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Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Food Tourism

A few years ago, I did mention that Singapore has a lot of good food. The local delights such as mui fan or chicken rice are delicious and affordable. Then, if you felt like trying something different and foreign, you could go for Thai food, Japanese or even exotic cuisines from Middle East and Europe. 

In normal circumstances, you'd go for your favourite restaurant to have some food your were craving for every once in a while. However, last year had been anything but normal. Many of us, I believe, went through the lockdown for the first time ever. What were normally taken for granted turned out to be privileges that had to be stripped off. With not much left to do, anything that was remotely entertaining suddenly seemed to be worth trying!

From left: Winter Soldier and God. 

Thus began our story at a Lebanese restaurant called Urban Bites. In late August, I had lunch with two friends of mine. One looked like Winter Soldier, the other was nicknamed God. Both, as you might have guess, were such colourful characters. As we enjoyed hummus, flatbreads and kebab, it dawned on us that trying out foreign menus on regular basis sounded like a brilliant idea. Since we couldn't travel at all, the least we could do was to have food from other countries.

Indonesian food with Franky and Winter Soldier.

And we did exactly that for the next five months. We made it a mission to have meals that weren't from Singapore. We went to IndoChili for Indonesian food. Of all the menus that we ordered, tempe orek was the only one that I could remember, but not for a good reason. I mean, this was a roadside food, easily the cheapest one in Indonesia, but priced here in SGD. Felt like sucker for having this, haha. 

French cuisines. The one on the right is Poulet Rotisserie.

A week later, Winter Soldier and I thought we should go for Filipino food at Leslie's, not very far from Bugis, but little did we know that the place had closed down. We walked around and eventually decided that we should go French cuisines at Saveur. We had something called Poulet Rotisserie. It was like eating chicken from chicken rice, but this one came with a French name and therefore had a much higher price tag.

Left: lechon. Right: Directornado and God, after we exited Gerry's Grill.

After that, God and I explored Burmese and Filipino food at Inle Myanmar Restaurant and Gerry's Grill, respectively. I had always love Burmese food, especially the crispy eels, since I first tried it with my ex-housemates many, many years ago. As for Filipino food, of course we had to order lechon kawali. But after tasting it, I still missed the one I had in Cebu. It was the best lechon ever. 

Next lunch was organized by STV, a friend who could speak Thai. We had lunch at Beerthai House Restaurant inside Golden Mile Complex and his skill was proven to be useful. It was easier to order a glass of lemon grass in Thai. The food was not bad and I heard the price was kind of friendly, too. We had omelette, tom yum soup and steamed fish and some other menu.

Top: God and Directornado. Bottom: paneer.

Then we went for authentic Southern Indian food in Little India. Brought them to Anjappar. Not exactly near, but still within the walking distance from the MRT station. What's good here? We ordered paneer, mutton biryani, prawn masala, ghee rice and... probably tandoori chicken, too, since it was red color, haha. I always love eating here. The spice taste is so rich.

Top: pytt i panna. Bottom: with God, Directornado and Winter Soldier at Fika.

The next one was Swedish cuisines. Yes, when it comes to anything Swedish, people immediately think of IKEA and the meatballs, but we went to a bistro called Fika instead. I had something called pytt i panna. I couldn't even pronounce it, but it was basically beef. Tasted quite good, too. 

We planned for Italian or Spanish after that, but I almost couldn't make it due to some unforeseen issues. The original plan was abandoned and we switched to Mexican food at Guzman y Gomez nearby our office. I always love having the pork burrito bowl there! While having lunch, Winter Soldier joked that for all we knew, Guzman and Gomez were just some random Mexicans. It was like calling a restaurant Lim and Tan just to make it sounded Chinese. It turned out that he was right! Wikipedia said this is actually a restaurant chain from Australia and its origin got nothing to do with Guzman and Gomez, haha.

Top: Russian dumplings. Bottom, from left: salted herring fish and a glass of sour milk.

A Russian restaurant called Dumplings.Ru was the next one we visited. I had some salted raw fish there. Really salty, but I liked it! Then we shared a few plates of lamb and pork dumplings. To be frank, I couldn't tell the difference between Chinese and Russian dumplings. Apart from the fact that the Russian dumplings didn't come in soup or weren't served with noodles, they were quite tasty. 

Spanish cuisines and God enjoying his meal.

For our next meal, Winter Soldier suggested an Israeli meal at Miznon, but it was full when we reached there. As a result, we detoured and had Spanish in a restaurant named Gaig. Spanish food was all about tapas. It could be hot or cold. By the way, tapas is not exactly a specific name of food, but a general term for snacks, so tapas came in many forms. As the names on the menu sounded alien, I chose the one with rice. I thought rice would be the safest bet, it turned out to be a plate of sticky rice that tasted quite bland. 

God and dishes from Putian.

The Spanish meal became the last one we had together in 2020. There were still plenty to go, though. We have yet to try out African, Israeli and many more. In fact, we just began this year with cuisines originated from Putian, a city in Fujian province, China. Good stuff, but perhaps a story for another time. The bottom line is, after doing it for few months, I realized that Singapore is indeed heaven for food lovers. You have almost everything here, except food from Laos, perhaps. Just couldn't find it!

The food tourism...

Wisata Kuliner Di Singapura

Beberapa tahun silam, saya pernah bercerita bahwa Singapura menawarkan banyak makanan enak. Masakan lokal seperti mui fan atau nasi ayam terjangkau harganya dan murah pula. Kalau anda ingin sesuatu yang berbeda dan berasal dari luar negeri, anda bisa mencoba makanan Thai, Jepang dan bahkan menu eksotis dari Timur Tengah dan Eropa.

Di situasi normal, kita bisa ke restoran favorit kita untuk mencicipi makanan yang kita idamkan. Akan tetapi tahun lalu tidaklah normal. Banyak di antara kita yang menjalani karantina wilayah untuk pertama kalinya. Apa yang dulunya tergolong biasa, misalnya ke bioskop atau restoran, tiba-tiba tidak lagi diperbolehkan. Karena tidak banyak yang bisa dikerjakan, ide sepele pun terlihat menarik. 

Dari kiri: Winter Soldier dan God. 

Cerita kali ini bermula dari restoran Lebanon bernama Urban Bites. Di akhir Agustus, saya makan siang bersama dua teman. Yang satu mirip Winter Soldier di film Captain America, yang satunya lagi dijuluki God. Seperti yang bisa diterka dari penampilan mereka, perangai dua orang ini sangat unik. Setelah menyantap humus, roti pita dan kebab, kita lantas berpikir bahwa mencoba masakan asing secara rutin sepertinya ide yang bagus. Meski kita tidak bisa berlibur, setidaknya kita bisa menyantap makanan luar negeri.

Menikmati tempe orek bersama Franky dan Winter Soldier.

Dan inilah yang kita lakukan dalam lima bulan ke depan. Misi kita adalah menjajaki masakan asing yang kita temukan. Pertama-tama kita coba yang lebih lazim: makanan Indonesia di IndoChili. Masakannya tidak terlalu lezat dan satu-satunya yang saya ingat adalah tempe orek. Ini sebenarnya masakan kelas warteg di tepi jalan, tapi malah dipesan di restoran. Konyol rasanya harus membayar tempe orek dengan dolar Singapura, haha.

Makanan Perancis. Yang paling kanan adalah Poulet Rotisserie.

Seminggu kemudian, Winter Soldier dan saya berada di sekitar Bugis untuk menjajal masakan Filipina di Leslie's, tapi ternyata sudah tutup restorannya. Setelah berjalan sana-sini, akhirnya kita sepakat untuk mencicipi masakan Perancis di Saveur. Kita pesan menu yang namanya Poulet Rotisserie. Rasanya seperti ayam yang disajikan di nasi ayam, tapi yang dihidangkan di meja ini memiliki nama Perancis dan oleh karenanya menjadi berkali-kali lebih mahal.

Kiri: lechon. Kanan: Directornado dan God, setelah kita keluar dari Gerry's Grill.

Setelah itu God dan saya pergi ke Inle, restoran khas Myanmar, dan Gerry's Grill yang menawarkan menu Filipina. Saya selalu menyukai makanan Myanmar, terutama belut garing yang pertama kali saya cicipi bersama teman-teman serumah beberapa tahun silam. Akan halnya masakan Filipina, tentu saja kita harus memesan lechon kawali. Kendati begitu, saya masih merindukan lechon yang saya santap di Cebu. Sepertinya itu yang paling enak. 

Berikutnya adalah masakan Thai. Seorang teman lain berinisial STV menjamu kita di restoran Beerthai House di gedung Golden Mile Complex. STV bisa berbahasa Thai dan kemampuannya terbukti berguna, sebab pelayannya lebih memahami apa yang kita pesan dalam bahasa Thai. Makanannya cukup enak dan saya dengar harganya pun tidak terlalu mahal. Kita memesan omelet, sup tom yam, ikan kukus dan beberapa menu lain. 

Atas: God dan Directornado. Bawah: paneer.

Selanjutnya kita mengunjungi Little India untuk masakan India Selatan yang otentik. Restoran Anjappar cukup jauh dari stasiun MRT, tapi masih bisa dicapai dengan berjalan kaki. Apa yang enak di sini? Kita memesan paneer, nasi biryani domba, udang masala, nasi ghee dan... kalau tidak salah, ayam tandoori, sebab merah warnanya, haha. Saya suka masakan di sini. Rempah-rempahnya sungguh terasa. 

Atas: pytt i panna. Bawah: bersama teman-teman di Fika.

Yang berikutnya adalah masakan Swedia. Ya, jikalau bicara tentang Swedia, biasanya yang langsung diingat adalah IKEA dan baksonya, tapi kali ini kita ke restoran bernama Fika. Yang saya pesan adalah pytt i panna, semacam masakan berbasis daging sapi. Rasanya lumayan. 

Menu Italia dan Spanyol menjadi topik perbincangan minggu berikutnya, tapi misi kita hampir saja batal karena ada masalah di kantor. Setelah isu selesai, kita hanya bisa mampir ke Guzman y Gomez, kedai masakan Meksiko di dekat kantor. Selagi makan, Winter Soldier berkomentar, jangan-jangan Guzman dan Gomez cuma sekedar nama Meksiko. Ini sama halnya dengan menggunakan nama Lim dan Tan sebagai nama restoran supaya terdengar seperti restoran Cina. Ternyata dia benar! Setelah saya cek di Wikipedia, restoran ini berasal dari Australia dan asal-mulanya tidak ada kaitan dengan Guzman dan Gomez, haha. 

Atas: Pangsit Russia. Bawah, dari kiri: ikan herring asin dan segelas susu asam.

Sesudah Meksiko, kita mencoba pangsit Rusia di Dumplings.Ru, sebuah restoran di dekat MRT Tanjong Pagar. Saya memesan ikan mentah yang luar biasa asin, tapi enak. Selain itu, kita juga mencoba pangsit isi domba dan babi. Jujur saya katakan bahwa saya tidak bisa membedakan pangsit Cina dan Rusia. Rasanya sedap juga. 

Masakan Spanyol.

Masakan Israel di Miznon, Stanley Street, harusnya menjadi menu berikutnya, tapi tempat makannya penuh ketika kita tiba di sana. Alhasil kita pindah lokasi dan makan di Gaig, sebuah restoran Spanyol yang juga berada di jalan yang sama. Menu Spanyol menawarkan aneka tapas, baik yang dingin maupun panas. Oh ya, tapas itu cemilan, jadi banyak bentuknya. Setelah tapas, kita juga memesan menu utama. Saya pilih yang ada nasinya, tapi ternyata lengket dan agak tawar rasanya. Agak kurang nikmat rasanya. 

Dan masakan Spanyol menjadi menu terakhir di tahun 2020. Masih banyak lagi yang bisa dicoba, misalnya menu Afrika. Di awal tahun ini kita baru saja menyantap masakan dari Putian, sebuah kota di provinsi Fujian, China. Enak nian. Setelah saya jalani wisata kuliner di Singapura, saya yakin bahwa Singapura adalah surga bagi mereka yang suka makan. Hampir semuanya ada di sini, kecuali makanan Laos. Sampai sekarang belum berhasil saya temukan!  

God dan masakan khas Putian.

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