Monday, September 7, 2015

Little India - Singapore

Before I dive into the Little India section of Singapore, let me tell you about our hotel.  We stayed at the YMCA on Orchard Road. It is worth talking about for 2 reasons:

1.) The rooftop pool with it's amazing views.  This picture is courtesy Frankie, who took an amazing shot! I think it looks professional!

Rooftop Swimming Pool at YMCA Hotel Singapore

2.) The complimentary buffet breakfast.

There was something different offered every day along with some options that were always there.  It was local favorites along with some familiar breakfast options.  There was always juice, milk, tea, and some of the best coffee.  The coffee was so good that I emailed them when we got home just to ask them what type it was.  The response, was, "It comes in a big silver bag with no label." Not very helpful, but man, it was good!  Let me share just a few of the more interesting breakfast choice we had.

This particular day held two interesting choices.

(Ok, and yes, I am apparently an uncouth American for leaving my spoon in my cup of coffee and for not getting a saucer to put the cup and spoon on in the first place...I know that.)

The first one is the brown food wrapped in plastic.  I am not sure what it is, but it reminded me of a very soft caramel.  I am not sure if it was just to be eaten as is or spread on something, so I just ate it as it was.  If anyone can tell me different, please do because I would love to know what it was!

The other interesting choice was the food wrapped in the banana leaf.

Nasi Lemak and other breakfast foods Singapore

What is it, you may be asking.  I asked myself that same thing.  Luckily, it was labeled. Turns out it was nasi lemak which is coconut rice with peanuts, ikan bilis which is a local fried anchovy, and sambal which is a spicy chili paste.  I skipped the anchovy and chili paste but the rest was good.

Nasi Lemak-Coconut Rice with peanuts ikan bills fried anchovies and sambal Singapore

On another day the offering was a dumpling filled with kaya, a coconut jam.

Kaya Dumpling Breakfast Singapore

Now that, I enjoyed!  Normally, kaya is put on toast and eaten for breakfast, but YMCA decided to go this route.

Kaya Inside Dumpling Breakfast singapore

Either way, it was delicious, and now on to Little India!

We decided to walk from our hotel to the area.  Here are a few of the things we saw of interest and they also let us know we were getting close to the heart of the place.

I love the colors of these dresses. 

Women's Fashion in Little India Singapore

I was so close to buying at least a blouse (Not one of those belly showing ones though!) and am now regretting that I didn't.

Women's Dresses at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

I watch Bollywood movies when Frankie isn't home.  They aren't his thing but I find them interesting.  Almost every female character wears these types of earrings in the movies, so I call them Bollywood earrings.  I did buy a pair for myself.  They aren't quite the same as these, but they dangle and sparkle and I love them.

Bollywood Style Earrings in Little India Singapore

Speaking of Bollywood movies!

Bollywood Movies in Little India Singapore

We made it to our first stop which was the Tekka Center. It is a hawker stall, food market, and shopping center.  Hawker stalls are a thing of Singapore.  It is where they took all of the street food vendors and grouped them into covered places scattered across the city.  They are cheap, delicious, and regulated.

First up the food market!

Have you ever wanted to buy banana leaves but didn't know where to get them.  The Tekka Center is your place to go and now you know.   (At least that is what I think they are...)

Banana Leaves for Sale at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

With Singapore being an island there is plenty of fresh seafood to go around.


Squid at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore


Shark at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

Green mussles.

Green Mussles at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

Ok, enough seafood.  How about some funky fruit?  These are rambutan. I didn't get to try any but according to the internet they are reminiscent of grapes.  They are on my "to try" list.

Rambutan Fruit at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

The first time I saw dragon fruit was at the Hong Kong City Mall in Houston.  It is one of the prettiest fruits I have ever seen.  I had it on my bucket list to try and I finally got my chance in Singapore.

Dragon Fruit at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

So what does the dragon fruit look like cut up?

Cubed Pink Dragonfruit Hawker Center Singapore

Pink Dragonfruit Hawker Center Singapore

And what does it taste like?  Very similar to a kiwi without the tang.  It was very good.  Now I must find more!

I know that in America we get fruits from as far away as South America for year round availability but I found it very interesting that to find fruits from the USA in Singapore.  Now I know how long it took us to get there, so these long has it been since they were picked??  I am pretty sure I have had strawberries from this farm too!  What got me was that these were a little over $4 for a pound.  That is just a little more than I have to pay for them!  What is up with that??

California Strawberries at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

Now on the the hawker stall or hawker center.

This is pretty typical of how all the ones we saw looked.  Stall after stall selling their specialty.  Some sold food, some snacks, and others only drinks.

Hawker Center at Tekka Center in Little India Singapore

Maxwell Hawker Center Singapore

We did go to one called Maxwell Center.  When we watched Anthony Bourdain's show about Singapore, he went to this one as well.  Usually we can't afford to go to the places he does, so it was exciting to be able to on this trip.  He went there because the national dish, if there is just one that be called that, can be found here. Let me rephrase that, what is considered one of the best can be found there.  It is called chicken rice.  It is very simple and very good.  It is chicken boiled in with some herbs and spices and then the rice cooked in some of the broth made from cooking the chicken.  That is it.

It does start with very fresh chickens though.

Chicken at Hawker Center Singapore

The finished product.  Yummy!

Chicken Rice Singapore

If chicken isn't your thing, how about some nice cockles?

Fresh Cockles Hawker Center Singapore

Of course Frankie tried them!  The owner of the shop had to show him how to open them easily.  We discussed a few things with her.  We learned that Americans eat a lot of cheese.  I know this American girl does so she was spot on!

Cooked Fresh Cockles Hawker Center Singapore

One last food item bought at a hawker center (albeit the fancy one in the mall) that just has to be mentioned is the ice kachang.

How to describe an ice is like a snow cone on steroids.

Mango Ice Kachang Top View Singapore

Under all of that, there is shaved iced.  The shaved ice then had at least three different flavors (or at least there were three different colors) squirted on it.  What they were I could not even begin to tell you.  Then on top of that the following was added: (all of which you can see in the photo) a puree of mango (there were other options), some green and pink colored jellied substance, yes that is corn, and yes those are beans.  It was all good until I ate too many of those jellied things.  That is what got to me.  The corn, the beans, no problems, but the jelly things, nope.   

Now, did they stop me from having another one at a later date, no.  You know, when you are in a foreign country, sometimes you just have to eat the ice kachang and go on with life.

Also in Little India is the Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple (but that gets its own blog post) and the Sultan Mosque.  

Unfortunately, the Sultan Mosque was under a bit of construction, so we didn't get the full effect, but it is still quite lovely.

Sultan Mosque Under Construction Singapore

They have a certain dress code while there, and everyone has to take off their shoes. 

Proper Attire in Sultan Mosque Singapore

Since Frankie had on shorts and his knees were exposed, he had to cover up.

Frankie in Skirt at Sultan Mosque Singapore

Isn't he precious?  

The greeter at the mosque was very friendly and answered all our questions and asked a few of his own.  I am sure they do not want to be associated with the extremist Muslim who cause all the problems, so they go out of their way to teach visitors why things are done the way they are.  It was all very interesting.

I leave you with a parting shot from Little India.  Men praying at the mosque.

Man Praying in Sultan Mosque Singapore

My next post will be all about the Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple.  It is one you are not going to want to miss.  Especially if you know as much as I do about Hinduism, which trust me, is next to nothing.

I hope you will return to read all about it.

Until then.