Saturday, July 28, 2007

Food Experiences Abroad (Bangkok,Singapore)

Continuing some of the experiences from abroad, I'll elaborate on some of the food experiences. Unfortunately anyone who's been to Bangkok or Singapore will probably recognise the establishments as they're quite popular with tourists. Unfortunately a number of places did not allow cameras so a lot of the images below are from the respective websites.

The Fifth
Located in the MBK shopping centre it's hardly what you would call a food court. Thoughts from home sparked images of high-school casuals turning over old stir fry or toasting a bone dry sandwich which would be ripe for a trip to the latrine. I'll admit that it was devoid of locals which doesn't usually bode well. There are around 16 different establishments, all setup in the same fashion with a small square area where chefs mill around in a confined space, cooking meals to order. Upon entering, you receive a card by which you pass to any of the outlets for scanning, but you only pay once you've finished and exit.

It's probably not the ideal place to experience the local food, as all have different cuisines, however after quite some time trekking through the mall, it was good just to take a seat. We ordered about 4 different dishes to share between the 3 of us. A couple of bowls of Vietnamese noodles (I just had a hankering for them!) at 70 Baht each ($2.40 aud), Tom Yum Goong (120 Baht, $4.13 aud), a platter of Thai cold meats, Thai noodles, a few coconuts to drink (50 Baht each, $1.70 aud) and a variety of desserts. Overall a good selection of food, made fresh and certainly tasty, all in a pretty swish setting that wouldn't be out of place in a restaurant. Suddenly I was loving the Aussie exchange rate!

There are plenty of vendors on the streets so I'd say its a pretty good bet to try out those for the authentic taste from the city!

On the second day we were so exhausted from the day's events we lazily ordered room service. This time there were 4 Thai dishes between the 2 of us pigs, including some stwamed rice.

Takashimaya Food Court
Located on the main shopping street Orchard Rd, again, the loose term of food court from home can be used here. With limited seating, its an eat and run affair with a bustling crowd sampling foods from a seemingly endless amount of small stalls. (80 I've read)

I inhaled 3 custard cream puffs in 3 days and certainly enjoyed each one, and the small prawn/squid dumplings cooked in what looked like a giant muffin tin were also good for a snack on the run. It looks like the custard puffs are coming to Australia, so I'll be in line to get some as soon as they open. (Éclair, Vanilla and Strawberry have been sampled, and those 12 packs look positively evil!)

I came across an interesting device that would certainly ease some of the effort in preparing skewers. Ironically my brother pointed out that a friend of his was interested in importing one, but at $10,000 it seemed to be an expensive addition! I can't remember if it cooked them on the other side, but it certainly helped the procession of skewers to be prepared.

Brazil Churrascaria
Ok, I don't think Brazilian isn't part of Singapore's local cuisine, but it was certainly an interesting experience. Located at 14/16 Sixth Avenue, check your arteries at the door as this is a carnivore's dream!

A salad buffet makes way for a constant stream of waiters lugging around large skewers and knives carving off meat on demand. Don't think of the souvlaki shop's version of meat, these are small cuts of meat cooked and sliced immediately. Beef, sausage, fish, lamb, and chicken were all sampled from memory and an endless number had to be refused due to a full stomach. Fresh, juicy, warm pineapple that appeared was a surprising and nice alternative to break up the meat procession and allow some time to loosen belts and breathe a little.

Hint: be quick to determine if you want the offering as each table/plate has to be visited so they will race through the whole restaurant.

For dessert I tried the mango/icecream mix which was a satisfying end to the all-you-can-eat buffet.

No Signboard Seafood
The second last day in Singapore and last chance to go out with a food eating binge brought us to a cleverly named seafood restaurant, which had twice as many waiters than patrons at one stage late in the night. From memory I think we went out to the Geylang location, around 15-20 minutes from the CBD and although being a Monday night and 10:30, this place was packed. Not having eaten for some time (nice disclaimer), an order of chilli crab, 2 small lobsters, fresh prawns, Chinese broccoli and these small square bread rolls certainly satisfied our 3 bellies.

Cooked at the table, the tastiness of the prawns were a sideshow to the soup that they were boiled in. Full of flavour, it was an unexpected tummy favourite. Unfortunately with seafood there's always an initial tentativeness, as once you dig in, there's no return from the grubby fingers (hands, mouth, cheeks, etc). I think I paced myself well, starting off with my greens that required the use of utensils, progressing to the lobster which was conveniently halved down the middle to aid the extraction of meat, to the prawns and finally the crab. The small bread squares (no taller than a thumb and about the size of a tic-tac packet) were slightly sweet and crunchy but unfortunately too few to soak up the sauce from the chilli crab!

The locations on the website show a pretty classy set of tables chairs etc, but this one was outdoor with a couple of plastic chairs seen at most bbqs on the weekend. Service was very good and atmosphere fitting the humid surroundings. Definitely a nice place to end the trip and at least I can now tick chilli crab in Singapore off the list of things to eat.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Holiday blog

Its damn good to be on holidays. I'm on 3 weeks leave and it's felt like a month already which is good. I've spent 10 days abroad visiting my brother in Singapore and made a short trip over to Bangkok. I thought I'd post a few observations on the trip.

This post by Thursday's Child is quite apt. My main hates in planes are those that are in such a rush to get out the door in the plane when there's no chance of moving and the armrest hogs. I'd suggest the middle seat have both due to having the most uncomfortable ride. One additional hate I encountered on the way home was a person with smelly feet. It was a night flight so I'm assuming this person hadn't showered and, taking off her socks, curling up into the chair only made the stench more potent. What do you do in that scenario? Both adjacent passengers were talkative and relatively friendly, but do you risk offending the person you need to sit next to for the next 8 hours?

I like the idea of being able to check in just an hour before flights in Asia and getting to the boarding gates at latest 15 minutes before the flight. It reduces any idle time at the airport which I experienced on the flight out of Australia. I must admit that the security in Australia is very thorough, although arriving back at 5:45am my patience was tested as I was randomly drilled by 2 separate customs officers about my trip. (I seriously don't look that dodgy do I?)

I now have a greater tolerance for bad drivers. I'm not sure why Singapore or Bangkok have indicators or lanes. Everyone weaves in and out without indicating, drive in the middle of the road and at high speed. You can't hesitate in a lane change and oddly enough it seems most drivers are used to the events that occur on the roads, and despite all the infractions I only experienced a couple of toots.

One little addition to some traffic lights I liked was a countdown on pedestrian (Singapore) and some road lights (Bangkok). It was quite satisfying sprinting across the road as it counted down from 3. At one intersection in Bangkok we were waiting for 10 minutes to cross the road. (no joke) There was a steady stream of cars bumper to bumper and traffic perpendicular eventually got impatient and began to drive through anyway! We suspect that the lights were controlled manually by a small hut at the intersection, but it did lead to some frustration, particularly as we were on the way to get a massage and I was lugging around a new suitcase I bought.

The best story from the trip was the airport cab ride in Bangkok. Strangely enough, entry into the hotel is guarded and cars undergo a under-the-car mirror inspection prior to pulling up to the entrance. Ordering a cab from the hotel we managed to get the nuttiest guy in Thailand. Mentioning to us that he was told to "Go, Go, Go" by his last passengers (obviously contestants from the Amazing Race) he informed us that he was only going by the speed limit (which was fine by us). Mosquitoes appeared in the cab, and being the hospitable driver, he took both hands off the wheel clapping in an attempt to kill ones close to him. This while thundering down the freeway at 130kph. So much for sticking to speed limits. Finally he turned up his custom mix tapes full bore and began singing along which I tried to secretly capture from the back seat, but only got a video of the music. In any case the traffic is horrendous in parts of Bangkok, but cabs are cheap (~$10aud for 50kms)

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