Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Murtabak to the Future: The Singaporean Delorean

You Will Obey ME![Nate sez]: Anthony Bourdain called Singapore "New York in 20 years". Being the Americentric fool that I am, I assumed that he meant that Singapore was doing a bang up job catching up to the most cosmopolitan, hip, and resourceful city in the world. Turns out, every other city in the world is 20 years behind Singapore...but who's really counting?

We came here to eat at a couple of restaurants that Tony raved about on A Cook's Tour; those being the Sin Huat Eating House and The Banana Leaf Apollo (awesome fish head curry). In fact, A Cook's Tour was basically the inspiration behind the whole "Ben et Nate eat the world" idea in the first place - having spent dozens of hours sitting in Ben's basement watching Tony eat in Vietnam, Thailand, Tokyo, and Singapore, we were sick of drooling buckets at the sight of the spicy, the fresh, the exotic, and the supposedly tooth enamel melting goodness. We decided we must eat it for ourselves.

Crab Bee Hoon

Crab Bee HoonThis was the crown jewel of Tony's trip to Singapore: Crab Bee Hoon at the Sin Huat Eating House. This place attracts a hungry and rich crowd every night for some of the best Chinese seafood on the planet. If we had a budget I would have ordered what Ben so lovingly refers to as "One":

"One what?" you ask.
"Oh, sorry - one of everything."

The crab was massive (the claw weighed almost a kilo). And insanely good. A deceptively simple sauce of boiled crab, ginger/soy, and what can only be described as love stock was all wokked to high hell with green onions, fried shallots, and bee hoon noodles (Bee Hoon noodles are thin, round, rice noodles, similar to the Vietnamese Bun noodles). Needless to say it was fucking awesome. We'd also waited for a bit more than two hours for this dish (Apparently you're supposed to call ahead). And I was really, really, really-really hungry.

Stir Fried GuilanWe ordered some stir fried Gailan for something vegetal to nibble on. I've never had better "brown" sauce in my life. It was the single greatest dish of Chinese vegetables I'd ever had - it was almost better than the crab. Almost. And the argument is still open since the veggies were 8 bucks, and the crab 80.


Around every corner, at every MRT station, in every part of Singapore, inside, outside, rooftop, or seaside there are food courts. The Singaporeans love to eat. You can't miss the fact because at all hours of the day there are food stalls running in food courts filled to the brim with people. The locals refer to these places as Hawker Stands. Singapore boasts being one of the great food destinations in the world; and with the eclectic mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian citizens, there is certainly a very wide variety.

BBQ StingrayThere are far too many good dishes to describe - from silky tender Hainanese Chicken Rice to Satays, and Spicy curries to crispy duck, so we'll stick with the greats: Barbequed Stingray and Roti Prata.

Belinda turned us on to the stingray scene - our first night we went out to a new food court in downtown (CBD) Singapore. Take a large banana leaf, stick two pieces of stingray on it, a slightly smoky sauce of chillies, garlic, salt and I have no idea...and then grill it. Garnish with limes and sliced shallots. The stingray is so juicy and succulent, and the Sambal (the sauce that it's cooked with) so mysteriously rich yet light, salty, and inviting. It's quintessentially Singaporean, combining flavor elements and cooking methods from all of its residents and mashing it up together to make something completely original. This one's a keeper.

Prata.Our daily eating ritual almost inevitably involved Roti Prata or Murtabak. You may remember such Rotis as "Holy shit that's killing me softly" Thai Banana Roti. Welcome back. A magical dough is stretched paper thin by whipping it around holding onto one edge by a skilled Roti engineer. He then rolls this up (that's the roti part) and either grills it plain (roti prata) or adds sweet or savory ingredients into the middle before griddling it to crispy perfection. Our favorite was Mutton Murtabak: A Roti Prata filled with onions, lamb, cilantro, and egg. All the savory pratas/murtabaks come with an amazing mutton curry sauce to dip your bready deliciousness into. Order up a cup of creamy stretched milk tea and call it a day.

Ben et Crab Claw[Ben sez]: Don't worry, I contributed to the blog too. I spent all the time that Nate was writing this blog coming up with that horrendous title.

I don't apologize for it either... okay, maybe just a little.

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