This post is a combination of a blast from my past, and present experiences in Singapore… Growing up in Singapore 14 years ago consisted of going to school, playing downstairs in the blazing heat and weekend outings with my family resulting in lunches taken in the “food courts” of Singaporean shopping centres. These places were magical, noisy, hives of activity; stalls selling pan-Asian fare, and food court “aunties” and “uncles” rattling their carts between the narrow aisles between tables and chairs- scanning for melamine plates, spoons, and chopsticks to throw into their collection carts to be washed and re-distributed to stall owners.
The average dish set you back about $2 and portions were large. Especially large in comparison to my nine-year-old hands, and stomach! As with most children, I had a favourite dish… A standard “go-to” dish that was familiar, and comforting from the day I first tried it. The humble wanton noodle soup. At that time it consisted of about eight walnut-sized pork and shrimp dumplings floating in a rich, clear stock with poached pak choi leaves, slices of flavoursome char siu pork, and a nest of thin wanton mee (noodles). On the side I’d always add some crunchy sour green chills (the non spicy ones) and I’d steal a scoop of Sambal Oelek sauce from the nearby malay food stall, warranting a suspicious look from the vendor. I didn’t care. Contrary to asian food purists’ stipulations…I discovered at a young age that wantons and Sambal are just made for each other…
Food courts would advertise their various dishes on giant menu-cards packed with pictures; great for a Third-Culture-Kid who doesn’t speak the language!
Now, over the years this dish has faced severe cost cutting measures in the major food courts; causing the shrimp and pork dumplings to become smaller, less in quantity and strangely processed mush balls as opposed to the well-textured wantons I fondly remember.
To top it off, the standardisation of food courts a.k.a The Food Court-el means this mutilated iteration of the dish is driving one of my first loves to near- extinction. Measly morsels and pathetic looking pak choi (or sometimes none at all) have propagated… Needless to say I felt a little (excuse the bad south East Asian pun) jaded.
In recent wanderings from my place of work earlier this year, I re-discovered my delicious dish and a few more at some smaller, less mainstream foodcourts, still served with a loving smile and hearty portions.
These homely dishes were found at “Sidewalk” food court next to Singapore’s Funan IT Mall. Have a flick through the pictures first, I’ve described them in the paragraphs below… 🙂
The first dish is called Fu Zhou Dumpling Noodle Soup. It consists of minced pork and herb dumplings and “double taste balls” which are fishballs stuffed with minced seasoned pork. Bizarre but delicious! In the picture, I already added my extra spring onions. Their pork rib version is also rather good… Mmm.
The second is a shrimp dumpling and wanton noodle soup combo that makes me smile with every wholesome bite! It’s true to the dish I enjoyed all those years ago, and the “aunty” that makes every steaming bowl giggles every time I accept her offer to make my soups “sah-pice-ee” (spicy).
Just over the bridge from the beautiful Old Hill Street Police Station, I have found a rather delicious sliced fish soup at Central Mall, Clarke Quay. It’s at a stall on the ground floor called Fish Village! At every stage, you are allowed to customize your meal… from choosing their Tom Yum version or their Signature stock, to the options allowing you to combine crispy battered fish with fresh slices (poached right before your very eyes); this soup is light, nutritious and packed with brain boosting protein to fuel your final few hours at work! You can choose from three different types of noodles or rice to add some carbs…if you’re thinking about macro nutrients. I am not sure if they offer brown rice, but after eating the white rice they serve, I don’t experience carb-crashes, so it’s a more filling option with a longer lasting energy release. I love dipping the crispy fish in their sour chill sauce. So… GOOD!!
In the same food court, round the corner from Fish Village lies an unsung purveyor of the tastiest minced pork, rice and preserved greens. It’s topped off with a “soya sauce boiled egg” so if you’re craving all round protein it’s a great dish! You can ask them for some poached soya sauce pak choi for an additional 50 cents; balancing the meal out with some fibre and iron.
I realize this is quite a long post so I’ll stop here for now… if you’re in the area give them a go.These dishes are widely available across the board of Food Courts and Hawker Centres… I have to give Tiong Bahru’s famous food market a special mention as their food is quite delicious and very very reasonable at about $3 a pop!
As for The Ratings, I think my excited and nostalgic descriptions really speak for themselves…