Dear Daina -Stuff dreams are made of

Hi D.

In all my life I have never appreciated this fall back time change more than right at this moment. An extra hour of sleep was as welcome as a fresh squeezed glass of lemonade on a hot summers day.

One might say “steady la” in Singlish. Singlish is a creole type language rooted in British English and a variety of other languages including  Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese and about 15 other languages. Because we just thought America was the melting pot of the world.

Steady – excellent or agreeing about something. Pronounced “stay – lee”

La or Lah- Used as a full stop in a sentence but doesn’t really have a meaning,. It’s  often used to change the tone of a sentence.

“Wha! You got an extra hour of sleep already? Steady la! 

Sitting around the dinner table with the local office personnel, I learned that Singaporeans quite enjoy listening to tourists try to speak a little of their Singlish language. And found out pretty quick, it was purely for the entertainment factor.

So let’s chat culinary delights for a bit.

This dinner was quite possibly my favorite experience of the entire trip. There is no better way to experience another culture than to sit side by side with a local and break bread….or crab as it is common in Singapore. Chili crab to be more specific, but we will get to that in a minute.

Ranesh was our guide for the evening and guide us he did, right down the red light district of Singapore where one side of the street marked in large bright red numbers are your local brothels and the other is mostly made up of locally owned restaurants and bars. Including No Signboard Seafood. The name was actually given to them by their customers, when they were first a hawker (open air food market) with no name. The locals would make plans for meal time meet ups and say “let’s meet at the no signboard place.” (except for in Singlish, which no doubt ended in lah) The place eventually adopted the name as their own.

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Drunken Prawns

For starters, we had a dish called Drunken Prawns. The waiter approached the table with a stainless steel pot of live prawns and presented them to our host for the evening. A local colleague leaned over to explain to me that many permits in town require some seafood to be served live to guests. Just like table-side guacamole, they literally drowned the prawns in a mixture of rice wine and brandy and then put them in a pot to boil them table-side before serving.

I was told  that the soup of brandy and rice wine is quite good for the body. Imagine that?! It’s like healing powers in the alcohol.

Apparently there is a live version of this dish, which we did not have. Thank the good Lord above! If the idea of cooking live prawns table-side is not gross enough for you, watch this video. What is the Singlish word for gag?

The video is quite like the open air dining experience we had at many of the restaurants in Singapore. Apparently, Singaporeans don’t like their air conditioning too much. So they accommodate the hot and humid climate with open air facilities all over the place.

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Look at these beauties? Bamboo clams (also known as Atlantic Jackknife clam or Razor clam) are one of the most beautifully prepared dishes I have every seen. Prepared being the operative word here.

Because why? Just watch. No need to sit through the entire thing, just catch the first couple of minutes.

And again I ask, how do you say gag in Singlish?

“Obscene and gruesomely looking..” <– my favorite part of this video.

The best part of the meal finally made it’s way to the table. And before you ask, my friend- 1)  it is not the bread and 2) it did not crawl it’s way to the table live.These amazing crabs did however come from the muddy lagoons of Sri Lanka and are prized by seafood lovers around the globe.

Chili Crab is claimed to be the national dish of Singapore. It’s a mud crab that is stir fried in a semi sweet and savory tomato and chili based sauce, which is actually not spicy at all.

We were draped with plastic bibs and provided water bowls for finger dipping because this is another hands on meal. The crab meat was juicy and sweet and the savory chili sauce dripped from my chin. Shiok!

I can’t finish this without telling you about those little heavenly  pieces of bread …It was almost like a fried donuts without the sweetness. An eggshell thin fried exterior and a light and soft warm center. Perfect for scooping up the chili sauce that dripped across your plate.

Shiok -Exclamation of extreme pleasure or the highest quality. Intended to be said with much passion.

This chili crab dinner was damn shiok, man! 

This meal truly was stuff that dreams are made of…both the delightful and the eery!

Happy eating!

-Ames

P.S. One guess as to what my first meal was after landing back in San Antonio? ‘Ole. Isn’t that Spanglish for something like…Mmmm. Get in my belly.

 

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