Sunday, 15 November 2009

Tenth month, Boom Town

This month, we have mostly been:

- Marveling at Tiong Bahru's offerings. Not only can one shop at the Tiong Bahru "Department Store" at the market (this is a unit of not more than 30 square metres akin to a Pound Shop in the UK, selling all manner of household items that you never knew you needed), but on disembarkation from the MRT each evening after work, one is greeted in the main square by the dulcet (read: ear-bleed inducing) tones of a local auntie, her soundsystem - complete with miniature karaoke screen - and a rotation of fellow aunties and uncles eager to help belt out Chinese ballads. Pure class.

- Learning the nuances of Singaporean cuisine. Sunrice Global Chef Academy offers an escorted tour of the Spice Garden at Fort Canning followed by a hands-on cooking class every weekend. We learned how to make an everyday sambal, seafood hor fun and bak kut teh. Overall, the experience gets a 10/10 from me - McDonald Eng, the teacher and walk leader, was very amusing ("This chilli is so hot, that it can ACTUALLY kill you") and informative. We learned plenty of secrets that I will be applying to my home cooking and we can now recognise a variety of spices in their pre-harvested form. Thoroughly recommend as an alternative Singapore experience, as long as you don't mind the 8 a.m. start on a Saturday morning. Hangover victims need not apply.

- Drinking wine and feeling fine at Speak Easy. In a hidden enclave between Outram Park and Tanjong Pagar lies a cluster of renovated Peranakan shophouses. Home to a discerning group of expats and locals, it is a charming area of narrow streets with the odd gallery (by appointment only) and trinket shop dotted about. Speak Easy is the perfect place to pull up a pew and watch the monsoon rains cascade around you with tasty glass of wine and a friend.

- Loving the choice at Ocean Curry Fish Head. Frequenting the Telok Ayer Street branch of this specialist local food chain would be utter joy were it not for the long queues and waits for available tables. Clearly, however, the longer the queue, the better the food, so it's totally worth the wait. Choose from having a fish head curry (watch your colleagues fight over the oversized eyeball) and supplement with an array of side dishes to ensure that you feel thoroughly engorged and can burp delicious gastronomic memories during a session of Friday afternoon clock-watching. Mmmmm.

- Drinking brandy at lunchtime. OK, it may be super diluted in deliciously smooth sliced fish noodle soup, but Holland Village XO actually names Courvoisier as the key ingredient. The brainchild of a former XO salesman has since branched out and offers city workers a delectable lunch that makes you feel just that tiniest bit naughty. Coupled with a side order of prawn paste chicken wings, what's not to like?

- Celebrating the Moon Cake festival. This year, the festival started on 3rd October, so I scooted down to Pagoda Street in Chinatown to pick up my double and quadruple (oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, more salted egg yolk than bean paste!) mooncakes. As a special treat to myself, I have been eating small wedges for breakfast. I blame the Singaporean in me.

- Shooting pistols at the poolside. My belated Singapore birthday party was hosted by a dear friend who lent us her condo poolside for the afternoon. I provided a whole roasted pig from Tiong Bahru Roasted Pig Specialist, which I highly recommend (although be aware that the golden piglet comes on a red plastic tray and not in a box, so you may want to get it delivered - our taxi driver thought we were two sandwiches short of a picnic to be carrying a hog as our luggage). My carving skills were tested to the max (they CAN cut it up for you, but I wanted the aesthetic of the whole piggy), however, nothing that my Global knives could not conquer. We spent the afternoon proving the fact that "growing old is compulsory; growing up is optional" (Enid Blyton).

- Raising the roof and bringing the house down. BluJaz played host to DJ Dash's first gig as part of the Digging Deep collective. The crowd loved the transcendence from melodic beats to sharp Berlin sounds and the night was such a roaring success that the next gig has already been booked for January. Music to tinkle your hammer, anvil and stirrup.

Next up are trips to Jakarta and Yangshuo, the infamous local one day rave (when (for 24 hours) the Singaporean police let you put your hands in the air, like you just don't care) and the advent of Christmas in the sun. Boom Town.

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