple and Udang which means Prawns. Therefore, our next dish called Udang Masak Nanas ($5.20 / est. Php. 174.90) is simply a hot pot dish of juicy Prawns with Pineapple with the signature Peranakan spicy gravy. It's amazing how huge the prawns were. Do not get intimidated with the chili seeds seen floating on top as it's not really fiery hot as how it seems to be.

Last came my favorite dish for this leg -- Daun Keledek Lemak ($4.80 / est. Php. 160.80). It's a very simple coconut dish of sweet potato with potato leaves. After seeing all four dishes, Paul and I felt that Peranakan is very similar to our local Filipino dishes as majority of it has a lot of sauce, it makes use of coconut and wide array of fruits, spices and vegetables. The Daun Keledek Lemak was the only dish that I bravely finished off as I enjoyed the sweet coconut-y sauce and the potato leaves was crunchy and flavorful.

We were so full from eating but HK still insisted that we have to have dessert. To compromise, we got the Buboh Cha Cha ($1.20 / est. Php. 40.20) and the Tausuan ($1.20). Unfortunately we were busy enjoying the food and each other's company that we forgot to take photos of these two sweet treats. I liked the Buboh Cha Cha which has a close similarity with our local Guinataan. The Tausuan was also very refreshing and we enjoyed the small strips of yeow tiao with yellow beans.

HK surely wasn't joking when he said he will bring us around Singapore to makan (eat). This marked a great start to our 10-day food adventure! We happily thank him as he drove us to our hotel and promised that we will see each other again as we visit him at Nasi Lemak here in Manila.

Thank you HK for the wonderful food tour around Singapore! :)

Tekka Market is in Little India, take the MRT and go down at the Little India station. The Tekka Market is located right beside the station's exit.

Ivins is located at 19/21 Binjai Park, Bukit Timah, Singapore. Call them at +65-64683060.

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