Oct 112012
 

I used to eat a lot of Thai food before coming to Singapore. It was one of those regular staples for working lunches with clients and colleagues – and I still think fondly of my favourite places back in Canberra (chief among them, Two Sisters in Dickson).

I’m not sure how this changed so much in coming to Singapore. My local (at the time) Bali Thai outlet at Novena just wasn’t quite what I was used to, so the desire for red duck curry and Beef Massaman  slowly faded. I found out soon after that a lot of the chain Thai places precook most the food in a central location first thing in the morning then give it a quick reheat in the wok prior to serving – and it tastes like reheated leftovers as a result (not that there is anything wrong with microwaved leftovers – anyone that knows me knows how fond I am of them, but I do resent paying restaurant prices for reheated food).

I have to say that I have enjoyed many fine meals at Phad Thai in Mackenzie Road -  I know the owners, they are good people, and provide a good dining experience. Apart from that, Thai food in Singapore has been something I’ve had every so often but never really raved about.

And so it was with an open mind but no great expectations that I entered Ah Loy Thai (in Tampines Mall Basement 1) today for lunch. When the Pineapple Rice came out, my low expectations were confirmed by the presentation – even the chain places go to some effort, but this looked well, not so wonderful:

But how did it taste? Actually rather good. Better than good. Great. Well flavoured, good texture, fresh ingredients. I think I could eat a whole plate of it as a lunch option for myself alone – that good.

Next came the Garlic Pork with Lemon Leaf:

This dish looked much better than the rice, and the taste was very good indeed – hot, full of spicy flavour, big chunks of lemon grass adding to the taste, with the odd chunk of well caramelised garlic scattered throughout it, superb.

Next, Mango Crispy Chicken:

I have to say that I am fond of mango in Thai food – the fish in mango sauce at Phad Thai remains my favourite Thai dish here in Singapore. This is a close second – despite the large chunks of red chili obvious in the photo above, the taste is pretty mild compared to the Garlic Pork. And the chicken is very crispy, very well flavoured, sweet, tasty.

Last came the Fried Calimari:

The Calimari is served with mayonnaise and chili sauce. Of all the dishes, this was probably the one that did not stand out – it was not bad, it just suffered by comparison to the rest of the dishes.

At meal’s end, the two of us had put in a creditable effort:

And the cost? Readers have asked me to include prices in my venue review posts – so here is the bill showing all-in costs:

Please note Ah Loy in Tampines Mall is a cash-only establishment – meals are paid for on ordering. I am not sure if their other outlet in Beach Road is the same, but take sufficient cash just in case.

Would I go again? Yes, I think I will. The menu has dishes yet untried, and if they were as good as today’s lunch, I will be back there again and again until I have sampled them all.

Sep 272012
 

Around here, there are coffee shops like Starbucks and Gloria Jeans. And then there are the real coffee shops – neighborhood food and meeting places, where you can get anything from half a roast duck to a bowl of prawn noodles or even steamed fish head, and wash it down with beer. People eat in family groups, watch soap operas or sport on TV, and talk about the issues of the day. I’ve spent many a Saturday afternoon in these places, solving the problems of the world with a friend over a Tiger beer or two and some chicken wings or chicken rice.

The Singaporean coffee shop, or kopitiam, is similar to the kedai kopi that you will find in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia. It usually consists of two or more food vendors and a beverage shop arrayed around a set of plastic/wooden tables. While coffee shops vary, at a minimum there is usually someone selling roast meats (traditional Chinese BBQ/roast pork/chicken as well as snack foods like chicken wings), a noodle/noodle soup vendor, a dessert place, and a beverage vendor. The beverages range from local kopi (coffee) and tea to lime/mango juice and beer. Kopi is a bit different to Western coffee (and I will cover that in a separate post – but for now think of it more like Greek/Turkish coffee with extra hot water added than something you’d find at Starbucks).

There is a chain of Kopi Tiam coffee shops, sometimes air conditioned, but the average neighborhood coffee shop is open to the fresh air. There is a grey area between the larger coffee shops (with a dozen vendors or more) and the hawker centres (which can have as little as twenty vendors here but some have over a hundred).

A lot of coffee shops are located on the ground floor of Housing Development Board (HDB) apartment buildings. It is said that 80% of Singaporeans live this way – closer to 100% in my current neighborhood – and the coffee shop provides a place to dine, catch up with friends and relatives, and relax. To me, coffee shop culture is part of the real Singapore – something that all the tourists in the world can never dilute entirely. There are a thousand unique dining experiences here, but the coffee shop is every day reality.

What is the food like? Some coffee shops sell the best food around – most, though, sell average food – good enough for every day, but not the best of the best. Some will surprise you with just how good they are – the roast chicken shop at Tastebud in Bugis sells the best BBQ wings I have eaten here, and one of my local HDB noodle shops has close to the best Prawn Mee on the island (and they are cheap, too). But sometimes, the noodle soup broth is more like dirty water than anything resembling stock, and the steamed Pau buns taste a lot like the machine-made ones from the supermarket. Shop around, ask around, and explore. The quality of food seems to be higher and the prices lower if you steer clear of shopping malls and stick to the HDB places. Speaking of quality – all food vendors in Singapore are assessed for hygiene and are rated A (highest1) to C (lowest) – I have had food poisoning properly only once here in over 12 months, so I am a big fan of the system – it works! Look for the A/B/C before ordering and you should be fine.

Kedai Kopi Penang Malaysia

For comparison: Coffee Shop in Penang, Malaysia

The ordering/delivery options can be confusing for the newcomer, so it is always good to take your table number with you (if there is one on the table) and check with the food stall owner if they will bring the food to you or if you should wait. Some places have self service signs but bring you the food anyway. Beverages (especially beer) are usually looked after by a waitress in a beer company uniform who comes to the tables – a little old fashioned perhaps but it seems to be the way here.

Be aware also that English is one of four official languages in Singapore – the others are Bahasa Melayu/Malay, Mandarin and Tamil – and in the more “local” areas you could be talking with someone who speaks mainly Cantonese, Vietnamese, or Tagalog. Patience is your friend – a combination of pointing at menu signboards and holding up the right number of fingers for quantities will nearly always work (that said, I would not expect a universal understanding of western concepts such as low-salt, Vegan, certified organic or allergen free without some frustration on both sides). My advice is that if you have special dietary requirements (apart from Halal, which seems to be understood and well signposted where supported) you may need to learn some Malay and Chinese Simplified to effectively communicate your needs before venturing off the tourist trail. This is not to say that there is not a stunning array of vegetarian cuisines here – there is – but I’d hesitate to guarantee that (as an example) the vegetarian offerings in a local coffee shop were completely free of all animal products without asking the vendor in a way that they can understand.

Be sure to take a small packet of tissues with you – these serve to reserve a table (important if it is busy, and vital if you are going to step into a larger busier hawker centre such as Lau Par Sat on a weekday lunchtime) and also help out as serviettes (not supplied universally).

If you are prepared to meet Singapore half way, there are a lot of experiences that you can enjoy here – and one of them is the coffee shop culture. I hope that you get to enjoy it yourself.

Sep 172012
 

Steamboat. A soup base, simmering away on a burner at the table, that you use to cook bite sized morsels of food to your own taste.

There are a number of ways of ordering steamboat. A la carte selection of ingredient options is certainly one way – the wait staff bring the food to you at the table along with the soup stock.

Here in Singapore the steamboat buffet is popular – you choose your soup base (normally spicy/Tom Yum or plain chicken stock) and go to the buffet line to select what you would like to eat. Some places allow split soup varieties – the one below has a spicy and a plain stock so that diners can decide which stock they want to use. I’m told anything up to five different varieties are possible inside one pan with dividers at some places – the most I have seen personally is three, but one spicy/one savoury suits me just fine.

Steamboat, New Bridge Road, Chinatown, Singapore

In the hawker centers here there is usually at least one place offering a mini steamboat, but steamboat buffet tends to be in one cafe/restaurant area rather than in a shared space.

I’ve been to several steamboat buffets here in Singapore. The usual price is SGD20 a head – some places throw in all you can drink iced lemon tea/lime juice at that price, and some do not. The quality and quantity of ingredients tends to vary also – it is fair to say that some are more generous than others when it comes to protein choices (for example one place might have abundant shrimp and baby clams, pork and chicken ready sliced and piled high – but the place next door may not).

Meal's end, Steamboat buffet, New Bridge Road, Chinatown

Diners make up their own dipping sauces – and again, the quality and availability of dipping sauce ingredients varies between establishments.

The stock gets depleted as the diners dip into it throughout the meal, and the flavour gets more and more intense with the passing of time. I have to say that the stock at the end of the meal can be very hard to pass up – it can be the best soup ever.

So where can I recommend based on my own experience? There are two places that stand out for me:

  • New Bridge Road, Chinatown – get off the bus at CK department store on the main Chinatown/Smith Street side and walk one block to the right – I would give you the name but it is listed in Chinese :) Look for the red awning and the tables with steamboat burners in the middle.
  • Beach Road, Bugis – walk from Bugis MRT through Bugis Junction and up Liang Seah St. Turn right onto Beach Rd, past the first steamboat place on the corner, and go to the second one next door. As an aside, the place one further along to the right has an excellent duck rice – tasty and cheap too.

Like several other Singaporean food experiences, the dining at a local steamboat buffet is very hands-on – you select the soup, you select the fish/pork/chicken/beef/shrimp/clams/crab/mussels/spinach/noodles/fish balls/tofu/mushrooms, you select the dipping sauce, and cook it for as little or as long as you like. The fun is in seeking the perfect combination of flavours to suit your own taste.

Sep 162012
 

I still recall my first working day in Singapore last year. A colleague asked me if I wanted to join him for lunch – I accepted, and asked that we go somewhere local. He asked me if I was OK with plastic tables and chairs – I said that this was my preference.

He took me to the Al Zouq Food Centre (3 Shenton Way) for Dum Biryani – as promised, a place where the locals eat.

Dum Biryani/Briyani as presented in most places here consists of a protein (chicken or mutton mostly), some rich pilau/biryani rice, some salad, and some curry sauce.

Dum Biryani at Al Zouq Food Centre, Shenton Way, Singapore

I’ve had it in a number of places but none have impressed me more than Al Zouq. It remains a favourite whenever life takes me to the financial district.

There are many ways of eating biryani – my favourite is to shred the meat off the chicken and mix it into the rice before pouring the curry gravy over the top:

Dum Biryani at Al Zouq Food Centre, Shenton Way, Singapore

The observant will note that I’ve added a piece of curry-fried fish to the meal above for flavour :)

What makes the Al Zouq biryani stand out from the competition? For me, a key component is the flavour in the rice. The standard Dum Biryani comes with steamed chicken as the protein, and it is pretty hard to mess that up (some places do manage this though) :) A good rice, good chicken, well flavoured curry gravy, fresh salad, it all combines together so nicely. Spicy, but more flavour than chili heat.

I have to add some praise here for the masala chai.

Masala Chai, Al Zouq Food Centre, Shenton Way, Singapore

The chai is well flavoured – it stands out because it is not overly sweet, too thin, or under flavoured – I would not say it was the best anywhere but it is certainly matches my ideal.

This is the day to day biryani menu at Al Zouq:

Biryani menu, Al Zouq Food Centre, Shenton Way, Singapore
I’ve tried the mutton biryani more than once, and the butter chicken biryani is certainly worth trying again. The black pepper chicken is interesting – chicken done in a Chinese/Malay style black pepper sauce. If you do go for the fish, please note that you must be careful with the bones (I find it worth the effort of taking extra care, it is very tasty).

There is other food at Al Zouq – the vegetarian thali is one of the best value meals I’ve seen here for the size and quality of the meal – but for me it is the biryani that keeps bringing me back.

Do you know of a spectacular biryani place in Singapore? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Sep 152012
 

There are a number of very Singaporean breakfast options that I followed long before coming to live here. Steamed Pau buns, congee rice porridge, paratha/prata and curry – and one of my favourites, Prawn Mee (noodle) Soup.

I know that styles and preferences vary – in my own heart, the perfect Prawn Mee has a rich broth, good noodles, and plenty of extras (bean sprouts, maybe some chicken or pork, and last but not least good fresh prawns).

I’ve grown fond of Prawn Mee here as a weekend breakfast dish here because it is very tasty and fairly cheap.
The best Prawn Mee within walking distance is the one from the Block 701 Tampines St 11 coffee shop.

Block 701 is home to the famous JE Crab Specialist – to be honest I have not yet visited the crab place, but I will do one day. What brings me to Block 701 is the other vendors there, providing authentic local HDB food of very reasonable quality and prices – and the atmosphere is very local. Please note that you have to walk behind the central kopi/beer vendor to find the aunty selling laksa and Prawn Mee.

The best Prawn Mee I’ve had ever, though, goes to Jalan Sultan Prawn Mee near Kallang MRT. Look at the size of the prawns and the pork bones used to make the stock – the broth is the key – it is intense and flavoursome.

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As the name suggests, Jalan Sultan Prawn Mee started out on Jalan Sultan in the Kampong Glam area close to Arab Street. They’ve opened more outlets – one of which is on the edge of Geylang, a short train ride from where I live now (near Kallang MRT station).

Sep 122012
 

In the Singapore episode of No Reservations, food writer and TV personality Anthony Bourdain mentioned that he’d been booed at an event for avoiding chicken rice here – a mistake I never wanted to make personally. Day two in Singapore saw me finding a hawker centre and trying the chicken rice. I won’t mention the establishment but I have to say that it was nothing special – the rice was, well, rice, and the chicken had been steamed to near tastelessness. The only condiment offered was a chili sauce that didn’t really help. It was not as good as the chicken rice I remembered from East Malaysia days at all.

I asked around, and noted that several people mentioned Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice amongst others (including the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre that Mr Bourdain covered in his show). A week later I was perusing my newly purchased copy of the Makansutra Guide and noticed that Wee Nam Kee had a very good writeup – and that it was on Thomson Road, close to where a group of us were staying at the time in Novena. A posse was duly organised, and off we went.

This is a daytime shot from a later trip – to be honest, the chickens move through the restaurant onto the plate too fast at night to see this many hanging in the window:

Anyhow, back to my first experience at Wee Nam Kee. Encouraged by a Chinese Australian colleague, I mixed vinegar, chili and ginger together to make a proper sauce for the chicken before setting to:

The taste was a very pleasant surprise – the chicken is flavoursome, the rice properly rich with chicken stock (and I suspect, a little chicken fat to give it a very pleasing mouth feel). That is the secret, I am told – care in preparation of both the chicken and the rice adds flavour, making the difference between the ordinary and the truly great chicken rice.

I have been back several times since – and with all respect to Tian Tian and the many other fine chicken rice establishments in Singapore, it remains my favourite.  Apart from the taste and quality of the food, it is a pleasure to sit and watch the uncle skillfully break chicken carcases (steamed and roast) down in a matter of seconds with a large cleaver – he never misses a beat – a master at work.

Sep 082012
 

Growing up in Canberra meant that I had the opportunity to eat a lot of Vietnamese food. There was a cliche in Australia at one stage that a country town was not really home unless it had a pub or two and a Chinese restaurant – growing up in the 1970s this was still pretty much the case – these places usually served what the customers expected in the way of a westernised/training wheels version of Cantonese food – Beef in Black Bean Sauce, Sweet and Sour Pork, Spring Rolls, Fried Rice, Honey Prawns, Wan Ton soup – a cuisine all of its own. Some of these places are still there, and I used to seek them out every so often for a trip down memory lane into “small Aussie town Westernised Cantonese”. I’ve since – thankfully – been introduced to the delights of real Cantonese food, and many other authentic Chinese cuisines. But I digress.

Milk Coffee – Long Phung Restaurant

My local “Asian” restaurant growing up in 1970s Canberra at one stage was the Vietnam Village Inn at the Page shops. The owner (Van from memory) was a very patient man, explaining Vietnamese cuisine to a whole generation of people hitherto unfamiliar with authentic non-Western food. I remember my mother telling my siblings and I that it was like Chinese food only Vietnamese – just a little different to what we were used to and that we would like it. I loved it.

As an adult, I grew accustomed to the wonders of Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes) and Steamed Duck Noodle soup at Can Tho Restaurant (Belconnen), and Garlic Rice, Ginger Chicken and Red Cooked Beef at Tu Do (O’Connor) – and many fine dishes besides.

Steamed Duck Noodle, Can Tho Restaurant, Belconnen, Australia

I have to say that I missed this level of taste and quality on first coming to Singapore, and eventually put it out of mind after some bad food court experiences. Eventually, though, the craving returned. The answer was, apparently, Little Vietnam.

We researched the Little Vietnam area and talked to friends about their preferences (a good thing to do in Singapore). My thanks to the Twice As Delicious crew for their excellent overview of Joo Chiat Road and the associated follow on posts – they were very helpful.

We started at the Geylang end of Joo Chiat Road – where the eateries and supply shops are very much Malay/Muslim rather than Vietnamese. As an aside, I am a big fan of Malay food and will be going back to this area for it on another trip – and to take in the nearby Geylang Serai centre. On this trip we were looking for Vietnamese food, so we kept walking.

Another couple of minutes walk and we saw our first Vietnamese cafe – but we’d decided that our first stop was to be the popular Long Phung Restaurant. Apart from the Twice As Delicious mention, Long Phung has an 89% approval rating on Hungry Go Where with over a hundred votes (a solid recommendation).

Long Phung immediately felt familiar to me – it brought back happy memories of Sunday lunch at Can Tho in Belconnen – the smell of rich Pho broth, fish sauce and chili – the only sound softly spoken Vietnamese.

This is the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup at Long Phung – rich soup broth, tender chunks of brisket, fresh herb flavour, hot with pepper and chili. The smell was delicious and the taste better. This was why I came – this is the quality of Vietnamese food I was missing:

We also tried the Pork Chop Noodle:

The Pork Chop Noodle was OK – not as intense as the Spicy Beef Noodle, but certainly better than you’d find in a food court somewhere else. Overall, my rating for Long Phung is “Love it, will go back” :)

We wandered back up Joo Chiat Road and had a second look – there are a number of other eateries there worth a try (and a mention in future posts).

Next, we went to the Little Vietnam Restaurant Cafe. It is at 511 Guillemard Road, just off Geylang Road (and noticeably closer to the in/famous red light area there). This place also featured in a post from the Twice As Delicious folks – the food and the beverage selection gets a good mention there. It has a 69% approval rating on Hungry Go Where.

I have to say that I was disappointed there were no steamed snails available – for a place that opens at 4PM to have run out of an ingredient by 5:30PM seemed a little hard to believe, but it is possible. Regardless, there was indeed beer.

Because we started with beer, we ordered the mixed finger food – deep fried chunks of fish ball and sausage:

The taste of the finger food was, well, OK. I’m not sure what I was expecting, to be fair. Comparing the same price (SGD5) to the excellent Spicy Beef Noodle that I’d had at Long Phung, the finger food was in second place.

We also ordered the spring rolls:

The spring rolls were not great – they were about on par taste (very subtle) and texture (somewhat soggy) wise with my earlier food court experiences. Perhaps there are regional variations in Vietnam that I was never exposed to as an Australian, and this is just how spring rolls are done (note to self: must get to Vietnam ASAP to investigate this!).

Things improved dramatically – dessert was a shared plate of excellent creamy sweet Banana Sago:

I still yearned for more – I wanted to experience something remarkable from Little Vietnam Restaurant. I ordered the Garlic Cockles (look for “crockles” in the menu). We could here them rattling around in a wok shortly thereafter.

The cockles were simply awesome. Juicy, flavoursome, the taste and the sight and the smell fresh and delicious. Whatever disappointments there were from earlier in the meal disappeared.

Over all, I’d have to say that while there were some small disappointments, the Little Vietnam area is an excellent food safari destination. I’ll go back to Long Phung for sure, and sample more of their menu – and go back to the Little Vietnam Restaurant for the cockles and (fingers crossed) the snails.

Sep 082012
 

Lebanon has one of my favourite cuisines – it is something I’ve eaten regularly throughout my adult life. There is something very satisfying about rolling meat, sauce and salad inside a piece of soft flat bread and consuming it bite by bite.

I worked in the financial district near Marina Bay for 12 months – one of the highlights was a huge variety of lunch options. I’ve explained before that discussing food recommendations is a great way to get to know people here. I remember, a year or so ago, talking with colleagues about how I missed really good Lebanese food.  One of my colleagues and friends, Tim, is Lebanese Australian  and could not recommend Urban Bites enough  – he described it as the food his mother would make (high praise coming from him). We went together that lunchtime and I found it very good indeed. I’ve been going there a couple of times a month or more ever since – always with a group, as it is a cuisine made for sharing.

Dinner on Friday started, as usual there, with pickled vegetables – peppers, carrots, lupins and olives:

The mezze platter was next – wara aarish (dolmades), hommous, baba ganoush, felafels, fattoush, labneh, tabouleh and bread so fresh from the oven it was still puffy. I have to say that the oven is one of the things that keeps bringing me back to Urban Bites – a wood fired oven you can watch being used from the dining area. The dips and salads are full of fresh flavours – trying different combinations of these on bread with the odd bit of meat is a neverending delight.

Next up, the mixed grill – kebabs of chicken, lamb and beef served with rice and and onion salad. The dipping sauces on the left there include a very good tum (garlic sauce) – if you have ever enjoyed a good tum you’ll know what I am talking about. The meat is well seasoned, and just as important, not overcooked.

And then, more of that wonderful chewy soft bread, slathered with labneh and topped with choice items from the table:

The two pizzas we ordered were manoushi (pizza topped with zattir or crushed thyme) and lahem bi ajeen  (pizza topped with minced lamb) – these are very good as is or slathered with labneh, hommous or (my favourite) baba ganoush:

We ended up with quite an impressive spread – the danger (and joy) of eating regularly at Urban Bites is that there are many favourites we have time after time, and ordering them all soon covers the table:

The three of us dining that night did get through this magnificent feast – by main course’s end, we stopped to survey the damage and congratulate ourselves:

Thankfully there was room for dessert – Urban Bites make their own, and all are delicious. We had two types of semolina pastries with pistachio – namoura bi ashta (sweet semolina pastry with a cream filling), and namoura (without filling).

Because of its location in the financial district, Urban Bites is full with a line for tables every weekday lunchtime, yet usually has a table free at night. If you like Middle Eastern food, I can heartily recommend it as a dinner venue – and if you are free at lunchtime through the week, you can get the good value set lunch (SGD12) to sample what they have.

I have tried many Middle Eastern eateries in Singapore, including several in the Arab Street/Kampong Glam area – for pure Lebanese cuisine goodness I have not found a better place than Urban Bites. I expect it will remain one of my regular haunts for as long as I live here in Singapore.

To get to Urban Bites: take the MRT to Raffles Place, take the Lau Par Sat exit, walk down Robinson Road until you get to Boon Tat Street, walk down Boon Tat a couple of blocks until you get to Telok Ayer Street and turn left – it is just past the peanut pancake place. If coming by taxi, ask the driver to take you to the place opposite the Chinese temple on Telok Ayer.

Sep 072012
 

Chasing food and cultural experiences has taken me to some interesting places. One of the joys of living in Singapore is that most of south east Asia is only an hour or two away by jet – and with several budget airlines operating in the region, a weekend away becomes a very real option. Tricks and traps for planning these outings is a good topic for a future blog post. One such trip took us to Penang – I’ve written about the great Assam Laksa at the Air Hitam market there.

The other culinary highlight of that trip was dinner at DeHappy Seafood on Macalister Road. They have an interesting crab menu:

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This is the Garlic and Black Bean Crab, Hong Kong style:

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It’s hard to describe how wonderful these two smaller (around 500gram) crabs were – cooked to perfection in a salty black bean and garlic sauce, shallots, and spring onions. We ate them with seafood fried rice, garlic kankong, and some salted egg prawns (the latter sadly overshadowed by the magnificence of the crab).

After the crab, there were some amazing oysters – that’s my hand, and trust me it is not a small hand :)

20120907-081241.jpg
The manager apologised in advance for having to charge us MYR8 (SGD3) each owing to supply problems – so we just ordered half a dozen. When they came out, I remember saying that I was glad we didn’t order a whole dozen :)

20120907-082844.jpg The oysters had an incredibly fresh clean taste.

I didn’t get a good pic of DeHappy at night as it was raining – if you go to look for it, this is what it looks like during the day:

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Please note that they are scheduled to move into larger premises next door (to the right) some time later this year.

All in, with a few bottles of Tiger beer to wash it down, the meal came to less than SGD70. This is one of the reasons Penang is so popular with Singaporean food lovers – great seafood at a good price.

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I look forward to returning to Penang to eat at DeHappy once again.

Do you have a favourite seafood place in Penang? If so, please leave a comment and let me know :)

Sep 022012
 

Sometimes, guys dare one another to do stupid things.

I’m not excusing it, but it happens. Sometimes, it is about physically dangerous extreme sports, or standing up to the boss, or going to that bar (you know, the one where the ladies are very pleased to talk with you).

Anyhow, there is another kind of foolishness: eating the hottest chicken wings in Singapore.

I’ve spoken to many people who know of this bar or that club that has chili chicken wings. And they are hot. Sometimes painfully so. But I have never experienced anything like Buckaroo’s, up north in Sembawang. You know of hotter? Leave a comment, let me know.

Buckaroo’s has the non-spicy wings – good onion rings, good pork spare ribs, good steak, plenty of beer, cocktails, and all that. Normal pub food, and it is good pub food. But then there are the spicy wings. Chili wings. The wings that stupid guys dare stupider guys to eat.

The spicy wings start at Level 1, the mildest. They go to Level 4 on the menu, with a note that you can go to Level 10. You can even go one step further to the “Level To Kill” (these are, to put it simply, deadly). This is a plate of Level 10 wings:

Let’s talk about the Level 10 wings. I’ve been to Buckaroo’s several times, and enjoyed myself immensely. I have also known pain whenever I have been silly enough to go beyond Level 4 on the chili chicken wings. I am the only person I know that has done this twice (which says something, I know).

Imagine the spiciest thing you’ve ever eaten in terms of sheer burning chili heat. Double that, add your birth year, double it again. And that is how hot the Level 10 wings are.

While I am not advocating that you undertake this same exercise in self harm, it is truly an experience. If you do choose to undertake this ordeal, you will never forget it :) My only advice is to start with the Level 2 or Level 3 wings first – ease into it. And if in doubt before or after, seek medical advice.

The chili pain of the Level 10 wing starts pretty much on the first bite, and remains with the diner throughout the rest of the meal, regardless of what else is consumed. I stopped when it felt like my throat was closing up (and I know I am not allergic to chili – these are just that hot). The first time I ate Level 10 wings I used my fingers, and I could still feel the tingling burn between them the next day. The second time, I used a knife and fork, and this reduced the affected area to just my lips, tongue, inside of my mouth and throat.

I’ll leave the gastro-intestinal effects to your imagination.

There is other food there – the onion rings are probably the best I’ve eaten (certainly for a long time anyhow) – breaded, not battered, and they come in these neat stacked towers:

There is also a good selection of alcoholic beverages for those so inclined to one or two (and a note to self – stopping at two reduces the chances of succumbing to a dare to eat Level 10 wings, Andrew). This is the Margarita:

And at meal’s end, the group reflects on the meal that was, and everyone feels fairly satisfied. The sensible compliment themselves on stopping at Level 2 or Level 3 wings, and the foolhardy hold their heads high in the knowledge that while they may feel foolish tomorrow, tonight they are the brave few.

Will I go to Buckaroo’s again? Yes, absolutely.

But I will stop at the Level 4 wings, I promise :)