I’ve been meaning to write about some of our traveling adventures for a long time, but it seems like the more fun things we do, the less time I have to write about them. During Golden Week (oh my goodness, that was months ago now), we took a few days off from school and combined with several national holidays that fall in the same time period, we were able to have 11 days of vacation. First we flew to Singapore. We met up with some friends and tried some of their favorite places.
On the first night, we had dinner at Din Tai Fung, the famous Taiwanese dumpling shop that also has branches in Singapore and around Asia. Unfortunately I was just getting over a nasty case of the flu and I had temporarily lost my sense of smell. I literally couldn’t smell a thing. If it ever happens to you (and hope it doesn’t) you’ll be surprised to find how many “tastes” are really smells. I could taste the salty-sour combination of soy and vinegar, and the savory meatiness of the fillings, but the real flavor from the spices, ginger, and various ingredients was absent. Occasionally, the stuffiness would recede enough to allow me a few seconds of “smell-ability,” but for the most part the meal was muted, like watching your favorite movie on a black and white TV. I did have more of an appreciation for textures, though, since it was one thing that I could sense. After dinner, we headed down Orchard Road to Food Republic, a big food court in the Isetan shopping center, and enjoyed some freshly squeezed fruit juices and steamed coconut cookies.
orchids at the Singapore Botanic Gardens | see more photos from our trip on Alex’s blog
By day two my sense of smell was fading out less often so I could smell the flowers (sometimes) at the botanic gardens. We had a great time looking at all of the beautiful landscapes, and we especially enjoyed the ginger garden and the orchid garden. The bonsai collection was amazing too.
For lunch we ended up back at Food Republic. Mara recommended the beef soup noodles, which were delicious. It’s rice noodles with beef and vegetables served alongside a seasoned beef broth that was oh-so-good. Of course, we also got some more fruit juices, which I just can’t get enough of.
beef soup noodles at Food Republic
In the afternoon we went to Yixing Xuan Teahouse where we learned about Chinese teas. We enjoyed four different teas in the traditional style, using small scent cups and tasting cups and a ceramic pot that was just big enough to brew four cupfuls of tea. The little pots come in several sizes so you can choose the right sized pot for the number of guests that you’re drinking with. The cups and teapot were set on a “sea” where the excess water could be drained.
To enjoy the tea, we filled the pot to the brim and let the leaves steep for a very short time. Then we poured the tea into the scent cups to enjoy the aroma, and finally into the tasting cups to drink it. Since the leaves are brewed for such a short time, we could brew each portion 7 times—the flavor of the tea changes a bit each time. I enjoyed the flavor of the 2nd and 3rd brewings the most. We tried silver tips, dragonwell, oolong, and jasmine oolong. My favorites were the oolong and the dragonwell green tea, which had a surprisingly grassy flavor. While it was fun to drink tea this way, and all of the equipment was beautiful and clever, with each piece filling its specialized purpose, it seemed a bit too fussy for everyday tea drinking for me. However, it was a great experience that I would recommend if you have a chance.
Chinese tea service at Yixing Xuan Teahouse
We had dinner at the Newton Circus hawker center. The outdoor setting is good and the food was pretty good (though we’ve had better), but the vendors were aggressive and prices were high. If I find myself in Singapore in the future, I hope I can try some of the more local hawker centers (foolishly, I had forgotten to read up on the Singapore foodie blogs until after dinner). For dinner we enjoyed fruit juice (of course), barbecued stingray, clams, and fish.
By the next day, my sense of smell was back to normal, thank goodness. After a boat tour of the river and a visit to the Asian Civilizations Museum, we had lunch at the Coriander Leaf. We felt refreshed right away as we walked in from the heat and humidity outside and we could enjoy a nice view over the river from our table. I chose the mezze platter and smoked duck and mango salad while Alex had the tandoori chicken lunch special. I especially liked the labne and grilled eggplant with basil and pomegranate seeds. Both were very good with the homemade flatbread. On the other hand, the rest of the mezze were rather forgettable. Alex’s chicken was tender and nicely spiced. Later we had some snacks for a quick dinner before we headed off to the Night Safari.
On our last day in Singapore we woke up early to go on the rainforest treetop walk. After a quick shower and checking out of our hotel, we had lunch at Da Dong, following a recommendation from Chubby Hubby. I forgot exactly which dish he had recommended, so I got prawn mee with pork rib soup while Alex chose just pork rib soup. The soup was rich and delicious while the shrimp, pork, sweet and tangy sauce, sprouts, and chopped coriander combined in such a delicious way. While we were eating, I realized, “why in the world have we been eating that awful hotel breakfast every morning instead of going out to find something tasty like this?” It’s not as though the hawker centers and coffee shops are expensive, so we definitely should have been exploring the neighborhood at breakfast time too. Live and learn.
From there it was on to the airport and our next stop, Java.