On not-so-familiar ground: My first month in Singapore
Today marks a month since K and I relocated to Singapore. We’ve spent the last few weeks catching up with family and friends in the region, and are settling in moderately well. Why only moderately, you may ask.
Having lived in London for more than half my life, in many ways, I’ve grown accustomed to the ways of the British. Yet Malaysia (friendly neighbour of Singapore) is where I spent my childhood. It is where most of my family still live and one of the reasons we’ve chosen to give life in this part of the world, a go. Whilst I’ve never lived in Singapore before, this is K’s home country and similar to Malaysia in culture. The food, the culture, the people are all familiar, yet there have been times in the last few weeks that I’ve felt more of an affinity with the expatriates than the locals!
I’ve now started at my new job, right in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District) of Singapore. The lunch culture here is very different from that in London – no ‘grab and go’ sandwiches and eating at my desk! I’ve been slowly exploring the various food centres (open air buildings with numerous food stalls mainly selling inexpensive local fare) in the vicinity of my office. To be honest, it’s all been a little hit and miss. Of course, it’ll take time for me to find some really good local food and when I do, I will share these with you.
For now, here are some snapshots of what we’ve been up to over the last couple of weekends, spent meeting up with new family (for me, at least) and old friends… nothing very local, which goes to show just how wide the expatriate community is catered for here, that such places are as commonly found as the local food centres.
First up, a couple of weeks back, we met with some friends at Ippudo Tao of Ippudo Japan, famed for its Tonkotsu (pork based) ramen. I’d been to Ippudo in New York last year and was blown away by the silky al dente ramen, in a rich delicious broth. I also had the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly tucked in a soft white bun. The ramen at this Singapore outpost did not disappoint but unfortunately, the buns were far from what I remember them to be in New York.
Above: Ippudo Tao, UE Square
Above: Ippudo pork buns and Tao Kuro ramen noodles
This last weekend, we explored a little of Dempsey Hill, formerly home to British Army barracks which then saw life as an antique warehouse area before being reinvented as a thriving dining spot. Being former barracks, the buildings are arranged in several small clusters, each a short walk from the others and nestled amongst lush greenery. I noted, some of the restaurants offered casual outdoor dining and the crowd appeared to be of the younger working adults and expatriates. I like that it’s a relatively secluded spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Singapore.
Above: Jones The Grocer and Barracks, House
Our brunch spot on a sunny Saturday was Barracks at House, aptly named for the history of the area. The dining area was kitted out with mismatched wood and metal furniture; and fresh flowers at each table, giving it a slightly laid-back and whimsical, yet utilitarian feel. With the sunlight streaming in through the floor to ceiling glass panels, it was a great setting for a relaxing couple of hours. Whilst I thought a lot of care and attention was given to the décor, the same could not be said for the food we had. The poached eggs I had were, despite being perfectly cooked, under-seasoned (coming from someone who prefers her food on the bland side), whilst K’s pancake stack was overly sweet from the mix of dried fruits and syrup. Our side order of truffle fries did not disappoint, though – sprinkled with salt and white truffle oil, we’d have happily ordered another portion.
Above: Barracks, House – poached eggs with asparagus
Above: Barracks, House – seven layer pancake
Above: Barracks, House – truffle fries
Still, I enjoyed our first brunch out in Singapore and the walk around the area after. We found two specialist grocers offering European fare (Jones The Grocer and Culina) which, albeit expensive by London standards would be handy to visit if we needed ingredients for say, K’s homemade pasta. He’s even found the special 00 flour for it, unavailable at other typical Singaporean supermarkets (thanks to @aun koh of Chubby Hubby for the pointer).
Above: Culina at Dempsey Hill
I think it’ll take some time for me to settle into the lifestyle here. While I have been missing London and the network of fellow foodies there, I seem to have gravitated towards seeking out non-local food over the weekends. My observation though, is that the Singapore food scene is a heady mix of both local and non-local cuisine, to suit all budgets. I’m hopeful I’ll find some real local gems soon without breaking the bank!
From a baking perspective, whilst I continue to be inspired by the many blogs which I follow, I will not be able to bake for lack of an oven and my own kitchen for some time. Fellow baker-bloggers, I’m bookmarking many of your delicious recipes for future use and checking out availability of ingredients here!
Before I sign off, thanks again, for your continued support for the blog, and for me, despite all the changes. I really, truly appreciate it.