We’ve just arrived in Singapore and I’m in the middle of some sort of Asian food crisis of faith. It started in Penang. Things were going well – six square meals a day – a cornucopia of new experiences, and a ruddy faith in the brilliance of Asia and the sanctity of street food. Then for some reason (perhaps gluttony?) it all went bad. I banged a bad oyster and that was it. I was out of action for 24 hours and puked until I hit bile
Now I seem to have developed an aversion to Asian food. For the first few days after I was ill I avoided it mainly on the basis of the chilli content. Now I’m starting to think it runs a bit deeper – like some weird associative thing that equates 24 hours aboard the chunder express with the beautiful and varied flavours of the continent I’ve called home for the last sixteen months.
With less than two weeks to go, I find myself craving Western more than ever – if I’m not careful I could blow this Singapore thing. I’m in trouble, and I need a saviour.
I thought this might have been it. Chicken Rice. The dish lionized by Anthony Bourdain in his Singapore No Reservations, and basically my whole reason for coming to the Lion City-State in the first place. I got this at the Lau Pa Sat hawker centre smack bang in the middle of the financial district – a beautiful, turn of the century arcade, cast in wrought iron imported from our own dear green Glasgow.
Much like the Vietnamese equivalent, Com Ga, Hainanese Chicken Rice is an easy dish to underestimate. While this unassuming plate of protein and carbohydrates may look run of the mill, the kicker (as Anthony explains) is in the rice. Simmered in a mixture of chicken stock and spices until just the right sort of fluffy and tender, this stuff should make risotto look clumsy. Add some meat and a wicked triumverate of sauces (chilli, soy, and garlic) and that’s pretty much everything I hold dear on a plate.
For some reason, however, this one failed to bite. Perhaps it was my lack of appetite, but it was like something was jamming the signal. My mouth knew it was good, but that information wasn’t getting through to my brain in the usual fashion.
The search for redemption continues.