Having not lived in Singapore quite a number of years now, I often have totally unprepared food cravings for the hawker style ‘street’ food (none of the posh stuff, thanks!) that I took for granted when residing there. So when P’s friend from the US visited London recently, we took the opportunity to pig out.
Off to Bayswater we went. Kiasu is the name of the Singaporean restaurant. As you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted by three large canvas panels full of descriptions and explanations for the terms commonly used by Singaporeans. ‘Kia’ means to be afraid of, and ‘su’ means ‘to lose’. ‘Kiasu’ actually means ‘to be afraid of losing out’. This term is often used on people who are competitive. Other similar terms are creatively displayed on the panels.
Right, now comes the food. The most drool worthy dish of the day has got to be the oyster omelette (or luak). This simple dish is of Teochew/Fujian origin. Fat, juicy oysters fried in an egg and tapioca starch mixture with spring onions. The important thing about ‘or luak’ is the ‘wok hei’ (loosely translated as breath of the wok) which is defined by our trusty wikipedia as ‘the essence’ generated by a hot wok. Now, this ‘or luak’ is full of ‘essence’ and is delightfully fragrant. Almost heaven on a plate.
Up next was the mee goreng and chilli crab. The mee goreng was as expected – slightly al dente egg noodles fried with a full flavoured, slightly tangy spicy sauce and a whole bunch of prawns, vegetables, egg and fish cake. Slurpicious. The chilli crab on the other hand was a major disappointment. As a popular Singapore dish, you would think they would try to get it as close to the original, which is mud crab cooked in a semi-thick, sweet and savoury tomato and chilli based sauce, laced with light egg chiffon. This Kiasu version had the crab smothered in a thick chilli paste which took the joy out of mopping up any ‘sauce’ with the fried mantou (chinese wheat buns). Meh.
We also ordered the chef’s special of the day, which was Bak Kut Teh (Pork Rib Soup). Delicious hot, herby pork broth in a claypot filled with chunks of pork rib, pig’s stomach and bean curd puffs. Dipping the deep fried crullers (yew char kuay) into the soup and soaking up its tastiness added to the pleasure. Thumbs up.
You can’t say you’ve had Singapore hawker food until you’ve had Hainanese Chicken Rice. Steamed, succulent chicken drizzled with a sesame oil and light soy sauce mixture. The rice is cooked in chicken stock, garlic and ginger and is packed full of flavour.
Dessert was none other than a good, old Ice Kachang. A colourful array of red beans, jelly pieces, sea coconut and sweet corn topped with a mountain of shaved ice. Drizzles of sweet, coloured syrup made it a sight for sore eyes. A beautiful and refreshing way to finish off a Singapore-themed meal.