At some point in the future I’m going to write a proper piece about food and drink in Singapore, but for now this post just continues last week’s shopping theme, but with a food slant.
Over the weekend I took my first trip to Cold Storage, a supermarket with a rich history. Established by the British in 1903, Cold Storage initially sold imported European and Australian products to British colonisers who had made their home in Singapore. Over the last 100 years it’s developed into a large chain of shops, but it’s main remit is still selling imported products to expats and higher quality goods. It’s basically the Waitrose of South East Asia.
I decided to venture into this hallowed institution because I had heard a rumour that it sold proper tea bags, and 2 weeks into my stay I was getting pretty desperate about the whole tea situation. Well, my source was not wrong. Although they were horribly expensive ($7 for a box of 40) I did manage to get Yorkshire Tea, and my god was it worth it. Alongside the blessed beverage I was expecting to see a few other random European goods, but was instead faced with the most strangely stocked supermarket I have ever come across. There was the usual: meats, fish still with their heads displayed randomly throughout the store, weird tropical fruits, and then there was everything else. Never before have I seen so many Waitrose products outside of an actual Waitrose. In the mere 10 minutes I was in the shop I found Essential Waitrose water biscuits, Waitrose cheddar cheese, Waitrose Cooks Ingredients, Essential Waitrose cereals and an entire aisle dedicated almost entirely to Patak’s curry paste. There was Branston Pickle, Marmite, Bovril, Tyrell’s crisps, soda water, digestive biscuits and a lot of weird Australian chocolate which (I am told) is very popular Down Under. It was all highly confusing.
Continuing with my very English shopping experience, yesterday I visited my local IKEA. Now I know what you’re all thinking, and I’m sure there are some good market stalls and local oddity shops around that are way better and more exciting to shop in than IKEA, but I needed some bedding and was not prepared to faff about all day looking for it. I found IKEA, got confused by the Swedish names, spent too much money, job done. What I noticed, however, is that IKEA is one of those rare shops that doesn’t seem to change at all, no matter where in the world you go. Lots of brands are exported to other countries but they always seem to stock weird items that haven’t be popular in the UK for decades (see the neon trend in Belgian New Look). IKEA, on the other hand, never changes, no matter where you go, so much so that I saw the bedding I bought in Southampton about 6 years ago. And because everything is named after something Swedish you’re always mildly confused, no matter what country you’re shopping in. It does mean that some random IKEA products have entered my life once more. Anyone of my Exeter crew will recognise the world’s most annoyingly handled saucepan which also exists in my Singapore flat, as does the desk chair from hell (thanks for nothing, Luke and Beth!).
But now back to food.
Because I’ve yet to drag myself around the local supermarket I am currently food-less and therefore decided to take a trip to my local hawker centre to see what, potentially bellyache inducing, fare I could find. For a city that’s so cosmopolitan and built-up it amazes me how many rundown-looking hawker centres still exist selling really good, cheap food. It’s almost impossible to live in an area without one. My local hawker is Clementi Food Market in what is optimistically named ‘Clementi New Town’. It’s optimistic because the ‘new town’ seems to be a smattering of fairly useless shops and a bank occupying the bottom floors of a number of HDB’s. With the imposing flats and the massive Clementi Mall surrounding it, being in Clementi New Town is a little bit like being underground. I also seem to have moved from the unofficial lamp capital of Singapore to the unofficial hairdressing capital of Singapore, in the few hundred yards between the mall and the food market I must have passed 5, which seems excessive.
Again, I digress. I ventured into Clementi Food Market to find some dinner and, continuing my attempt to try every local dish I can (except pigs trotters, you have to draw the line somewhere) I ordered fishball noodles. The woman behind the stall seemed very interested in the fact that I was from the UK, and from the way she was talking to her son I think she was trying to set us up. It put her off a bit when I said I didn’t speak Mandarin, so I think I had a lucky escape there. I’m still not entirely sure what my fishball noodles consisted of, but there was definitely some fish in there and something that I can only assume was pork crackling. Despite its ambiguous name and questionable ingredients it was really good, and for $3 I’m not going to complain.
Finally, a brief update. Some of my readers will be pleased to know that I’ve finally found some shoes to fit my massive feet. It’s nice to no longer think of myself as the bigfoot of South East Asia.
Leah Out X