Singapore Day: Blood, Eggs and Noodles

If I’ve been a little silent, it’s because I’ve run off and joined the police.

Alright, you got me. The last time I inspected a knife that seriously was when I was trying to hack my way through a brisket and wondering if it needed sharpening.

What you’re seeing above is one of my favorite mystery writers S.J. Rozan and me getting a close look at a faux crime scene set up by the Singapore police force at Singapore Day in Brooklyn a few weekends ago.

The day-long festival, which first came to New York City in 2007, is a day-long celebration of all things Singapore — the government there flies in actors, singers and even recruiters with jobs in hand.

All of this is fine and good — but what we really came for that day? Food — glorious hawker dishes from only the best little stalls you’ll find in Singapore …

Now, if you’ve ever been to Singapore, you’ll know that one of the most important words there is “makan.” (Malay for food or eat, as in “Come, let’s makan.”)

We didn’t need this sign to nudge us — of the hawkers the government had flown in from Singapore, I’d already had my eye on one: Hill Street Fried Kway Teow, a place I’ve been going to for years for delicious wok-fried noodles with fish cakes, scrambled eggs, bean sprouts, Chinese sausage and cockles.

It’s always a must for me when I’m home — the noodle uncle, however, has been on hiatus recently as his hawker center has been undergoing a massive renovation. So I’d say it’s been close to a year since I’ve had the stuff — simply unacceptable.

I miss the guy — and his noodles — and even his super fierce wife (whose sharp eyes and shrill voice puts the fear of god in anyone who dares to even pause for a second when placing an order) so much that that I was starting to mist up as I saw him frying his noodles. In Brooklyn, no less! I just could not believe it.

Until I dared to ask the auntie for extra chili sauce — which is when I really got it: “Chili inside already lah!” If eyes could actually shove people aside, I’m certain hers would have.

How were the noodles?

Not the same — the noodles used here were thicker and the ingredients were in larger chunks than I remembered. And there weren’t any cockles, which meant the noodles lacked in that briny earthy taste that laces his noodles at home. I did hit about four chunks of crispy fried lard, though, so that saved the day.

The carrot cake — a savory breakfast or supper dish of chunks of turnip (the “carrot” in this dish) fried with egg, preserved radish, soy sauce and a melange of other ingredients — was similarly disappointing. Most versions in Singapore are stir-fried so thoroughly you get a mound of chunks on your plate, each coated with sauce, chili and oil.

What we got in Brooklyn looked like an omelet. The taste wasn’t bad — for an American version. But if this was served anywhere in Singapore, I probably would have thrown it away and gotten my carrot cake from another stall instead.

I had higher hopes for Casuarina — a curry stall in Singapore that’s so good people drive from all over the island just to have breakfast there. The prata there — super crisp — and curry, are a true delight.

And the version here …

… did not disappoint. The prata, made fresh before our eyes, was hot and beautifully crisp. And the curry dipping sauce really packed a punch. I hadn’t had curry this good in a very long while — not since my February trip to Singapore, I realized.

While I desperately wanted to eat more — chicken rice! satay! — the lines were far too daunting. (Several thousand people — some of them Singaporeans who had arrived by the busload from as far away as Virginia and Boston — were there that day.)

So off to the crime scene we went, where a very cool guy, Stephen Tay, a crime scene manager with the Singapore Police Force pulled out a kit and showed us how to test which substances are blood …

… and other cool stuff. (You’ll just have to read the professional mystery writer’s account of our lesson over at S.J.’s blog.)

Hill Street fried noodles, amazing roti prata and a lesson on blood splatter … Every Saturday should be this good.

 

 

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